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

Single Speed. Lap the Lakes. Vodka.

Single Speed.  Lap the Lakes.  Vodka.

I have become very comfortable on a bike over the seasons of 2016 and 2017.  The last gravel event of any kind that I did not finish was…I am not even sure.  2015 maybe?  I think I was recovering from a couple herniated discs and the Hike-a-Bike of LandRun100 was too much that year.  I’ve been very very lucky with mechanicals.  My time is coming.  I know this.  Gravel gets us all eventually.  I also started riding consistently around two years ago.  I’ve simply grown stronger.  I cramp a lot less.  In 2016 I finished around 10 century gravel events.  In 2017 I finished around 7 I believe.  Oddly enough only one gravel event of 2017 was in my home state of Kansas.  One.  The Dirty Kanza 200.  Every other century’ish long gravel event I rode was out of state…one was out of the country, The Dirty Reiver in England.  Not on purpose.  I didn’t look at local event, turn up my nose and say “meh”.  I need to ride more local events.  I’m proud of our local cycling scene.  I’m absolutely in LOVE with our local backroads.  I’ve simply been busy with Life on the dates of local area rides.  I have a loving wife and 2 very active young daughters.  I have a very talented and wonderful extended family with varied interests I want to support.  I have a couple jobs as well as serving the community on a few Boards.  Life.

I love Life.

SO…when a friend of mine scheduled his gravel event on September 23rd and my calendar showed empty…I thought “finally”.  Lap the Lakes.  Jaffar Agha’s labor of Love.  125 miles.  Eighty riders between the short and long courses?  Fairly flat at only 4500 ft of climbing.  Mostly hard pack gravel roads.  Drop bag mid-way support with water checkpoints every 30 odd miles.  Fall weather.  A huge and welcome change from the beautiful but relentless hills of Iowa and Nebraska and the breathtaking (literally and visually) mountain climb of Idaho.


August to Labor Day is an extremely busy cycling calendar for a #midpackattack rider like me.  24 Hours of Cumming, Lunar Kanza, Gravel Worlds and Rebecca’s Private Idaho…a 3 day 193 mile stage race in 2017.  I was spent.  I was slightly burned out.  I need to throw more Disc Golf.  Did you know Emporia is a Disc Golf destination?  Dynamic Discs.  Check them out.  Emporia is a freaking awesome little town.  Point being I wanted to ride.  I wanted to support a friend.  I wanted to ride with local friends.  I just needed a change.  I needed inspiration.  125 miles of gravel…even flat, tame gravel is no joke if you aren’t ready to ride.  My friend from Wichita, Matt Smith, is an avid Single Speeder

Matt Smith

Photo Cred to Aaron Davis

and has been prodding anyone he knows to ride single speed with him.  I haven’t been on a single speed since being a kid on a bmx bike.  I respect Single Speeders but…gears baby!!  Matt sent out a request for more SS people to come to Lap the Lakes.  Jaffar promised a SS category if enough signed up.  Fine.  Okay.  I’ll try SS.  it’s “only” 125 miles.  Why not.  I put a Surly Singulator on my Warbird the Wednesday before the event.  I rode 20 miles on a 42×17 setup.  Seems fine I guess.  Thursday I rode another 20 miles…should be good.  Chain didn’t fall off.  Let’s go.


Saturday morning.  I really didn’t want to ride.  I had a loose stomach.  I just felt…whatevs.  I could just do the short course.  60 miles.  No.  I opened my big mouth and said I’d do the 125…I’m doing the freaking 125.  I hate bikes.  Why do I do this?  I could be at home curled up in bed.  Norah or Reagan could be snugging watching cartoons with me…Teen Titans Go! Or Scooby Doo reruns…fine.  I’ll go ride.


Photo Cred to Chris Nichols!

I decorated myself with some of my daughters fake halloween tattoo’s to make myself laugh.  I needed a reminder to not be too serious.  There’s nothing cooler than a grown man showing up to a cycling event to ride single speed for the first time sporting fake spider and bat tattoo’s…  I get it.  I didn’t care.  Fashion is stupid.  Do whatcha want.


The ride?

