Four Pete’s Sake - Dirty Six

For my first attempt at the DK200 I will be riding a Vaya. The Vaya project started about a year and a half ago. Salsa knew it wanted to offer a road-based adventure frame to compliment the Fargo (the off-road adventure offering). Salsa also needed a replacement for the exiting La Cruz. We set about collecting feedback from dealers and customers.

The most common feedback we received was that the La Cruz was more popular with commuters and the emerging gravel crowd, than it was in the 'cross scene.  Our purpose for the Vaya then became clear; Make a road-based adventure frame with the pedigree of the La Cruz, that caters to commuters, gravel grinders, and people looking to load up their bike and go find an adventure down the country side.  

Early accounts seem to suggest the Vaya is fitting this role well. My frame is a 57cm prototype. It differs from the production Vaya in that it has a slightly heavier gauge tubeset and the older style post mount brackets. Feedback from the crew during the test ride process resulted in the production using a lighter gauge tubeset. This intent being to ensure the Vaya maintained the lighter, sporty feel of the La Cruz, but also enough strength to not turn to mush when loaded up with panniers or run down a rough gravel road.  

Salsa designer Mark Rane whipped up some new brackets for the Vaya that not only look trick, but make welding and alignment easier for our manufacturers.  In short, my bike is sweet, but the production frames are even better.

This past winter I commited to riding the DK200. Immediately there was no doubt in my mind that the Vaya would be my frame of choice for navigating 200 miles of Kansas gravel. The proven angles of the La Cruz, low BB, fine-tuned sizing scheme, disc brake allotment, & ample tire clearance all make the Vaya a great choice to be set up for all-day-comfort and handling over a variety of road surfaces.

Being it was winter here in Minnesota, I had lots of free time to mentally plan and re-plan my component choices and set up. Conveniently, I sit across from Mr. Meiser here at Salsa HQ. It wasn't hard to get solid advice on what constitutes a good set up for long hauls in the saddle. Getting as much weight off my body and onto the bike was the advice I got. In February I set about crafting frame bags, custom fit to my Vaya frame. A trip to a local fabric outlet, and some pointer from Mrs. PK and I was well on my way to crafting a half-frame bag and a 'gas-tank' while I watched Team USA fall in OT to the Team Canada.

The frame bags have gotten lots of use this spring, and the Almanzo 100 served as a good dress rehersal. I can fit a 100oz water bladder with room to spare in the frame bag, and the tank up top is divided into two compartments, one dedicated for my camera, and one for peanut butter cups. I run the bladder hose loop up along the headtube under the tank strap where it sits nicely, ready to pull out for a quick sip.  

I ran the Almanzo self-supported with 1 bottle of Cyto-Max, 1 bottle of diluted Red Bull cola, and 100oz of water.  Since the DK200 has 3 check points to refuel, I plan to run less water in the bladder and roll through 2 bottles and the bladder contents for each of the four legs.  Food will go in my jersey pocket and gas tank.  The extra room in the frame bag will likely be used for layers depending on the weather forecast, or the tubes, pump, and tool currently in my saddle bag.

For components, I'm running a set of 42cm Woodchipper bars, 45/34T Salsa chainrings on a 10-speed Rival drivetrain, and Cane Creek Thudbuster ST post. I like the ergonomics that the angle of the hoods up top on the 'chippers offer. I'm also a fan of the control and confidence the drops provide for descending fast and loose stuff (I topped out at 45.6mph during the Almanzo). The tighter 11T  jump in the front rings seems to work for my riding style, and if I can't climb it with the 34t, it ain't worth pedaling up to begin with. The Thudbuster is rad, and well worth the extra weight for saving my lower back. For wheels, I've got a set of DT 240 hubs laced with DT SuperComp spokes to ZTR Arch rims. I have also procured a 36t star-ratchet for the rear hub. Sah-weet!  Currently these wheels are set up tubless with 42 Continental SpeedCross tires and I plan on keeping them that way.  These things are fast and light!

For training I've been doing my regular 21-mile commute to work and back. That's 42 miles a day, 3 to 5 times a week.  Friday's I usually meet the crew for breakfast, so I end up getting in 50 miles, and I've been out on a few 50 to 60-milers on the weekend.  Other than that, I've been riding an Alternator Ala Carte at the local XC trails quite a bit, and also hitting up the dirt jumps.  No sense killing my motivation to ride by pedaling myself into the ground on long weekend training rides when I get 120-200 miles in on the weekdays.

So that's my Vaya and my plan for the DK200. My goal is just to finish.  200 miles will be the longest pull I've ever taken in one sitting. I'm really looking forward to the adventure it is sure to be, and also to meet and ride with some new folks.  Thanks for reading this far.  I'll leave you with this parting thought and shot (taken during a shake down ride on my Vaya earlier this spring).

This post filed under topics: Dirty Kanza 200 Gravel Pete Koski Vaya

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Pete Koski

Pete Koski

Hi, I'm Pete and I am a product development engineer for Salsa. I like all kinds of riding from commuting to dirt jumping. I think flat pedals make you a better bike handler, that the thru-axle is vastly superior to the quick-release for off-road applications, and that moving through the world on bicycle allows one to see things they might not otherwise. I suffer daily from hunger-induced anger, also known as [i]hanger[/i]. Outside of work and riding, I enjoy kiteboarding, traveling, and watching hockey.


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Tom Moore | May 31st, 2010

I really like my new Vaya. It is a great do anything: commuting, rail trail,etc. bike.Keep up the good work.


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Dan Rackleff | May 31st, 2010

I think I’m having Vaya envy.  I love my Fargo, but I may be switching over.

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Paul Koski | June 4th, 2010

Pete, Good winds, good hills, good mechcanics, and lots of luck! Easy as a 200 free aye! Dad & canine crew

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Bill | June 4th, 2010

Pete…go gettem!!!!  Best of luck on your ride. Let us know how you do. We missed you and Kelly at my birthday bash at Bucs’s last Sunday. Lots of good carbo loading that evening:) Peddle safe!

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Phil Moen | June 5th, 2010

Pete - Good luck on the ride from the Unimax Team! And of course here are some tips for the ride:

1. Do NOT put beer in your water bottle. Although we at Unimax condone such sport, we think you will need the water.
2. Drafting cars works well, but be sure your hands are firmly on the brakes.
3. Be sure to pack plenty of Tagaderm. Road rash (or gravel rash as the case may be) sucks.
4. For an added bit of fun add tassels as the end of the handlebars.
5. To fight boredom during hours of peddling, consider the positives and negatives of adding a kickstand to the Vaya.
6. Have fun.

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Frank Bretl | June 8th, 2010

Very nice Pete, I like how you integrated all that capacity onto your trusty steed.

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