From personal experience, the three H’s (Hard Parts) of RAGBRAI are:

1. Hills. This year’s route is the 11th hilliest out of all the RAGBRAI’s since 1973. Most hills really are doable – you just need to remember to use all your gears, especially that granny gear. Plus, there’s extra motivation when most everyone else is also huffing and puffing (although for some reason, there’s also some who seem to zoom by me!) Mainly, I just don’t want to be humiliated by having to stop and walk up a hill! The good part is that, in most cases, what goes up must come down. The speed and the cool breeze that the downhill ride brings make it all worth the effort. Wheeeeeee!

2. Heat. Okay – it’s July in Iowa. It’s going to be hot – just plan on it. If you can go fast enough, you can create your own air conditioner. Also, if you get up early, it usually stays on the cool side until 8am or so.

3. Headwinds. In my opinion, these are the worst. There’s not much you can do, but just keep plugging along. It does seem to help to gear down a bit, and of course, pray that either the course or the wind changes directions – soon!

If you’re looking for bike routes – with hills or without – try these:

Biking Iowa: 50 Great Road Trips and Trail Rides by Bob Morgan

Biking Illinois: 60 Great Road Trips and Trail Rides by David Johnsen