Dirty Kanza 200 - Tips

Dirty Kanza 200 - Tips

I was recently selected by the "lottery" to partipate in the DK200. I still had to pay for the event, support and all required training/supplies, but I got a chance to participate in one of the greatest gravel endurance rides of all time. While it was almost midnight when I rolled in, I was at least able to earn the title of "DK200 Finisher". Here is a summary of what worked for me and what didn't. Some of the things I state here are going to be obvious, but others like "Duct Tape" aren't so obivous...

What Worked:

  1. Schawble Marathon Plus 26x1.5 inch tires
    While researching the DK200, I heard that some people can get as many as 7 flats [1]!!! I also heard that sidewall slashes were common as well. Here is a video where a primary presenter from Gravel Cyclist mentions that K-Dogg had his sidewall slashed ruing the 2018 DK200 [2]. For that reason, I did some research to find a tire that would roll reasonably well but provide strong puncture protection at an affordable price with good sidewall protection. I looked several places, but this webpost by Denham helped me to form my final decision[3].

    In light of all of this, I showed up on "race" day with fairly new Marathon Plus tires and did not get a single flat the entire ride!!! That's pretty impressive if you ask me!!! The funny thing is I did a 230 mile mostly road ride on those same tires a week earlier and got two flats (one was from a staple) and I'm not sure what the other one was due to. However, despite the dissapointment a week earlier on most paved roads, the Schawble tires shined with zero flats during the entire 2019 DK200 even though I was running with inner tubes!!!
    BTW: I was fortunate enough to meet K-Dogg at the 2019 DK200 and ride with him breifly. I really liked that part.

  2. Salsa Stanless Steel Water Bottle Cages
    I was a Cat 4 road racer with very little gravel experience going into the DK200. When I first started training, I found out really quick how fast gravel will cause your gear to slide off your bike or come lose. While some gravel/dirt can actually be peaceful, most gravel is somewhere between peaceful and downright gnarly. It didn't take long in my training before water bottles started flying out of my standard cages. To fix that, I eventually upgraded all of my water bottle cages to Salsa Stanless Steel cages which wrap around the water bottle to help ensure it doesn't go anywhere. This worked out great for a while but what I found out is that over time if the Salsa cages were mounted on my forks, the combination of the vibrations would eventually loosen the cages and cause the water bottle to come out the bottom. To solve that problem, I wrapped a modest amount of duct tape around the bottom of the salsa cages on my fork to keep the two sides of the Salsa cages together and to form a base that the water bottle wouldn't fall through. Then, I had the best of both worlds. Salsa cages that wrapped around my bottles and a sturdy base to keep the bottles from falling out the bottom. This combination got rid of my serious problems with water bottles flying out of their cages on gnarly gravel decents. Here is a picture of a Salsa Stanless Steel Water Bottle Cage with duct tape forming a base and mounted to my fork with a hose clamp from Lowe's.
    Salsa Stainless Steel Waterbottle Cage Mounted to Fork
    Figure 1
  3. Hose Clamps
    The hydration requirements for the DK200 are pretty high. I normally need at least four full sized water bottles between each DK200 stop. Unfortunately, my bicycle only had two water bottle mounts and my fork didn't have any water bottle mounts. I didn't want to carry a hydration pack on my back partly because I wanted to be as comfortable as possible. Because I didn't want to go on an uncontrolled spending spree and get a new fork just so I could get water bottle mounts, I started researching ways to mount additional water bottles to my bicycle. I noticed some people put water bottles under their saddle but I wasn't real familiar with that. I had also sucessfuly mounted a water bottle cage to my top tube for road touring using some plastic mounts from a well known brand but that didn't work so well on gravel. I also tried those same plastic mounts on my fork but they were so loose it was "dangerous". When I used the plastic mounts to try and mount my water bottles to the fork, the plastic mounts wouldn't get tight enough and I actually had a water bottle cage slide into my front spokes while I was riding thereby knocking the wheel out of true and almost causing a mini-disaster. There were even websites that recommended ways to drill holes into your fork and use rivnuts to create water bottle bosses, but that seemed too complicated to me [4].
    Eventually, I found a post somewhere online that mentioned you could attach the Salsa Stanless Steel cages to an ordinary steel fork with plain stanless steel hose clamps. In fact, the same post even mentioned that the Salsa Stanless Steel cages actually have a slit that the hose clamps fit through. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find that exact post right now but here is one where someone suggestes using Hose Clamps to mount a water bottle cage to a rigid fork without using rivnuts [5]

