Two years ago, I went down for my first Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational (GTDRI). I wasn't sure what to expect, but the ride had meaning to me, both personally and professionally. Personally, it was my first ride over 100 miles in a number of years. Professionally, it was my first true test of a prototype that we were developing at that time, now the Salsa Fargo. This ride would be the first public showing of the Fargo to anyone outside our walls. It was a fitting ride to really share the Fargo with the outside world and the Fargo proved to be the perfect vehicle for this awesome tour and ride.
I missed the GTDRI last year and after reading the reports, I was bummed. Thankfuly Mark said he was running the same course again this year. Sweet, I knew I had to do it. I also knew from reviewing the course, that this year would be a bit more difficult than the course I completed 2 years ago, especially considering the expected temperature (mid 90's) and humidity levels. It was truly going to be a Death Ride.
I came into this years event with quite a few more miles in my legs and was confident with both my fitness and my equipment. I rode my now trusty titanium project that I rode down at the Dirty Kanza 200 and out at the Maah Daah Hey. Due to my busy schedule, I ended up leaving the suspension fork on the bike that I installed to ride the Maah Daah Hey just two weeks prior. I certainly didn't need the fork for the Iowa gravel, but it was on there and I didn't want to mess with it. I made a last minute change to go with slightly lower gearing as I knew there were several 15-20% grade climbs on this route. I also took the mountain knobby tires off and tried out a set of Stan's Crow tires as I wanted low rolling resistance. In the end, I could not have been happier with my set up. I had zero weight on my back thanks to the Revelate Designs Tangle Mountain bag and Gas Tank. Not one single complaint on gear on this trip. It's not often I say that as I'm pretty picky, but after several iterations of gear on this bike, I've got it pretty dialed.
As we proceeded up and down the hot & dusty Iowa country side, it became evident that day would end up being a crusher. Repeated steep climbs with little or no rest were made even more difficult by the fact that there was zero wind to help cool the body back down. It was a death march and all of us were feeling the impact of the temperature and lack of wind. At one point while regrouping around mile 60, my old farm memories took over and I took refuge in a corn field because there were no trees to be found. The temps were at least 5-8 degrees cooler. Soon, the others would join me.
Shortly after the regroup, we decided to alter the route a bit and find the nearest town. It was time to refuel and cool the body back down. After about 30 minutes in the convenience store, we collectively decided that it wasn't the day to do the entire route as planned. That said, we were still at least 40 miles from our cars! After some deliberation, a route was put in place and we took off zig zagging across Iowa to get back to camp. The day ended with a 40 mile time trial back to the cars with one other rider, Jeremy Fry, a Trans Iowa and Dirty Kanza veteran.
In the end, we ended up with 102 miles in the grueling heat. It was reminiscent of the Dirty Kanza. Another long day in the saddle pushing the body, mind and equipment. Despite the challenges, I must say that riding through the country side with like minded friends is the perfect way to spend the day. This part of Iowa is truly stunning and filled with such a diversity in the terrain. I returned home tired and sore. I'm already thinking about next year's Death Ride.
Thanks Mark for an awesome route and an awesome day. Thanks to Jeremy too for pushing me just a bit out of my comfort zone and reminding me what it feels like to go fast.