You know we are huge fans of cyclocross bikes here at Moots right? Yes, we are. The versatility of this bike is amazing. A recent event done by a self proclaimed Moots Fanatic pushes that point home. Michael Saenz lives in Edmond, Oklahoma and has his sights set on The Dirty Kanza…for a fitness and gear check he knocked off what he calls a “prelude”….
Land Run 100 – a Prelude to Dirty Kanza
By Michael Saenz, a Moots Fanatic
So I am a huge fan of all things bicycles. With this in mind, I’ve been paying a lot of attention lately to the wildfire-like spread of gravel grinder events popping up across the country. Reading about riding these gravel roads with hundreds of miles of virtually traffic-free routes really took me back to the basics of bicycle riding – carefree exploration. I felt like a child again with youthful exuberance and the anticipation of adventure and I hadn’t even set foot on a gravel road yet! I just knew that after 25 years of bicycle riding I needed to go outside my comfort zone and give this a try.
Of course, I’ve never been one for moderation, so I hopped right on the bandwagon and signed up for the granddaddy of them all – Dirty Kanza. We all know signing up is the easy part. Now, I needed to prepare. I would need a bicycle that could handle the gravel roads as well. This choice was a no brainer for me – I looked no further than the good folks at Moots. Having ridden the Vamoots now for several years and absolutely loving everything about it, I decided to re-engage the formula N – 1 (N being the number of bikes before your spouse leaves you for buying too many bicycles) and order a Psychlo X.
As for preparation, I signed up for the inaugural Land Run 100 out of Stillwater, Oklahoma. I sent out email after email to my ride group buddies hoping to recruit a few cohorts to share the experience. I received a few “maybes,” but no definites and so being somewhat naive, I continued to push on in preparation for going it alone.
Land Run 100 is promoted by District Bicycles in Stillwater, Oklahoma and took place this past March 9th. The route was designed to highlight some of Oklahoma’s best gravel and dirt roads with over 5,200 feet in elevation gain over the 106 mile route; setting out to prove Oklahoma is anything but flat. The race proved to be epic in the truest sense of the meaning!
In the days leading up to Land Run 100 I noticed increasing rain chances. Anyone even remotely familiar with Oklahoma red dirt knows that water and clay-based soil don’t mix and result in a gooey mess completely unfavorable to riding a bicycle. I watched the weather forecast like a hawk contemplating not riding. However, I’d already told everyone I know about riding the ride. Forget about being stuck in a mud pit during an unsupported ride in the middle of the boondocks, there was pride at stake now so I had no choice but to push on and show up for the start.
Driving to the start I was met with drizzle and a forecast calling for 90% chance of thunderstorms. I began to overlook the drizzle as the realization set in that I’d been so fixated with the rain I did not even think to consider the 18 mph headwinds that awaited us for the start. I began to question my decision to ride and thought maybe I should have ridden gravel more than three times leading up to Land Run 100. That’s ok, I still had youthful exuberance as seen in this photo.
Well, as 121 riders lined up for the 8am start, we had a nice rain shower to send us on our way. Fortunately, the rain at this point was brief and didn’t impact the roads, but certainly made us question what was in store for the day.
The first leg of the ride took us 57 miles on a mostly Southern route to the town of Carney where we were to check in to get our map for the second leg of the ride.
Did I mention “mostly Southern route”? Because by this point the wind was now blowing straight out of the South! As if the high likelihood of thunderstorms wasn’t enough to rattle our nerves, the now 25 mph sustained headwinds with 30 mph gusts certainly were. I now realized my ride group buddies were smart to sit this one out and I truly was naïve thinking the transition from road riding to gravel riding would be as simple as adding 10mm to my tires. As I pushed through hill after hill hitting the headwinds literally head-on I transitioned through all the stages of grief, questioning my sanity.
Carney could not have come soon enough. I arrived at the check point at about 12:30pm and was met by upbeat and motivating volunteers. They were great; their excitement was contagious. I was checked in, given a map that would get me to the finish under the promise of a tailwind. I re-lubed my chain, replenished food and fluid from my drop bag and stuffed my face with food as seen in this photo.
Leaving Carney under light drizzle I felt rejuvenated mostly because I knew I was done with the headwinds, was over half-way done and would have a nice tail wind to push me back home. I met up with a group and together we pushed though the remaining miles together. We noticed the tail winds had died down around 95 miles into the ride. We were ok with this because we only had about 11 miles left and knew we had this ride in the bag. Excited about the prospect of beer and food waiting for us at the finish we pushed through for another three miles when the sky opened up with rain and our luck ran out. The road conditions quickly deteriorated and people were slipping and sliding like we were on ice. Then the bikes were bogged down and derailleur hangers were snapping like twigs. I couldn’t believe how fast the conditions went south; I’m talking in the span of about five minutes the conditions went from just fine to completely unrideable. We called the emergency number on our map and learned that half the field was stranded with mechanical problems caused by the mud. We continued to press on by foot carrying our bicycles now weighing an additional 20 – 30 lbs. with clay until we were able to hitch a ride back to the finish line.
I was pretty disappointed that I wasn’t able to complete the remaining 8 miles of the ride. One of the guys I was stranded with helped put the day into perspective for me though when he said “it isn’t an adventure until ‘stuff’ goes bad.” Isn’t that the truth! At least Land Run 100 was very well-organized and the volunteers were outstanding. I would highly recommend the ride. Nothing one can do about natural elements; the unknown of which add excitement to the day. Between the wind, rain, mud, and hills, the day was truly an adventure. The difficulty of the day was further highlighted by the fact that 145 riders registered for the event. 121 riders started. Only 63 finished! Looking back, I’m pretty darn proud of my ride.
So what can I take away from this experience? First of all, the Moots Psychlo X met every bit of my expectations. Going into this I had some reservations over the frame not accepting a tire width much more than the 35mm I used, but I knew I was fast approaching, if not already there, the “N” in the N-1 formula mentioned above and so I needed a frame that would suit me 99% of the time. The Psychlo X is certainly that frame. I know it has been said before, but I’ll say it again because it is true, this is one versatile bicycle frame. You can put on 35mm tires and ride the gravel roads or light single track with comfort – I proved that on March 9th. You can take the same set up with 25mm tires and hit your group road ride with no problem and switch out to 32mm’s for some fun cyclocross in the Fall and Winter.
For Land Run 100 I ran a compact 50/34 crank with a 12-27 cassette which provided plenty of range for the hills. For wheels I went with nice wide Velocity A-23 rims with White Industries hubs. I choose Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 35mm tires mainly for sidewall puncture resistance that I will need during Dirty Kanza. I added a third water bottle mount for additional fluid and used a Revelate Tangle Frame Bag and Mountain Feedbag to carry food and supplies. Here is a picture of my set up:
I also learned that gravel grinders are one tough group of riders, very friendly and add a different and exciting dimension to the sport of bicycling. I’ll definitely be riding more gravel in preparation for Dirty Kanza. I’ll likely exercise some moderation for once and ride the inaugural 100 mile Dirty Kanza Half Pint this time rather than the 200 mile race. Certainly not least, I’ll look into a hydration pack because I’m pretty sure I drank my body weight in red dirt by using only water bottles. Stay tuned; I’ll keep you posted on Dirty Kanza.