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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.