by Don Lee
This was the most detailed and complicated bike set up that I’d ever undertaken. It seems pretty obvious given the nature of the event. There are so many details that I considered that I wasn’t aware how involved the process was until I started writing it down.
I started with my 2015 Cannondale Super-X CX-1. It’s a hi-mod carbon fiber Cannondale cyclocross bike with 11-speed 1x SRAM Force and Velocity Aileron/Industry Nine pro-build wheelset. It’s my go-to bike. There may be more practical bikes, but it’s my favorite and I’m comfortable on it. For a 200 mile gravel race I think that’s very important.
I had a complete tear down and tune up in the fall near the end of CX season last year so everything was pretty well dialed. I decided based on Elliot’s recommendation to replace the chain and cassette. My chain and cassette were in good shape with somewhere between 1000 – 1500 miles of late season and pretty chill spring riding. From all accounts the DK 200 exploits every weakness… Physical, mental and mechanical and I wasn’t going there to quit because of an equipment failure. I stuck with the same gearing I use for CX season and Barry-Roubaix which is 42 x 11/28. I considered an 11/32 but my thinking was it might just be an excuse to bail when I should be pushing. I also went with the cheaper SRAM 1130 chain as suggested by Justin Naley due to the solid chain pins as opposed to the hollow pins on the SRAM 1170 which is what I normally run. I’m taking the chain I removed as a spare as well as three 11-speed SRAM Power Links for emergency repairs.
I took some time and a couple shake down rides to get the contents of the bags organized in a way that made sense. I originally had all my tire repair supplies in my Pika seat bag. I only used about 35-40% of the carrying capacity of the seat bag. It’s HUGE and unobtrusive and I wouldn’t think you could carry so much in a seat bag. Leaving room gave me options for inclement weather clothing and having some flexibility is good for your brain. Josh Duggan pointed out that it would be pretty slow rifling through the seat bag if I needed to repair a flat. I ended up moving my very compact Cannondale Multi-Tool, Sefas Microblast inflator w/COs (2), a tube and Park Tire Boot to the Gas Tank. The Gas Tank has a small divider in it so even with those items in there I still had room for 3-4 bars and 3-4 GUs. With that my Gas Tank was set.
The small Tangle bag only contained three items. My Cannondale AirSpeed Max hand pump, a 70 oz. Camelbak bladder and a bandana that I used to protect the bladder from the pump and the zipper on the bag. The Camelbak bladder had the long insulated hose. I had a system of zip ties that kept it in place and allowed me to extend and retract it as needed.
The Pika bag contained my remaining tools and spares. This included a tire, tubes (2), COs (4), Presta adapter, Alien II Multi-Tool, derailleur hanger, bandanas (2), my phone and wallet. The Alien II has everything and I wouldn’t do a long race without it. The idea was to never have to get into this bag.
The bars on my CX bike are always double wrapped. I feel I have more control on rough terrain, less hand fatigue from over-gripping and more padding for comfort. I decided to triple wrap the bar with a gel-based bar tape from the hoods to the end of the existing tape near the stem for extra padding and comfort for what I imagined would be long periods of time spent on the hoods.
I also wrap the drive-side chain stay on all my bikes with a neat, double-layer of electric tape in order to protect the frame from chain slap. Clutched derailleurs alone will not protect your stay on the rough decents of the flint hills of Kansas.
The Tuesday before DK, Josh and I did Matt Acker’s Tuesday Night Gravel Adventure for a final shakedown. The previous Tuesday after the Founder’s TNR I had a conversation with Jeff Jacobi about what I thought were worn bearings in my Industry 9 hubs. He confirmed my suspicions based on my description and the next day asked Ryan Olthouse to get some bearings coming our way. I brought the wheels to Brian Walquist at Alger Bikes that morning a little desperate to get them back before Matt’s TGA that night. Jeff called me about 3pm with the good news that the wheels were ready! I was floored. He unfortunately had some bad news for me as well. Paul VanWesop had discovered that the Clement MSO tubeless-ready tire I had mounted on the front the night before was defective. It had a snake wiggle in the tread that was not going to be rideable.
I picked up the wheels directly from Velocity USA. The guys went way above and beyond turning these wheels around so I could get in my final shake down ride before leaving for Kansas the following day. Once again, I was feeling the love from our amazing local cycling scene and moved my piece one step closer to the DK 200.
I threw on an old tire for the shake down ride. Other than that, everything was set up the way it would be for the race. I liked the way the bike was rolling with the MSO on the rear, even though I was running an old Schwalbe with a tube up front, I could tell that the MSO would be a solid tire. I rolled fast and hooked up nicely. Brian got with the distributor to ship one out to Bill Hill’s hotel in KS so I figured I was all set. I was super bummed that Josh had a pretty bad crash during the ride that night. We cleaned him up, drank some beer, and ended up at CVS buying up mass quantities of Tegaderm while hoping for a speedy recovery.
At this point I have travel and lodging set. Support is in the exceedingly capable hands of the Apex Mulit-Sport Team, my bike is completely dialed and ready to rock and roll. Next… We race.