The Road to Dirty Kanza 200 2020 – Part Four – The Equipment: by Gravel Newbie, Caroline Worrall

It’s time for everyone’s favorite part. I will list my equipment and the changes I am considering, and everyone will let me know what solution is absolutely the best and why what I am considering is wrong. I’m not solidly wed to any plan at the moment and I get overwhelmed easily by lots of choices, so my bike will likely remain as-is for a few more weeks.

dirty kanza 200 training for newbies
Photo by Bester Photo

BUT… before I go on to my equipment… a public service announcement. I just rode in the Mudcrutch Gravel Team Time Trial (put on by the Gravel Cyclist and sponsored by Fit for Life… I understand a video is coming soon) and our team made a total rookie mistake. We had downloaded the course to our Garmins last week when JOM posted them, but not one of us bothered to particularly study the map… nor did we happen to look at it just prior to the race… nor did we spend some of the half-hour prior to the race riding the first couple miles.

dirty kanza 200 training for newbies
Caroline’s team for the Mudcrutch. Photo by Bester Photo

We easily lost five minutes when we went off course within the first mile, rode off course for a half-mile or so, then backtracked to where we originally went off course, then went off course again, then backtracked again. Seriously, this should have never happened. Literally, a two-minute review of the course prior to the race would have saved us some time and frustration. I’ve raced enough to know that the course is the rider’s responsibility (even when it’s marked) and that one should have a good handle on the course before crossing the start line. Lesson learned, on to the equipment.

dirty kanza 200 training for newbies
Caroline’s team at the 2020 Mudcrutch

The Bike

OPEN U.P., size Small with Ultegra Di2, 50/34 chainrings on the crankset, 11-32 cassette, 650b Stans Valor wheels, Panaracer Gravelking SK 1.9” tires, Redshift ShockStop Suspension Stem, Lizard Skins 3.2mm bar tape, three aluminum bottle cages, Terry Liberator Pro saddle. This set up does quite well on the sometimes sandy and sometimes flat roads of Florida.

dirty kanza 200 training for newbies

The Saddle Bag

Bontrager. It used to be on my road bike. My road buddies called it “the suitcase.” It got moved to the gravel bike and I now carry a tiny saddle bag on the road bike that fits two toothpicks and a paperclip. This bag contains a Crank Brothers Y12 toolset, a miniature chain tool, a core remover and a couple of spare cores, Moosetreks tire levers which double as a quick link tool, a quick link, a spare tube, patches, a Dynaplug, a CO2 cartridge and inflator, a knife, some tweezers, and spare contacts, solution and a mirror.

dirty kanza 200 training for newbies

The saddle bag contents are pretty set. I need to order a few tire boots and another quick link, as well as the Tubolito spare tubes. Any suggestions here as to what I am forgetting will be welcome.

The Clothing

  • Shorts: Cobb (now JCob). For a variety of personal girl-part related reasons, I prefer to ride with just a chamois, no pad. Shorts instead of bibs ‘cause peeing should not require full nakedness.
  • Jersey: My favorite jerseys from a fit standpoint are Cycology Clothing. They fit skin-tight without binding and have sleeves that come down to the mid-upper arm. I have no idea why most women’s jerseys have stupid little cap sleeves. Clothing designers, it’s annoying, quit it.
  • Bra: I don’t have a particular bra preference except it should lift and separate. Mono-boob is not a good look.
  • Favorite socks: Smart wool.
  • Shoes: My old Shimano spin class shoes.

The Tech

The Hydration / Nutrition

Two 24-ounce bottles, and one 1.5L Camelbak Chase vest, large Dark Speed Works top tube bag, jersey pockets.

In general, all of this works fine (except the iPhone). I probably could ride with everything as is and make it the whole way. But, of course, the point is to make it the whole way with the least number of mechanical issues possible in as fast as I can complete it.

Upgrades to Consider

The number one, or maybe just the most expensive, upgrade is wheels. Interestingly enough, the Stans Valor 650b wheels weigh only 83 gm more than the ENVE G23. Yeah, no $hit. However, they only take 47mm tires which are heavy and the spare tubes are heavy. The same tires in 38 mm are 240 gm less. Changing to the Tubolito tubes from standard tubes saves another 200 gm for two tubes. Right there, that’s almost a pound. Additionally, another set of wheels gives me a lot of options for commuting and road conditions.

dirty kanza 200 training for newbies

The next change is to convert the big chainring from a 50 to a 46. According to the Google machine, this conversion is possible with some special chainring bolts (note from JOM: For Ultegra 6800 series crank, the crank caps / bolts are linked here – For Ultegra 8000 series crank, follow this link. Both options work with 34T chainrings). This will be checked with the LBS before any parts are ordered. This also saves some weight, but I think having a tighter range of gears will be beneficial.

