Everyday, something new.

After my friends at NCC and I all announced we had put in our two weeks notice we constantly were being asked what we were doing next.

I didn’t have an answer, up until now, sort of.

From late September through mid Janurary I will be on the road doing support for the Raleigh Clement professional cyclocross team.

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Illinois locals know the Raleigh Clement team by their kind presence and humble dominance of Axletree’s Gravel Metric the last handful of years, and by Clement generously being one of the title sponsors helping us put on an event that is free to the riders. They are a great group of people, and I am beyond excited to go on such a 4 month journey, and travel to so many places I have not yet been, and places I know and love. Asheville, Tacoma, Providence, Waterloo, Gloucester, Boulder, Iowa City, and many more stops, and places in between.

I’ll be driving vans and trailers of gear coast to coast repeatedly, wrenching on bikes, playing gear tetris in the storage trailer, and other background tasks to help enable some of the top racers in the country to focus on going faster on bikes then us mortals thought possible.

After the National Champsionships in Asheville, I have no work lined up yet, but I am sure it will be another exciting new adventure.

I am really stoked for this short life experience. I have always been internally wired with a nuanced version of the “Grass is always greener” saying, but for me “The grass is always greener when you don’t know what is on the other side”.

Everyday, something new.

Willingly taking the path of more resistance, for fun.

My car rolled into Palos with two bikes on the back of my car, though I was the only one inside.

I was planning on riding my Single Speed mountain bike, but after taking the studded tires off and checking the brakes I discovered that no amount of sanding, alcohol, or even replacing the brake pads, could get the terrible oil soaked squeel of a winters commuting to silence.

I know, your first thought is “It is half way through August, and you just took your studded tires off your mountain bicycle?” Well, I live in BFE Dekalb, and very rarely have the option to use an automobile to get to the closest tiny little trail system 45 miles away. Trust me, this hurts me more then you know.

That day and the one prior, I was in one of those dark mental funks that normally only get to the core of my being during the harsh winter months. I really needed an escape, I needed to go ride a bike somewhere, and honestly the roads around my house do not suppress the dark aura, but actually feed it.

Quite frustrated, I threw the mountain bike on my car, thinking that maybe if I went and rode a few hours, I could bed the pads in, even though fifteen minutes in the parking lot did nothing at all.
I locked the shop, set the alarm, jumped in my car, and then ran back into the shop to grab another bike.

After the hour plus drive to Palos, I clipped in and rolled away from my car, with the feeling that I was entering the unknown.
I have ridden Palos plenty of times before, but only once in the prior 5 years, and there was plenty of new trail to discover. Also, this time I was on my cyclocross race bike, 33c tubulars and all.

There is that feeling I get sometimes, where I feel like I am getting away with something I shouldn’t do, but I am doing it anyway.
It is a complex melding of refreshment, caution, curiosity, accomplishment and unknown. I love it.

I hadn’t been on my CX bike to really push it for quite a while, and I needed to remember the limits of the tires grip and traction, as well as how it responds to my body language. I started off quite cautious, but with a big smile ear to ear. I was going to ride a loop of the Palos Meltdown course, since it was so well worn in and included the new trails.

As the double track gave way to tighter root strewn single track with some loose downhills I had to be very focused to pick good lines, bunny hop obstacles, and delicately bounce rims off of anything else in the way. The small tires set to 30-35psi didn’t have much room to compress before the rim hit rocks and roots, but by shifting body weight around multiple times a second the way a cars traction control works, I could navigate up and down everything pretty quickly, and I was having a wonderful time. Coming up the second ravine of the infamous trail called Three Ravines was the only spot I had to dab a foot, but I surveyed the line I took, and what other options there were, and kept on rolling down the trail.

I ended up following a group of mountain bikers around the new trail, completing the race loop, and then wandering around some of the other trails by Cemetery Hill.
After I had found water, I left for a second loop of the race course. I was having too much fun to stop.
I was feeling very in control of the bike, and was passing mountain bike after mountain bike on rooted single track. Granted, a few were wearing full face helmets and had full on enduro bikes. They must have been visiting from another state out west.

Back at Three Ravines I was clipping along much more comfortably and swifter then the first loop. I cleaned all three ravines comfortably, and kept smiling as I bounced over rocks and roots.