I hung in the lead group at 23 mph for the first 8 miles.  We hit the first short punchy climb and all I remember was someone telling me “you gotta hit the climbs hard”.  So I did.  Stupidly hard.  Like Hulk hard.  I passed everyone and had time at the top to setup my camera, take a selfie in front of the group, get back on my bike and soft pedal until they caught up.  Kidding.  Almost.  I hit that first hill hard.  As Mike Marchand said…”congrats on the KOM”…that doesn’t exist.  I laughed and learned.


Photo Cred to Ryan Balkenhol

The morning went great.  I rolled with Corey Lies for 44 miles at about 17 mph avg.  Not too difficult really.  I enjoyed it.  Yeah…it was mostly a tailwind and in the mid 70’s.  The afternoon got hot and windy.  The middle 60’ish miles was mostly 15-20 mph head/cross wind and temps soared to 95 degrees.  Can you say furnace?  I’ve had a couple bad heat situations in 2017 and I seem to be affected by it more now.  Could be mental but regardless it’s there.  Cramps started at mile 44.  Rideable cramps.  Just the quads by the knee mostly.  Like riding with needles jabbing you but bite down, accept it, control the breathing and you can continue to pedal through it…just lighter.  I know cramps pretty well.  A few breathe takers but I’ve had worse.  Around mile 80…I had worse.  Two freaking SHARP hits back of the leg high up.  Does the hamstring go up that high?  Hamstrings are always sharp.  Both sides.  Brought me up out of the saddle screaming out loud “WHAT THE FRIDGE!!!!  ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME!!!!”  The sun got very bright.  I had a moment of nausea and disorientation so I soft pedaled for a bit.  I really really didn’t want to call Kerri.  Corey caught back up and offered me a HotShot.  The real help was Corey slowing down and letting me hang behind him.  Human contact.  Reality.  I calmed down and chased him the rest of the day.  Well…there was no real chasing.  We were both exhausted so I just watched him about a half mile ahead of me the rest of the day and rode back there.  I was cool with that.  Corey seems to be a great guy and I had nothing in me to try and catch him.  I would finish 2 minutes behind him, ha!


Photo Cred to Chris Nichols!

Fifteen miles from town I was D. O. N. E.  I looked longingly at every shade tree I rode past.  I knew I was 3rd place SS and only an hour out.  I didn’t care.  I knew Sarah was behind me in 4th place.  I knew if Sarah passed me…I’m good with that.  I’m taking a freaking 30 minute nap.  I.  Don’t.  Care.  Except I did.  Ten miles to go I looked back and yep there she was.  She motivated me.  She motivated me not because of a place on the podium but because she was still riding hard.  I need to roll.  It’s almost over.  I know these roads.  Hit one more hill hard followed by a few rollers then it’s a flat 6 miles to the Finish Line…with tailwind.  Fine.  I want the Finish Line.  I need to be done.  I’m overheated.  It’s safer to be done.



Riding in was great.  Riding across the Finish Line is always great feels.  Seeing friends at the end is always a good moment.  Thanks for being there everyone and thanks for taking care of me.  Shawn and Lynette Honea…thank you.  Jaffar thank you.  Corey thank you.  Thanks to Gary Bacon and all the volunteers.


Photo Cred to Shawn Honea

Thanks to Pactimo, Cantu Cycling Wheels and Lauf Forks for letting me be a Brand Ambassador for you this year.  Tremendous products all of them.  Truly changed my gravel experience in 2017.

Thanks to Team Mulreadys Pub, Firestone Walker and Boulevard Brewing for keeping me pretty in pink all season!

Thanks to my buddy LeLan Dains who acted as a Trainer and mentor all season long.  I’m stronger because of you.  I’ve never cared about a spot on the podium.  I started training to be better able to enjoy the cycling experience.  You understood my point of view and never pushed me to be a competitive person.  I enjoy cycling and pushing myself…against myself…pushing past my limits.  Thank you sir.  Enjoy that new baby coming in 2018…you’re gonna be an awesome daddy.

In two month’s I begin training again.  Cycling and this time overall health and strength.  I’ll be training with Carmichael Training Systems and a friend of mine Mr. David Sheek.  Can’t wait!!

So…Single Speed thoughts.  I thoroughly enjoyed the single speed experience.  I really did.  There’s a feeling of accomplishment looking at a hill coming up and thinking…”Well.  I’ve got what I got.  This might suck.  Let’s go for it.”  It’s a lot like riding a bike…you just turn the cranks, haha.  42×17 was great with all the wind.  Less wind and I might have been able to push a 42×16 on THIS course.  I had fun and that’s the main takeaway.