  4. Garmin eTrex 30x
    The "typical" bicycle mount for the eTrex series leaves something to be desired so you might want to take extra steps to secure your eTrex with a string "loop" or you might even want to use duct tape, but the battery life on the non-touch eTrex series is absolutely amazing!!! I will let you go to the Garmin website to get that information but if you use fresh AA batteries, the non-touch eTrex should be able to run for the entire DK200 ride even if you are slow like me. Unfortunately, while it may be possible, I never figured out a way to display extra fields like average speed, ETA, time of day, etc when in maps ("navigation") mode. For this reason, I put the eTrex on a "statistics" page early in the DK200 when I was riding with lots of people and then switched over to maps mode when I was riding mostly by myself. This did make it difficult for me to pace myself in the later stages of the ride, but by that time, I had alread put forth several good efforts and was starting to wear down anyway. If you really need stats and a map, you could possibly use a wristwatch based GPS for the stats and use the eTrex 30x for maps. Both devices would likely have good battery life at that point and you wouldn't have to worry about getting too lost. Even though there is likely no need to swap fresh batteries when using an eTrex 30x on a DK200, the eTrex 30x has another advantage in that that AA batteries are super easy to swap out mid ride. You shouldn't have to do that, but if that unfortunate situations comes, it's a snap to swap them out provided you have another pair of AA batteries on hand. Personally, I did not have to swap the batteries out.

    BTW: This is off topic, but one sorely missed feature on the eTrex 30x is the apparent inability to support Garmin Speed Sensors. I sometimes ride rollers at home when the weather is bad. My rollers don't have an interface for power or speed sendors so I used to use a Garmin Edge 800 that a friend gave me paired with a Garmin Speed sensor. Unfortunatey, the Garmin Edge died a few days ago. I guess this happened because I connected the USB cable directly to the unit while plugged into my computer instead of the other way around.

  5. Duct Tape
    You might consider duct tape to be a "controversial" item for the DK200; however, I found it to be quite useful. I was able to use duct tape for the DK200 ride for the following reasons

    To secure a trunk bag that kept comming off during training because the latch was messed up
    (Yes, I did haul a trunk bag on the 2019 DK200)

    To create a base for my fork mounted Salsa water bottle cages so the bottles wouldn't fall through the bottom during extended bumpy sections
    (see above)

    To help keep my eTrex 30x from flying off becuase the Garmin suggested bicycle mount is flaky
    (You can also use the string loop technique I mentioned above)

    To patch my bar tape that started comming unravelled between checkpoints on the actual DK200 event
    (Because I had thrown the duct tape into my trunk bag, I was able to simply, pull over, pull it out and wrap it around my unravelling bar tape. I didn't expect the bar tape to unravel because it was reasonably fresh and done professionally, but it did and the duct tape saved my bacon)

  6. Specialized S-Wrap Roubaix Handlebar Tape
    I was unfortunately stuck with what I believe were aluminum handle bars for this event with no fancy decoupling like some modern bicycles have. Also, it was hard to tell if the cheap steel handlbars I found online would be compatible with my bar end shifters. The easiest way to overcome the discomfort of road buzz to my hands was to do any combination of the following: lower my tire pressure; wear gloves; or, get thicker handlebar tape. So I lowered my tire pressure and started looking online for the best handlebar tape. Unfortunately, I wasn't satisfied with any of the suggestions I found on line. One day, I asked in the local bike shop The Bike Route. There, I think it was Jay that suggested I try the Specialized bar tape. He told me it came with some extra gel pads that went under the tape to cushion the vibration. Knowing how great gel pads worked in running shoes, I gave the bar tape a try and sure enough, it massively improved the comfort in my hands on gravel rides. Now, I didn't have to wear gloves which can potentially interfere with shifting, braking and getting things in and out of your jersey pockets.