I finished the second race course loop on my 29 minus wheel size, for 25 miles of mountain biking on my CX bike.
Sitting in the drops of the bars, with a huge smile on my face, I couldn’t help but think about the next time I would get to make it out to Palos, and how I hope to have two bikes on my car that day.

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Pulling the Dirty Kanza hat trick or: If you want it then you shoulda put a single ring on it.

Preparation.

Any event of this scale takes some amount of planning, so I guess I’ll touch that briefly.

I had done this event twice before, finishing on a geared bike in 2012, and on a single speed bike in 2014. I really enjoyed my single speed ride in 2014, so I signed up that way again in Janurary.
Most of my training over the winter was more focused on getting ready for Trans-Iowa, but I did happen to do a lot of my winter riding on a single speed. I did the usual indoor trainer rides, and I was also running and lifting weights in a gym at least twice a week, which I honestly find has a substantial benefit to riding single speed. In addition, I did a 8 day gulf of mexico tour in Feburary, on a 93 pound bike, with one day as long as 180 miles.  I have trained through the winter the last three years, and by keeping everything so varied this winter I really feel like it kept me from getting burned out on the bike before spring hit.

Trans-Iowa came around, everyone froze and suffered, and no one finished. Despite what you might expect, everyone had a great time, it was a nice big family reunion and I loved every second of that weekend.
Afterwards, people back home were saying things like “All that training for nothing”, and I would respond in a way such as “You know, I plan to keep riding bikes still…”.
Also, whenever someone asks me how I train for a 200 mile event like Dirty Kanza, I respond with “I train for a 330 mile event,Trans-Iowa.”

I basically took the month between Trans-Iowa and Dirty Kanza off the bike. I did two rides that were 100 kilometers, one on my geared warbird, and another on a Brompton folding bike. There were a couple 10-20 mile rides in there also. All this time I had the dumb idea of riding Kanza on a fixed gear in my head. My buddy Jay Barre had done it at Trans-Iowa(A significantly harder event) after doing it geared and SS, a term I call “The Barre Exam”, and so that was the spark in my brain. I am very curious, and I simply didn’t know if I could. I already knew I could finish Kanza geared and single speed, I had already crossed those finish lines in the past. I guess the best way to say it is I just wanted to ride into the unknown and discover something new, I quickly get bored with repetition and certainty.

My bike was a 58c Surly Cross Check with Woodchippers, Aerobars, an Ergon magic seatpost and SM3 saddle, 42c Soma Cazadero tires, and a custom 3rd water bottle boss brazed on my downtube by the fantastic folks at Comrade Cycles.

Blood Wagon

Blood Orange , post ride

So 12 days before Kanza I laced up a fixed wheel. I played around with it, but found it was hard to stretch the legs and that the saddle hurt since you can’t really stand up, ever. After 30 miles I was really on the fence about showing up fixed, and was thinking of just riding my cross check single single speed again. Pedaling down every hill seemed like a cruel joke.
The thing that pushed me over the edge happened 6 days before at the Gravel Metric, which I spent riding with my friend John from Brompton, on Bromptons. We were talking about all sorts of good stuff, business at the time, when he said “If you hit every goal you set, then your goals are not very ambitious.”

Kansas, Leg #1.

At the 6am starting line I was pretty comfortable in what I was doing. I had done the event twice, so I knew what to expect, and I was just out to have a good time with other people out to have a good time. I was conflicted on where to start at the line up, because I felt that I would be quick during the starting flat miles, but get passed on the future hills when I was forced to pedal down each hill. I ended up starting near the rear, simply because I found some great friends there that I don’t get to see often enough.
The herd started moving and away we went. Once on the gravel the line of riders were slowing drastically for any small puddle on the road, and so my 42c tires and inability to coast would decide to hit the shoulder and hold my pace, usually passing a few dozen riders at a time. I did this over and over before a dozen or so miles in we hit the now infamous death march. At first glance of people getting off their bikes I yelled “No gears no fears!” and charged into the mud. Everyone laughed and 30 feet later I picked up my bike and joined the hike line.

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It went on a while, well over an hour in fact, but it wasn’t terrible due to there being a grassy shoulder on one or both sides most of the time. I was able to roll my bike on the cleaner vegetation the majority of the miles. To be honest, it was a lot easier to make forward progress then the B-roads in Iowa that have 45 degree shoulders and leave nowhere to hike. I ate 300 calories and marched on.

