This summer Bicycle Times will be tackling the Dirty Kanza, a 200-mile race across the Flint Hills of Kansas. It’s long, hot and surprisingly hilly. In this short film Salsa Cycles takes you inside the action and adventure of what we should expect. Read more about the Dirty Kanza 200 here.
So maybe riding around in the winter doesn’t appeal to you, or you find yourself with a limited amount of time each day to ride or you want to put in some focused training to gear up for a big ride in addition to an outdoor training regimen. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided that getting on the trainer is a good idea. I can sympathize.
Here I’ve outlined some things that help me get on the trainer, maybe they’ll help you too.Tweet Print
I’ve been riding around on Salsa‘s 2014 Warbird 2 for the past few weeks and thought it might be a good time to share some of my first impressions of the bike. First off, the Warbird is Salsa’s take on a gravel racing bike. If you’re not already familiar with gravel racing it’s what it sounds like…racing bikes over gravel roads sometimes for incredibly long distances. Think Dirty Kanza at 200 miles, or the Trans Iowa which ticks off somewhere around 340 miles. The Warbird was designed to provide comfort while maintaining a light, efficient build that can push a fast pace over some seriously rough roads. Sounds like fun, right?Tweet Print
By Mike Cushionbury
For a great many of us, road riding isn’t a dedicated endeavor of criterium racing and hill repeats. It’s a combination of long days on the pavement, as many dirt roads as we can find, a training race here and there and maybe even a cyclocross race. This of course begs the question, is there just one do-it-all bike for all of the above?
The answer according to Specialized is, in fact, yes. Taking what it learned from the successful CruX cross line, Specialized has been dabbling in creating the ultimate gravel road bike, a concept that seems to be working as team riders Rebecca Rusch and Dan Hughes both won the Dirty Kanza 200 this year on specially outfitted editions of the “gravel” Crux. The production model, dubbed the CruX EVO, is a $3,200 road/gravel/cross machine that could be the only drop bar bike you’ll ever need. Or want.Tweet Print
Editor’s note: This story is a cross-post from our sister magazine, Dirt Rag. This weekend riders from across the country will converge on the Flint Hills of Kansas to tackle the Dirty Kanza 200, one of the premiere events in the burgeoning gravel racing scene.
By Mike Cushionbury
Gravel road racing is filled with innovations and inventions. Bikes range from road to cyclocross to full-on Frankenbikes cobbled together from a mix of road, cross, touring and mountain bike parts. As a mountain bike racer and first-time DK200 competitor I momentarily considered setting up my 29er cross-country race bike for the task late last year but further consideration led me towards my cyclocross bike—namely a 2013 Cannondale SuperX Disc—with the goal of keeping it as simple and familiar as possible.
I knew for sure a Frankenbike was not the answer. I didn’t want to gamble with a cumbersome bike I wasn’t used to. I also wanted something I could consistently train on, making sure my position was completely dialed. In February, after ‘cross season, I set up my SuperX with the exact same measurements as my road bike, a professionally fitted position I’ve had for as long as I can remember. My saddle height, reach and stem length are all exactly the same on both bikes.
I also chose the same model Fizik Areone saddle (that’s well broken in by now) and same crank arm lengths (being a mountain biker I use long-ish 175mm on the road for consistency.) Once everything was set I put road tires on and used this rig as my road bike, compiling as many miles as I could to make sure the bike and my position was deeply burned into my muscle memory and as comfortable as possible.
The SuperX’s carbon frame is lighter than many road bike frames and with SAVE seat and chain stays it’s compliant and forgiving over rough terrain. It is truly an elite level ‘cross bike that performs like a refined road bike with snappy acceleration and geometry suited to longer road races opposed to crit-style racing—just the ticket for DK. Front and rear disc brakes insure precise stopping will never be an issue.
Nothing too radical for parts save for some drivetrain adjustments. I choose a short reach Ritchey WCS Curve carbon fiber handlebar and WCS 4-Axis stem for ultra lightweight and reliability. I also went with a bump absorbing Ritchey WCS Carbon Flexlogic Link seatpost. The post’s carbon layup provides a claimed 15-percent increase in vertical compliancy compared to standard posts without giving up any lateral or torsional stiffness. For a little extra comfort I double wrapped the top of the bars since this is where I will mostly be, not down in the drops.
Shifters and front derailleur are standard SRAM Force. For the road I used a Force rear derailleur, SRAM Red 11/26 cassette and Cannondale Si 53/39 crankset. Because 200 miles is, well, 200 miles, I wanted extra low gearing for the later hours of the race. I switched out the rear derailleur for a SRAM XX mountain unit and matched that to an XX 11/32 cassette. I also geared down the front with an FSA K-Force compact crank and 50/34-chainring combo.
