My MidSouth Gravel

I used to preach solely about how The Dirty Kanza had changed me.  I used to preach about how much The Dirty Kanza had helped me grow up as a cyclist.  I like to say I was born and raised on DK gravel.  All of that is still true…but…

I’ve done a lot of reflecting the past year and I want to make sure other events get their due.  The LandRun 100, currently MidSouth Gravel, is one of those events.  I have been to every single LandRun100 race/ride.  2013 was the first one.  I was there.  I am not the person now I was then.  The LandRun100 has humbled me and helped me grow as a cyclist as much as any race.  I failed two out of my first three attempts there.  I have broken my bike, abused my body and tortured myself mentally there.  I love the LandRun100…

2013.  The Year of the Derailleur.  Race Result.  DNF.  Three little letters defined what was a tough day for me.  In truth those three letters perfectly summed up my lack of mental toughness, my lack of physical fitness and in the end, my lack of cycling experience.  Traveling out of Emporia to ride in races was very new to me.  I was nervous.  I was excited.  I was a little scared.  I had travelled with much more experienced riders.  I had no bailout plan.  107 miles.  Chilly.  Rain in the forecast.  No one told me about the damn hills around Stillwater, Ok.  Spoiler alert.  There are never ending hills around Stillwater and when you are a 10-12mph rider…they are effing MASSIVE hills in your mind.  I was unprepared.  I had little in the way of equipment.  I barely knew how to change a tire.  I had a Trek X01 with 35mm tubed Happy Mediums.  Checkpoint 1 was about 60 miles in.  I was a couple miles out when the 6 hour clock clicked in my head.  I was going to miss the cutoff time.  Perfect.  I was sore, exhausted, pissed off, cold and tired of the overcast weather.  I was near the back of the pack.  I didn’t know Wintle that well.  He’s a nice guy.  He wants people to finish.  Shit.  SHIT!  Cutoff time extended.  I could keep riding.  I didn’t want to keep riding.  I hated bikes.  I sat down for like 20 minutes but was too embarrassed to quit.  I kept riding.  The rain started.  Cold effing rain started.  Great.  Now I’m freaking walking in the damn, cold rain.  It’s near 7 hours and I’m at like mile 70.  Broke Rear Derailleur hanger at Mile 75.  No idea what a hanger is…  7 hours and 40 minutes.  Out.  Phone dead.  No numbers memorized of all my new cycling friendsI sat freezing a little church in Meridian Oklahoma waiting about 2 hours for a friend to come find me.  I was so cold all the way through I could not stop shaking.

2014.  The Year of the ITB.  Race Result.  09:08:18.  I learned a lot about what not to do this year.  I wanted to be faster.  I thought all I had to do was pedal more.  I randomly jumped on gym stationary bikes.  I threw my bike on a trainer and pedaled a lot.  No direction.  No plan.  Apparently there is a thing called “bike fit” that involves more than just dangling a string from your knee when you buy a bike.  Who knew that saddle height, fore and aft positioning, cleat positioning and a structured plan all meant something? Who knew poor bike fit and stubbornness could do so much to ruin a season.  Have you ever had ITB issues?  I had to crawl up stairs after rides from the pain.  20 mile rides. So I went into LandRun with a weird pain in my knees.  The outside of the knee to be specific.  Usually started intensifying after a couple hours.  I popped a LOT of ibuprofen and carried a few small bottles of whiskey. The tiny airplane ones. Clueless. I finished LandRun in 2014 and had no idea what I had done to my entire year.  ITB issues became chronic and cost me so much time in 2014.  I could not even ride a mile to the bike trails without pain.  All because of bike fit.  I finished LandRun though.  Weather was good.  Hills were bad.  Wintle hug was awesome.  Stoke was stellar!

2015.  The Year of the Herniated Disc.  Race Result.  DNF.  I had lost 2014 to ITBS.  I finished the LandRun and the DK in 2014 but the pain was so intense.  I was paranoid and didn’t want that again.  I was scared of that pain.  Bikes were supposed to be fun.  a release.  I started off 2015 with a herniated disc.  I could feel that damn pinched nerve all the way into my foot.  I did okay if I pedaled controlled and sat leaning forward.  Well…this is LandRun.  There was peanut butter mud.  There was hike a bike.  I walked for 3 miles with stingers causing me to stop and recover my breathe from the pain.  I didn’t want to lose Dirty Kanza due to stubbornness at LandRun.  I wanted to quit at mile 30.  I called my wife. She guilted me into getting to the halfway checkpoint.  The day took me 6.5 hrs to go 50 miles.  There was a lot of walking in mud!  I played it safe.  I stopped at mile 50.  Race over.  Day over.  Pain over.

2016.  The Year I Got Skinny.  Race Result.  9:37:13.  MUD!  MUD!  There was mud!  Oh wait…it’s LandRun…there’s always mud.  No pain.  Bike fit on point.  Weight dropped from 175 lbs to 150 lbs.  I can’t explain it.  I got really sick in late December around Christmas.  I didn’t recover my appetite until later that year.  I dropped 25 pounds in 3 month’s.  I’m not kidding.  Maybe too much too fast but it happened.  I really had a great day on the bike.  The time doesn’t show it but there was a lot of walking in the first half.  I did go over the bars once. We turned into a field and a rut grabbed my entire front tire. The second half was dry and I rolled in with a new friend Elliot Rodda.  117th place out of 332 Finishers.  Austin Morris won that year.  18 year old kid.  I believe he was on a mountain bike.  Crazy fast.