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I dig this one. It's hard to get this perspective in an event like this without participating.

I dig this one. It’s hard to get this perspective in an event like this without participating.

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Look at the horizon. Look at how expansive this place is.

Afterwards I heard people had found snakes during this hike, and looking at their pics I believe they were Massassauga(Sistrurus catenatus), a pygmy species of rattlesnake which I have wanted to find since early childhood. Massassauga are nearly extinct in my home state due to habitat loss. My buddy Bailey joked that had I seen them, I would not have finished, instead choosing to play with snakes all day. This is now in and of itself a reason for me to return to the Flint Hills, to find the Massassauga, but I digress.

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At the end of the mud it was carnage. I took my front wheel off to scrape mud out, and noticed my chain was oddly sitting on top of the chainring at a 45 degree angle. I swiftly cleaned what I could and fixed my chain, before clipping into my mud shedding crank brothers pedals with my brakes still unattached. At this mud to gravel transition my bike was barely rolling, but my plan was to start riding to see if mud would fly off the bike at a certain speed, and see how long it was till I saw water. About 2 miles later there was a nice water pool I was able to efficiently clear a lot of mud off the bike with, and also reattach my brakes. Mission successful.

Around this point we really entered the reason I come down to this event, the Flint Hills. I love nature, and being in an ecosystem unploughed and so expansive makes me smile. Miles 20 through 77(Checkpoint #1) were sort of euphoric, and I was just stoked to not only be on a bike in such a beautiful place, but have nothing else to do that day but ride.

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The first neutral water stop was at mile 32, and I stopped to assess my bike, as the chain felt slack. The reality was that my hub had come loose on the bearings and it had 2cm of lateral movement and had been bouncing side to side the last few miles. I was pretty shocked, but the mud had froze the preload adjust and when the wheel spun it threaded out. Worse yet my multi tool did not have the 2.5mm allen to adjust the hub. Thankfully a rider next to me had a massive tool with just what I needed, and I lubed my chain before clipping in to keep the smiles going.

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I made up the time lost hiking to safely clear the checkpoint, and after a 10 minute pit stop with Joel Hukill I was smiling on to leg two.

Leg #2

Aside from the cattle drive of the 3 mile b-road, I hadn’t really ridden “with” anyone all day, just a bunch of touch and go conversations with a few friends. Even more so then when riding single speed, fixed gear was a lone ranger ride. My 40×17 gear made me climb faster then most around me, but I still was swiftly passed on the downhills.

There were some really rough water crossing this leg of the course, and charging down a hill at 25mph, before jumping off a concrete pad onto a rock garden while pedaling a 140rpm cadence the whole time really reinforced my decision to run 42c tires. Everyone talks about Dirty Kanza flat tires and sharp gravel, but from my experience at three separate Kanzas the majority of flats come from pinching the tube on creek crossings. Run big tires.

Another mud section happened, we walked some but had enough of a time buffer to feel secure in doing so. I ate some calories during this walk. One of the things I’ve learned from Trans-Iowa is anytime you are walking, you are eating. It is those little tips early on that make the late hours more comfortable.

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Some of the cattle road in this area were rough, and really wet. I don’t think my feet ever dried all day. From mile 100 on there was also a strong headwind, which I would duck into my aero bars for to push my gear.
Eventually I came to the neutral water station, shortly before a few riders showed up with a dog in tow.
“This dog has been running with us for 30 miles, it wont leave.”

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I filled my bottles, ate a few hundred calories, and rolled out solo, besides a dog as a shadow.

Along this section of the route before we hit checkpoint two I spent a solid chunk of time with a guy named Matt from Lawrence, and a few other riders. It was nice to have conversation, and these miles were really enjoyable with gentle sweeping hills. I was getting bloated in the gut by mile 140, which is a recurring issue I can’t seem to figure out. We rolled into town and went our separate ways to our support, and the Legend Bobby Wintle grabbed my bike and directed me towards some fancy indoor plumbing which I used to it’s full potential. I returned to a smoother, faster bicycle with smoother and faster body. I walked down a few cars to Joel and my Dekalb friends and they got my bike restocked and another thick PB&J sandwich in my mouth.

