dirty kanza bike

Dirty Kanza 200 Gear and Setup

In Blog by EricLeave a Comment

The Dirty Kanza 200 is a mere THREE WEEKS AWAY! (As I typed that my chest tightened up a bit.) I have my bike setup pretty much dialed in and ready to go. I only have a couple of things to purchase and/or change.

A reader wanted me to discuss my DK200 setup. so here it is. This may not be the best setup, but it’s what I am going with. It’s fun to debate and discuss this gear, so leave a comment if you have an idea or whatever.

dirty kanza bike and gear

I have made a few tweaks from last year and I am feeling pretty good going into this year’s race. Keep in mind, I am a photographer that fell in love with cycling. I have only been “serious” about cycling for the past three years and last year was the first time I raced at all or um, even acted like a cyclist rather than a photographer that liked to ride a bike. I have been bitten by the cycling bug and there are many other upgrades I would like to make and other bikes I’d like to buy, but money is an object at my house, so I am somewhat limited in my setup by fundage. So here goes.

Bike: Trek XO1
Reasoning: Last year I had a shiny new Salsa Fargo that I purchased for touring with my camera. Then I got talked into entering the Dirty Kanza 200. I was going to ride the Fargo and began training on that beast. One day a muddy section of road took out my derailleur. Matt at High Gear Cyclery was kind enough to let me ride a used cyclocross bike for my Sunday Century while I waited for parts. I ended up doing a 116 miles and shaved off two hours from my usual time. Not only that, I was not very sore and was able to be a useful human being after the ride instead of laying around the rest of the day completely spent. I knew I had to get a new cross bike.

revelate tangle bag, dirty kanza

I ended up redoing Matt’s website and he gave me a good deal on a Trek XO1. I definitely would not have been as successful in my DK200 attempt or my riding in general without Matt and the High Gear team. Having a local bike shop with people you can trust is key. Make sure you support yours! Thanks guys.

I thought the aluminum bike would be harder on my body, but with the carbon seatpost, fork and stem, I am very comfortable on this bike.

Suggestion: If you want to crush some serious amounts of gravel, get a cross bike. They are light and fast, basically road bikes that can take fatter tires. Make sure to check out how large of tires the bike can fit. I am limited on what tire I can run on the rear of this bike, but I make it work. There are many people that ride their mountain bikes on gravel and that works too, but I really like a light bike with go fast geometry under me.


Tires: Bontrager XR1 Expert on the front and a Kenda Kwest on the rear.

Reasoning: I went to Matt Brown at High Gear last year to see what he recommended for a good Flint Hills tire. I needed something very durable and fast rolling. He suggested the XR1 Experts (not team issue – not as durable). I soon found out that the XR1 would not fit on the rear and with the suggestion of a racer named Dustin Burgardt, I went with the Kenda Kwest. I was very skeptical as this tire is basically a city slick. Its strong point is the protective layer in the tire. I thought I would need more tread, but on gravel it’s not completely necessary. This combo gives me a durable and fast rolling setup. Last year I did not flat once (knock on wood)

Suggestion: Get something fast rolling and durable, with an emphasis on durability. I saw an unbelievable amount of people fixing flats last year on the first leg of the DK200. I ended up giving the tube I was carrying to a cyclist on the side of the road. I almost went with Marathon Extremes for their durability and may get one for the rear someday, as there are times when I lose traction climbing loose dirt and gravel hills. It also gets pretty squirrelly going down a steep hill with loose gravel. I didn’t get the Marathon Extreme this year because I know the Kwest works and it’s about 1/4 the cost. Whatever you go with, make sure they are new or fairly new unless you enjoy changing flats. The gravel in the Flint Hills is no joke.

dirty kanza 200, revelate designs, tire choice



Hydration and storage: Revelate Designs Tangle bag and Mountain Feed Bags.

Reasoning: I wanted all the weight off my body this year to save my butt along with my back and neck. Last year I used a Wingnut backpack to hold my hydration bladder and supplies. It worked quite well. I changed to get the weight off me and so I wouldn’t sweat so much because of wearing a backpack. I used a Revelate bag on the California tour and that’s what the others were using too. Eric Parsons of Revelate Designs makes incredibly good stuff. It’s built to last. I am very impressed with it and will go on to say it’s the best stuff out there. I love the Tangle bag, just wish it was larger. Oh he makes larger ones, but since I ride a child’s size bike, I have no choice. I will be carrying 70-100 oz. of drink in the bag along with carrying two 21 oz. water bottles. I also carry tools in the bag too. It’s stuffed.

