Category Archives: gravel grinding

I Rode a Bicycle in the Land Of ‘Eng

Right now somewhere in the world Paul Errington of Focal Events LTD is writing in his memoirs “I can not believe The Casual Cyclist came from Emporia Kansas to my event The Dirty Reiver.  I can not believe I asked him for a selfie shot.  Oh my gosh I’m, like, so embarrassed.  He is, like, so, like, awesome.  I should have asked for a autograph!  Why didn’t I get an autograph!!”  (Except imagine him thinking that in a really cool English accent.)


Right now somewhere in the world LeLan Dains and Jim Cummins of DK Promotions are thinking to themselves (at the same time.  Like telepathic twins) “I can not believe we shared a cabin with The Casual Cyclist!!  I hope he didn’t see us watching him sleep at night!  I hope he doesn’t realize we stole his tube of used Chamois Butt’r.  (I noticed.  That’s gross)


Right now somewhere in the world Garry Davoren and Colin O’Halloran of Mbr Bike Shop out of Galway Ireland are spinning folklore of The Casual Cyclist who rode across the great Western Sea from the Hills of Flint on a mythical 2 wheeled beast surviving only a single Banger and a never empty supply of Guiness from his Hydration Pack of the Osprey’s.


Right now somewhere in the world Dirty Kanza 2015-2016 Womens Champion Amanda Nauman and CTS Trainer David Sheek, both riders for SDG Factory Team, are counting the days until they again share the same air with The Casual Cyclist and increase their knowledge of better training techniques (bacon and Zebra cakes) to proper hotel room coffee in foreign lands.  (portable pour overs…who knew??)  David secretly hoping to rectify his mistake of settling for the goodbye handshake rather than following his heart and lunging for the goodbye hug.

Right now somewhere in the world millions, NAY, thousands, NAY, hundreds, NAY I SAY…okay…maybe just my parents are reading this blog recount and thinking “what a load of shit. (actually my mom would never say “load of shit”…maybe “crock of poop”)  More pictures and less name dropping please.  You barely averaged 11mph so stop with the “Casual Cyclist” crap.  You say “casual”.  We say “slow”.  Love you son.”

Love you too mom and dad.  Thanks for reading.

The Dirty Reiver.  120 miles.  200km of gravel, dirt, climbing hills, water crossings, flapjack munching, hill climbing, unnatural nature breaks, soul searching, climbing hills, white knuckle descending, knees aching, hill climbing, shoulder shredding, bike abusing, tricep tearing…pure enjoyment.  Honestly I mention the names above not to name drop.  Over the 4 days prior to and post Dirty Reiver they became part of my gravel family and forever a part of my first international gravel event.  Garry and Colin provided much needed transportation surrounding the event as well as eased the nervousness with countless cycling stories.  Amanda and David were such a joy to be around and getting to be a small part of a video shoot with them was so much fun.  Jim, LeLan and our wives Susie, Christina and Kerri provided that link to home we all need.  I even got to meet face to face a friend of mine from Lauf…Gudberg.  Amazing trip.  Amazing four days.  Amazing experience.  Overall.  The details??  Well…as they say…thats a different story.  Ha!


Gudberg – 9 hr Dirty Reiver. Well done!!!

The route was incredible.  Fairy tale forest roads leading to wide open gravel flowing amongst stone walls lining the English countryside.  The occasional small paved lanes winding through picturesque pastures.  Rough roads bordering Liddel Water along the England/Scotland border.  The route ending with a trip around Kielder Water and the Bakethin Reservoir right up to the doors of Kielder Castle.  I would return in a heartbeat if it was so easy.  The hospitality at the Checkpoints was superb.  The food and drink assortments phenomenal.  Easy in.  Easy out.  The route was perfectly marked and all questionable corners manned by volunteers showing the way.  Thank you so much to everyone involved!  We even had fellow Emporia Ben Shreiber manning the Finish Line cheering for us after he made the trip from Germany…unfortunately…his bike getting lost along the way.  How’d my personal day go?