  7. Carrying a Chain Breaking Tool
    To the touring gurus out there, this one is a no brainer but since I hadn't had too many chain failures until I started into gravel cycling, I didn't understand why I would need one of these. I packed one of them anyway and it saved my goose around mile 142 when my chain locked up. Because I had incorectly cut my chain prior to the DK200 and not detected the problem until race day, I managed to jam my chain into gear around mile 142. The chain had been giving me problems throughout that day but I didn't know until later why I was having the problems. At any rate, I wanted to give up around mile 142 when my chain has locked into a very high unusable gear and I think was rubbing on other parts. At some point I managed to calm down and realized I had the tool to break the chain off. I broke the chain at an reasonable point and was able to put it back on with the existing quick link. I had to be careful to not jam my chain into the big front ring and a big ring on the back but I was able to complete the remaining 58 miles or so without issue. I was so glad I had read other posts that recommended bringing a chain breaking tool like this one from Friestedt [6]

  8. Not Barreling Through Mud Holes
    If you are either a pro or have a really big ego, you may be tempted to ride through big mud pits despite the fact that nearly everyone else is getting off their bike to walk around or over the mud obstacle. Pros might be able to pull this off with out wrecking their derailleur but if you are an amateur like most DK200 riders, you are likely better off dismounting and walking over or around the mud hole. Don't let your ego ruin your ride. I think this video from Gravel Cyclist [2] may briefly mention why you should not ride through mud holes during the DK200. In short, you can trash your derailleur. I actually did that once on a training ride. Not because I purposefully ran through a mud hole, but my bicycle transmission was getting old already and goofy me wanted to train in the mud. When my wife and I were on better terms, I told her that I didn't want to train much in the mud because I didn't expect too much mud and it probably wouldn't be too muddly in the DK200. She then countered by saying something like "You watch, it will probably be muddy." in a friendly way. From that day on, I realized I needed to stop being "scared" of the mud. I had some mud training but not as much as I could have used. Some day later, it was really muddy so I took off in it. My already weak bicycle transmission started having fits. Eventually, the chain started skipping so bad that I felt the need to abort the training ride and commute (by bicycle) home. On my commute home, my rear derailleur "exploded" close to a bar with live semi-outdoor music. I then spent quite a bit of time in the parking lot of the bar listening to the music while I got an exersise on how to make an emergency fixed gear bicycle. Needless to say, I don't unnecessarily ride over mud anymore. Don't be "afraid" of the mud. Respect the mud. If you've got a fixed gear bike, maybe you can get away with "attacking" mud, but I think few people are capable of riding a fixed gear bicycle all the way through the DK200. I suspect it takes a person with special skill and experience to pull that off because of the changes in gradient.

  9. Never Let Go Fund - Crew For Hire
    For various reasons, my family was not able to support me in this event. Because of that, I either had to abort or make a a small donation to the Never Let Go fund. My family is on a budget so even small donations and race entry fees can be a challenge, but as far as I could tell, the Never Let Go team gave every one of their "racers" first class amazing support!!! I was highly impressed at the level of assistance the Never Let Go parents and child volunteers provided. Sadly, I need to move on in life and possibly step away from competitive cycling for a while, but I still strongly recommend the Never Let Go support team. If you are considering the Dirty Kanza 200 and don't already have an amazing support crew, I urge you to consider the Never Let Go - Crew for Hire. They are an amazing bunch of people and they will help you get to the finish line as fast as possible provided you are willing do your part as a "racer".

