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Sunday's Gravel Loop & Monday's Karras Loop

Gravel Loop – 81.8 Miles 1,941 Feet of Climb
Karras Loop – 101.3 Miles 2,087 Feet of Climb

Total 183.1 Miles 4,028 Feet of Climb.
A fun first two days!!!

Who’s In??? I am!!

32 Replies

Matthew Lewis, May 3, 2017 at 11:27 am

Official Rider Benefits do NOT mention a patch for Gravel loop.
will there be a patch or not?


KenH, May 3, 2017 at 2:53 pm

If they haven’t said then we don’t know. The past two years we got both a patch and a sticker although the original promise was that there would be a sticker without any mention of a patch. After last year’s ride the rider survey rather pointedly asked gravel loop riders if they wanted a sticker only, patch only, or both. It is always dangerous to read the RAGBRAI tea leaves but I’d say there is some thinking in Des Moines along the lines that the gravel patch costs a lot of money compared to the number of people who make the effort to earn one and perhaps there should just be a sticker. Just my thoughts on the matter. I’d ride the gravel loop even if I got nothing in return but the memories and ditto for the Karras loop.


Barin Beard, May 4, 2017 at 11:45 am

Since posting before I have done a 130 km gran fondo here in southeast China. It was tough with a big mountain in the middle third of the ride. I rode the whole thing, but it reminded me how painful riding can be. Was having hotspots on my feet at the cleats (SPDs) and on my hands. My China bike is a off-the-shelf Litespeed mountain bike. In Iowa, I’ll be riding a custom-made mountain bike (still with knobby tires), so it is a better fit with my body, therefore the gravel loop is still on the list most likely, but 80 miles is a still long ride. 100 miles even more. The century ride will depend on how I feel. Just need to train more.


Heather, June 12, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Anyone know the conditions of the roads on the gravel loop compared to say last years?


Jack in VA, June 12, 2017 at 10:27 pm

Heather, Two years ago the gravel loop was fairly flat and smooth. Last year, it was quite hilly with a LOT more gravel on the road. I tried keeping the bike in between the road tire tracks but still had some difficulty with it. Just keep rolling smooth and steady and it’ll be fine. Since we’re in northern Iowa, it should be a lot flatter than last years route.


KenH, June 13, 2017 at 7:27 am

Someone who lives nearby might eventually give us an eyewitness report. Like the first year’s gravel loop this one is not covered by Google’s street view imaging. Last year however you could do a virtual ride of the loop on Google to get some feel for it. In the end I would say that if you have honed your gravel skills on the previous two year’s loops and supplement that with whatever gravel riding you can find between now and the end of July you should be well prepared to deal with this year’s loop.

I doubt they will go out of their way to pick a particularly challenging loop. The RAGBRAI planning team has stuck with the gravel loop for three years now and if that means they have a long term commitment to it then surely they want to see the gravel town rewarded with more riders than it had the last two years, although last year was not too shabby. Picking a particularly difficult loop at this stage of the game would not be a wise move.

In large part gravel riding is a mental hurdle. Convince yourself that you can do it and you can. Suitable equipment helps too yet many of the people you will see on the gravel loop will be riding bikes ill-suited to it so you don’t have to bring anything special to ride the loop if the notion that riding anything except a zero weight road bike on 23mm tires offends you!

Don’t worry about the loop, just ride it.


Scott, June 13, 2017 at 11:14 am

I did the loops on pre-ride, both are pretty flat. The gravel was pretty challenging in spots but I was on 28mm gator skins. A few other guys were on 32mm and seemed to ride through those spots easier. With that being said, it could be completely different come the end of July.


Gthomp0419, June 14, 2017 at 12:39 pm

Any update on a Patch for the Gravel Loop??


joshrant, June 14, 2017 at 6:11 pm

How about last year’s gravel loop?! That was super hard, I thought. Steep hills with fast downhills. The gravel was super loose with only a 4″ path packed down that everyone rode on. I do ride an old steel road bike with 700c/24s, but man that was crazy! I may pass on the dirt and just do the Karras loop.


JohnBenton, June 15, 2017 at 2:56 am

Borrowing from Frank Burns on MASH, Absotively!!!

The Gravel Loop is a gift that introduces you to genuine rural enclaves that do not receive a lot of outsiders. Also, if you get a flat, like I did last year, you have a great opportunity to run some of your stale jokes by cows that are curious about how to change a tire.

As for the Karras Loop, it is also a must-do, check-off event, as you get to meet and take a photo with one of the founding Des Moines Register reporters who created RAGBRAI. Pace-Lines are extremely valuable on the Karras Loop, so make sure you hook up with other riders at the split.

Doing some enjoyable and challenging prelim rides out here in Northern California, but looking forward to another great July ride in my native state of Iowa.


KenH, June 15, 2017 at 7:52 am

I did not find last year’s gravel to be super hard. If you rode off the packed tire tracks you were in for some extra work but my 38 mm tires had no trouble handling it. I could easily move over to let all the fast riders on 23s get by me but then going down the next hill I would have to ride my brakes the whole way because they certainly were not going fast on the downhills. I envy you if you found last year’s downhills to be fast. If you found last year’s loop to be super hard you should consider bigger tires. Just because you can do it on 23s doesn’t mean 23s are the best choice.


Niles, June 15, 2017 at 8:46 am

I did last year’s gravel loop on my 23s. Personally, I think it’s doable but not enjoyable. I had to be very focus on following the narrow packed track and the down-hill. I can see to do it once for my curiosity/bragging rights/bucket list/… But I am sure I am in the one-and-done camp.

Karras Loop is another story. To myself, RAGBRAI century day is easier than the other couple of century rides I do annually. It adds a deviation of the activities of my rest days of the week, like taking one or two less beer stop, shortening the breaks a bit, riding a little faster.


RustyC, June 15, 2017 at 2:22 pm

I’m a go for the Gravel Loop. I’ve done it the last two years so why stop now.


ppayne1959, June 15, 2017 at 3:52 pm

Not the gravel. I would blame my skinny road bike but honestly I think it would disrupt my delicate constitution. Karras loop I am all in!


RDaryl Daryl, June 15, 2017 at 9:40 pm

Don’t forget the gravel opportunity on the way out of Harpers Ferry.


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