Lately I have been big on foods that I ate as a kid. I think it is interesting how taste can take us way back to a period of our lives so clearly. PB&J is pretty easy to eat, tastes amazing, and remind me of when I was 10 years old and riding around my neighborhood on my bmx bike doing tricks all day.
I like to think that on some small level it helps me remember I am still just a person, experiencing a big vast world, by making small circles with his feet.

I was shivering while siting around eating my sandwich. I felt pretty great and alert, so I think it was more the fact that I had been splashing through water puddles and it was cold then that I was calories deficient.
My friends mentioned my shivering and kindly pushed me out of the nest to get moving and warm again, friends are so awesome.
I decided at this point that I wanted to finish by midnight. That was the 18 hour mark, and 2 hours before the the cutoff. I said this because that is when they stopped pouring beer on the main street. That was 42 miles in 3.5 hours. It was reasonable even this many miles in, considering we only had another 11 miles of headwind and the last twenty miles were pretty flat, as I recalled.

Leg #3

Shortly after rolling out I saw Matt again, who’s family forced him to continue on. He was feeling fine and riding strong all day, but he felt that due to the weather and hike he was riding slow enough to inconvenience his family’s travel plans. He considered stopping at the 2nd checkpoint in order to have the evening with his family, however, his family would not let him stop now after such a distance. Thus we were once again riding together, as we would until the finish line.

The sun set an hour or so into the last leg of 42 miles, and we navigated partially by maps, but also taillights and memory. We had both done the event at least once before, so some of the route was ingrained, or at least we recalled it once we made the turn.
The last hour or so was pretty painful for me. Once the hills ended there was no way to get out of the saddle well, and 17 hours of fixed gear pedaling was about my limit. I thought back to Jay riding for 34 hours to finish Trans-Iowa, and the deep respect I had for his ride increased even more so.

A few miles out of town Jeremy Kershaw passed us as we hit the final pavement run into town. Matt and I chatted and thanked each other for the company, and followed Jeremy across the finish line to great our family and friends, just 7 minutes before my goal of beating a midnight finish.
I heard I was only the second person ever dumb enough to finish The Dirty Kanza on a fixed gear. My words, not theirs.

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I felt pretty solid afterwards, all things considered. I reduced some more bloating, got multiple jimmy john’s sandwiches, and spent time with friends waiting for other friends among the amazing Emporia festivities. That town is incredible. The locals, riders, families, and everyone else create the best finish line atmosphere I have ever seen.
Eventually I left to take a shower, before returning to the finish line to great more friends crossing over to the recovery side. I ended up being out till quarter to 3am.

Home

I am pretty glad I took the leap and risks I did. Sure, fixed gear was more difficult then had I rode single speed, but it was a new experience and better story then had I simply repeated the same thing over again. It added another color on my three years of Dirty Kanza painting.

Bad ideas make good stories. 

40x17, I think I am in love.

40×17, I think I am in love.

Onward, to suffering.

…I hope.

I don’t doubt the fact that the start of a hard ride will be in 19 hours, I just hope that it ends up being a long one.

Physically and mentally preparing for the big dance called Trans-Iowa has gone great this year, and up until 3 days ago I was completely at ease with few butterflies. Not because I felt like it was in the bag or going to be easy, I am just very happy with my progress as a rider since last year. I am significantly stronger in the legs and heart then I was one year ago, my bike fits way better then it ever has, my gear is more dialed, my nutrition easier to swallow while riding, I know how to climb out of holes more confidently, and I have some solid uncomfortable weather training and multi day sleepless nights under my belt in the last 3 months.  I am really excited and pleased with my last year of training.

The thing that has me, and all the rest of the riders worried is the weather. Rain the day before, rain at the start, and temps hovering just barely above freezing both nights, and 20+ mph winds.

I am no too worried about my body in relation to the weather, I will have all the rain and cold gear I’ll need to stay cozy(Thanks Dean!). I am mostly worried about what the moisture does to the gravel and dirt we will be spending 331 miles on. Bikes getting caked with mud preventing wheels from spinning, derailleurs getting ripped off, cassettes getting packed to the point that the chain can’t sit on them, these are the worries running through my brain. I am worried about a short day on the bike due to mud.

Pic by the wonderful Jeremy Kershaw, of Heck of the North fame.

Pic by the wonderful Jeremy Kershaw, of Heck of the North fame.

