The 2016 Dirty Kanza 200 Experience – Part One – by JOM

For the readers who are unaware of this not-so-little race, Dirty Kanza is arguably the world’s biggest gravel race. Held annually in Emporia, Kansas, the event attracts close to 2,000 riders to this neat little town in the Flint Hills of Kansas – hills you say? Yes, some areas of Kansas really do have hills. Until recently, I thought Missouri was sort of flat too… and when I say the event attracts, I should say the event sold out – in just over two hours… and you should see the waiting list…

Part One of my tale began on Saturday, January 9, 2016 when registration for the 2016 Dirty Kanza opened. As everyone in the Continental USA sat around waiting for the online registration to open (around 10am EST), yours truly was hanging around in Adelaide, South Australia, crushing gravel on the other side of the world. Due to the massive difference in time zones, I was awake at around 1:30am on Sunday, January 10, 2016, waiting to submit my registration.

Don’t you hate these first world problems!!!

Long story short, I was successful in entering the 2016 event, along with two of my Gravel Cyclist teammates – Mr and Mrs K-Dogg.

Then the training Began

We rode a lot, we ate a lot and we learned a lot. I reckon we’re still learning. Riding 100 miles on dirt and gravel roads is one thing but 200 miles is something else. The once Campagnolo only road cyclist within me would be grimacing if he saw me nowadays. Seriously, circa-2016 JOM is riding around on a big tyre bike with not-Campy parts, frame bags and feet shod with mountain bike shoes. Huh?

The Drive Stage One

Tuesday, May 31, 2016 – After my regular gig finished for the day, I piled into a loaner minivan packed to the gills with bikes, clothes, food, spare parts, bed linens and other bollocks. I don’t recall how long it took me to load the van, but I blew a good chunk of the Memorial Day holiday accomplishing that task. Ordinarily I would have driven my ultra-gas saving / ultra-tightwad Toyota Prius to such an event, but teammate K-Dogg kindly offered the services of the Dogg’s minivan. Mr and Mrs K-Dogg were flying to the event, so it made sense that I help tote some of their gear to Kansas. I’m a nice bloke, eh.

I'm good at packing stuff into minivans.
I’m good at packing stuff into minivans.

I rolled out of Gainesville, Florida at around 5pm with myself for company – and a to-do list to call everyone on my phone address book who I hadn’t called in ages…

Stage one of the journey wasn’t thrilling, but I took an alternative route to make it interesting. Rather than taking the usual Atlanta -> Nashville -> St. Louis route, I headed northwest from Tifton, Georgia off Interstate 75, ultimately ending up in Birmingham, Alabama at around midnight. This is a great alternative route with very little traffic.

Somewhere in Alabama.
Somewhere in Alabama.

The Drive Stage Two

Hitting the road at around 7:30am, I made good time to the fun stop of the day, Memphis, Tennessee. Yours truly isn’t a fan of selfies, but I do enjoy bike selfies. I may have visited the home of Elvis Presley, Graceland, back in 1995, but my bike had not, and this needed to be rectified.


The Parlee Chebacco is Elvis approved.
The Parlee Chebacco is Elvis approved.

The next part of the drive was quite a bit longer, but very rewarding. I traveled through a lovely section of the Ozarks, and noticed an abundance of gravel roads. Clearly I need to revisit this area… sorry, no photos 🙁

Crop dusting...
Crop dusting somewhere in Arkansas…
More crop dusting.
More crop dusting.

Between all of this driving I gave thought to my next video project – The Journey to Kanza – I won’t say too much just yet, but K-Dogg, Mrs K-Dogg and I will be adopting different personas in this production. Expect more of the silliness associated with this website, except in video form. We don’t take this stuff too seriously :mrgreen:

Uh oh, this doesn't look good Springfield, Missouri.
Uh oh, this doesn’t look good Springfield, Missouri.
Sunset close to Emporia, Kansas.
Sunset close to Emporia, Kansas.

Emporia, Kansas!

After 1,200 or so miles of driving and a bunch of rain around Springfield, Missouri, I finally pulled into Emporia and my hotel for the evening. Now, what is the first thing most people would do after a long drive? Take a shower, have a sleep? Nah… I changed into cycling kit, grabbed some lights and rode to downtown Emporia for a few candid photos of my bike in front of the Granada Theatre. This is where the race kicks off on Saturday morning.


Downtown Emporia is a quiet town at 10pm on a Wednesday evening. So, the locals didn’t mind (or see) me poking around with a bike in the middle of the street, framing up the perfect photo. That was until two bicycle-minded locals spotted my tomfoolery and pulled over to see what was happening. Unsure of what to expect, Tiffany and Lorrin Ochs exited their vehicle and welcomed me to Emporia – and provided all sorts of helpful advice about the event! Midwesterners are nice people and go out of their way to help. Thank you so much Tiffany and Lorrin!

Stooging around Emporia at 10pm. Photo by Lorrin Ochs.
Stooging around Emporia at 10pm. Photo by Lorrin Ochs.
Hi-C - resident kitty at High Gear Cyclery, Emporia, Kansas.
Hi-C – resident kitty at High Gear Cyclery, Emporia, Kansas.

I expect the next couple of days to be very busy. I plan to pre-ride a little of the course over Thursday and Friday, meet and greet with fellow gravel cyclists – there will be interviews conducted by yours truly, so don’t be shy! – and of course, the race itself on Saturday. Naturally, there will be an epic race video… 200 miles of Dirty Kanza!

Shameless plug here – if you’re in Emporia and need a Gravel Cyclist t-shirt like I wear when I’m in civvies, contact me via the website HERE, or over at Gravel Cyclist Facebook page. Failing that, I will be attending the first rider’s meeting on Friday.

Unisex sizing, available in Small, Medium and Large.
Unisex sizing, available in Small, Medium and Large. L: Front, R: Rear.

Time for a little sleep… see you Thursday, Emporia!


8 comments on “The 2016 Dirty Kanza 200 Experience – Part One – by JOM

  1. Glad to see you made it to Emporia safely! Hope the Gravel Cyclist contingent has a banner showing!! Please share you experiences and your tips for the rest of us to mull through once the DK is over. I am especially curious about minimum tire width (32c?) and tire selection and setup (tube/tubeless). Thank you in advance!!

    1. Hi Jay!

      We’ll be wearing our kits or t-shirts and filming stuff, so I reckon people will spot us pretty easily.

      I’ll tell you right now what the crew is running:

      Mr and Mrs K-Dogg – Terravail Cannonball Dirty Kanza Edition, tubeless, filled with Orange Seal Endurance formula. These tyres measure 38mm wide.

      JOM – Panaracer GravelKing, tubeless, filled with Orange Sealant Endurance formula. I have two pairs of wheels fitted with these tyres – 35mm and 40mm. At the moment I am leaning towards the 40’s. While they are at least 120 grams per tyre heavier than their 35mm brethren, I think their added comfort and hopefully puncture protection will be provide a good advantage.


      1. Thanks for the tire info JOM! I definitely understand that the 40’s are probably the most well rounded choice with a small weight penalty being the biggest drawback. I have a Frankenbike that will fit 40’s but is as heavy as an anchor…my endurance road bike will fit 32’s with a fair amount of clearance. Would the DK be feasible with this choice if the rain and mud were to stay away?

  2. You were welcomed to Emporia by 2 of the nicest people! Please stop by the bike shop High Gear and met HiCi. She loves to welcome everyone to the shop!

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