ONE OTHER THING!!!  IF you ever find yourself in a supporting role for a dehydrated, over heated, slightly delirious rider.  BE CAREFUL where you sit down your water bottle full of Peach Vodka.  To a dehydrated, over heated and slightly delirious rider that looks like a thoughtful bottle of gatorade…or pedialyte…or anything with electrolytes.  NOT VODKA.  We don’t sip in that situation.  We gulp.  Gulping Vodka is a very eye opening experience in that situation.  VERY EYE OPENING!

Not that I would know…thanks Shawn and Lynette….


Photo Cred to Chris Nichols!

Gravel Worlds 2017 – The Sandy Seas of Nebraska


Let’s not start off on the wrong peg leg. The word “GAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRR” is Pirate speak for the intent of this post.   An exclamation if you will.  Please don’t be confused with the fish of the same name. I feel it’s important that when you see me use the word “GAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRR” you think of a drunken bearded pirate raising his or her mug to the sky and yelling “GAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRR!!!”. I feel my story will be fully ruined if instead you picture someone skinny dipping in a river bed pointing at the water and yelling “Gar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

(On second thought…who knows. Lets see where this goes and which interpretation better fits.)

Here we go.


On the Eve of the 19th Day of August, I made the final preparations to set sail on the sandy seas surrounding the Isle of Lincoln. The flag I was to be waving secured to the mast with the best knots known to those who sail the water vast. The main deck scrubbed and ready for the task at hand. I was outfitted with the Fork of Lauf and the Carbon Blades of Cantu Cycling Wheels.  I was clothed in only the best Bibs of Pactimo…wrapped gently and nestled comfortably in their Chamois of Summits.  A mystical oil made gathered from the Seals of Orange applied to the bottom of the ship and we were ready to set sail in the morn.

A hardy meal from the lands of Italy was consumed. Saving the mead for the victory, the lads and I consumed our weight in water. Cake rolled in the hides of Zebra was to be our reward for braving the voyage! A treasure chest of these I could have consumed!!


Passed out under the stars I did! I awoke to the sounds of my First Mate yelling “Show a leg!!!!” Sink me!!! We can’t be late for the grand depart! To the Schilling Tap!!!

SHIVER ME TIMBERS!!!! The collection of Pirates was legendary!!! All shapes and sizes! A colorful lot our brethren! Clothes tight to the skin to avoid being caught on climbing rigs. Spirits were raised by the introduction of the mighty Pirate Cycling League and their Captains Cornbread and Schmidty!! AYE!!! bloodthirsty Pirates they be!!!


Photo cred to Venny


Anchors were hoisted!! Away the ships all sailed!! The sandy seas awaited!!! The speed was quick!! The sand banks were treacherous!! The banks themselves seemed alive as they would grab your very rudders and careen your ship into another! The sun slowly raised her head from slumber and warmed our shilled souls! The morning air was magnificent! Arrr!!!!! What a day to be a Pirate!!! What a day Poseidon (or Neptune…or SpongeBob…or Nemo…whatever!!) himself had blessed us with!!! Through the Gulf of Otto we raced without pause! Within mere hours we had already come upon the Port of Valparaiso!!


The Port of Valparaiso be a treacherous place!!! Many a Pirates day has ended in this land! Lily livered Land Legs can only get you so far on voyages such as these! Many a great and courageous soul has failed to gather their Sea Legs upon entering the Seas…few are able to continue once the Stomach turns…aye…tis not for the faint of heart or strong of smell. AVAST!!! I see the green gown of the Pirate Wench known as Jeffy The Young!! A quick look shows that Jeffy is courageously fighting the Wrenching Stomach. How can I aid the fair wench?? Alas, I do not carry the Cakes made from Zebras on my ship! While Jeffy The Young is consuming some mystery item known in this land as a “Lunchable” I wandered inside the Outpost to relieve my Bowels of Fury!


What??? NO!!!! Upon my return I find Jeffy is no more! He has disappeared from port! His vessel is not to be seen!! He is in no condition to sail! There can be only one answer!