2017.  The Year We All Earned It.  Race Result.  8:34:06.   Ever been wet and covered in mud for over 8 hours with temps topping in the 40’s and dropping throughout the day?  2017 epically sucked.  We were all numb mentally and physically.  You just pointed the front tire, turned the cranks and moved.  By the time we left the halfway checkpoint I doubt any of us had much thought process going on.  Just Finish.  Pedal until you see Wintle.  Wintle will tell you when to stop.  Freaking just pedal.  I dropped my entire Snickers bar into the mud at mile 80’ish. I was SO sad. Screw it. Jammed the entire thing into my mouth. Spit out the gritty parts. My mind and body stopped working.  Like seriously…stopped.  I stopped pedaling at one point.  Bike rolled to a stop. My body leaned over.  I got off the bike and leaned on the saddle.  I wasn’t thinking of quitting.  I wasn’t thinking period.  I was just…stopped.  Turns out it was like 10 miles from the Finish.  A friend told me to ride with him for a few more miles…so I did.  Again.  No thinking.  Just a numb mind and body turning the cranks until Wintle said “that’s enough.  You’re done”.  EPIC.  Beginning to End.

2018.  The Year We All Smiled.  Race Result.  7:01:29.  What can I say?  We deserved this one.  Paradise.  Dry.  Fast.  Fun.  No issue’s.  None.  Peaceful.  I saw a herd of Unicorns in a field under a rainbow playing soccer with a herd of goat men…all with faces of Wintle…Paradise.

2019.  The Year I Beat Jeffy.  Race Result. 6:13:19. Yes. Jeff and I were a tandem team but it does NOT matter!!! I crossed the freaking line first!! I technically beat Jeffy by half a bike length!! The day was damn near perfect. Fast. Fun. Jeff kept touching my butt all day but that’s his issue not mine. Narrow bars…whatever… So much fun. Can. Not. Be. Repeated. Third Place Tandem but that was not the goal. The goal was to have fun…and we won!!

2019.  The Year We All Learned. LandRun has officially been relearned. MidSouth Gravel is now upon us. I’m excited for what the day will bring! I crashed and effed up my shoulder a week ago. Separated Shoulder. Next Tuesday an MRI and a specialist will determine my MidSouth Gravel fate. DKXL is my accepted challenge in 2020. I’ll do what it takes to be ready. If doc says ride MidSouth…I pop the Ibuprofen and I ride. If doc says don’t ride, I put on the fanny pack and support the hell out of my gravel friends and family at MidSouth. Either way…it’ll be ROWDY!!!

Gravel Season is officially upon us. Love y’all!!

My Dirty Kanza

I haven’t put my thoughts on “paper” in awhile.  Helps clear the head.  Helps to reflect.

I have changed a lot since I started riding bikes 8 years ago.  I have changed how I ride my bike, why I ride my bike and where I ride my bike.  I am from Emporia Kansas.  Yep.  That Emporia Kansas.  Land of the famed Flint Hills gravel and the behemoth of gravel events, The Dirty Kanza.  You can’t live in Emporia and not at least heard ever so slightly of the bike event.  Range of interest in the event locally peaks at zealotry and bottoms at “that bike race thing”…but everyone from the area has at least heard of it.  It goes without saying then that for me to think about what I want out of cycling in 2019…I have to first come to terms with what I want out of my 2019 Dirty Kanza experience.

2010.  I picked up the bike 8 years ago after having lost it for about 25.  I got off my chair in front of the basement PC.  I turned off whatever game I was playing at the time (World of Warcraft) and decided to create my own real life adventures.  I bought my first 30 lb Trek Mtn Bike, hoisted my 190 lb 5’9” body onto the saddle.  Turned the cranks for 6 miles, parked the bike in the garage and thought “Well…wasted that money.”

2012.  A year and a half later I rolled through the Finish Line of the Dirty Kanza 200 on top of the world.  Honestly.  Freaking amazing.  I couldn’t stop grinning.  I had my Star Wars cycling jersey and my Adventure Monkey bibs on.  Very not matchie matchie.  My admiration for all things Matchie came a few years later.  I don’t think I sat for a week from saddle and muscle pain.  My calf and thigh muscles were so bruised from constant cramping even getting out of bed was painful for a week.  I finished though.

DK Finishing Cup

Holding the prized DK Finishers Cup

2013. I assumed finishing the Dirty Kanza was a given.  I had already done it.  I’d just do THAT again.  I failed.  You see, the weather was pretty dang good in 2012.  The wind was pretty dang strong in 2013.  I was not.  I was not physically strong enough to Finish in the time I thought I should.  I was not mentally strong enough to accept this fact.  I quit.  Halfway.  I smiled for my finishing friends but I beat myself up internally.  I had to face my co-workers the next day.  I had to face my friends and family knowing inside that I quit.  I hated knowing that feeling.

2014. I trained inside during the winter.  Kind of.  I randomly hopped from spin bike to spin bike and pedaled until my knees hurt.  Cause you know…no pain no gain!!!  Dumb.  I developed chronic ITB issues in both legs.  What the heck was an ITB??  I became an expert.  I could pedal 5 miles, go home and have to painfully crawl up my stairs.  Seriously.  Actually crawl.  I do okay with pain but this was constant and consistent and mind numbing.  I remember one ride was 8 miles.  Flat.  Pavement.  I threw my bike at my garage.  Early April and I couldn’t ride 8 EFFING miles.  I didn’t ride agin until early May.  I rode easy.  I was going to Finish.  The plan?  Four Ibuprofen every 4 hours.  Alternating Four Tylenol every 4 hours in between.  Strict.  Keep on the pills.  Spin.  Don’t push.  Keep the knees in tight.  We had good weather.  I had a bag of pills.  I could spin my legs on the bike.  I couldn’t walk off the bike.  The pain brought near tears at Checkpoints.  Took my breathe away.  I finished.  My legs got me there…then they quit.  I literally could not bend either knee.  No after party for me.  My wife virtually carried me to the car.  I didn’t ride again consistently that year.  Just a little here and there until October when I shut it down until 2015.  btw…issue was solved with a very slow and precise self bike fit on my own trainer…cleats adjustment and rest.  Who knew?