I was uncomfortable from the beginning.  I did not adjust to the flight well.  I had diarrhea all day Friday.  Slept 3 hours Friday night and had the same stomach problems Saturday…albeit less severe.  I was simply exhausted.  I am so grateful the route involved many trees to hide behind during numerous “nature breaks”.  I gotta say putting back on sweat soaked clothes in 40 degree weather will WAKE you up though!  I love hill climbing when i have energy.  I attack with a good cadence and work my way through my gears maintaining that cadence.  By the time I’m out of gears, I’m typically near the peak and crank right on over carrying that momentum forward.  As a day rolls on my cadence slows and when I’m exhausted every hill is just a slow cadence easy gear mash fest.  My Dirty Reiver started out this way.  I call it survival climbing.  You are just trying to move forward.  My whole day was this way.  I had no burst.  I had no energy.  I had a low cadence.  I just moved forward.  I wanted to curl up and sleep.  I wanted to quit.  I should be vacationing in England not planning my next tree to “nature break” behind.  I should be in the van with LeLan, Garry and Colin drinking a pint and cheering people on.  I should be enjoying coffee and scone with my beautiful wife and best friend Kerri.  I’m a moron.  I freaking hate endurance cycling.  I thought I was faster than this.  I finished 35th OVERALL at the epic mudfest LandRun100!  I just rode 90 miles to Lawrence KS averaging 18+ mph!  What!  The!  Hell!  Miles 10 to 35 folks.  England gave me a physical beating but it was nothing compared to what I was doing to myself mentally.  I’ll give myself credit though.  Mental blow after mental blow I kept the cranks turning.  I kept moving forward.  It’s what we all do.  Nothing special but at that moment in time it feels like everything.

Checkpoint One was 37 miles in.  60km.  We rode into the town of Stonebaugh.  The aid station was stocked to the max.  I ate stuff.  I drank stuff.  I saw Paul.  Told him today sucked.  He said my “legs would come”.  I knew what he meant.  Keep pedaling.  Love ya man.  I rode away from the Checkpoint with no plan and no goal.  I rode out because it’s what you do if you aren’t hurt.  You move forward.  You can quit a mile out of town but you always roll out of a Checkpoint and see what the next mile brings.  The body and mind are funny things.  Give them a chance to come around.

The second leg was my favorite.  The gravel took us across a creek, down stone wall lined roads and onto narrow twisting paved lanes.  I didn’t take pictures here.  I do regret the decision but I was focusing on changing my attitude.  Relaxing.  Accepting my day for what it was going to be and taking in the views.  My plans of a sub 10 hour ride were out the window and I focused on moving forward and beating the sunset.  I wanted to beat the sunset for no other reason than I knew it would be getting cold.  I was tired of feeling cold.  I was going to smile more.  I was going to enjoy the aid station food.  I was going to hug Paul at the finish line.  I was going to share a pint at the finish with Garry, Colin, Amanda and David.  I was going to high-five LeLan and congratulate Jim on his finish.  I was going to embrace my wife and give her the longest softest kiss ever in our 20 years of marriage.  (I tried.  She said stay away you smell rank!)  I was going to finish this damn thing.

Mentally I failed one last time at mile 78.  Long story short I lost track of mileage and upon realizing I had another hour to Checkpoint Three my body simply went limp.  I stopped pedaling.  I had no more.  I could feel all the energy leave my body.  There was a sense of…nothing.  There was not going to be a Don Buttram riding up behind me from the sunset this time to save me.  There was a highway right behind me.  I could hop onto it.  41 miles left.  65km.  I needed another nature break.  I needed to find another suitable tree.  I can’t let me first trip to England end this way.  Please move forward.  My legs are not cramping.  Okay then MOVE.  Pedal Damnit.  Please.  So I did.  I moved forward.  It’s just what you do.

Checkpoint Three was incredible.  Freshly boiled potatoes.  Flapjack bites.  Pour-over coffee.  Seriously.  You make your own.  Freaking incredible.  I almost cried.  Paul…if you ever read this…next year add bacon.  Riders will be crying all over the place.  Major photo ops.  Cover of Time magazine style.  It’ll be huge!!  Just saying.  I spent the day prior playing around on the paths that would be the final 26 miles (41km)…so I knew what to expect.  Just get rolling.  The sun was setting and I was soaked with seat and starting to feel the chill.  The paths were smooth.  No big hills climbs.  Riders sped by me but I still had no burst.  No power.  Nothing.  It was okay.  I enjoyed the roll and knew it was almost over so I looked around as much as I could.  The lake was beautiful in the evening with the low sun.  I simply stayed out of the way of faster riders and kept the cranks turning.  I stopped a few hundred feet from the final climb up to the castle.  I knew family and friends were waiting but I just stood for a moment.  I took off my jacket so my Team Mulreadys jersey could be in any photos and made the final climb.  There hugs.  There were high fives.  There were fist bumps.  I got my finishing patch.  I tried for that kiss.  I think it was Kerri.  Might have been Paul.  I don’t remember.  I know I kissed someone.  Sorry Paul.  Love you Kerri.