  10. Nutrition
    My nutrition on race day was homemade breadsticks, Gala Apples, ordinary carrots, powdered and pre-bottled Gatorade, plain water, Chef Boyardee Lasangna and Beefaroni, caffeine free Cliff Energy Blocks, SiS Energy Gels mixed in water or Gatorade, American Gummy Bears; Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich from the amazing Never Let Go fund Support Crew for Hire and some energy beverage packets I picked up from a vendor that I didn't really care for.

    I think I got all of it... Anyway, this was a pretty good nutrition strategy. The homemade breadsticks were tasty and provided long bunring energy when consumed early in the day. I feel the breadsticks allowed me to keep going hard (for me) later in the day. The Gala Apples were a tangy kind of sweet that was even better tasting than Cliff Energy blocks or American gummy bears and they provided a little water but they were a bit heavy to carry "disspeared" "early" in the day. The SiS Energy Gels and vendor beverage packets were meant for emergencies. The vendor gels worked fine but the SiS Gels tasted a lot better and seemed to work just as well. At some point in the day, one of the vender energy packages (to be consumed in water) seemed to taste like the Alka Seltzer I took a few times back in my youth... My personal recommendation at this point, would maybe be to stick closer to the SiS stuff. The American Gummy Bears were meant for a demoralization emergency which did happen by the way. The Gummy Bears are proably tastier than the Cliff Energy blocks but they came with a few problems. One is that they are hard to eat while riding and second is they don't seem to be quite as effective as the Cliff Energy Blocks. The good thing was that when the heat of the day kicked in and I was getting demoralized, I could pull over and pop some Hairbro Gummy Bears in my mouth. I didn't always like the part of having to pull over though... Unfortunately, these American gummy bears are maybe not the same as the European gummy bears that Peter Sagan eats [7]. Like the bread sticks, the Chef Boyardee was meant to provide long term sustainable energy; unfortunately, there were only two checkpoints this year so I had to "carry" one can of Chef Boyardee cans in a trunk bag... At some point, the heat was getting so bad and I was so worn out that I didn't want to eat much of anything. That's were three things came into play. The Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich from the Never Let Go Fund - Crew For Hire team, SiS Engery Gel and uncafinated energy blocks from Cliff. Since I didn't feel so good at this point, these more "primitive" easy to digest forms of food helped me keep going. At some point, however, my bottom (rear-end) got the best of me but that's a while different story... Also, it's worth noting that my firstborn daughter was right. Pre-bottled Gatorade does taste a lot better than powdered Gatorade (smile).

  11. Not Running the Air Conditioning at Home and Avoiding Caffeine
    For reasons I'm not sure I really want to explain, I was able to keep the Air Conditioning completely off (and just use ceiling fans) the month of May leading up to the DK200. I'm naturally sensitive to hot weather so I feel that keeping the AC off during this time was to my advantage and helped me better acclimate myself to the race day heat. In fact, my AC was still off at home to at that time this post was created. Unfortunately, I couldn't turn the AC off at work so there were days at work where I felt like I as "freezing". Anyway, if you are going to do the DK200, you need to be able to handle the heat. You might spend some time on Wikipedia (or whatever) researching the average humidity and temperature levels of Emporia, KS in early June and then train in those consditions with no trees around.

    Also, I'm not a big caffeine person in the first place, but I intentionally avoided caffeine for the DK200 for two reasons. The first is that I'm senstitive to heat anyway so I didn't want to give my body another excuse to dehydrate and the second reason is that at 45 years old, I find myself wanting to go to the "bathroom" more often than I used to. I purposefully avoided caffeine because of the porta potty situation on the DK200. I went in a part potty *numerous* times before the "race" started and I made sure to go at every water oasis or aid station. Because of this and the mercy of the Great Lord, I didn't have any serious bladder issues. I did feel like I wanted to throw up a few times though...