2015.  I hired a trainer.  I was scared of ITB issues resurfacing from poor habits.  Cam Chambers.  He won’t claim me.  I was a horrible client, haha.  He was actually more of a guide for a few month’s.  Taught me how to get stronger with consistency.  Taught me what spinning can do for you over constantly mashing.  Taught me that complaining and excuses doesn’t change what you need to do to move forward.  DK came.  The mud came.  I moved forward with each step and turn of the crank.  In truth, I was stubborn and stronger but…I got lucky.  I didn’t know what a derailleur hanger even was.  Honestly.  No idea.  A snap would have ended my day.  I rode by feel.  My instinct was to shift to easy gears before water and mud and to walk if I had to over mash.  I kept repeating “baby steps” from Nemo.  DK gave out these little 10 Year Anniversary red Headset Cap’s.  I wanted that damn cap.  I finished.  I got the cap.

2016.  I hired a trainer and actually listened.  LeLan Dains.  I think I listened pretty well…at least until after DK.  I rode more consistently.  I got stronger.  I dropped to 150 lbs.  I wanted to Race the Sun and win.  Things didn’t work out.  A rider got hurt badly.  We didn’t know each other well but we knew of each other.  We know each other better now.  Bonds form when you see someone in that much pain.  I stayed with Thomas and others until he was stable and the ambulance was a few miles away.  I thought only briefly about Racing the Sun.  It felt like a silly goal.  I finished the race questioning why I trained and why I rode.  I ignored my body.  I ignored my hydration.  I ignored my nutrition.  I cramped a ton.  I walked a lot.  I finished.  I was physically and emotionally drained.  Afterward a friend gave me a painting in honor of my failed attempt at beating the sun.  I still have it and think about that year often.  I had put in the work but sometimes Life has other plans.

2017.  LeLan put up with me through DK.  I was going to Beat the Sun.  Focus.  Weather was really nice…except for a small puddle at the beginning that sadly took out a few friends rear derailleur hangers.  I had a good day.  I rode well.  Those friends were at Checkpoints cheering us all on.  I was stressed all day counting the minutes until sunset.  I was rude to my family when they didn’t move fast enough.  I rarely rode with anyone.  I was obsessed with the clock.  I was not myself.  I Finished my 5th Dirty Kanza.  I got the Grail cup.  I Beat the Sun…along with over 200+ other riders.  A fast year.  I felt…weird.  I felt lost.  I didn’t feel how I thought I would feel.  I mean…is that it??  Shouldn’t I feel more?  I finally got up on stage at a Dirty Kanza Awards Ceremony.  I did smile at that moment.  Walking out of the theatre was like walking out of high school after graduation.  Wait.  What do I do now??

2018.  LeLan retired from training.  Enter Dave Sheek of CTS.  I learned so much throughout the year from Dave about riding the bike itself.  I had my strongest year of race results with Dave.  I had the most fun at all my events.  Turns out finishing faster means more beer to drink and more time to cheer on friends.  Who knew??  I didn’t know what to do with the Dirty Kanza though.  Quite honestly, I was bummed about not getting to ride in the DKXL with a lot of my cycling friends.  Was I not considered good enough?  Strong enough?  WTF.  Internally I was childish about it and didn’t come to terms with myself until later in the year.  It’s just a bike ride.  Even at 44 yrs old (now 45)…we all have growing up to do sometimes.  Unfortunately the self reflection came AFTER the DK.  The result was zero prep and zero shits to give for the 2018 DK200 race.  I’d already finished 5 times.  I’d already beat the sun.  I knew I’d finish barring a mechanical.  Same course…third year in a row.  I knew it.  I was going through the motions.  Well…200 miles is not to be taken lightly even if you have 350 on the brain.  2013 all over again except I was physically and mentally stronger.  I didn’t even have electrolytes at the halfway checkpoint.  I rummaged around in other peoples old drop bags and just didn’t care.  All you have to do is turn the cranks…so I did.  Jeffy and I rode together the last 100 miles.  We smiled.  We shrugged.  We cussed.  We sat.  We laughed.  We suffered.  We rolled in about 10:30pm.  Hugs were given.  Photos were taken.  My body got me to the Finish Line and then threw up a big old middle finger at me.  I almost fainted.  I was in the ER from 11am until 4:30am.  Four bags of fluids.  You don’t take 200 miles for granted.  Ever.

2019.  I’m refocused.  I’m riding hard.  I’m confident on gravel.  I’m comfortable in who I am on the bike and off.  No more wrenching at Gravel City Adventure and Supply.  A little breathing room from constant bikes, bikes bikes.  A little more Real Estate…I’m a Realtor.  A little more family time.  I’m riding consistent but no hired trainer this year.  Just riding and focus on fun, exploring and pushing myself within reason.  I feel strong.  I’m traveling out of state to events quite often in 2019.  I’m exploring new roads.  I’m meeting new people.  I’m finding new beer.  DKXL in 2019?  Nope.  That ship has sailed.  I have a little interest in it but my family has no interest in it, ha!  Maybe I’ll tour the route in the Fall.  Couple days.  I want all my DKXL friends to finish that beast!!  I love you!  Git it done!!  I’m refocusing on the DK200.  I’m happy.  I’m at peace.  I have friends to hang with all day Friday.  I have friends to hang with all day Saturday.  I get to see my wife Kerri and daughter Reagan at the checkpoints.  Hugs will be given!!  I have a Sun to Beat on Saturday.  I have a Race the Sun official print I want on my wall.  I have a new tattoo I want on my leg.  I have a DK Finish Line party to actually attend this year.