The Dirty Reiver is a mix of never ending hill climbs and white knuckle descents.  Picturesque English landscape and dense wooded forrest’s.  Your bike will rattle and your body will be punished.  The roads range from shoulder pounding stones, to smooth soft gravel to a few smooth tea sipping paved lanes…as long as you can sip tea while descending around turns at 30+ mph with one hand on the brake.  If you don’t set a new Heart Rate PR…then you didn’t ride The Dirty Reiver properly.  Do it again.  I hope I get to come back.

Final Note – I can not say enough about the Gravel Community.  I truly enjoyed my time and my overall experience.  I made new friends in Garry, Gudberg, David, Colin and Amanda and strengthened old ones with Paul, Jim and LeLan.  I met a lot of great riders who recognized me from my webshow “This Is Gravel” on the Gravel Guru page.  I never felt like I was too far from home.

So…so…glad I picked up a bike six years ago…


Salsa Vaya – Loaned to me via Paul from Salsa UK.  Thank you so much!

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A Gravel Century Does Not 100 Miles Make

Mile 100.  The Strava App shows it.  Mile 100 of the Land Run 100.  I was done.  My body and mind shut down.  The problem?  The Land Run 100 wasn’t 100 miles.  The mapped course was 105 miles.

I am not complaining.  I had a wonderful LandRun100 experience in 2017.  Registration party was phenomenal.  Met of with fellow Cantu Cycling Wheels buddy, Craig Schmidt.  One of the masterminds behind Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, NE.  I was able to talk with fellow LaufDirty Dozen” riders, Don Buttram and Jim Phillips…along with their personal shoe shiner, Collin Little…from the Kuat team.  I got to hang out with my good friend Paul Errington who made the trip from Newcastle, England.  IMG_4322Emporia, Kansas represented big time with over 20 area riders coming down.  Emporia even has traveling volunteers now which speaks volume to impact cycling is having in my hometown.  Freaking awesome to see Michael and Treva Worrel down there.  Michael and Treval help direct the Madison Checkpoint at The Dirty Kanza which you can imagine…is crazy work.  Pizza at The Hideaway then back to the house for final prep and beauty sleep!

My race day??  Spoiler ALERT!!!  Finish time was just under 8.5 hours.  I rode with a lot of great people.  I felt strong most of the day.  I bombed the truly “b” road type sections letting my Lauf fork, The Grit, take the brunt of the hits.  IMG_4319Side note here real quick.  I love The Grit from Lauf.  Truly.  Did it’s job all day long in that mud and cold and never complained.  Never held mud.  Never sneaked or rattled.  Never once did I think…well…that extra 300-400 grams on the fork is slowing me down…stop it.  It.  Just.  Works.  I rolled into Guthrie just before 11:30am and was out within 10 minutes.  3 hrs and 24 minutes and feeling good.  No walking.  No bike carrying.  My parents came down to Guthrie checkpoint to give me a pep talk.  My mom told me it was freezing and I should just ride back with them.  My dad gave me the motivational “eye smile”.  =)

Pep talk.  I joke.  I absolutely love that even at 43 years old…I will always be their little kid going out on adventures.  I love that they get genuinely concerned about my fellow riding friends.  My mom even bought me candied pretzels…awesome!  My friends and team mates were there also.  They all did a bang up job for a lot of people that afternoon at the Checkpoint.  Bikes needed help.  People needed help.  Everyone pitched in.  Gravel.  Ryan Balkenhol and Jeff Young rolled in about the same time as me.  Friendly faces.  Good times.


I had to go to the bathroom so gathered my bike quickly and rolled out.  I immediately regretted not switching out my completely soaked gloves.  My fingers felt like needles were pressing into them.  I couldn’t wait for them to go numb again.  I needed them to go numb.  Although I have to say…going to the bathroom with a kit that’s a half size too small and reeeaaaaalllllllly tight…with completely numb fingers…is a unique experience!