Quickly I hoist anchor and gain chase. My sea legs are strong to today! IMG_7950Within a few nautical miles I see Jeffy!!! The wench is alive!!!! Oh sweet SpongeBob he’s alive!!! He saw fit to leave with the Single Mast Pirates of Stillwater, Gabbi the Champion and Scissortail Adams…legendary tamer of the gravel Straits of Kansas. I am sad to say Adams was turning back to port at that moment. His stomach had turned in a bad way and although courageous Adams be…the day was not to be his. Gabbi held back to take inventory of her ship before heading onto the the small Isle of Malcolm. The wench Jeffy and I continued forward! Jeffy continued to work to gain his sea legs and I continued to follow our charts forward!! The waves were choppy and we passed many known Pirates (Hi Frank!!) along the way…all determined to land at the Isle of Malcolm.


Photo credit to Michael McCoglan


Malcolm was a double edge sword for many!! An Isle of comfort after a morning fighting the vast waves surrounding northern Lincoln. CURSE YOU Poseidon!!!! Jeffy The Young ended his day here on the shore of Malcolm. I’m told so did the Champion of Single Masts, Gabbi. Twas a sad moment for all.

….gaaaarrrrrrrrrr… (I don’t know a sad pirate term)

My path would then take me south through the ancestral waters of the great Pirate Captain Schmidty!! Safe and cool were these waters! Quickly they opened to the Pirate gathering known as CheckPoint One. 85 miles completed!!! There was much merriment too be had!! Self portraits were taken with friends of the Seas!!! Ahoy John of Cantu!!! Happy to be riding on your Blades of Carbon I be!!!!



The seas grew angry. The winds became calm. The sun rose to stand high in the sky. My sea legs were still strong…my stomach was becoming weak. Oh….Roca….mile 103.1….the Taverns of Roca. How sweet was your cold water!! Ho incredibly painful that same water turned when dumping it on my head I did. Alas…I wear the magical lenses of contacts and the day had been incredibly dusty my friends. The dust now led to near blindness as I pedaled through the running waters of my eyes. The day would be downhill from there. I never lost the stomach battle but I never regained my strength. My mind was losing the mental battle but the sails were still up. The rudders were still guiding me. I sailed onward to the Village of Bennet.

….gaaaaarrrrrrrrrr “ouch!” rrrrrrrrrr!…

Bennet I barely looked at thee. I don’t believe I looked up from the main deck of my ship. I saw the Pirate, Batiz, pass me and utter something but I could not respond…I simply continued to move forward. The food on my ship was rotten. The water tainted. The booty…no long shaking. I wanted nothing. I could force nothing. I even rolled slowly past the safe Pirates haven, the General Store of Casey’s (known for great Pizza!!!) I floated on the seas without pause…my day was near end I feared.


The SAILS BLEW OPEN WIDE!!! STRENGTH!!! I had STRENGTH!!! I flew into THE LAND OF SCHMIDTY (aka Checkpoint 3) with strength and power! My stomach had settled and in replace I simply felt the pains of an empty stomach wrenching itself. 29 miles left!!

Do I dare eat anything?? Do I dare tempt fate by consuming the magical burrito’s of Pepe!?!?!

I do not!!!

Do I dare add the sweet flavor of electrolytes and calories back into my bottles???

I do not.

(Yeah…this was a STUPID DECISION!!! Why the heck didn’t I????)

No! Instead I shall rely simply on water for almost 30 miles of hills, sandy gravel and heat after already sailing 123 miles…garrrrr…I need to go back to Pirate school I do….


Onward to the Schilling Tap!! Onward to bountiful supplies of mead and hamburgers and chips and the Cakes of the Zebra!!! SAIL! Sail! sail! sail. sail.. sail…

Twenty nine miles is a long journey with no rations. No calorie intake. No…strength…sail… 11mph I averaged on those remaining Seas of Sand. The 100 miles I averaged 16.5 mph….gar….this was going to hurt….the sea was angry my friends. I saw not a single other pirate those last 20 miles until the very last half mile. One rider passed me the last half mile. Josh of Epic fame. A long final journey lost in my own mind it was. I knew the ending. I knew these seas. I knew one final hill would led up to the Paved Land winding to The Schilling Tap. As I climbed that last remaining hill…my face shuddered…my eyes almost watered…my body went limp…my mind stopped thinking. I simply moved…slowly…


I turned into The Paved Land at roughly 4 miles an hour. A volunteer road up to me. You doing okay he asked? No words. I shook my head no. Can I ride beside you and follow you in he asked? No words. I nodded my head yes. That sounded smart. I coasted in on a completely empty mind, body and soul.