So my Dirty Kanza goal in 2019?  What is my ultimate goal throughout the day???  Enjoy it.  Push hard.  Smile harder.  Accept what the day brings.  Make some friends.  Appreciate the fact I’m going for number 7.  Seven.  Lucky number 7.  Root and cheer hard for those struggling through numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.  Go get’em kids.  Hugs, high-fives and hand slapping in the Finish Line Chute.  I hope.

Peace.  Love.  Bikes.


A Casual Gravel Bike – The Cockpit Part 2


Okay.  Okay.  I heard you loud and clear.  It’s just a word.  No need to be childish about it.  I get.  I hear you.  I apologize.

Cock.  Pit.

Cockpit…TEE HEE!!!

Love it.  Okay.  Moving on.  Whats in my Cockpit Part Two!!  What?  You missed Part One?  Thanks for paying attention.  You can find it by clicking on this link.  A Casual Gravel Bike – The Cockpit.  Without a doubt the cockpit of a bike can be the busiest and most personalized part of the bike.  We don’t all ride with the same goals.  I get it.  I’m not telling you to do exactly as I do.  I am telling you I know what I like.  I know how to survive gravel endurance rides up to and including the Dirty Kanza 200.  I know how to complete these rides on very little training as a new rider and I know how to finish them quickly as a seasoned #midpackattack rider.  I admittedly lack knowledge of front of the pack riding.  I simply lack the natural athleticism to maintain that kind of power for more than a few miles.  I am happy to know though that so do a LARGE percentage of gravel riders.

Why do we focus so much on the weight of the bike?  Why do we focus on aero?  Why do we call out those things that are not aero?  I guarantee you this…I have the power numbers over the past 3 years to prove this…5, 10, 15 hours into a gravel ride…if you are NOT comfortable then you are NOT pedaling efficiently.  Period.  (Period?  Okay…tone it down I sound preachy…)  You can not average 13, 14, 15 mph hour late in a ride if you have hotspots on your feet, piercing pain in your shoulders, sore or numb triceps, fingers that lack strength to shift, a head you can’t lift up or an ass you can’t keep in the same position for more than 10 seconds.  You can’t.  You won’t.  You’ll make excuses.  You’ll coast.  You’ll stop.  (#truth)

Marginal gains?  Who gives a crap between Finishing spots 213 and 412?  Push your self hard by all means.  I do!!  Take a small step towards being more comfortable.  It’s okay.  Come to the Dark Side.  Don’t ask “How much weight does that add to the bike?”.  Instead ask “How much bacon can I stuff into that extra pocket?”.  (I like bacon.  Kevin Bacon.  Footloose.  Gary Bacon.  Candied Bacon.  Bacon sandwiches.  Plain.  old.  Bacon.)

Nothing I have on my bike is a cure all.  Parts of me will always ache long into a gravel ride but the longer I can be comfortable before those pains creep in, the shorter I have to ride with those pains and the faster I finish the ride and enjoy stories and beer with friends and family.

Okay…enough preaching…lets knock out The Cockpit.

ShiftersSRAM Rival 1 (Didn’t weight each shifter) – Not much to say here.  Rival 1 works and works well.  I will probably be switching my eTap system shifters over soon.  I currently have them on my Salsa Warbird.  I’m now confident in the True Grit frame geometry so will be riding it more often.  Might as well move over the eTap and see if it works with the 42t cassette…I’ve heard things.  Another story for another time.


Photo Cred to Ryan Balkenhol! I’m posting this pic for no other reason than to show…one time…ONE TIME…I beat everyone up a hill!

Casual BarsProfile Design T1+ (520 grams) – I prefer the double bend style.  (Yes.  It’s a style.  At least Profile Design calls it a style.  They could have been more creative I suppose.)  My hand and wrist are in a more natural casual (I like that word…casual) position.  I feel the grip position gives me stronger control on the variable terrain associated with gravel.  Plus.  Bonus.  When you remove the extension bar and flip it over…reminds of Han Solo’s blaster from Star Wars.  PEW!  PEW!  Aluminum over carbon here.  I’ve had clip on carbon casual bars before.  The weight savings is minimal due to the weight of the brackets AND I’ve had the carbon fracture in a solo crash.  No.  I was not in the casual bars at the time of the crash…It was a dumb move.  I reached for a water bottle and hit washboards at high speed.  Point is…aluminum would have just bent I think…carbon fractured.  Fractured carbon is ouchy.  I’ll stick with aluminum.

Look, I have casual bars on for comfort…not for being aero.  Safety is always a major concern.  (Especially when I’m leaning on the bars to text, take selfies or watch Star Wars while I ride…kidding!!!  Mostly.)  I’m in my Casual Bars when I’m alone for HOURS on end rolling along on hard pack gravel trying to tackle roller after roller.  Rollers for hours.  Not a turn in sight.  Midwest Gravel.  I’m a firm believer that for the majority of gravel riders, Comfort equals Speed.  If you’re back/neck/shoulders/arms/wrists hurt 4 hours into a ride…you aren’t pedaling efficiently any more.  You start focusing on the pain and stop focusing on your cadence and pedal stroke.  You are busy sitting up and stretching.  Flexing your hands.  I’m thinking “shit this hurts!!!” not “how can I be more aero and make this suck even more”.  Casual Bars are simply another riding position for me.  Be smart though.  You have to focus extra hard and really should only be in them on hard pack surfaces…and relatively solo…which we have and are a lot of here locally.

