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.

Problem.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Maybe…

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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.

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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.

OH!!!!

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….

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Photo Cred to Chris Nichols!


Gravel Worlds 2017 – The Sandy Seas of Nebraska

GAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRR!

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.

GAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!

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!!

GAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRR!!!!!!

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!!!

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Photo cred to Venny

GAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!

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!!

GAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!

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!

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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!

PIRATES!!!!

GAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

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.

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Photo credit to Michael McCoglan

GAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

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!!!!

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GAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!

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.

GAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!

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….

GAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

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…

gaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…..

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.

GAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!

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

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Photo Cred to Thomas Adams

Producer Matt! Gar!

His First Mate, David!

Gar!

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!!

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Thomas and Gabbi – Infectious – Photo cred to Mr Adams

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John and Venny – Cantu Strong – Phot cred to Venny

GAR! GAR! GAR!

GAR FREAKING GAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!

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.

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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…

Gar.

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


The Story of 24 Hours of Cumming

24 Hours of Cumming
Over.
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!


But…

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.

#ridecasual

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.

#ridehard

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.

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Good luck everyone at 24 Hours of Cumming!

#casuallyrace


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.


Honea…shirtless…again…


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

Yes!!!

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. 👍🏼💪🏼😍


Late June Mornings

Drinking coffee on the back deck. Nessie is on point alerting me to all the birds in the yard. Another Wednesday at the pool with the girls. I haven’t been on my bike once this week and I’m okay with that…until I start worrying about August.


A five week period.

24 Hours of Cumming
Lunar Kanza
Gravel Worlds
Rebecca’s Private Idaho
I’m not a “racer”. I don’t have that competitive instinct. I can’t survive an attack on a hill.

Racer instinct says “nail it!!! Watts!! Watts!! Watts!!”

Casual instinct says “that looks painful. I’m gonna slow down and eat some more Skittles”…I like rainbows.

I know it’ll all be good. I just always have a nagging voice that says…you should be pushing. You can do better.

Good thing I don’t listen very well.

😁☕️🍩👍🏼🤗

I know. I know. August will come. I’ll ride my bike with friends. I’ll give and receive hugs. All will be well. 😍☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️

#ridecasual

Oh crap!!! It’s trash pickup day!!!!


Casual Conversation – Amanda “the Panda” Nauman

My wife, Kerri and I took our first trip “across the pond” in 2017.  We flew over to support and ride in our friend Paul Erringtons race called The Dirty Reiver.  Not that Paul needs our support at all.  His event is legit.  Gravel riding in the beautiful country side of Northern England along the Scottish border.  Amazing.  While we were there we were lucky enough to get to know Amanda and David over a few days.  Definitely an experience that would be hard to duplicate.  Amanda recently agreed to take the time to have a Casual Conversation with me.  Amanda is every where it seems right now and deservedly so.  Now if I could just get her to ride tandem with me at Gravel Worlds…I’d even let her drive!  I promise not to spend the whole day gramming and checking Facebook!  Thanks Amanda or the time!!

Okay so here we go…
CASUAL:  Amanda I’m sitting here right now at 6am in my favorite morning “dad” chair. Kids are still asleep. Kerri starting to move around. Dogs outside taking care of a nature break. Peaceful… Me?? Second cup of coffee in my hand and looking at pictures of you in your Panda suit…

…that’s not as creepy as it sounds is it??? Okay. So You kicked butt at Dirty Reiver recently. You watched me get my butt kicked by the same race. Since then you’ve done a 400 mile road adventure over 3 days I believe it was.
Now…the Belgian Waffle Ride. Biggest question I have is…are the waffles as good as advertised? Bacon? Sausage? Is there like a whole Waffle Bar with thousands of toppings? Did you see the coffee pour overs at the third Dirty Reiver CP??? I almost cried. Seriously I got misty eyed as I rode away. I almost crashed. What’s the most amazing CP food you’ve ever had or are you riding too fast to even look? 😁

AMANDA:  Truthfully I skipped the waffles this year. But I hear they are amazing. The man behind the Rock Cobbler is also the man behind the waffles, Sam Ames. He has a knack for good food and good gravel. I would highly recommend his events in Bakersfield, CA if you ever wanted to travel out to California for some different dirt. There’s definitely bacon at BWR and a whole lot of whipped cream and topping options. But it’s one of those events where I’d rather eat all of that at the end of the ride, which he leaves as an option too! But unfortunately this year the heat got the best of me and it took me about three hours after the finish to even consider eating anything with how wrecked my body was. Too wiped to eat was a new level of exhausted and dehydrated for me!

I think the most amazing checkpoint food I’ve ever had was hot chicken broth. I don’t even remember where it was, I just remember it was cold enough and I was craving salt just enough that it was the most amazing sense of satisfaction. If it’s ever cold enough for me to need warm liquid at Dirty Kanza, that would be my winning formula!

CASUAL:  Okay. Now I’m hungry. No more Checkpoint food talk. I know. I know. I brought it up. You mentioned Dirty Kanza. Gravel endurance racing. You’re also a pro cyclocross racer. They seem like opposite ends of the spectrum to me. Consistent power/cadence over a prolonged period of time versus fast twitch burst interval. Admittedly I’ve never raced cyclocross so if that’s inaccurate, let me know. Is there a cyclocross training benefit to riding endurance gravel in the Spring/Early Summer or are they simply two separate loves?

AMANDA:  Yes, you’re right. They’re definitely opposite ends of the spectrum. Fast-twitch, high-intensity and bike handling skills are requirements for cyclocross. In reality those are three of my weaknesses, but for some reason I just love the game of cyclocross.