The Schilling Tap!!!!! My letter of marque awaited!!!!
The wench, Jeffy The Young, was waiting!!! GAR!


Photo Cred to Thomas Adams

Producer Matt! Gar!

His First Mate, David!


Much joy was to be had!!

Buttram, Adams, Gabbi, Collin, RobE, PaulE, Cantu – John and Venny, MikeM, BobC, RyanB, CoreyS, Emporia Peeps, John of Colorado! Everyone else!!! GAAARRR!!


Thomas and Gabbi – Infectious – Photo cred to Mr Adams


John and Venny – Cantu Strong – Phot cred to Venny



Gravel City pirates, B&S Kennel pirates, Mulreadys Pub pirates, Gravel Guru pirates, Maizies Pride pirates….GAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Pirates of Emporia ride well my friends!!!

Our combined Gravel Pirate community and family is strong my friends.  You’re all awesome and so incredibly strong.  Too cool to be a speck among you.

One final thing….The Hug of Schmidty was the biggest reward. Not me chasing down Craig and forcing a hug but Craig actively seeking me out after to gift me that hug…that’s worth every bit of those last 20 miles.

Worlds johncraig

Photo cred to Venny

Thank ya Craig, Corey, The Pirate Cycling League, Cycle Works, the Schilling Tap and all the volunteers around the Isle of Lincoln…thank you. I’m stronger because of you.

Gravel…it’s silly isn’t it. What I rode my bmx and 10 speed on as a kid as a way to gain a little freedom…still can almost bring me to tears…40 some years later…



(Next up…Rebeccas Private Idaho in 11 days…)

The Story of 24 Hours of Cumming

24 Hours of Cumming
In the books as they say.

My team of Tim Mohn, Jeff Young and Jim Cummins was able to nab another first place in the 4×60 relay. Strong rides by my teammates. They never let up and just kept pushing. Proud of those guys. Hugs and high fives all around!


Gravel is not defined by who wins a race. Gravel is more than that. Gravel is defined by the individual efforts. The individual goals achieved. The individual challenges met. Those are the stories that get told around the campfire. Those are the stories we remember and retell year after after. Those are the stories that become legend. The achievements are what stand out to me…not the wins.

Some stories I know about from 24 Hours of Cumming that defined the weekend. Please…feel free to add your own. I want to know more.

1. The little town of Emporia Ks sending up 15+ gravel riders to challenge themselves in the hills of Iowa. Thats a lot of traveling folks to a small little race that’s become less about the results and more about Gravel family. Less about the awards and more about the camping and the stories by the campfire. A race where the Cumming Tap is just as important as the beautiful scenery of the Iowa green.

2. Dangerous Dan. Great meeting and hanging out man. Loved the enthusiasm you have have. Awesome watching you roll in after Leg 2…120 miles down and 120 miles to go…only to rush the stage and Head bang a little with the band. So much energy. Wish I had half that. Of course…I’ve got two kids. You’ve got one on the way. Can’t wait to hear the stories you’ll have of the kid next year. Best of luck.

3. Natasha Krause crushing 60 miles and 4500+ feet of elevation. Her first ride away from the safety of home gravel. Great job!

4. Autumn Howell. Persevering through navigational miscues and finishing what she started. 62 miles turned into 70+. I’m sure she was disheartened and frustrated but she just kept clicking the miles off. Team out of contention she finished the job. Longest ride ever and I’m guessing easily the most elevation gain. Awesome.

5. Courtney Huber. First long solo night ride. Way to fight off the fear and ride through the nigh. Navigational perfection. Great ride when nothing was on the line except the personal challenge of doing it. I heard you bunny hopped a family of raccoons?? Maybe that was just folklore…Proud of you!

6. Mr John Freaking Decker – the man rode an awesome fricking ride only to be derailed 6 miles from the Finish Line…where his relay teammate waited…by his entire crankset falling off his bike! No 8mm wrench in hand John was forced to jog, run and glide the remaining 6 miles. Six miles of HILLS…after midnight!! He could have stopped but his team waited. They needed him so he kept going strong. Way to get it in buddy. Way so cool!! Give it a couple years and the story will be 30 miles instead of just 6…legend.