Bags/StorageRevelate Mountain Feed Bag (107 Grams)- Go to bag for any race here.  I’ll decide on ONE or TWO depending on race needs.  The bags are so, so versatile.  First…my favorite need and the first thing I notice when they aren’t on the bike is Trash disposal.  DO NOT LITTER!!!  Gel wrappers.  Chew wrappers.  Bar wrappers.  The external webbing pocket is perfect for storing these messy…gooey wrappers.  The pocket is super easy to clean since it’s webbed.

Honestly…I put the bags on the top shelf of the dishwasher and have for years.  No issues.  Yes…the webbing has stretched a little after 3 years of use.  Not enough to buy a new one although maybe I should to support a great company.  I use the bags for extra water bottles.  I use the bags for nutrition and extra Skratch hydration packets.  I use the bags for phones, batteries and charging cables.  Heck I’ve even use my feedbag as a soup bowl for Gas Station Chicken Noodle Soup!!!  No I haven’t.  I’ve never had Chicken and Noodle at a fast station but…not a bad idea actually.  I bet it would work.

Bags/StorageTank Top Pack – Cedaero – Love love love this top tube bag.  Large zipper so extremely easy to zip and unzip while riding.  I liked the Revelate Gas Tank bag as well but sometimes those tiny water proof zippers were a frustrating pain 10+ hours into a ride.  In that mental state…any minor deterrent to nutrition is a major problem.  15 minutes becomes 30 minutes and pretty sure you’ve delayed an hour to eat simply because the zipper was annoying.  (I used Revelates Gas Tank bag for over 15,000 miles…great bag)  I wanted to try something different.  Enter the Cedaero bag…awesome zipper.  I like the internal webbed pocket for Credit Card and ID.  Keeps it organized and out of the way of nutrition grabs.  I prefer the velcro straps as opposed to the bolt on.  Depending on angle of top tube sometimes the bolt on doesn’t sit firmly against the headset and stem.  I’m OCD about that wasted half inch of space.  The Velcro strapped version is something I can easily move between bikes and cinch up tight.

That’s it!!  I’m done!  That’s my cockpit.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Lots of people comment on my cockpit.  I felt the need to explain it.  Adam Blake from Gravel City Adventure and Supply wanted me to talk about my cockpit.  Now I have.  My cockpit is not your cockpit.  All cockpits are different.  Never joke about a cockpit.  Just look quickly, give a nod…and move on to your own cockpit.  Take care of your cockpit.  Your riding comfort depends on it.

Next up about A Casual Gravel Bike?  Wheels.  Tires.  Sealant.  Suspension (GASP!!)  Frame.  Seatpost.  Saddle.  Drivetrain.

A Casual Gravel Bike – The Cockpit

We’ll call this grouping “The Cockpit”.  Mainly because at 44 years of age, I still can’t say or type the word Cockpit without giggling a little.



Tee…Hee…(the phrase “Tee Hee” also makes me giggle a little.)

Funny little word.  I have a lot going on with my Cockpit, (see what I did there??  Still laughing) so the Cockpit section will be divided into TWO posts.  No real specific order.  You’re lucky I did any overall organizing at all.  Really.  I’d go get my ADD officially diagnosed if I wasn’t 44 years old and already figured out how to live with it.



Actually (I like) it’s not (Peanut butter) that (and jelly) they (peanut butter first) are (then jelly) scattered (Star Wars) so much (never Star Trek) it’s that they are random and often interrupted by entirely different trains (I like trains) of thought at the same time.  I like it.  Keeps me from napping all the time.


Ok.  Moving on.  From an organizational angle…the cockpit section covers everything I can reach or see in front of me while on the bike.  I’m going to include my top tube bag here as well.  Yes…I can see my front tire and wheel while on the bike.  No.  I will not be discussing it in this section.  Don’t be dumb.  Have you ever tried to grab you’re wheel while riding??  It hurts like hell.  Sorry.  I shouldn’t have use the term dumb.  No one is dumb.  Maybe slightly less intelligent than another but not “dumb”.  Calling someone dumb is something you do in grade school.  Kinda like calling someone and “idiot”.  We all have different strengths and weaknesses.  We all suffer differently.  We all ride differently.  We all want to be safe on the bike.  No one is “dumb” or an “idiot”.  Some of us are just on a slightly different intelligence level.  Me?  #midpackattack fits me on many levels.  Not just cycling.

Let’s GO!!!

My DK 2018 Bike


Stem – Salsa – 100mm 7 degree rise (180 grams)- Stems are boring.  I have nothing really to say.  I’m sure you could go carbon here and save a few grams.  I don’t care.  My reach is perfect.  The height is perfect.  The angle positions me with a slight degree of flex in my reach so that my arms and shoulders better absorb the variable terrain.  No aches in my neck over a 16 hour ride.  #perfection


Stems are boring. Norah and Nessie are definitely NOT boring.

If you have always just accepted your stem length and stem height without giving it thought AND you experience a little pain in your neck, triceps, shoulders or wrists…this is an under appreciated little piece of bike fit right here.  Sure…it’s not as sexy as new bar wrap or bars…but it’s equally important.  Talk to your local bike shop.

