• Posted Jun 13, 2022

We rode the Gravel route on the RAGBRAI pre-ride on Day 3 - here is our recap!

RAGBRAI posted a GREAT "2022 RAGBRAI Optional Gravel Day Tips" Feature on April 22nd 2022 so all the details about the challenges and opportunities about riding gravel as well as some history about Iowa Gravel and its appeal. Read this first!


This Feature covers the real day of riding the gravel route on June 7th 2022 during the RAGBRAI pre-ride.

The 2022 optional gravel day will be Day #3 from Emmetsburg to Pocahontas.

BIKEIOWA's Thoughts for Newbie Gravel Riders - Can YOU do it?

You bet YOU can do it! This is a great easy stretch of Iowa gravel roads. The route is under 50 miles and you a have all day to do it! Embrace it and explore!

Stop along the route to view the conservation areas, the Des Moines river and the vast site lines of Iowa farmland.

We find out that when many cyclists ride gravel for the first time it can be intimidating. The gravel can bounce your bike around and make you feel out of control - see the Tips below about (not) white-knuckling your handlebars.

Stop by as see us in Rodman, we are excited to hear about your gravel adventure! We'll have some "Iowa gravel" shirts for sale.

Gravel vs. Paved Route Differences

  1. Gravel Route is 8 miles shorter
  2. Havelock is NOT on the Gravel route

Gravel vs. Paved Route Similarities

  1. The gravel and paved route share the pass-through towns of Rolfe, West Bend and Rodman.
  2. Rodman is not listed on the cue-card map, but is the last gravel/paved intersection before Emmetsburg - about 16 miles from Emmetsburg.

Gravel Route Highlights and Conditions *

  1. You can get on or off the gravel route in the towns of Rolfe, West Bend and Rodman. There is also one other time the routes intersect between Rolfe and West Bend (see map)
  2. The Gravel consistency usually changes between counties - The route goes through Palo Alto and Pocahontas counties. The county line is right before West Bend and we noticed a change in the gravel there. not good or bad, just different.
  3. BIKEIOWA and the Iowa Beer Bus will be in Rodman - How much better could it be? :)
  4. Bike Rags is gonna be throwing a heck of a party out there!
  5. We encountered ZERO dogs along the route
  6. There are two small conservation area along the route (you'll see the signs)
  7. There is one historical farm along the route (you'll see the sign)
  8. Parts of the route is pancake flat for as long as the eye can see -
  9. The whole route is under 1000 feet of climb
  10. A few rollers occur around West Bend and after Rolfe and Rodman - nothing big
  11. It was dry for the whole route
  12. There were almost no ruts and washboards
  13. The GROTTO in West Bend is a MUST see!!
  14. It was fairly hard-pack between Pocahontas and Rodman
  15. The section between Rodman and EmmetsBurg was a little more fresh gravel and sandy on the sides (embrace the adventure!)
  16. There is a bridge that crossed the Des Moines River between Rolfe and West Bend. It might make for a cool stop depending on the weather.
  17. We hear the old school in Rodman is haunted
* Caveat - Iowa Gravel conditions change from week to week. This is what we encountered on June 7th, 2022. The gravel Day is Tuesday July 26th which is 6 weeks difference.

Gravel Riding Tips

  1. 2022 RAGBRAI Optional Gravel Day Tips
  2. Don't over think it. If you don't like it, you have multiple chances to get back on the paved route.
  3. If the gravel conditions change, don't be afraid to let some air out of your tires for a more supple ride.
  4. The far side of the road near the ditch often may be more smoother and hard-packed than you'd think
  5. Don't white knuckle your handle-bars - you'll be too tense and bounce around more. Allow your body to be the "suspension" and absorb the bumps else your upper body will take the brunt.
  6. When in doubt, stop and walk your bike - just make sure you don't stop in front of someone else, and make sure you don't walk in the path of other riders.
  7. Ride to the right - especially when riding up hills
  8. Use the same call-outs as you would riding pavement (on your left, bike on/off, car up/back, etc)

411 - Day 3, Tuesday, July 26

Miles: 56.4 paved, 48 gravel
Feet of climb: 756 (our actual was 956)

Our Actual Ride (Ride with GPS) was 52.6 miles, but we rode around more in the towns, and start/end town and back-tracked a bit here and there

The towns
West Bend - Meeting town


We hope this helps sway your decision on whether to ride ALL, PART or NONE of the gravel route.

Enjoy the day no matter what!






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