7. Balkenhol. Helping and supporting all freaking day. Never complaining. Just “what do you need?”. Doesn’t start his ride until 1:30am. No chance to enjoy the scenery. Crushes the route in under 4 hours. Raccoons and deer lining the ditches ringing cowbells and giving handups all the way. Cheating if you ask me but nonetheless…epic. Great job buddy.

8. Shawn Legend of The Flint Hills O’Mara. 400k solo. Shawn wasn’t racing. Shawn was riding. Shawn was doing what Shawn does. Turning the cranks and enjoying being outside on the bike. Solid. Always ready to give a smile. Always ready to ignore the discomfort. Mile after mile. Hill after hill. Move forward. You deserve first place buddy but more important…you deserve that perfect ride. You deserve that feeling of peace we all feel on the bike when we enter that zone. Love ya bud.

9. Steve Cannon. You’ve got a good thing going man. The gravel takes care of itself. Focus on the rider and gravel family like I know you will. The Cumming Tap is perfect. The grilled wings kicked ass. Beer was cold. Fire was warm. High fives we’re heart felt. Appreciation was true. Throw in a few trays of Cinnamon Rolls Sunday morning to go with that coffee and there’s no place else to be the first weekend in August every year.

It’s gravel. We’re family. We’ll travel. We don’t need much. Gravel. Beer. Coffee. Grill. Fire. Hugs and high fives.

Story after story after story. Year after year after year.

24 Hours of Cumming…Steve Cannon…The Cumming Tap.

Please come in 2018…I want to see your next story.

I know I’ve missed stories from 2017. Sarah Cooper killing it on her Fatbike. Smile leading the way. KateG crushing 120 miles. Jacob laying down the rubber and never missing a beer handup. Others. Don’t be offended. I’m old. I miss things. Tell your story. Tell someone else’s story. It’s gravel.

(Ps.  Yeah I borrowed some pics.  You’re family.  You don’t mind right?  Steve Cannon, Paulina Batiz…not sure who else.  Thanks.  👍🏼)

Embracing my Hypocrisy

Ride casual. I preach these words. Embrace your casual side while cycling. Go fast? Whatevs. I’d rather ride with friends and carry on a conversation. Laugh and enjoy the moment. Watch the scenery flow by. Catch the movement and grace of a deer hopping into the trees. Challenge each other on a hill but then smile and joke about it at the top. Regroup and tell a couple stories about the last ride. No true competition other than maybe who has the best sock game going on.


Except…deep deep down I am competitive. I keep my competitiveness buried. I don’t want to accept it. I don’t like the way being competitive makes me feel. I’d rather stop and help other riders than “race” another rider. Sit on my wheel…I’ll pull you. You need a tube? CO2? Careful this corner is dangerous. Do you have enough to eat and drink?

I channel my competitive feelings inward. I challenge myself. I compete with myself. I win most of the time nowadays. I feel I’ve become fairly strong mentally on a bike. I know how to ride through cramps and pain. I’ve crashed and got back up. I lose occasionally. I’ve chosen poorly with hydration and heat twice and both times fell only to get back up via the ER and fluids. I know better but when I’m competing with myself…I want to win. Every time. I’m okay with this. I’m not competing with others. If I win…no one else loses. If I lose…no one else knows…it’s channeled inwardly.

Except…ONCE a year…I allow just a little bit of that competitiveness to show its face publicly. Once a year I accept my hypocrisy and show it publicly. Once a year I participate in a Gravel relay race. A team of four. 24 Hours of Cumming put on by Steve Cannon. Hosted by the Cumming Tap in Cumming, Iowa. Each leg of the relay is 60’ish miles of hard packed gravel over miles and mile of rolling hills. I charge the hills a little bit harder and take the corners a little bit sharper. I’ll catch a wheel a little bit longer and take a pull a little bit smarter. The beauty of the race is I get to compete against other riders without really feeling like I’m competing. I simply give everything I’ve got for 60 miles. A 60 mile ITT. I ride the first leg every year. There is no “winner” as I come across the Finish Line.  I don’t wish bad luck for any other rider because I know I have a team of three other riders backing me up. My job is simply to give all I can give and put my team mates in the best position possible to win. Sixty miles. Four water bottles. Six GU packets.  Roll strong. Spin the cranks. Blow yourself up and finish your ITT on fumes.