This is a set-up I successfully used at last year’s Iron Cross race so I’m already comfortable with it. I’ll be using Shimano XTR Race pedals and mountain bike shoes because I believe top-level mountain bike shoes, though they do have very stiff carbon soles, vibrate less over such harsh roads. Super stiff road shoes could lead to early foot numbness and fatigue.
Wheels and tires
Wheel selection was simple; I’m using the same NoTubes Alpha 340 Team road wheelset I’ve been on all winter—simple, light and ultra reliable. Initially I was going to use a NoTubes ZTR Crest mountain bike wheelset to widen the tire’s contact patch but tire installation proved difficult due to the increased rim width (something I didn’t want to deal with in Kansas.)
My tire choice was simple as well: Challenge Almanzo’s. These super-durable, 360-gram, 700x30mm tires are specifically designed for gravel road racing. They roll very fast and utilize a special Puncture Protection System belt between the casing and belt—perfect for the spiky rocks on the roads around the Flint Hills.
Since I’m not much of a water pack wearer, I plan on going with two bottles on the bike and one in my pocket—three bottles per 50 miles to each checkpoint where I’ll have a drop bag loaded with supplies including real food like sardines, pepperoni sandwiches, black licorice and of course drink mix and bottles. If I stay on point of not using a water pack I’ll add a large seat bag with three tubes, a multi tool with a chain breaker, two quick links, a few links of chain, electrical tape and a tire boot. I also have a Lezyne mini-pump secured to the bike. As a precaution, I’ll have a full water pack in my drop bag at the midpoint checkpoint.
Veterans of the race may think I’m gambling by going minimalist but when I built up my bike for this mammoth event I went with what I know and am comfortable with. It’s a roll of the dice I’m willing to take.
Dirty Kanza is Saturday, June 1 in the Flint Hills region of east-central Kansas. Go to dirtykanza200.com for more info.
The latest issue of your favorite cycling magazine is on newsstands now. Here’s a peek at what’s inside:
The lure of gravel
A new breed of race is cropping up in the Midwest, one that promises a grueling but beautiful ride—the gravel grinder. Two such events, The Gravel Worlds and the Dirty Kanza 200, highlight the experience. By Eric Benjamin.
Cycling the city of angels
Would you believe that Los Angeles, where the car is king, can also be bicycle-friendly? It can, and in fact the city looks even better by bike. By Joshua Samuel Brown.
A first-timer’s artistic take on the biggest bicycle show in the country. By Stephen Haynes.
High-powered LED light test
We try out seven of the brightest communting lights available today—and they are bright. By the Bicycle Times staff.
Advocacy: car-free days in Jakarta? Don’t hold your breath
The exotic capital city of Indonesia has some of the same problems integrating bikes as cities in the U.S. By Tracy Duvall.
- Britax child bike seat
- Soma Fabrications porteur rack
- Detours Georgetown panniers
- All-City Space Horse
- Cannondale Hooligan
- Gazelle Cabby
- And more!
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By Josh Patterson,
One of the things I enjoy most about endurance gravel events is that they challenge participants to innovate. Gravel racing is a new and evolving niche. Companies are starting to take note, but for the most part it’s about improvisation and ingenuity.
I’ve toed the start line at Dirty Kanza five times, each year with a different bike. (Read Josh’s race recap here.) This year I think I’ve honed in on my ideal endurance gravel setup. I would not go so far as to say this is the perfect gravel race setup, but it was good enough for my mid-pack finish.
Salsa Cycles was kind enough to allow me to ride an aluminum prototype of their upcoming gravel race bike. (There was also a titanium version at this year’s race.) The yet-to-be-named bike takes design cues from their existing cyclocross bike, the Chili Con Crosso. The new bike will be disc-specific and features many subtle changes, which are the result of “many, many miles and years of gravel racing experience,” said Mike Reimer, Salsa’s marketing manager.
Like the Chili Con Crosso, the new bike will have a Press-Fit 30 bottom bracket. The seat and chainstays are flattened to allow for a small amount of vertical compliance.
The frame has mounts for three water bottles. I chose not to carry a bottle underneath the downtube; there are plenty lot of cowpies on the roads and I don’t enjoy drinking from a bottle encrusted in bovine excrement.
Wheels and tires
There is no doubt in my mind that there is exponentially more hand wringing about tire choice for gravel racing than all other disciplines of cycling combined. Tire choice will make or break your ride. Kansas gravel is generally composed of limestone and flint, flint can be sharper than steel, and will make short work of thin tires.
I opted to run Clement’s brand new X’Plor MSO 700x40mm tire. Gravel is an unpredictable and ever-changing surface, I find it hard to conceive of any tire that would allow one to “rail turns” on a gravel road. The X’Plor’s round shape, consistently spaced, low-profile tread makes for a tire that rolls fast and is extremely predictable. I ran 42psi in the front and 45psi in the rear.
