This is the third year in a row where some of the Salsa Crew have headed down to partake in the gravel gorging that is the Dirty Kanza 200. Here's a bit about the bikes that this year's Dirty Five are riding.
Dirty One: Tim Ek
The bike I've chosen for the 2012 Dirty Kanza is a Salsa prototype. I chose this bike with versatility and comfort in mind. I know this machine is capable of "all day" miles, without beating up the rider over the rough flint rock of Kansas. This race has proven to deliver suffering to its riders in monumental doses. I'm going to do what I can to minimize that suffering, and this prototype will do just that.
Dirty Two: Jason Gaikowski
This year I am riding a prototype Salsa Ti gravel rig. The choice really came down to this bike and my Salsa Fargo Ti. Either bike would be a great choice for the DK200. The Fargo gives the option for fatter tires to add an element of late-day comfort versus the Prototype's narrower tires and more aggressive geometry. Comfort versus speed. My plan has been to run the Fargo - but with the forecast calling for cooler weather and less wind than the past few years, I think the speeds will be a bit higher and put more of a premium on speed. And besides - I'm anxiousto put this prototype through the torture test that only the Flint Hills can offer.
The basic setup is pretty straightforward: 'Cross gearing, low-profile carbon wheels, an aero-bar for long lonely sections, a Revelate Tangle bag for carrying foodstuffs, and a small voodoo charm to ward away flats!
Dirty Three: Kelly MacWilliams
I’m looking forward to my rookie year at the notorious DK200. My goal for a race of this length is simple…FINISH. While some seek a podium spot, for me this is simply a personal challenge to ride 200 miles in a single push, to test the legs and head, and see what the DK200 is dishing out.
My bike of choice has changed this month after spending the last three weeks testing a new Salsa prototype while touring in Japan. There she delivered on every surface, from touring pavement and gravel, and some unexpected (and meaty) mountain terrain.
Setup changes: Panniers and racks will be ditched for frame and tank bags, tires will be slightly larger (double-wall touring), a computer and lights will be added, and the rest is as is.
Dirty Four: Joe Meiser
This year I’ll be riding my trusty Fargo Ti prototype. This is a special bike that was custom built without mounts for bottles or racks of any type knowing full well that I would only ever use frame bags on it. I’m running tubeless, proven, WTB Nanoraptors for comfort and durability (or so I hope) on the rock of the Flint Hills. My goal is to have fun, finish, and enjoy the serenity of simply riding.
While this bike was built and is shown outfitted for bikepacking on forest roads and trails, stripped down it makes a comfortable gravel machine. It is built for comfort and the speed necessary to successfully finish the DK. The only variables are the weather and the rider.
Dirty Five: Sean 'Mailman' Mailen
I’ll be sticking with my Almanzo Royal 162 winning steed, the La Cruz Ti. She delivered me to the line for one win this year...maybe she can do two. This really is my go-to machine for almost anything: daily commuting, gravel rides, wet March hammer rides, Dairy Queen runs, and finally gravel races. Every once in awhile I get it out at a 'cross race too.
The great feel and responsiveness of Ti makes for a sweet race frame. I’ll outfit the bike with my normal custom frame bag and Gas Tank for the Dirty Kanza. They have worked solidly over the years and are essential in long races like this or the Trans-Iowa. Being able to carry a 100oz Camelbak bladder, plus food and extra clothing on the frame is essential to finishing well. I’ve found my Gas Tank also really helps me eat when trying to orchestrate riding and eating on gravel roads. I’ll be running the same aero bars I was using for the Almanzo Royal 162 because I really like being able to relax my upper body and get in a nice aero position on the flatter parts of a race.
Finally, I had to make a choice between the super nice HED Ardennes CLs I just won at the Almanzo (thanks Chris and HED!) or the Easton wheels I’ve run forever. The Easton Velo IIs probably have the most miles of any wheelset I have but for good reason, they are solid and don’t give me any problems. Sure I replace bearings every year after Trans-Iowa, but it is the Trans-Iowa afterall. I’ll probably replace them with the HEDs at the end of the year but until then I’m rolling on the Eastons.
So, as you can see, nothing flashy here. I’m going after durability and reliability. The longer the race the more these rise to the top as the most important factors. Overall, my setup has been refined mile after mile on gravel rides and races and it works well for me. It’s not the most comfortable, but I’m not looking for comfort, I’m looking to do my best, and this setup allows me the chance to win. Winning isn’t the main thing, let me assure you. In the end it’s about exploring something new. But it sure is nice when a win happens.
Good luck to the Dirty Five and all the participants in the 2012 Dirty Kanza. Use your heads, legs, and hearts and ride safe out there in the Flint Hills of Kansas!
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I love being outside. I prefer to ride on dirt. Or snow. If I was born a hundred years earlier I might have been a polar explorer. There's a great natural world out there to see, smell, taste, listen to, and experience. Life slows down out there and the distractions we've created will disappear if you let them. Give me a backpack and let me go.