The funny thing is, I am not worried as much about not finishing as I am about not getting the chance to battle the dark places. I am worried about not making it into the second night to fight the demons that only come out when you are on the bike for 24+ hours in a row. It takes a long time for the inoculation of Trans-Iowa to set in, that state of being entirely one with the dirt, where it seems there is no dividing line between the earth below and the rider above, and your mind becomes one with the darkness that surrounds you.

Trans-Iowa: The blackness of a cold Trans-Iowa thunderstorm  24 hours in is crushing.

Trans-Iowa: The blackness of a cold Trans-Iowa thunderstorm 24 hours in is crushing.

It’s a level of suffering you don’t get with single day events that start at sunrise and finish shortly after sunset. The sun is incredibly comforting mentally, and each time it comes up you get the sensation that everything is going to be ok. Riders get two such sunrises during this event, and I hope to be comforted by both.

The weather will start bad, and get easier after about 2pm, when the rain might let up. This will be a proverbial rabbit for us to chase, or oasis for us to look forward to, a literal bright spot on the horizon.  We will tell ourselves it will keep getting easier the deeper we go, that the best is yet to come, and we can look forward to a different set of challenges. Those are the challenges I am looking forward to, the notion of being on the bike for 24 hours, and knowing you only have another 10 hours to go.

Whatever happens, we will all have stories to tell, experiences we will never forget, friendships created and strengthened, and deep appreciation for the true privilege of finding out how deep our breaking points lay. Onward.

2014: The best cycling year ever

WARNING: PHOTO HEAVY SENTIMENTAL POST AHEAD. 

Lately it has been sinking in just how good 2014 was for me in regards to cycling. I accomplished some goals for sure, but I am most reminded of the new places explored, the new friends I made, the existing friends that I grew closer to, the intense suffering we shared, as well as the beers and laughs.

I am not going to recap all of the things that happened, but I am going to post some of my favorite photos and memories from last year. Thank you for sharing miles and smiles with me in 2014, and if you didn’t, hopefully I’ll run into you during a ride in 2015.

But really, I can not believe all of this happened in one single year.

Topanga Creek bicycles: In Janurary I spent a week  just outside L.A. in the mountains with our good friends at Topanga Creek Bicycles. Chris and the locals showed me some awesome riding, food, and people.

Topanga Creek bicycles: In Janurary I spent a week just outside L.A. in the mountains with our good friends at Topanga Creek Bicycles. Chris and the locals showed me some awesome riding, food, and people.

Topanga:

Topanga: Chris and I drove a few hours up a mountain to Idyllwild, where we visited The Hub cyclery, and went off roading in the hummer. Chris handed me the wheel off roading back down the mountain, and I was freaked. it was awesome.

Topanga: Chris and Rover, excellent hosts and companions.

Topanga: Chris and Rover, excellent hosts and companions.

 

Grumpy Grind was a fun, rainy day in Milledgeville IL. Next one is this Sunday, see you there.  http://www.grumpygrind.com/

Grumpy Grind was a fun, rainy day in Milledgeville IL. Next one is this Sunday, see you there.
http://www.grumpygrind.com/

Grumpy Grind: Camped out in this barn the night before. Pretty sure there was a tornado, and a giant dog smelling us the entire night. W/Bailey.

Grumpy Grind: Camped out in this barn the night before. Pretty sure there was a tornado, and a giant dog smelling us the entire night. This was the first occasion I spent a good amount of time with Bailey, and I liked it.

Trans Iowa, the paradoxical best and worst thing ever. The depth of the lows just make the highs even higher.

Trans Iowa, the paradoxical best and worst thing ever. The depth of the lows just make the highs even higher.

I spent 24 hours with these gentlemen. Dave and Jerry are great guys.

I spent 24 hours with these gentlemen. Dave and Jerry are great guys.

Trans-Iowa: The blackness of a cold Trans-Iowa thunderstorm  24 hours in is crushing.

Trans-Iowa: The blackness of a cold Trans-Iowa thunderstorm 24 hours in is crushing.

 Matthiessen Mountain Madness: Getting that wet single speed racing in.

Matthiessen Mountain Madness: Getting that wet single speed racing in.

Dirty Kanza 200: This was my first year riding the event on a Single Speed, and it was very enjoyable.

Dirty Kanza 200: This was my first year riding the event on a Single Speed, and it was very enjoyable.