I also opted to run them tubeless on a pair of Rolf Ralos 29er wheels. I’m sure Clement does not recommend this (it’s my job to try these things and occasionally make poor decisions so you don’t have to). They seated with a floor pump and held air with three scoops of NoTubes sealant. They have a supple, 127tpi casing, weigh approximately 430 grams, and carried me across miles of flint-strewn roads without any issues. I’m sold.
The Rolf Ralos wheelset rolls on White Industries hubs laced to what are essentially NoTubes Arch rims drilled for Rolf’s paired spokes. On my mountain bike I found this wheelset to flex more than I like, but for long gravel rides I appreciated this modicum compliance.
I ran a Shimano 105 group with an FSA Gossamer crankset, nothing special, just solid, reliable stuff. For events like this I’ve found the wider range of a 50/34 t compact crankset is a better option than a traditional 48/38t, or 46/36t cyclocross gearing. Sometimes you need that little ring, other times, when you’ve got a tailwind on your side, it’s nice to be able to take full advantage of it with a 50t ring. I paired this with a 12-28 cassette and was never wanting for gears.
Frame pack like this one made by Jandd and similar bags made by Revelate Designs are excellent options for carrying all the food and gear you need easy access to during your ride. I planned to carry a three-liter hydration bladder in my bag and forego a hydration pack, but when full, the pack rubbed against my knees. I ended up riding with a CamelBak Charge LR and it proved quite comfortable.
In my saddlebag I carried two tubes, a multi-tool, patch kit, tire boot, two links of chain, and two 16-gram CO2 cartridges.
Front and rear lights and mandatory. Many riders who are confident in their ability to finish before sunset opt to run a very minimal headlight. I was not one of those riders, so I opted to run a Cygolite TridenX 750 OSP. If you think you’re going to be riding well into the night I also recommend running a helmet-mounted to make map reading and navigation easier.
Portland Design Works’ Magic Flute is my pump of choice.
I ran my handlebar about two centimeters higher than I normally would for road or ‘cross to ensure I had a position in the drops that would be comfortable for hours on end.Tweet Print
By Josh Patterson, photos by Josh Patterson and Corey Godfrey
The volatile Kansas weather shapes the outcome as much as the racers’ fitness and preparation. Scorching heat, soul-crushing headwinds and high humidity often upset the best-laid plans. Last year an afternoon outbreak of severe thunderstorms forced many racers to seek shelter in barns and ditches, but mild temperatures and light winds created ideal conditions for 200 miles of gravel road racing this weekend.
Here’s the winning video from last year’s DK200 video contest. (Ben Thornton was not lucky enough to find refuge in a barn.)
This year unseasonably mild temperatures, light and variable winds, and rain showers several days prior—just enough to pack down the gravel—conspired to make this year’s race one that would see previous records broken.
At Friday night’s pre-race meeting many riders talked in hushed voices about who would break the 12-hour barrier, and best former 24-hour National Champion Cameron Chamber’s four-year-old record of 11 hours and 58 minutes. Would it be DK200 stalwart Dan “the diesel” Hughes, owner of Sunflower Outdoor and Bike in Lawrence, Kansas; Lincoln Nebraska’s Corey “Cornbread” Godfrey; or would the Queen of Pain, three-time World Champion Rebecca Rusch chick everyone?
The next morning more than 420 racers lined up in downtown Emporia, Kansas, for the start. It appears that 2012 will go down as the breakout year for this race. It has reached a critical mass, having made the transition from a popular regional event to one that draws participants from across the nation and beyond; riders from 38 states, Canada and Great Britain journeyed to the Flint Hills of central Kansas for this year’s race. Paying money and traveling long distances to ride 200 miles of Great Plains gravel—who would have thought?
As the depth of the field increases, so too does the pace. From the start, the in-it-to-win-it group set a tempo that left the in-it-to-survive-it riders like myself strung out over miles of rough gravel roads.
It came as quite a surprise when, two hours into the race, riders from the lead group began passing the pack fodder. The course is well marked, but navigation is still a critical element of the Dirty Kanza; in their haste the lead pack missed a turn and went several miles off course before realizing their error. Some of these racers blew past at breakneck speed, frantic to regain lead while other, more seasoned racers slowly ratcheted up the pace.
As the clock ticked towards the 12-hour mark two riders rolled onto Emporia’s main street: Dan Hughes and Rusty Folger of Golden, Colorado, crossed the finish line, arm in arm, tying for the win and setting a new course record in of in 11 hours and 56 minutes. This was Folger’s first attempt at the race, and Hughes third win.
Soon afterward Rebecca Rusch rode across the line, finishing in 12 hours and two minutes, finishing third overall and setting a new women’s course record by over an hour.
Stay tuned for a breakdown of the gear I used that didn’t, well, break down.Tweet Print