A friend had predicted deep mud from miles 70-80.  This prediction was largely accurate and this is probably where my problems -started.  I was so focused on that mud and keeping the miles ticking off that I completely forgot about food and drink.  Nothing.  Somewhere in those miles I lost control on a downhill and crashed into the ditch.  Body fine?  Check.  Bike fine?  Define “fine”?  Check.  Corey Smith and Jose Gomez laughing at me?  Check.


Mile 85 is where the data shows my lack of any nutrition caught up to me.  I was still riding with Corey.  We came off a short east bound pavement section back directly back into mud and that was it.  My legs just stopped.  I watched Corey ride around a corner and thought “well, there he goes”.  We have to be close to the finish line.  I had made the mistake of thinking I was mentally strong enough to NOT need mileage to show on my Garmin.  I needed mileage once the going got slow.  I needed to be able to click off on the second half.  I could only guess as too how much distance was left.  I suddenly remembered to eat and drink.  I downed a whole bottle of Tailwind and found a Snickers bar.  I lacked the dexterity to open it so I ripped it with my teeth and just grabbed it with my muddy hands.  Dirt, rocks and chocolate all went into my mouth in one gloriously awful bite.  Within minutes energy came back and I was rolling again…and spitting the grit out of my teeth…sorry Kerri.

Mile 100.  Something happened here.  I hadn’t eaten since the Snickers bar at mile 85.  Like 2 hours ago.  My fingers hurt so freaking bad.  Numbness was gone again.  Just pain now.  (A week later and my finger tips still feel like I slept on them wrong, tingling sensation)  I rounded a corner chasing Jose Gomez and suddenly I didn’t feel safe on my bike.  Totally irrational.  I coasted to a stop.  Watched Jose ride up a hill.  Realized I was alone.  I knew I was close but mentally I didn’t know what to do.  My mind was a blank.  No thoughts of quitting.   No thoughts of finishing.  Just… nothingness.  I remember feeling lost.  So incredibly weird and hard to explain.  Food.  Shit.  I need food.  I ate two packets of Skratch Labs chews.  Slow motion.  I glanced back and saw a rider coming.  Pedal.  I needed to pedal.  Instead I leaned over my handlebars and just wanted to sleep.  “Bobby!  Will you do me a favor.  Will you finish this with me?”   Don Buttram.  The rider was Don.  Someone I knew.  Shit.  Yes.  I need to finish.  Let’s finish.  I bought Zebra cakes for the Finish Line.  I need Zebra cakes.  I think I even told Don that I didn’t feel safe riding at that moment.  Mentally I just was not there.  It happened so fast.

We immediately hit a hill and I did what I try to never do.  I stood up to pedal and grunted loudly up the hill.  Almost on purpose to tell myself “the muscles are still there you idiot.  It’s in your head.”  Don probably thought I was gonna pass out.  Once we crested that hill though, I could feel the energy returning.  I was tired but the legs were working their magic and making the cranks turn.  We spied some riders in the distance and Don said “let’s reel them in.  Except…we seemed to be reeling them in way faster than we should have been.  Walkers.  Well, runners, from the 50k.  Lol!  Yep we reeled them in alright!  🙂   They never stood a chance against our Salsa Warbirds!

Suddenly my head was back in the game.  It took Don and I chasing down a group of walkers on our mud caked bikes to make it happen but all was good again.  100%.  I could have sprinted those last few miles.  Downtown Guthrie was glorious.  Don and I crossed the Finish Line together just before 4:30pm.  We took our turns getting our heartfelt hugs from Mr Wintle.  Bobby.  Crystal.  Austin.  Tyler.  Coffee.  Someone gave me coffee at the finish line.  I love you.  I’m putting you on my coveted Thompson Family Christmas Card List.  Seriously.  We should cuddle.  Oh how I loved that coffee!!!!  My mom gave me a hug and a bag full of candy coated pretzels.  Oh…those pretzels…magnificent.  Vanilla Latte from Aspen?  Yes.  Food truck tacos?  Yes.  A small hand sized piece of pecan pie?  Yes.  A box of Zebra Cakes?  Yes.  Admittedly I only ate 6 of the 10 cakes.  I had to share a few with fellow riders Paul Errington and John Decker.  Later Dinner at Louie’s.  Yes.  Food!  Food!  Food!  Give me food!