The Mountain Feedbags are now made by Eric too. He bought the company. They are very roomy. I carry my food, camera, lip stuff, sunscreen, a tube, maps,  and tools in them. I am still getting that setup dialed in. I do really like these bags although sometimes my knees rub when I am out of the saddle. I got used to it.

Suggestion: Bring more than enough water, especially if it gets really hot. If you are stopped by mechanicals, slowed by the wind or just beat, you will go through more water than your minimum. Bring enough water. Whatever works for you will work, but I highly recommend the Tangle bag for a gravel grinder.

dirty kanza bike setup


SaddleBrooks B17 leather saddle

Reasoning: Comfort, pure and simple. My Fargo has a Brooks Flyer Special on it. It has springs and is super comfortable. I actually had this on my cross bike for last year’s DK200. It looked funny and is a heavy beast, so I went with a version without springs. Yeah, it’s still heavy compared to plastic racing saddles, but I need it. Before I went to these leather saddles, I was limited to how long I rode because of my butt. It would be in severe pain. No saddle sores or anything like that, it just felt like I was sitting on a nerve or something. The pain would start after 3o miles. Now I can go all day. After 200 miles or so with Brook’s special “proofide leather conditioner” the seat was perfectly form fitted to my rear. It may not be sexy, but it keeps me riding all day in comfort.

Suggestion: Get yourself a comfortable saddle, you’ll be sitting awhile.

dirty kanza gravel, bike setup


Wheels: Bontrager Race Lite wheelset

Reasoning: The best place to take weight off the bike is the wheels. I could not afford light wheels, they are expensive and the wife would not approve of a bike part costing more than two months groceries for the family (yeah, I know, my family eats a lot). Luckily my friend, and soon to be famous cycling trainer, Seacat sold me his wheels for a good price as he was upgrading. These are lighter and stiffer than the Bontrager Race wheels that came on the bike.

Suggestion: A lighter wheelset is a good place to upgrade, just try not break the bank.


Stem: I upgraded to a Race XXX lite stem only because Matt had them on sale at a crazy cheap price. It shortened my reach a bit and I feel upright when on the hoods and comfortable in the drops.

Bar Tape: I added another layer going from the drops to the hoods and removed the brown tape on the top. I hardly ever have my hands on the top of the bar but find myself in the drops and the hoods most of the time. I have started riding in the drops quite a bit. So I removed the extra layer from the top and added a matching black layer to the drops for comfort.

Pedals: I use Crank Brothers Candies and really like them. They are not affected by mud are easy to clip in and out of and have a small platform to spread out the force over more of my shoe. They must be rebuilt every year, so keep that in mind.

I am very comfortable on the bike but would like two more upgrades:

Woodchippers: These are off road drop bars that are more comfortable and make me feel more in control of the bike. I have these on my Fargo and really like them.

New drivetrain: I am using the stock Shimano 105 and it works pretty well, but I have no real granny gear for the steep hills, especially when I am really fatigued. I would like something with a wider range of gears that can handle lots of dirt and dust.

dirty kanza bike setup

bike photography, bike porn


On the bike Nutrition

Drink: I am using the sports drink Cytomax and loving it. I feel like I can ride hard without reaching my break point for much longer than usual with this drink. I have tried many drinks and never felt this good about any of them. It gives me sugars and electrolytes with every sip. I highly recommend it.

Food: I make that delicious mixture you see above. After a sweet drink all day I need something salty, meaty and full of nutrition for energy and repairing of muscles. I use a trail mix that is heavy on the nuts, especially cashews and I add dried fruits like mango and pineapple along with beef jerky. It’s delicious and keeps me fed. This mix gives me sugar from the fruits and M&Ms, proteins and fats from the nuts for slow burning fuel and protein and deliciousness from the beef jerky. I bring about a half a bag of it at a time in my feedbag. Yes, the M&Ms melt, but there’s not very many of them so it makes grabbable clumps.