The rest of the day? Chill. Sit around and have a few beers with your fellow riders. High five your team. Support everyone. Cheer for everyone. Hugs all around. Food truck cuisine. Laugh about your lows and be humble about your highs.

Once a year though I do want to win. I want the team to win. I want to stand there next to my team mates with a trophy in one hand and a box of Zebra Cakes in the other. I don’t want anyone else to lose…but my team has taken home the 1st Place trophy two years in a row and I plan on doing it again.

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I’ll make this promise though. If we don’t win…I’ll still give hugs and high fives. I’ll still smile and laugh and tell stories. I might even…no. Never mind. Buy your own damn Zebra Cakes….these are mine.


Good luck everyone at 24 Hours of Cumming!


Gravel reunion

We have a family reunion in Emporia Kansas every year around the first of June. The invite goes out each December. We all mark it on our calendars. Except Cousin Wintle. He never uses a calendar. He just watches the stars in the sky and knows when to show up…with whiskey for all. We start planning. Where will everyone sleep? Hotel, motel, Holiday Inn…random backyards?

March comes around and things get a little more serious. Who’s all coming? Over 2000 people?? Did you accidentally hit “invite all” again?? The Knights, the Brothers Kuat, the Pirates from the Northern Borderlands, Cannon and his Mighty Fatbike, the Mulreadys Gang, ETown Proud, Madison crew, Riders from the City of Gravel, Wild Wendy and her tutu, Stillwater’s loading up the tents, RV’s and VW’s… Cousin Paul and Gudberg coming over from the fairy tale Lands of ‘Eng and ‘Ice. Yuri and his band of California misfits. Panda and the Sheek. John and Venny riding their Cantu’s up from Texas. Petervary’s and Rusch come down from their majestic peaks. Z and Heidi…Mr Shirley himself…all making plans. Too many family members to list…all coming to Emporia Kansas. Land of the Hills of Flint.

Quiet. Silence. See that?? Way out in the distance. A cloud of gravel dust. Coming closer. Quick! Hide the good beer!! Put the bacon away!! A single knock on the front door. Deep breathe. Steady. Open the door. HUGS FOR ALL!! YES!! Welcome to Emporia!! Food! Beer! Rick being inappropriate with all the cousins! Smitty in his rocking chair spinnings tales of glory! JeffY telling anyone who’ll listen about how fast he can drop me on climbs.


Uncle Jim stands up and yells…who wants to go on a bike ride?? 206 miles okay??


We sweat. We cuss. We ache. We climb. We crank. We get “aero” and we look “so pro”. We bask in the glory of the Flint Hills. We get dirty. We give high fives and chest bumps. We take Selfies and we ‘Gram. Most of all…we enjoy a day on bikes. We enjoy the day with family. Gravel family.

The ride’s over. The Sun was beaten. The Five Timers Club expanded!! The party begins! Biscuits and Gravy!! Bacon!! Burrito’s! Beer! Wine!! Sno Cones! ZEBRA CAKES!!!!!! Sweaty, bear hugs. More inappropriateness from Rick. Lawn darts. Croquet. Fire pits and S’Mores.

Honea please put on a damn shirt…

We play hard. We ride hard. We sleep hard. We hug hard. We love hard. We’re family. A Crazy, messed up, delusional, slightly deranged, loyal, loving, dependable GRAVEL family. We’ll do it again next year. Next year I’m putting up a tire swing. Next year I’ll build some sweet jumps. Next year I won’t hide the good beer.

Next year Honea will put on a shirt…sleeveless of course…but it’s a start….

Ya’ll come back. Ya hear?

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you to Gudberg and Lauf Forks for allowing me to be a member of their 2017 Dirty Kanza “Dirty Dozen”. I’m so glad Lauf was a part of my experience in Beating the Sun and joining the Five Timers Club. I’ve enjoyed beating the hell out of Laufs “The Grit” fork the past 6 months on our backroads. I have no plans of ever taking it back off the bike!

Love and peace everyone. 👍🏼💪🏼😍