  12. Following a Training Schedule
    Even though the DK200 was not my first double century, it was my first double century on gravel. To prepare, I loosely followded this 16 Week Traning schedule by Quinn [9]. In general, I ignored the rides on Sundays. In addition, I was already getting quite a lot of bulk miles on durring the week but I would often throw in a high resistance roller session in the middle of the week early on and toward the end I tried to get in some Tuesday Night World's (road ride) sessions for high intensity to raise my threshold. Typically speaking, I would often do more miles than Quinn suggested on Saturdays, but I don't think that's totally necessary. I think as long as you are getting 90% of your miles on gravel and making good time, I think you can get away with doing the minimum amount for the Saturday rides and totally skipping the Sunday rides like I usually did. In order to get by with the bare minimum that Quinn suggests though, you are probably going to have to do several low volume VO2Max intervals during the middle of the week. You can find an explanation of how to incorporate high intensity low volume training into the preparation for an ultra endurance event in this Carmichael, Rutberg Text [10]. I don't recommend trying to train for the DK200 with just 6 hours a week, but there are techniques mentioned in that book that can be applied to an utra-endurance traning plan like the one mentioned by Quinn. Also, I didn't have the money, but if you happen to have the money, you might want to consider getting yourself a coach. They aren't cheap, but I rekon they can help less experience racers like myself out a lot.

  13. Running Near "Minimal" Tire Pressure
    I say this later on also but I recently was upgraded to Cat 4 road racer before attempting the DK200. I have very little gravel experience. I learned the hard way that running high tire pressures is a seriously bad idea on gravel. Tire pressures that are too high on gravel can potentially: mess up your traction (this is a big problem when going up or down hill and on corners); actually make you slower because of the decreased traction; and, lastly, beat you up really bad. There are various posts out there explaining why high tire pressure on rough roads is not a good idea and I'll leave it up to you to find them, but here is a GCN video about why you should consider using lower PSI on rough roads (not necessarily gravel) [11] and here is an article seems to lightly touch on why low tire pressures are good for gravel [12]. If you don't want to believe this though you can do what I did and go try it for yourself... Only by that time you may have already committed to your tire width. Somewhere along Quinn's [9] training plan, you should be testing your gear. That would be a good place to try different tire pressures in varying conditions. Of course, I can't remember right now exactly who said one of the major purposes of the longer rides is partly to test your gear. It's probably common knowlege, but the point is that you need long rides to train for the DK200 for two reasons: one is to test your ability to handle the longer miles and the other is the make sure your equipment won't fail you and make adjustments.

  14. Not Running a Suspension of Any Kind Other Than My Tires
    There was an ugly Moutain Biking looking section this year that I was not properly prepared for, but to lug the weight and powerlosses or a suspension around for 195 miles or so just for a very small technical seciton would have likely been a mistake. I don't know much at all about moutain biking, but likewise a dropper post or lowering of my seat probably wouldn't have done me much good on this ride. Yes, there was one seriously ugly MTB looking section in the 2019 DK200, but once I got past that, I felt like I was back in gravel world. Yes, there were some gravel sections that were "ugly" in gravel terms, but nothing would require a "modern" MTB. I benefited by using an old school MTB that was coverted to a gravel bike because my old school MTB didn't have all of those extra weight adding "gadgets".

What Didn't Work:

  1. Cutting a Few Links off My Chain a Few Weeks Before Race Day...
    Because the mud fried my derailleur a few weeks before the DK200, I went ahead and replaced my whole "bicycle" transmission (Front Crank and Ring; chain; rear cassette; and derailleur). A local bicycle shop had the parts I needed, but their repair schedule was longer out than I wanted to so I decided to replace the parts myself. The was only one problem, my old chain was trashed so I had to cut the new chain. I used an online guide to guess the correct chain length and everything seemed okay, but my new "transmission" was still skipping under high torque. Becuase of this, I second guessed myself and took a few links of the chain. All was well until "race" day. My chain started acting up shortly after we left Grenada Theater. I was really upset but was able to continue and thought nothing of it. At some point the problems seemed to clear up. Then much later in the day, there seemed to be a few instances where after I put the bike in the big ring (in front) it was hard to get it back into middle ring (in front). Eventually, around mile 142 disaster struck. My chain has somehow almost "froze" into a combo of the big ring in front and a large ring int he back and it was very difficult to get it out. The incident nearly cause me to throw in the towel, but as I said above, I was able to get the chain off with a chain breaking tool and put it back on. You really aren't supposed to make excessive last minute bicycle changes before a ride of more than 100 miles [8] and this is a possible example of why. Anyway, I was able to finish, but the last minute change came close to causing me to "bail".