I may add some pickles to the feedbag (not to the mixture above) as they were my secret weapon to keep me from quitting last year. I actually crave pickles as I ride, so I may bring a couple with me and have a jar on my support vehicle at the checkpoints. Nothing like chugging cold pickle juice on a really hot day.

Suggestion: Figure out what you can eat while riding all day without getting sick. You will need plenty of water, but don’t skimp on electrolytes and calories or you will cramp up and quit or bonk and quit. Make sure you have tried what you are using before race day. I also recommend nuun tablets for electrolytes. This year I wanted to simplify so my drink has both calories (sugars) and electrolytes. I added the food because I get really hungry without food (duh) even though my drink has calories.

dirty kanza bike, food


On the Bike Supplies

Everything you see in the picture above will be on the bike with me.

Bladder: I will be trying out an DromLite Water Carrier by MSR too because that big plastic head of the Camelbak bladder takes up too much room.

Tools: multi-tool, tire lever, tiny pliers to remove my brake cable without slicing open my face with the multi-tool, big air and head to add air. With the luck I’ve been having as of late, I may add a frame pump or just add another big air.

I will have one tube and a patch kit. I put the contents of the patch kit in a tiny bag like the Advil you see to save room. I put the tube in a baggie because I have worn holes in my tubes from vibrations.

Personals: lip stuff to protect from the sun (I’ll have more sunscreen in the support vehicle). Advil for pain. Sunglasses will be on my face of course. I wear prescription glasses as my eyes are too dry for contacts. I need to upgrade to cycling glasses with changeable lenses as my eyes dry out pretty bad sometimes while on the bike. I will have to switch to my regular glasses on the last leg.

Bike computer is there for mileage and to keep my speed and other stats. Would like to upgrade to a Garmin at some point.

dirty kanza bike equipment, tools

Road ID will be on my arm to identify the body if needed.

I may or may not bring my iPod. I rarely ride with music, but I may this year.

Camera: I plan on bringing a point and shoot for the ride.

Clothing: I haven’t yet been able to afford to make an Adventure Monkey kit yet, but that will be coming soon, so I will be wearing my Pearl Izumin PRO kit with the 4D chamois in the bibshorts that is oh so comfortable. PI sent me this kit to review last year and I love it, although it’s kind of ugly. I can no longer buy the cheaper gear as the high end stuff (although this is low-high end) is very comfortable and cool in the heat. I will sadly be wearing last year’s model as I can’t afford a new kit yet.

I also have a PI headband as I sweat way too much and without it I will scream and wreck as I get salty sweat in my eyes.

Shoes: I wear Bontrager Race Lite Mountain Bike shoes.

Gloves: I had some Specialized full finger gloves that were very comfortable but fell apart. I am now wearing some Oakley full finger gloves. I like full finger gloves. The half finger gloves always end up making my digits fall asleep as they bunch up.

Helmet: I wear some kind of old Trek helmet that I bought to match the mountain bike I rode back then. I need a new helmet. I want something as light and  breathable as I can afford.

Oh and I will be sporting some Adventure Monkey cycling socks too!

dirty kanza lights


Lights: I use a Trek 3 LED light on the handlebar and a Cateye blinky on the rear. I’ll  have a Coleman camping headlight on my helmet for the last leg. It is surprisingly bright and works just fine as a cycling light since it fits on my helmet.  They all use AAA batteries. I hope to not use them as long as I did last year.

dirty kanza, butt butter


Lots of butt butter to save my @ss. This is a must do and I will apply it before the start and at every checkpoint.

I will have food (Turkey sandwiches, chips, other stuff and pickles), premixed Cytomax, premixed trailmix, cold water, more tubes and air, floor pump, butt butter, chain lube and other tools, regular glasses, extra tires, towel, chair and other stuff in the support vehicle.

I hope to refill my bladder, bottles and food, take care of bodily issues, lube the chain, apply more butt butter and sunscreen and head out as quickly as possible at the first and last check points. I plan to stop longer at the midway checkpoint to eat more and get some rest. All this could change with the temperature, wind, mechanicals and God forbid any issues with my body again.

dirty kanza bike

Did I forget something? Any questions, suggestions or comments? Let me know in the comments.

Feed Your Monkey!