dirty kanza bike

Dirty Kanza 200 Gear and Setup

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.

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EricDirty Kanza 200 Gear and Setup

Comments 28

  1. Adventure Monkey

    Kristy, I haven’t given up on it, just on my computer. My home computer is about 7 years old and I need an upgrade. I’ve shot a lot of stuff and just get fed up with my slow computer and then the whole process, but I have had an idea that I have been wanting to carry out with that camera, kind of a documentary of the whole DK200 experience. (I would do it at work, but video has sound and the boss sits in the next cube…)Oh and I want the body mount and bike mount too. I get those and then I will shoot even more.

  2. Doug

    nice writup. Looks like a good setup to me.

    I am always interested in what people eat on the long rides. I am into dates, prunes, dried figs mixed with almonds, pecans, walnuts. Then for salt I like homemade sweet potato fries and pepper jack cheese. My wife sells advocare stuff on the side so I have been using their electrolyte drink. Have not really put it to test in hot weather yet though. Have a heard a lot of good reports on the cytomax though.

  3. Kevin

    You’ll love the Revelate bag with an MSR bladder once you get the max liquid figured out. I honestly can’t believe I finished DK last year with a Cambelbak now that I’m using a Revelate tangle bag/bladder combination.

    Very envious of you & everyone else that has their tire situation down. Maybe I’m obsessing too much. I’m thinking seriously about sticking with the Conti’s even after the disaster at Maisie’s on Little Egypt, but at last count I have like 3 other tire sets and all possible combinations that I could use, not to mention tubed/tubeless…

  4. Fonk

    As far as a drivetrain upgrade to get the granny gear, I’d suggest swapping out the crank. It looks like you’re running a standard crank; swap it out for a compact and get that low 34T ring on there. If you still want lower, maybe swap out the rear derailleur for an XT or LX(MTB), and then you can run a MTB cassette w/ a 32 or 34T small gear (large cog) on the back. I’ve got my Bianchi setup that way, and I can spin over everything w/ that setup.

  5. Kevin

    @Fonk good idea re: the compact crank. The ‘cross crank Eric has gives really limited gearing; I have a compact 34/50 on my Vaya, and combined with an 11-32 10s cassette gives me just about the perfect gearing. A SRAM Apex or Rival crank & BB aren’t too expensive either.

    1. Post

      I looked into a different crank and was told there wasn’t a smaller one out there that would fit my setup. Then when looking at a different cassette, I was told I would need a different derailleur with a longer cage. Someone told me to just man up and build up my legs and stick with what I have (Lelan!). Obviously I am no mechanic, so I am going to need some help on this project. It probably won’t happen until after this years DK.

  6. Courtney Hilton

    I use marathon extremes on my touring bike (spends most it’s life on gravel) and in 3500 miles no flats and the $95 tires still have another good 3k in them. Not the best grip in cornering but good rolling. I love drit drops (gary bar (cheap)) I’m still running ksyrum sl on my cross bike so I’m limited to 32c tires but I’ve had such good luck with specalized’s $20 cross tire I think I’ll continue in that path. See you at dk200 in june.

  7. Fonk

    Well, you won’t be able to put a smaller chainring on the crankset you have, as the smallest you can go on a standard (130 BCD) crankset is 38T, so you’d actually have to replace the entire crankset, get a compact (110 BCD) that accommodates the smaller rings. You can usually find a good deal on a FSA Gossamer or Energy compact crank (50/34) on eBay. Once you go compact, you might find that’s enough and you don’t need to change anything else. The rear dereailleur and cassette would just be if you still wanted lower gears beyond that (which might be overkill).

  8. Joe

    Nice write-up. I really like seeing what others are using for carrying supplies & hydration. Have you considered a saddle mounted water bottle carrier like triathletes use? Did you see anyone use them last year? I’d be curious to see how they’d work on a gravel grinder. I use them on long road rides when I want to carry extra water, but I’m not sure if they’d do as good a job holding onto the bottles on a rough road.

    1. Post

      I think they may throw the bottles on the road over bumps, but Steph last week at the Maisie’s ride had those. She had some trouble with them but they worked OK. I wouldn’t use them, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t work. I mainly don’t want to be made fun of by looking like a triathlete. :) I really like the Tangle bag. Holds enough water and tools for a long haul. It’s just about perfect.

  9. Kevin

    Saw at least one guy with saddle bottle carriers last year. It was early in the race so he still had a bottle back there but it seemed like it would kick bottles out in the later rough stuff. A tngle bag seems like a better way to go.
    Don’t worry Eric, i’d be pretty merciless if you used them :)

  10. Vito

    Great info and thanks for sharing. I totally agree with you on the Revelate Designs bags. By far the best that I’ve seen. I also like the feedbag and would like to get another.

    As for the drivetrain, have you considered a compact? When I was looking at Salsa Vaya’s the SRAM Apex caught my eye. That me be a good setup.