  2. Not Wearing Chamois Cream You would have thought that after having a sore bottom during training, I woudl have figured out I needed Chamois Cream; unfortunately, I probably did more of my training on pavement than I should have so I didn't necessarily get the "full effect" that gravel does to a "raw" rear end... Also, you would have thought that will all of the Chamosis Butt'r jerseys around I would have gotten the hint there as well. No such luck. I went without Chamosic Cream and I paid for it. In fact, I think my rear end hurt so bad from chaffing than I think it significanlty degraded my performance and caused me to finish later than I would have if I had used such cream. While I very well may leave competitive cycling soon to pursue other hobbies, I now understand the value of Chamosis Cream and ultra long gravel rides.


  3. Waiting a Few Weeks After Getting Notified to Try to Find a Hotel...
    I knew the DK200 was going to be brutal and quite honestly, I had other things on my mind the early winter when I was notified I had been "randomly" selected for the DK200. Part of it was that I wanted to spend more time with my children and the other part was that I had other hobbies or interests I was wanting to pursue. Because of this, I waited a few weeks before I got "serious" about the DK200. By the time I finally got around to looking for a hotel or motel in Emporia, KS, everything was booked. I wound up staying in the Lyon County Fairgrounds and didn't necessarily get the best sleep the night before because I guess some local was horsing around riding his car around making some noise in the fairground later than he probably should have been. I didn't have to say anything to him and there was no conflict but, honestly, making a lot of racket isn't the nicest way to trest people that are about to embark the next day on one of the world's tougest gravel races...

  4. Not Getting Enough Moutain Bike Miles
    You might be tempted to say, "This is a Gravel Event. Not an MTB Race!!! Why do I need to do practice Mountain Biking!!!". Well, think again. Early in the race I was having a pretty good morning but was just a little unsteady when a more experience rider clearly warned me that there was a section this year around mile 100 or so that looked pretty gnarly. He said it looked a little more like mountain biking than gravel grinding. Well, when I got there, I saw what he was talking about, and it did look a little rough to me so I tried to take it easy. A few times in the "race" I did rid off and lightly visit a ditch or almost wipe or whatever but fortunately I didn't cause and wrecks and noone ran into me. The point was that even with the ugly roads here in Northwest Arkansas (NWA) like the Hazel Valley Gran Prix (HVGP)
    , I was very underprepared for some of the more technical sections of the DK200. Good think I slowed down in those areas in time or I could have been "cooked". Also, in case you are wondering, I think I may have seen at least two ambulances on the course at different times. The DK200 is serious business, if you are reasonably careful you should be fine, but don't think you can prepare for the DK200 by riding gravel alone. In the future, they may decide to throw in some gnarly sections again and you will need to be prepared. My advice would be for future DK200 candiates to get some light MTB training from November to December before the volume training has to start picking up in early winter of the following year. That way, you can get some handling skills under your belt in a lower stress environment.