Dirty Kanza 200: I spent the last 110 miles to the finish with John Welsh, another single speed rider. I had met him at Trans-Iowa in 2013, and always look forward to riding with him. He is a really great guy.

Dirty Kanza 200:
I spent the last 110 miles to the finish with John Welsh, another single speed rider. I had met him at Trans-Iowa in 2013, and always look forward to riding with him. He is a really great guy.

Chequamegon 100: My first 100 mile race mountain bike on a single speed. I rode all day with Christopher Jensen, who I spent so many great summer weekends with. I wish I had more pics of the day, but I lost my nice camera during this race. This photo was taken by another friend and camera ninja, Craig Smith.

Chequamegon 100: My first 100 mile mountain bike race on a single speed. I rode all day with Christopher Jensen, who I spent so many great summer weekends with. I wish I had more pics of the day, but I lost my nice camera during this race. This photo was taken by another friend and camera ninja, Craig Smith.

Ten Thousand Recon: These dues went out to proof read the Ten Thousand course with me. Such a fun day.

Ten Thousand Recon: These dues went out to proof read the Ten Thousand course with me. Such a fun day.

Ten Thousand Recon: Looking back over Morseville road.

Ten Thousand Recon: Looking back over Morseville road.

Ten Thousand Recon: Apple River Canyon river soak.

Ten Thousand Recon: Apple River Canyon river soak.

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Ten Thousand Event Day: I did not ride the event I organized, but getting that many people out to explore those roads was a highlight of the year for me.

Ten Thousand Event Day: I did not ride the event I organized, but getting that many people out to explore those roads was a highlight of the year for me.

Driftless ride: Super fun day with friends Peter, Jon, and a really happy dog that chased us for many miles.

Driftless ride: Super fun day with friends Peter, Jon, and a really happy dog that chased us for many miles.

Driftless ride: The driftless is packed full of secret spots everywhere. If you have never been, come out on a ride with us sometime.

Driftless ride: The driftless is packed full of secret spots everywhere. If you have never been, come out on a ride with us sometime.

Single Speed USA: Copper Harbor is nuts. This was probably the best long weekend all year. We suffered climbing big hills for 4-5 hours each day, and relaxed harder each night. I love these guys.

Single Speed USA: Copper Harbor is nuts. This was probably the best long weekend all year. We suffered climbing big hills for 4-5 hours each day, and relaxed harder each night. I love these guys.

SSUSA: Copper Harbor

SSUSA: Copper Harbor

Moots and Colorado Experience:  Rocky Mountain N.P. This was surreal and serene. We went the the highest lake, way up there.

Moots and Colorado Experience: Rocky Mountain N.P. This was surreal and serene. We went to the highest lake, way up there.

Moots / Colorado: The riding was so good. I need more of that in my life. ASAP.

Moots / Colorado: The riding was so good. I need more of that in my life. ASAP.

Moots / Colorado: This picture always reminds me how much non stop fun we had. So many stories.

Moots / Colorado: This picture always reminds me how much non stop fun we had. So many stories.

Moots / Colorado: Speechless

Moots / Colorado: Speechless

Cyclocross: I raced the majority of our local CX series this last fall, and had a ton of fun. It stretched me in ways I haven't been before.

Cyclocross: I raced the majority of our local CX series this last fall, and had a ton of fun. It stretched me in ways I haven’t been before.

Cyclocross: I accidentally won a race.

Cyclocross: I accidentally won a race.

Georgia: I closed out my year with the holiday trip to the in-laws in Georgia, where I got some relaxed road miles in.  Always a chill, lazy time.

Georgia: I closed out my year with the holiday trip to the in-laws in Georgia, where I got some relaxed road miles in. Always a chill, lazy time.

I don’t know if it’s possible to outdo that year, but I am going to try my best. I have to keep exploring.

Dirty Kanza 2014

Ok, so this event was 8 months ago, and I failed to write about it because I was sad when I lost my camera with all of my full quality photos of Kanza while riding Chequamagon 100(I did have some low res ones on Facebook I pulled for this post). Recently however the buzz around registration got me jazzed to pound keyboards with fingers before spinning circles with legs again this year, which I am quite excited for. So anyway, into the time machine set to 8 months ago…

The week leading up to Kanza was a whirlwind, and I ended up having to find both ride down and place to sleep a few days prior to the event. My friend Jeff invited my buddy Derek and I into his car for the drive down, and we ended up sleeping at Eric Benjamin’s house.  Eric is also known as Adventure Monkey, the guy that takes all the incredible Kanza photos you see.