HandlebarsEaston – Carbon – EC70 AX – 16 degrees of Flare (216 grams).  I love these bars.  Handlebars are one place I think the extra cost is worth the upgrade from aluminum to carbon.  The weight difference is quite noticeable if you’re into that.  Weight is easy to quantify though.  The bars come with well placed recessed areas for cable routing.  Theres nothing more annoying (okay, that’s a lie.  Lots of things are more annoying.  Like Jeffy racing to the City Limits sign without telling me its a race.) than being out on a ride and continually feeling shifting/braking cables under the bar wrap.  The ride benefits are noticeable and a major reason I upgraded.  I can feel the extra flex these bars give.  I feel it’s important to say “I can feel”.  Comfort is not quantifiable and everyone’s level of comfort is different.  If you try them and feel better on them…they are worth the upgrade cost.  Comfort equals speed for #midpackattack riders and #backofthepack riders.  We are on our bikes longer and bumps are magnified when you ride slower.  That’s gravel science!!  fullsizeoutput_1507

The 16 degrees of flare works well for me although I will say I have no idea if I’d like 15 degrees or 17 degrees a little more.  Kidding….we all know 16.5 is the sweet spot.  The flare out gives me handling confidence on rough, rocky downhills, loose gravel, high grade climbing and works well for keeping my handlebar streamers away from my knees (I love streamers!!!!).  PLUS!!!!  They give me better bare down and grit my teeth, out of the seat sprinter speed!!!  (I’ll note here that my out of the seat sprinter speed…refers to a 5 second burst followed by 5 minutes of gasping for air.  #truth  #sopro)

Bar WrapLizard Skins – 3.2 mil tape (78 grams).  DUUUUUUUUDE!! (Cool kids still say “Dude” right?  Let’s say yes) I love me some Lizard Skin!!  Well.  Not actual Lizard Skin.  Would that be illegal?  Is Lizard Skin a tradeable commodity?  Wouldn’t it be rather rough?  Real lizard skin would definitely require too much care I’m thinking.  Plus, that’s a lot of dead lizards per bike and that’s just wasteful.  Do people eat lizard meat?


Lizard Skin DSP tape has a great tacky feel.  I don’t wear gloves unless it’s cold or rainy and I have plenty of grip even on sweaty, humid, hot Kansas summer days.  I prefer the 3.2mm for the extra cush but I’ve used the 1.8mm as well.  Same great tacky feel..less cush.  I do pre wrap my drops (drops only) with some used cork bar tape.  I like the extra cush on the drops.  I don’t double wrap the top of the bars.  I prefer a tighter grip on the tops and I don’t ride there that often…usually on a hill climb or to “gather myself” after a hard effort.

OH THE COLORS!!!  THE BLING!!!  So, so, so many colors to accent your bike!  “I prefer black because black is more manly”  Screw you.  COLORS are awesome!  Bling that ride out dude!!  I personally am still waiting for the Lizard Skin/Star Wars Collaboration collection but sadly it may be awhile.  Until then I make up my own names.  I prefer the Empire Red or the R2D2 Blue.  If you have to go black though the Vader Black is pretty sweet since it’s nice a shiny. (like a newly polished Vader Helmet.  I wonder who did Vaders laundry??  Was he a stickler for shiny armor??  Seriously…everyone has underwear and socks.  Who had to wash Vaders underwear and socks?  Is that a position of power?  Like did the guy washing the Stormtroopers undies dream about some day washing Vaders undies or did he fear it??)

You:  “But Bobby…I mean…Mr Casual Cyclist dude…your bike pic above clearly shows Vader Black and a severe lack of bright coloring.  Isn’t this a little hypocritical?

Me:  “The Dark Side is strong.  Vaders grip is tight.  I promise to take revenge soon”

That’s it!!  That’s all I’ve.  More in the next post.  Cockpit 2 – Enlarged.  Cockpit 2 – The Bags.  Cockpit 2 – One’s Not Enough.  Cockpit 2….okay I’ll stop.  Comment.  Tell me what’s in your cockpit…on the bike.  We all have different Cockpits.  Shapes.  Sizes.  Colors.  There’s no right or wrong.  Good or bad.  What works for you…doesn’t work for me.  What works for me…will most likely change as soon as I see flashy new toys.

Let’s chat about Cockpits.  (Tee Hee!)

Casual Conversation – Mark Moerner – Rage Against The Chainring/Apostle Bikeworks

Casual:  Spoiler Alert!!! Peter Sagan is awesome.  I just watched him win the first stage of the Santos Down Under for 2018. I’ve decided to have #SaganAF tattooed over my thighs and forearms and his face on my Calves. I’m all in.sagan

I wrote the above a couple of months ago in my last Casual Conversation with Kevin Lee.  Another Spoiler Alert…Sagan is still freaking awesome.  He just won Paris-Roubaix in killer fashion with a 50km breakaway from the peloton.  I’m now accepting ideas for Sagan tattoo’s…

Today however I want to show love my highlighting a friend of mine down in Wichita, Kansas.  Mark Moerner.  Mark is owner and operator of Apostle Bikeworks Inc located at 2121 N. Tyler Rd, Wichita Ks 67212.  He is also one of two promoters (Josh Sears is the other promoter)  of the Rage Against The Chainring gravel race series down there.  The series takes place every Fall over the course of 4 events.  Well heck why am I telling you about…let’s ask Mark!

Mark Moerner

Casual: Hey Mark thanks for playing along and giving me some of your time! I wanted to talk to you a little about the Rage Series. How about we start off with a quick summary of the series. What is it? Where is it? What are the dates?

Mark: Josh Sears is the co-promoter if the RATC series. This is our 4th year of the series. RATC is a 4 race series in the Wichita area. The gravel course is 25ish miles and the folks who want to just take their time and tour it do one lap and the racer types ride two laps. We have had over 300 riders for the first 2 races. The final 2 races are in Peck, Ks on April 14th and the finale is April 21st in Benton, Ks at Stearman’s at the airport.


Casual: Okay so. Series. Racer types. Each race has podium finishers in different categories? I’m guessing there are also overall Series points winners in various categories? Is the overall series based on accumulated Points or accumulated Times? Is the overall Series a 4 Race requirement or are you allowed 1 throw away result?