For ‘cross, the foundation miles need to come in the spring and summer because the quantity of racing in the fall is so heavy. Most of the base needs to be done in these months where I’m training for the longer gravel events, so I make it work perfectly. Admittedly I’m probably doing a little harder efforts than I should be, but that just comes with the love of competing at the highest level in these longer events. I can’t say no to a 200-mile race!

I was a competitive swimmer from the age of six all the way through college and trained specifically as a distance swimmer in my later years. I’m really good at staring at the black line at the bottom of a pool and motoring. 20 hours a week of swimming was my norm. Sound familiar? *Ahem* gravel. At the same time, I’m really good at tapering off those big training miles, focusing on high-intensity, and racing as fast as possible for events like the mile. *Ahem* cyclocross. To sum it up, I’ve found a way to perfectly fuel my competitive nature on the bike since I’ve graduated college. I love both disciplines equally. I don’t know if I’d consider myself a professional cyclocross racer or a professional adventurer at this point. Give me a bike with two wheels and I’ll turn anything into a good time!

CASUAL:  Professional adventurer. I love that term and think it fits well within the Gravel, dirt, back road riding culture. For most of us the Gravel race event is great…but it’s a day. It’s a day followed before and after by backroad exploring. Recently my friends are pushing me hard to take the next step…bikepacking. I even bought a really pretty super lightweight tent about 3 months ago!! I’ve thought about opening it up. I suppose it works…need to try it some day. 😜. Any interest in ultra-endurance or multi day bikepacking events? What about just super casual chillin with friends style bike packing? Btw…I might take up bike packing in flip flops and changing my name to “Super Casual” (thanks for the name change idea StormG). 😁

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AMANDA:  I actually have a huge interest in ultra-endurance or multi-day bikepacking events. I recently became obsessed with the 2016 Race to the Rock story and Sarah Hammond. CyclingTips has a phenomenal video on it here:
https://cyclingtips.com/2016/10/video-race-to-the-rock/
Events like the Indian Pacific Wheel Race are also becoming way too alluring for me. On that note, if anyone knows how I can apply for those insane Aussie adventures, let me know. It likely makes me sounds like a crazy person but I’m becoming more in love with the romantic nature of these epic adventures. When I was in high school I had a religion teacher who told us his story of riding across the United States and ever since then, I’ve always wanted to do it. Someday… when work isn’t so pressing, I’ll get to it.

And certainly, super casual bike packing with friends sounds fun! I have a bike with all the right rack mounts built in on the RLT 9 RDO, it’s just a matter of getting all the gear and finding the time for it. Time and money are slim, so I need to get creative on ways to break into that arena. If anyone is looking to hire a Panda to join in on epic adventures, I’m your girl! If someone gave me all the proper gear and showed me the ways of the wild unknown, I’d be down in an instant. “Wild Panda” and “Super Casual” take on the _____ Adventure could make for a great video!

SUPERCAZ:  I’d be all over that! Let’s make it happen! You bring the Panda suit and I’ll pack my Wookie suit…

…not that I have a Wookie suit…

…okay I do have a Wookie suit…but enough about me and my evening leisure attire.

What’s next for Amanda “the Panda” Nauman for 2017? Any more gravel or gearing up for cyclocross? We both know I’m trying my hardest to talk you into more gravel… What’s on the Cyclocross schedule this year?

WILDPANDA:  It actually all depends on how many spots USA Cycling will be allotted for the American cyclocross World Cups in September. I finished out last season ranked 54th in the world after skipping Nationals for hand surgery and the general rule for World Cup selection is that the top 50 automatically qualify to race. However, the United States is historically allowed to have additional spots (16 total Americans per gender) over the top 50 riders; but I haven’t heard back yet from the USAC representative about the final team selection. The rest of my year will hinge on that answer because it will dictate training and travel leading up to it. I’d love to do Gravel Worlds and Crusher in the Tushars, so we’ll see how things play out!

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SUPERCAZ:  I’m still waiting for Sheek to commit to riding tandem with me at Gravel Worlds. He could pedal us to the podium as I Snapchat you updates all day long! Okay, Amanda you’ve been awesome. Thanks so much for the time put into this interview! Lets end this with FIVE Fast Questions.

1. Better hugger? The Panda, The Yeti or The Casual Wookie?’

WILDPANDA:  Casual Wookie. All the fuzziness. http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/File:Fuzzball.ogg

2. Last movie you saw actually IN a theatre?

WILDPANDA:  This is so sad because I can’t even remember; it’s been so long. I can tell you the next movie I need to see in a theater is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. I saw the original seven times in theaters when I was in high school. My Johnny Depp obsession knew no limit.

3. Favorite cereal when not in training? (I have a thing for BooBerry and FrankenBerry)

WILDPANDA:  The fact that you specify “when not in training” means you know me too well. Fat kid comes alive with any sugary cereal. I’ll go out of my way for Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Honey Bunches of Oats, Life, and even Frosted Flakes if I’m desperate at a sketchy hotel in the middle of nowhere.

4. Bucket List vacation spot?

WILDPANDA:  Bali, Indonesia. My mother is Indonesian and I have yet to visit that paradise.

5. Favorite food truck food after a long Gravel Ride?

WILDPANDA:  I’ll order tacos from any ol’ food truck. But the best would be Torchy’s Tacos in Texas. Food trucks aren’t popular around home, but divey Mexican joints abound and cheap, fast, authentic Mexican is all I ever want at the end of a long ride. I visit Casa Ramos at least twice each time I’m in Emporia, just so you know the extent of this problem.

SUPERCAZ:  Amanda thank you so much for your time. Best of luck to you with the upcoming cross season. #crossiscoming

Hope to see you soon on the gravel though!