  5. Not Effectively Communicating with My Family I don't think my wife and children ever really understood the gravity of this event. I really don't think they have any clue of have difficult it is. I told my more than once wife during training that I'm not looking forward to the weekend because of all the necessary training. I even told her that I wasn't sure if I could complete the event. Sadly, she asked me: "Why don't you just quit?" I tried explaining to her that being selected for the DK200 is a privilege and that at some point during the training you become "committed". This is a very sad illustration, but preparing for the DK200 is much like going into a casino. You start out thinking you will just spend $50 or so, win a little and get out "unscathed". You do win a little, but then the next training week is harder. Then stuff on your bicycle breaks or you realize that you could go 0.5 MPH faster if you just had XYZ equipment. Before long, preparation for the "race" has cost you so much that there's "No way in hell you're backing out...". If you're not an elite racer and your just a Cat 4 road racer like I "used" to be, you train on some seriously hard courses and get disasterously discouraged when the negative results start comming in. You start second guessing yourself. You wonder if you're even going to be able to finish. You wonder, "Why in the hell did I sign up for this?". You may think that's strong langauge comming from someone with a "conservative" website that attempts to value famly, but the DK200 will cost the casual bicylist that races "competitively" just for fun. If you have a wife and children, they will bear the burden of some of your traning sessions and potential emotional issues. Unfortunately, depending on how strong my family and marigage is, you wife and children may not understnad.

    I was able to complete te DK200 and I should tell you that going throuw the DK200 finish chute changes everything. If you have a wife and children, you can't afford to attempt the DK200. You have to do your very best while still honoring your family. If you get out there, and mess the DK200 up because you lost your will, you're probably going to go home with some baggage. You'll likely think about all the sacrifices you made only the "fail" in the end. I would urge you not to do that. I would urge you to try to get your wife and children to understand that you may very well be racing against professional cyclists and that the DK200 failure rate had traditionally been pretty notable. Also, if you have a faith, you might want to take it seriously, because at there a very real possibility that at some point during the DK200 you will find yourself praying and/or thinking about your loved ones.

    At this point, I'm thinking about pulling out of competitive cycling to puruse other hobbies. Sure, crossing the DK200 finish line is an life transforming experience that only a special set of people get to have , but competitive cycling can be a costly hobby.

    "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?" - Luke 14:28 NIV

    BTW: My family problems are much bigger than the DK200 and competitive cycling, but if you're family is already struggling, then training for and doing the DK200 could very well add additional strain on a tense situation.

What I'm Not Sure About...:

  1. Hauling a Trunk Bag for 200+ Miles on Gravel...
    As I said before, I needed a minimum of four full sized water bottles in between DK200 stops. For the second and third legs of the DK200 journey, I felt like I needed at six or more water bottles. By race day, I had only figured out how to mount four water bottles to my frame and I still didn't want a hydration pack so I chose to throw the last two of six water bottles in a trunk bag along with other goodies like a cheap wind-breaker (that I ultimately didn't need) a can of Chef Boyardee, tubes, and other things to fix a bicycle. At one point my frame pump started comming "loose" so instead of putting it my my jersey pocket, I just pulled over and threw it in my trunk bag. It was nice because I could toss all sorts of gear, nutrition, hydration, sunscreen and whatever into the trunk bag and keep it off my bag. Of course the downside to this was a *very* heavy bicycle. Since the "gravel" bicycle I was using was actually converted from an old steel frame MTB by addition drop bars and switching the caliper brakes to V-Brakes, the bike was already a little heavier than most gravel bikes. By the time, I got all of the gear, hydration and whatever on, the bike was amazingly heavy. Fortunately, the pitches in the Flint Hills weren't quite as bad as those in North West Arkansas (NWA) so I got by with the trunk bag, but that's still a lot of weight to haul around and it's even harder when you have to get off your bike and carry it over a mud section or through a water crossing that could potentially wipe away lube or contaminate water bottles. So anyway, I was one of the few people to have ever completed the DK200 with a trunk bag (smile). Not sure if it helped or hurt me...