Mark: We give out top 3 awards in 6 categories at each of the 4 races. There will be top 3 overall awards also based on a point system after the final race in Benton, Ks. We raffle all of our sponsors swag after each race so all participants have a chance to win something and not just the winners. Our sponsors really like that approach. There isn’t a throw away race but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t still win the overall if you missed one.


Casual: Sounds good Mark. I love the raffle approach. Yes. The podium spots are well deserved and earned (much respect) but I’ve always felt it’s nice to give a little to all those riding their hearts out. Do the race locations themselves have any special significance or just trying your best to show what the area has to offer? (I ask cause I grew up in my area and lately been trying to highlight a few nostalgic places.)


Mark: We try to help out small businesses by starting the race where a business will have a captive audience. Our next race on April 14th in Peck starts starts at a hamburger place and our races there the past 2 years has been his best days financially.

Casual: Very cool. It’s amazing the impact just getting out and having fun on the bike can have. So what about you? Being a small business owner and father are you able to get out much on the bike? Are you more of a trails guy or a gravel guy? I’m definitely more of a space it out find my peace on gravel kinda guy. I just don’t have the focus to enjoy trails. I do find that the moment after I crash…lying on my back staring at the sky…I guess that’s kinda peaceful.

Mark: Haha I try not to end up staring at the sky but it does happen. Before I opened my shop I was riding about 5,000 miles a year. Don’t have that kind of time anymore and I always put my kids first so taking them to their activities and spending time with them is my priority. I have a couple hours before work that I can ride but in my old age I’ve become a wimp and don’t like the cold weather. It’s getting warmer out so I have no excuse now. I like both gravel and Single Track but gravel is easier for me cause it’s less than a mile from my house.

Casual: I think that’s one of the biggest factors for most of my friends when it comes to gravel. Busy schedules and Gravel is just so accessible for all of us here in the Mid West. Okay buddy let’s roll out of here with some fun questions.

1. Favorite cartoon show growing up?
2. Favorite ice cream flavor?
3. Hurts Donuts or Casey’s Breakfast Pizza?
4. Bucket List vacation?
5. Advice or piece of knowledge for someone rediscovering Bikes?

1. Underdog!
2. Mint Chocolate Chip
3. Hurts Donuts!
4. Iceland. Now that there’s a direct flight to there from KC I might just have to do it.
5. Just ride and don’t worry about watts, Heart Rate, Blah , Blah ,Blah. Just soak it all in as your riding and enjoy life!!!

Casual:  Mark thanks so much!  As a family man, shop owner and race promoter I know your time is limited so a few moments is appreciated.  Always great to chat and best of luck with the remainder of the series!

Find Your Gravel

I write this 3 years ago. Fun reminiscing. Still applies to this day. Find your gravel. You deserve it. Peace and love.

Ride Casual. Explore Casual.

Thirty two degrees. Rainy. Moderate wind. Shades of grey and brown. Definitely not the most inspiring time. Especially those days when that wind pics up speed and just digs down deep into your chest. Winter in Kansas.

I needed gravel this morning. I needed my chance to zone out and think over life. Nothing life changing. Just needed to recharge a bit. I did not need the weather that was given to me. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind being cold for awhile. I don’t mind being wet for awhile. I don’t enjoy cold and wet. I definitely don’t enjoy cold and wet on a casual morning ride before I head to work. That’s why people buy Jeeps. Jeeps can handle cold and wet. Jeeps can keep you warm while you get your gravel fix. I have a Jeep. I took a drive. I thought about life. I stayed…

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Casual Conversation – Kevin Lee – Spinistry

Casual:  Spoiler Alert!!! Peter Sagan is awesome. I just watched him win the first stage of the Santos Down Under for 2018. I’ve decided to have #SaganAF tattooed over my thighs and forearms and his face on my Calves. I’m all in. In two weeks I’m going to channel my Inner Sagan for my first Gravel race of 2018. The Texas Chainring Massacre in Valley View Texas. My goal..attack off the front full power for THREE seconds and then fall to the side for a #midpackattack full on rally. Boom. The man who brainstormed our torture for the day is Mr Kevin Lee.   KL2I know nothing of Kevin except that he appears to be Mr Spinistry.  Spinistry is a cycling club in the Dallas area and puts on a handful of well ran gravel rides throughout the year.

Kevin thank for you time. As far as anyone knows we’ve just finished a ride together. The bikes are dirty, the chamois are moist and the Irish Coffee is hot. Let’s go with a easy question out of the gate. Cool weather post ride hydration drink. IPA, Stout, Bourbon, Whiskey, Water, Coffee, preference?

Kevin:  It really depends on where I am at the time. Most likely if we’re just wrapping up at my Jeep and reaching into the cooler it is going to be an IPA. The Panaracer Texas Chainring Massacre ends in the Valley View town square and riders will be receiving tokens to redeem from the square vendors for food or drink. In Valley View you would likely find me at the Whiskey Hollow distillery when cool or maybe even Firelight Vineyards sipping on their sangria if it is a warmer day.


Casual:  I miss warmer days… Ok. You mentioned the Panaracer Texas Chainring Massacre. Let’s get a little info. How many years has it been going now? Has the 100k always been the main draw? Do you ever see the 100 mile ride outdrawing the 100k? Personally I’m a fan of Gravel sub centuries during the colder months. Get out. Get in. Get warm.

Kevin:  Our first TCM was in 2010. The 100K was just introduced last year as the main event. Prior to that 100 miles(ish) was the payout race. This year we’re actually running both as the main event with equal payouts for the Open to all races. It hasn’t really been promoted that way, we kind of wanted to see where the racers were drawn organically. Currently, the Openl, Cash Payout 100 mile race has a few more registrations than the Open to all, Cash Payout 100K race. We do have other racing categories at the 100K distance (age breaks, MTB, Tandem) so there are definitely many more racers overall at the 100K distance. However, the cash payout is only for the Open race.


