Author Archives: BobbyT

About BobbyT

Backroad cycling enthusiast, husband, father and friend.

A Casual Gravel Bike – The Cockpit Part 2

OH GROW UP!!

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.

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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.

Cockpit.

Cockpit.

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.

Scattered.

Thoughts.

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.

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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

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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?

Sorry.

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.)

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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?

Mark:
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…

View original post 389 more words


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Taco

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.

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…)