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Only 7 miles of gravel on Gravel Loop?

Trying to scope out this year’s gravel loop and as expected Google has never sent a “Street View” car down that way 🙂 But from my eye it looks like the entire route into Moorhead is paved, leaving only about 7 miles of gravel. A little disappointing that it’s that short, but at least it looks like real gravel and not the dirt and pea-gravel roads we had last year.

8 Replies

Bikingaddict, May 24, 2018 at 5:03 pm

Of course I could be wrong on the route, but I think from Soldier it takes Hwy 37 to 270th to Sequoia to 280th to Redwood to E54 into Moorhead. Then the gravel portion essentially takes Plum and Poplar roads back to Hwy 37 and back into Soldier.

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genefruit, May 25, 2018 at 7:54 am

That’s what it looks like to me as well. Bummer

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/26788179

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Scott, May 25, 2018 at 8:24 am

Redwood doesn’t look paved to me so that’s another ~3 miles of gravel.

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Randall Murphy, May 25, 2018 at 8:39 am

So the ‘real gravel’ observation has me concerned: is this possible on a road bike? I’ve ridden two of the gravel loops bu there were lines that I could hold that were oftentimes hard packed dirt. Between that and not riding any faster than I wanted to fall it wasn’t too bad. I do understand the limitations of a road bike though and deep gravel is not going to be possible for me. Does anyone from the area have better information? This may be a game day decision.

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Brian Wallenburg, May 25, 2018 at 10:07 pm

Previous gravel routes were easily passable on a road bike. I suspect this year will be the same.

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KenH, May 26, 2018 at 4:17 pm

The gravel loops so far have ranged from nearly all gravel outside the portion of the main route that they share to about half. It is a little hard to tell from the satellite views but I think this year’s loop is about par for the course. It has 1100 feet of climb so it should be challenging. Last year’s loop was the loveliest yet, in my opinion, and every gravel loop gives you a bit of a respite from the madding crowds. A brief chance to experience RAGBRAI more like I imagine it to have been in 1973. I love the gravel loop concept and you will too if you give it a try. Your road bike will do fine, your 23mm tires will survive, but you would be happier on 25s or 28s if they will fit. If you can run 28s you will have nothing at all to fear.

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John, May 29, 2018 at 12:13 am

IIRC, my recon ride earlier this spring was ~12.5 miles of gravel (out of ~18.5), but it’s not like there’s a shortage in the state.

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KenH, June 4, 2018 at 8:36 am

If you are interested in the gravel loop the pre-ride report for Sunday is now up on the website. There are not a lot of details about the loop in the written description:

https://ragbrai.com/2018/06/03/ragbrai-route-inspection-pre-ride-day-1-onawa-to-denison/

The photos from the first day give a little useful information:

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/media/cinematic/gallery/35646037/photos-2018-ragbrai-pre-ride-route-inspection-day-1/

Photo 6 does not show the loop itself but it does look down a typical gravel side road. You can see the loop itself in photos 16, 17, 30, and 33. Parts of it look easily passable on a road bike with skinny tires, other parts look more challenging. It is a fairly hilly loop this year. Skinny tired road bikes will find the downhills more challenging than the uphills. Personally I would break out the 25s or better yet the 28s for the gravel loop. But what do I know, I’ll be on 38s the whole week!

In past years Jamis bikes would have a booth at the entrance to the loop where you could borrow one of their gravel bikes for a test ride around the loop. It sounds like Bianchi will be filling that role this year. There can be a wait for a bike but this is a good option for those fear their bikes or tires are not up to the task.

And for those who feel like the loop is not long enough there is an option that I used last year. I was going to have to drive the team support vehicle on the century day. But, I noticed that if I took the gravel loop twice I could make Sunday my century day! Now, you would have to do it three times this year to get in a century but making multiple trips around the loop is an option for those who crave more gravel! And if you did do it three times that would be a fairly gravelly century….

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