Casual:  Awesome. I did not realize that so thanks for the explanation. Kevin how long have you had The Spinistry up and putting in races? Did it just grow from a single ride or did you create The Spinistry umbrella from the beginning and immediately start putting on multiple rides through the year? Obviously there’s a strong riding scene throughout Texas to draw from. Do you see a good mix at your events? Season long gravel riders, off season CX riders, mtb’ers…roadies. I’m always curious. We have zero road scene here in Emporia. No CX scene. A small amount of single track but mainly….and for good reason…we are Gravel. Dirt. Backroads.

Kevin:  The Spinistry started in 2008 with the intention of being a social media site specifically for cyclists. The idea hatched as forums were still strong and Facebook was just starting to hit critical mass. We wanted to be a Facebook for cyclists but then Facebook completely took off and there was no reason for a stand alone social media platform for cyclists.

We threw together our first event to raise money to pay our web developer. That was our first Red River Riot in January of 2010. The Riot was held at Bar H Ranch and was intended to be primarily a mountain bike race on the trails there. We had extra miles on surrounding dirt roads to create an “epic” 100+ mile day. Just as we started the race on an opening gravel loop it started raining like Noah’s flood. The trails were completely unridable so we called an audible and turned it into a gravel (mud) roads only event. It was cold, wet and terribly muddy. Folks were shearing off rear ders all over the place. I knew people were going to get back to the ranch screaming to get their money back and everyone would hate me. Suprisingly, people came rolling in grinning ear to ear and begging for more. We made the call right there that we would do a second event as soon as possible. That second event was our first Texas Chainring Massacre.

The TCM was our first event designed specifically to be a gravel grinder and we also built it to appeal to road racers in the area (cash payout). After those first two events our participants have always been a pretty good mix of both mountain bikers and road racers. There is no real off season in Texas but we did shift the TCM into January over the following years so it would fall in between the end of CX season and before the road season starts in February.


Casual:  Love it. Honestly. So much goes on with so little time to absorb it all. Thanks for sharing Kevin. What about you personally? Where does your cycling passion and history fit into all this? Riding bikes forever? CX, MTB, road…all? I’m a late bloomer. 6 years ago and fell in love with the backroads all over again. Instantly brought back my youth when I’d ride those same backroads to get away. My way of being independent. I’d like to try CX though.

Kevin:  I started late myself. Around 2003 I was about 100 pounds overweight and l decided to do something about it. I started diet regimen and took up cycling in the neighborhood to start some kind of exercise.  I wore out the department store bike in about 6 weeks and bought a fancy Haro mountain bike for $400. My wife nearly killed me for spending that much money on a bicycle.

I started riding local trails soon after and I’ve been hooked on cycling ever since. Unfortunately, through a combination of injuries and devoting almost all of my time to the business I got away from riding myself a few years back.  I packed a good bit of the pounds back on so I made myself start riding again about a year ago. After Mike Hall died I set a goal for myself of completing my own event, the RAT 1000. I never compete/ride in my own events. There’s just too much going on for me to spread myself that thin.

Training was going well for the RAT and then I was hit by a car while on a training ride. A couple of messed up knees and a bad ankle set back the training schedule a couple of months but I still went out there and completed about 550 miles of the RAT. I felt I could do the whole 1000 but I was going crazy being away from work that long.

I’m really looking forward to doing more multi day riding myself but 3-4 days is really my limit. Anything longer than that and I’m missing the family and the dogs too much…and I’m chomping at the bit to get back to work.

Casual:  Very cool. Adam Blake from Gravel City Adventure and Supply is looking at putting on a couple 3 day bike packing events. Just mellow and chill type events. You definitely should keep an eye out man. Hey thanks Kevin for everything! Can’t wait to meet you in person in a couple weeks at TCM. Heck man I just can’t wait to take a cycling road trip in 2018.

How about 5 Casual Quickies to get us out of here?

Casual Quickie 1:  Cartoon you remember watching grown-up that you’d still watch today? (I can’t turn away from the old Scooby Doos)

Kevin:  I was crazy into Speed Racer when I was a kid. I would probably still sit through marathon of those if they popped up.

Casual Quickie 2:  If money or logistics weren’t an option what’s one Feed Station food you’d love to supply your racers? (Still dreaming of pour-over coffee I had at The Dirty Reiver)

Kevin:  There’s never not a right time for tacos.


Casual Quickie 3:  Do you have any songs that give you a few more watts or rpms no matter how tired you are on a ride?

Kevin:  I never listen to music when riding but certain songs do get stuck in my head when I just need to keep pushing and not thin too far down the road. I’m not sure if my cadence triggers it or what but Red Hot Chili Peppers Sir Psycho Sexy makes a regular appearance as does Rusty Cage from Soundgarden.

Casual Quickie 4:  Any favorite sports outside of cycling? Basketball, football, bocce?

Kevin:  Hockey is my favorite sport to watch in person but I usually only do that once or twice a year. If I let myself get hooked into baseball I will watch/listen to every game I can but I try to make a point to not get hooked.

Casual Quickie 5:  Any advice for me as I prepare for my first Spinistry event, TCM?

Kevin:  My TCM advice is just to plan to have fun riding your bike. The course isn’t particularly hard but it definitely isn’t boring. Taking over the town square (distillery, BBQ, pizza and winery) at the end pretty much guarantees a good finishing party so plan accordingly.

Thanks Kevin!  Good luck with the Texas Chainring Massacre next week!  Good luck with all the Spinistry events in 2018!  Heck man just have fun riding that bike!

Other Casual Conversations

Amanda Nauman

Neil Shirley

John Wilmeth