Looking back the first 50 miles took me 3 hours and 24 minutes.  Pretty good time for me on a day like that.  The second 50 miles took me just under 5 hours.  The entire 8.5 hours I ate 2 GU gels, 3 bags of Skratch chews, one share size thing of Take5 bits, a Snickers Bar and some chips.  I drank 2 bottles of fluid.  My fingers were froze and I was most likely malnourished which led to my breaking down at mile 100.  I should have eaten more.  Yes.  I should have recognized before mile 85 and definitely should have learned at mile 85…but…that’s endurance Gravel riding.  You tend to lose focus at some point and that’s always the hardest part.  Overcoming the mental part.  Being able to regroup.  Staying focused on nutrition when you feel good…not waiting until you feel bad.

Would I have eventually regrouped without Don riding up to me?  Of course.  I have no doubt.  But…who knows how long it would have taken.  It’s always a huge boost to have a friendly face like Don’s ride up and offer help.  He knew I was hurting.  He knew he was hurting.  He didn’t ask “doing ok?” and keep riding like so may of us do.  Including me.  He said “finish this with me.”  Not a question.  A statement.  Let’s go.  We’ve both been through a lot today.  Let’s go.  It worked.  I went.  Had he said “doing ok?”, my pride might have simply said “yeah” as he rode by me.  Who knows.  Thank you Don.  Thank you for understanding “gravel”.

All in all a great day.  Honestly.  Would I do the exact same race in the exact same conditions again?  Probably not but that’s the beauty of The Land Run 100 and really most of these endurance events…they are never the exact same twice.

It’s why we keep coming back.  Well…that and Wintle’s hug at the Finish Line.

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2017 Cycling Goals

I have big goals in 2017. Now before I get into those goals let me first say I realize everything is relative. A big goal for me is not necessarily a big goal for you. I’m not saying we can’t all empathize with each other and support each other no matter our skill level in life on a bike. I’d like to hope and think we can. I’m just saying…I understand if you don’t.

My main cycling focus in 2017 is placed firmly in Emporia Kansas. My home. My Flint Hills. My roads. My life. Emporia and the surrounding Flint Hills just happen to also be the home of a little thing we locals like to call The Dirty Kanza. A 200 Mile day of fun on our gravel roads. We just happen to invite and welcome…the entire world to come visit that day. My primary goal this year is to Finish my 5th Dirty Kanza 200. I want to ride down that finish line chute high five’ing family and friends. I want to stand up there on stage at the Awards Ceremony and collect the Five Time Finishers Cup from Dan Hughes. I respect the Flint Hills. Finishing is never a right. Finishing is surviving the day. Finishing is earned.

I have a second goal for the 2017 Dirty Kanza. I will be gunning to successfully complete the Race The Sun challenge. I will be racing to finish before the determined sunset time cut off for that day. Normally around 14 hrs 45 minutes. My best finish? 17 hours.

I’m working hard. I’m training daily. I’m dropping the weight. I’m focused. I’ll know if it’s all enough on that day. DK Day.

I was stoked to learn that Lauf Forks will be a part of my training, my riding and my memories for the Dirty Kanza goals this year. I can not wait to seek how my Salsa Warbird glides through the Flint Hills with The Grit leading the charge.  I will be one of twelve taking part in the Lauf Dirty Dozen campaign for the 2017 Dirty Kanza 200.  Keep track of our group and our blogs at <a href=””></a&gt;

Learn more about the Lauf Forks gravel fork called “The Grit” <a href=””>here</a&gt;.

We’ll be tackling plenty of miles before DK Day. My other goals for the 2017 cycling season include finishing <a href=””>The LandRun100</a>, <a href=””>The Dirty Reiver</a>, <a href=””>DK Training Camp</a>, <a href=””>Maizies Pride</a> and Elrods Cirque in Winfield, KS are some Century races along the way.  Later in the second half of the year I’ll go ride the relay of 24 Hours of Cumming, The Pony Express, Gravel Worlds…who knows what else…

A side note on the LandRun100 this year.  My wife, Kerri, has signed up to ride in her first 50 mile ride.  Ever.  She’s got a couple local 30 mile rides under her belt so this will be a good challenge.  I’m really proud of her for stepping outside her comfort zone and going for the 50.  I’m excited to help her get ready for her day in the sun.  So to speak.  It’s is the LandRun after all and known for its rain, clouds and red mud…

A lot of miles too be sure but a lot of memories created as well.

Here’s to 2017!