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And now for something completely different: Nick Legan takes on the Dirty Kanza 200

Nick Legan prepares himself, and a special bike, for a 200-mile gravel road race

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BOULDER, CO (VN) — VeloNews is known for its race coverage and technical reviews. Because I love bike racing in all its forms, I decided to write about a race of a peculiar kind. One that I’m doing myself.

Dirty Kanza 200 diary
Salsa's Vaya Ti is ready for the Dirty Kanza 200, even if I'm not. Photo: Nick Legan

It’s less than a month before I take on a possibly foolhardy adventure, the Dirty Kanza 200. I had never heard of the event until last year. But it immediately captured my imagination.

What is it? Well, the DK2K is a dirt and gravel road race in the Flint Hills of Kansas on June 4 this year. It must be completed in less than 20 hours. You might say, how hard can it be to ride 200 miles in Kansas? It’s flat! Aha! But it isn’t! The Flint Hills roll and torture the entrants in the DK2K. The surface varies, but it’s never smooth.

Salsa Cycles helps promote the event and I sought their counsel when I decided to sign up for the gravel grinder epic. Mike Riemer and Jason Boucher were exceptionally helpful. They were kind enough to send me a 55cm Vaya Ti frameset that I then built using a hodgepodge of components.

Frame: 55cm Salsa Vaya Ti
Fork: Salsa Classico CroMoly fork
Headset: FSA Orbit Extreme Pro
Stem: 14 cm FSA OS-115
Bar: 44cm Salsa Poco
Seatpost: Thomson Elite 27.2mm
Saddle: fi:zi’k Arione Tri 2
Crank: White Industries VBC, 172.5mm arms, 46/32 rings
Bottom Bracket: White Industries JIS square taper titanium axle, 68x113mm
Front Derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace 7800
Rear Derailleur: SRAM Apex
Shifters: SRAM Rival
Brakes: Avid BB7 Road
Wheels: Bontrager Race X Lite TLR Disc Centerlock 29er
Cassette: SRAM 11×32
Tires: depends: Bontrager 29-0 1.9” or Schwalbe Marathon Extreme 35mm
Misc: custom VeloNews K-Edge, Salsa Nickless cages (3), Jandd Mini Mtn. Wedge and Top Tube bag, Salsa Gel Cork Tape, Cateye Strada Wireless computer

The DK2K is my kind of event. It’s an exceptionally long, difficult (possibly torturous) ride where equipment choices are important. When it came to gearing, carrying water and tire selection, I spoke with Boucher.
The flint gravel roads shred tires. The race organizer recommends bringing two inner tubes and a patch kit. Past participants recommend four inner tubes and a patch kit.

Dirty Kanza 200 diary
Yep, that's me pedaling away at Pro Peloton. Photo: Nick Legan

Gearing is important too. You need to get along at a good clip on the smoother or paved sections, but it’ll be important to conserve on the rough climbs too. After some hunting around, I think I’ve found a good set-up (for details, see below).

Because the longest ride I’ve ever done is the 163-mile Ride Across Indiana (RAIN), I knew that I needed help to get ready in time for the June 4 start. After equipment choice, I started to focus on two things: bike fit and nutrition.

The fit of the bike is going to be extremely important over the course of a 200-mile event. So while I’m good at helping others with their fit, I sought another set of trained eyes to make sure I’m sitting pretty (pun intended). Those eyes belong to Chris Soden of Pro Peloton in Boulder, Colorado. He’s been my bike fit guru for years. Chris knows my body’s tendencies better than I do. He’s so good that when fi:zi’k introduced the Arione Tri saddle he told me it would be perfect for me as a road saddle. Now after many years using them, an Arione Tri saddle goes on every bike I test.

For nutrition I went to Megan Forbes of Forbes Nutritional Consulting. She’s a longtime friend and a registered dietician. She’s worked with some pretty amazing athletes (she’s a pretty amazing one herself) and she has me recovering more quickly and training harder than I ever have before. If only I’d had her help when I was trying to be a pro bike racer!

So for now, it’s all about getting in the miles and taking care of my body. The Vaya’s spec is getting close to perfect, but I’m still tinkering. And I have a couple tricks up my sleeve for race day.

Stay tuned.