  11. bikemechno3

    Kevin I will provide a ride report concerning the Conti’s on June 1st. 3 Cyclocross Speeds and 1 Cyclocross Race will be out on May 30th recreating the gravel conspiracy.

  12. steph

    Kevin, which Conti tires were you using again? CX Race?

    Joe, I have a cheapy rear mounted setup for 2 bottles – Minoura Rear Mount Saddle-Rail Bracket. That’s what I had trouble with, but not the bottles coming out. I use the Specialized Rib Cage Pro Road cages & they are super snug – the best for bottles not coming out. I road down Little Egypt w/no problem with bottles coming out – it was just the stupid bracket that needs a better way to keep the screws from coming out so I’m working on that fix. If my tangle bag works better I may not need the rear bottle cages, but my frame is 44cm & I was worried that I might not be able to fit bottles in the triangle of the frame.

    Eric, I’ve ordered the feed bags & the tangle bag but didn’t know the Camelbak reservoir would be an issue. Will it NOT fit in the tangle bag because of the opening? Geez…just when I thought I was closer to having my setup complete. ;-) Anything special you do with the hose to make that work, stay put, be long enough?

    When all the little expenses are added up do you know how much the DK is costing us? ;-) A LOT! I sure hope it’s worth it!

    1. Post

      Joe, even if the bottles don’t fall out, how will you deal with all the snickering? :)
      Steph, last year I bought a new bike in May before the DK, not to mention the gear! This year, I have things dialed in a bit better, so it’s not quite as bad. My tangle bag is a small. I can fit the 70 oz Camelbak bladder in there, but the big plastic lid takes a lot of room. I can’t fit my 100 oz Camelbak bladder in there. I just recently bought this bladder setup: MSR DromLite Bag with Fill Handle – 4 Liter, Platypus Quick-Disconnect Kit and MSR Hydration Kit (Mr. Speedy Collings’s recomendation). It has a smaller lid and will put more fluid into the small tangle bag. I haven’t checked full capacity yet, but I’d like to get 3 liters in there for the long legs of the DK200 if it’s really hot. I will test it out this week to see how much more capacity I get. Kevin’ s large Tangle bag can probably fit a 5 gallon jug!
      Kevin – choose your tires already!

  13. Kevin

    Steph – I’m running the CX Speed. Definitely at least on the front – the back is a tossup b/t that and a Bontrager XDX 29×1.75 right now.

    Best to not think about how much you’re spending. I stopped doing that years ago & I’m a much happier rider ;)

  14. steph

    Seems a lot of guys have the Thudbuster seat post. My bootie felt just fine after the 70 miler & my tires are nice and wide (40) so think I’ll be ok? For the back I have ice packs, Aleve, Biofreeze & foam roller waiting for me in my sag support vehicle. ;-)

  15. Kevin

    40mm should be good. Yeah, I think the thudbuster posts are more for guys w/ weak back muscles. I never had any problem. Bringing a foam roller for the halfway point is a great idea!

  16. steph

    Kevin, thanks. I did have some issues with the 40c Marathon Extremes being squirrely on the downhills & losing traction on steeper uphills but they are tough & I’m going with them. I didn’t find them to be too too heavy really at all but then again I’m not a gram weenie. ;-) For me, being my first time, I’d rather go with tough vs super fast tires but that’s just me. I’m not speedy gonzalez like you. ;-) You guys were flying!

    I’d like to run the Cont tire as a backup if something happens to my Extremes. So should I put the Cont tire on the front or back if need be? Which would make the most sense?

  17. Kevin

    I’m putting the Conti on the front (or both); I tend to abuse the back wheel a little more as I get tired & don’t watch my lines as closely. If I use them front/back I’ll have to just be careful on the rough stuff :)

  18. Kevin

    I reserve the right to change tires up to and including the day of the race :P. And my offer still stands to carry you in the L tangle bag… decide now ’cause I’m planning on using the M bag for the race!

    1. Post

      Kevin, at this point, I am planning on finishing the race with no cramps. Go ahead and use the M bag. :) But if I do cramp up again, I am not sure I can keep going like I did last year. You’ll be too far ahead to put me in the bag at that point anyway.

  19. steph

    Kevin, you are the one that told me about the Lizard Skins bar tape. Ok, so if I use Specialized BG Bar Phat gel 4.5mm thickness AND Lizard Skins 2.5mm thickness would this be complete overkill? Need your advice. On the 70 miler I had nothing but a layer of bar tape and NO padding at all. Ouch! I just hadn’t gotten around to it is all. Not that dunce about endurance. ;-)

    I already bought the Fizik gel pads but heard about Specialized. Think it matters or am I overthinking this?

  20. Kevin

    One or the other would probably do, unless you want to double-wrap the flats and drops with a section of the fatter stuff. Really you just need to pad the spots where you’ll have your hands 90% of the time; for me it’s the drop extensions on the Woodchippers but if you ride more on the tops you’ll want to pad those too.

  21. Kevin

    @Eric dropping isn’t an option – if you cramp you’ll just have to keep mashing. I’ll make sure your support crew understands this :)

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