Category Archives: cycling

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


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!

Jeffy

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.

Worlds johncraig

Photo cred to Venny

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

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

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.  👍🏼)


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. 👍🏼💪🏼😍


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 Errington’s 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!


Casual Conversations – Neil Shirley – Lyman Agency

I was lucky enough last week to be able to talk with Neil Shirley.  Neil is a retired pro road cyclist who recently worked as the editor for Road Bike Magazine and now works for the Lyman Agency representing several bike brands.  He continues to ride in cycling endurance events throughout the year and has a love for gravel riding.  I love that he was still in the 2017 Dirty Kanza Finish Line tent still giving out high fives and hand shakes to all finishers as late as 3am.  I’m not too far removed from finishing the DK after the midnight hour and I can tell you coming down that chute at 1am, 2am or even 3am…those cheers mean so much to the riders.

Here’s Neil…

CASUAL:  Neil thanks for taking some time with me. I know you won’t believe this but our Facebook “Friendiversary” is next month. June 2016. One year. I have a gift for you! Can’t wait see what you’re getting me!! 😀 Seems like just yesterday I started stalking…I mean following you on Facebook. How time flies…

So. The catalyst of our friendship was/is your participation in The Dirty Kanza here in Emporia, KS. I love our town. I love our gravel roads and I love this event. Something we have in common. I don’t want to turn this into an advertisement for the City of Emporia or Dirty Kanza, haha, but I’m curious when both popped onto your radar and what keeps you coming back? How many DK’s have you been to now?

NEIL:  I heard about Dirty Kanza five years ago when my buddy at Specialized told me about it and some guy named Dan Hughes. How did I not learn about the legend of Dan Hughes back in elementary school? I’m not sure, but he should part of every educational text book from now on. It’s honestly guys like Dan Hughes, Jim Cummins, and a number of others that make DK truly unique from anything else out there. I didn’t know that coming into it for my first time four years ago, I simply wanted to try and win it and didn’t realize it was so much more than just a 200 mile event. After that year I had true respect for what Dirty Kanza is. It’s the people.

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CASUAL: I think that’s what so many people fail to realize about the “gravel scene”. A race is a race but it’s the almost family like bonds that drive these events. You can’t create that overnight or by attending one race. Locally we have Gravel Worlds, LandRun, The Dirty Kanza…there’s so much family atmosphere there and social media has helped to extend that family. Many of us have virtually been “raised” as cyclists by the gravel scene within the past 5-10 years. It’s what we know best. Having said that…I’ve always wondered about your take on that family scene compared to say the pro-road discipline. Same but different or does the cloud of competition weigh heavier? I hope that doesn’t put you on the spot. Not looking for any juicy details just curious what the atmosphere is like leading up to a long stage race for example and even during the event itself.

NEIL:  I’d say there are few similarities. There is a deep bond between you and your teammates as a pro on the road since you might spend nearly as much time with them over the course of a season as you would with your own family. At the events themselves, there’s a job to do and although that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not friendly with riders from other teams, that is put on hold while you do your job. It’s not about the experience, it’s about performing. That creates a much different perspective and one that I was happy to leave behind. The vibe and atmosphere around gravel is similar to what first drew me to the sport when I started riding mountain bikes at the age of 14. It’s nice to have that perspective again.

CASUAL:  We’re glad to see you out on the gravel with us man. So I’m a gravel guy. I’ve got a narrow view of the cycling world. I’ve had the good fortune of riding in the Dirty Kanza, LandRun100, Gravel Worlds, Dirty Reiver and Rebecca’s Private Idaho. What am I missing out on? What needs to be on the bucket list for a mid pack weekend warrior gravel rider? What needs to be my next gravel road trip? Is it even gravel? Is there a mixed surface event someone like me really needs to get to at least once? Follow this up with what Gravel event is on Neil Shirley’s bucket list if only that dang schedule would line up perfectly?

NEIL:  One event that’s a must-do in the U.S. is Crusher in the Tushar. It’s in Beaver, Utah and by DK standards is quite short at just 69 miles, but don’t let that fool you. You go over 10,000 feet in altitude twice, finishing at 10,500 feet. It’s one of the best run events out there and the promoter, Burke Swindlehurst, keeps it right around 500 riders so it retains the feel of a small event. Only problem is that it fills up the same day that entries go live, so you have to be fast. As far as events I would like to do, the Dirty Reiver sounds exceptional and is definitely one on my bucket list. The cool thing about gravel vs. pavement is that everywhere you go it’s slightly different and you never quite know what you’re in for. On the pavement, the road conditions never change.

CASUAL:  Crusher in the Tushar. I have two friends going this year. Smitty and Jeffy. Definitely on my list for 2018. So many gravel rides popping up and so little time. Does your family ride much Neil? Wife or your girls? Family rides? Or do you hide from cycling a little when at home to take a break? My oldest can tackle a few hills but the loose gravel on downhills makes her nervous. My youngest is 7 and rolls downhill like a runaway train. Screaming and smiling the whole way. I love watching her but I know one of these days a Fall will happen and I’m hoping she’ll get back up and go again.

NEIL:  My wife doesn’t ride, and I think that’s maybe why we’ve had 17 wonderful years together 🙂 She runs and that’s her thing, which is fantastic–we’re able to keep the sporting objectives separate while supporting each other in our goals. My two girls on the other hand, they are 9 and 5 and want to race me all the time. We recently took the training wheels off the youngest ones bike and I think she’ll be a ripper. My older daughter wants to beat everyone on the bike path until she sees a cool leaf or something else on the ground, then we have to stop and inspect it. Those rides are priceless.

FIVE QUICK SHOTS

Love it bud! Okay we’ll see you in a few days in Emporia Kansas for 2017 Dirty Kanza. Let’s wrap this up with 5 quick questions.

1. How many times have you watched the movie Frozen?

NEIL:  Too many times to count, seriously. And then if I add in the hours I’ve spent listening to “Let it go”, well, let’s just say if I had a nickel for every hour I’d be a very rich man.

2. Four star hotels or roadside Bates style motels on cycling trips?

NEIL:  I’m not entirely sure what a 4-star hotel would even be. Probably like a Super 8? Motel 6 is my go-to resort.

3. Favorite after ride craving if the food truck menu was your choice?

NEIL:  Mexican food is really tough to beat. When I lived in San Diego there was a Sun Taco next to my house that would always fix me up after a big training day. A carne asada burrito with a horchata to wash it down is the bees knees.

4. Sprint to the City Limit sign…you, Dan Hughes or Yuri?

NEIL:  Well, I’ve seen the destruction that Dan can do (to himself) in a city limits sprint, so I’d say once safely navigating around that I would use my wheel sucking roadie prowess to execute a perfectly timed bike throw to beat Yuri on the line.

5. Family vaca bucket list. Theme parks or national parks?

NEIL:  I hear Disney is making a National Park theme park. That should be amazing. But as much as I do love cotton candy and corn dogs, I’d say we’re more the National Park types. After Crusher in the Tushar last year we spent two days hiking in Zion, and this August we’re going to Yellowstone for a week. Can’t wait for that trip!

Neil thanks again for taking the time to chat with me.  Always great seeing you in Emporia for the Dirty Kanza.  Can’t wait!

Please read other Casual Conversations

Casual Conversations – John Wilmeth – Cantu Cycling Wheels