Going into the event I already had one Kanza finish under my belt in 2012, so I figured I would ride this one single speed.
I’ve always loved single speed rides, because it makes you hurt on the hills, relax on the downhills, and think about what is around you instead of cadence and what gear you should be in. Not to sound cliche, but you really do become more intimate with the roads underneath you in a way that gears make you numb to.  I setup my Warbird Ti with a 36×17 gearing, thanks to input from Don Daly and Mark Stevenson.

Salsa Warbird Ti Single Speed

Salsa Warbird Ti Single Speed, sans bags.

Derek and I rode a few miles from Eric’s house to the start and lined up. Once the 1,000+ group of riders was rolling I wasn’t in a hurry, and was finding friends here and there in the crowd I was chatting with. I found a species of snake I had never found before, and a whole lot of turtles, which I stopped to set off the road to keep them safe.  We rolled at a pretty casual pace, enjoying some pretty great fog along the roads during the early morning sunrise.
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These cute little mobile road mines were everywhere.

These cute little mobile road mines were everywhere.

People always talk about how bad the Flint Hills are for flat tires, and I have never had that experience personally. In 2012 I had zero flats, and then this year I got a single flat. The flat this year was from a metal nail, through my tire, twice.
My Bontrager tire was setup tubeless, so I pulled the nail out, popped a tube in, and finished. No more flats.
I love these things. Tough, supple, and light.

Bontrager CX-0 38c

Bontrager CX-0 38c, with a nail through it, twice.

One of the big reasons I go down to the flint hills is because I love the terrain and scenery. I live in a corn industrial district, so to get out into a remote area with nothing but nature around is pretty special.  Having my single speed set to auto pilot I was able to zone out into relaxing and enjoying everything that was around me, stopping to take a few hundred photos.

See that rock in the bottom of the frame? That is why all of this land was never tilled into corn for cattle and destroyed. Those rocks are HEROS.

See that rock in the bottom of the frame? That is why all of this land was never tilled into corn for cattle and destroyed. Those rocks are HEROS.

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It was around mile 85 at this point, and after getting the flat, stopping to take pictures, and my buddy Jeff crashing hard on a downhill, I had been riding by myself mostly the whole ride thus far. At this point I looked over and saw my friend John Welsh grinding his single speed past me up Texico Hill. I spent some dark hours with John at Trans-Iowa in 2013, and reconnected a few months earlier, and was happy to see him now. I ended up riding with John the rest of the day, and I really enjoyed the miles. Both of us on single speed worked out well, and we seemed to be on the same page pace wise.  John was getting support from the DDRP crew of Don Daly, Charles Showater, and Craig Irving, and they helped me out as well since I was riding without support.  Those are some great guys, and some strong riders also.

We avoided cows on the roads(literally bovine, not a euphemism for slow riders), and ran into more riders we knew. I looked over and saw Wendy Davis, whom I finished my first Kanza with back in 2012. It was great to see her, she was riding strong.
One thing about these events, is after you do a handful of them and met people, you keep seeing them over and over. It becomes a big family gathering at various places around the country. It’s one big gypsy gravel ramble. It is the best, so I’d encourage you to met the people around you on these rides.

Some of the hills on the single speeds were a challenge, and one or two we simply walked, knowing it would gain us less time then energy we would expend. Even on the geared bike I walk some hills on rides this long, it’s efficient and stretches the legs in ways spinning circles doesn’t.  The hardest part is getting over the pride to prove to someone you can climb anything and everything.

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The last 30 miles we set the pace a little higher, simply because the finish was near, and ended up catching and dropping group after group. It was nice to feel that we still had energy left in us that late in the day. We rolled into the finish, relieved, satisfied, and hungry.  The finish festivities are simply incredible. If you do the ride plan on hanging around and eating and drinking hours after the ride. I think I ended up getting three beers handed to me by friends before I had a chance to eat anything, and then I went back to Adventure Monkey HQ and sleeping a few hours. I then woke up at 7am, hoped on the bike again, and went on the prowl for a big, well deserved, breakfast.

Can’t wait for Kanza 2015. I see a ton of friends names on the roster.

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