  2. 1.5 Inch Wide Tires
    I had presumed that Kansas was "flat" so I could get by with "narrow" tires. During pre-traning it seems the narrowest tires I could get away with here in Northwest Arkansas (NWA) was 1.5 inch tires. Anything more narrow seems to slip way too often for me. At some point, I learned that if I lower the tire pressure down to about the minimum level for the 1.5 inch tires performance on gravel was "pretty good" assuming the hill wasn't too steep or the gravel wasn't too loose. At some point, I didn't want to spend more money on tires so I became "committed" and I was stuck with the 1.5 inch tires. While the gradients in the Flint Hills region weren't as bad as some of the once I trained on in NWA, there were times in the DK200 event where I still felt like I was sliding around even with 1.5 inch tires at their near minimum pressure. Since I just upgraded to Cat 4 road racing, I tended to favor narrow tires at high pressures. That is a totally wrong philosophy for gravel cycling. Now, I'm wondering if my DK200 performance would have been better if I had chosen 2 inch Schwalbe Marthon Plus tires instead of the 1.5 inch versions. The 2 inch tires probably would have let me lower the tire pressure even a bit more and gotten better grip on the lose gravel. While I absolutely flew like crazy when the road turned to pavement on the 1.5 inch tires, I seemed to lose a lot of time on gravel turns using 1.5 inch tires. I think the 2019 DK200 may have had more pavement than years past but the overwhelming majority of DK200 miles is on gravel. For this reason, a 2 inch tire and near minimal pressure may be a better choice than narrower 1.5 inch tires.

  3. Growing a Beard...
    There's a bit of a joke going around that if you're "serious" about gravel cycling, you'll grow a beard. I really dont know how true that is since champions win the DK200 all the time without beards, but I figured I would play the game and grow one just for the fun of it so I could look "gravel cool". Well, my wife and children didn't care much for it... This potentially added more stress to my preparation for the event. The beard did allow me to enjoy the DK200 more becuase I felt like a gravel grinder (despite my lack of experience), but the DK200 is over now and I think it might be time for me to consider shaving that beard off (smirk)!!!

Warning!!! - I'm still working on this post, but I want to take a break from it for a few weeks. I need to clean up the grammar errors and make it more consise. You are welcome to read it if you can tolerate the "junk", but just understnad that it's contents may change underneath you as this post could have serious errors and/or grave mistakes.


1. Templin, Troy
The Dirty Kanza 200 Gravel Race (Video)

2. Voigt, Jens; Nys, Sven
Gravel Cyclist
Inside the 2018 Dirty Kanza 200 Gravel Race inc. Jens Voigt & Sven Nys! - Emporia, Kansas, USA

3. Denham, Alee
What Is The Most Puncture Resistant Touring Tyre? Lab Testing Results

4. Watts, Logan
Installing Rivet Nut/Rivnut Bottle Cage Mounts

5. Robb, Adam
Mountain Bike Portal
How to install water bottle cage on bike without holes

6. Friestedt, Drew
360 Velo
Dirty Kanza 200 – The Ultimate Guide

7. Huang, James
March 4, 2017
Cycling Tips
Peter Sagan refuels from hard efforts with gummy bears. Should you?e

8. darkcanuck, NoCarrier, et al...
Novermber 4, 2010
Bicycles - Stack Exchange
what to do during the week before a century?

9. Quinn, Elizabeth
April 15, 2018
VeryWell Fit
Training Schedule for Your First Double Century


10. Carmichael, Rutberg
The Time-Crunched Cyclist: Race-Winning Fitness in 6 Hours a Week, 3rd Ed. VeloPress
May 1, 2017
ISBN: 9781937715502

11. LLoyd, Daniel; Stephens, Matt, et all...
What's The Fastest Tyre Pressure For Cycling On Cobbles?' GCN
April 5, 2018

12. Unknown - VeloNews
What is the optimal tire pressure for gravel?
June 4, 2018

This post is Copyright (c) 2019 - Shawn Eary
It is presently licensed to you via the FCML:
The point of the FCML is to not be a pain, but to protect religious freedom and this document. Please bear with me as I work through this very difficult time in my life. (BTW: *If* things get better, I hope I remember to come back and update this comment...)