Note from JOM, check these links for 1x third-party chainring options and 2x third-party chainring options.

I have a pair of Arundel carbon bottle cages on my TT bike. Those will make the trip to Kanza instead of the aluminum ones. Not only are they lighter, but they do a great job holding bottles in the roughest conditions. Why do I not have these on all my bikes, you ask? Well, they do cost $75 each, so for now, one pair is enough. I am not sure if I will leave the cage beneath the down tube – maybe for extra water if it’s super hot or to store extra gear if someone convinces me that that’s a better place to store gear than a saddle bag or in the Camelbak.

I am still searching for the best saddle. If you have a recommendation that is out of the ordinary, please feel free to suggest it. If it has the name Specialized, Bontrager, ISM, Selle Italia, Terry, or Brooks, don’t bother, I’ve probably tried it. I need something super cushy for my sit bones, but a huge cut out for my lady parts … with a super narrow nose because my hips are narrow and my legs are close together. The Terry works okay in that it’s cushy enough and has a narrow nose (cutout leaves much to be desired), but it’s also pretty heavy. This, however, is one place where I don’t mind the weight if it’s comfortable enough. DK200 is a long way.

For the most part, I won’t worry too much about clothing. It’s really hot and humid in Florida, so I’m good with the heat. The main purchase here will be shoes. I have wide and cranky feet. Normally, I don’t get hot spots, but the ten-year-old spin shoes ain’t gonna cut it. I have Lake road shoes and love them. The twin BOA system means I can loosen the toe box after my feet start to swell. And of course, they need to be comfortable to walk/run in … not that I am planning on doing that, haha.

The one new tech item I am considering is a power meter. I train on my road and TT bikes with power and, given that I am using TrainerRoad, having power makes it a little easier to follow the workouts. At the same time, I enjoy the idea of riding gravel without worrying about meeting some number. I wear a heart rate monitor, but primarily so I can record the workout stress later. I’m still pondering this one.

Aside from that, I really need to get a new phone. The iPhone 6s is an older phone with known battery problems, but aside from the battery (which has already been replaced once), it just irritates me to spend money on something that functions perfectly well for my purposes. And I’d rather spend that money on wheels…

As to nutrition, that is a topic for another day. Please feel free to give me your best advice on my gear while I still have time to change it… Caroline


  1. Avatar Vern Niehaus

    If you like the Lake road shoes, then get the same version in the MTB model. They fit the same. I have the same type of feet and use the CX 241 wide and the MX 241 wide endurance and they fit the same. Lake also makes extra wide sizes in some models.

    • Avatar Caroline

      Thanks, that’s good to know. I was going to call them and ask, but this makes it easy.

  2. Avatar John Bronze

    Always interesting to see other peoples kit list.
    If I may I would add two points:
    I always carry my Dynaplug in a jersey pocket, not in the saddle bag. The rationale being when you need to plug you need to plug quickly and trying to find it in a bag with all the other stuff takes time.
    Secondly, have you not considered tubeless? The advantages have been well documented, as have the disadvantages. Tubolito tubes are light for a reason, they are thin walled and quite fragile. Great for spares due to the weight though.

    Best of luck

    • Avatar Caroline

      Great advice. Thanks. I actually do run tubeless. The tubes are purely for backup.

  3. Avatar GCWANNABEE

    JOM hasn’t recommended you go tubeless? I suggest that as your #1 upgrade.

  4. Avatar John Bronze

    Always great to hear about other peoples kit. If I may I would add two suggestions.
    First off, I always keep the Dynaplug in my jersey pocket, not the saddle bag. When you need to plug, you need to plug fast , not gruelling around in a tool bag.
    Secondly, I think you should consider going tubeless. Tubolito tubes are light for a reason. They are very thin and quite fragile. Good for spares as they are so light.
    Best of luck

  5. Avatar Glen

    I’d seriously consider changing that small ring too. JOM has said before “KS is NOT flat”! Over 200 miles the ability to grind up some of the punchy hills will be welcomed. I find it mentally beneficial to spin up past others walking and it keeps me on the bike and in a rhythm. #adventurecranks #46/30 YMMV

  6. Avatar Jon

    Hi Caroline,

    Re: saddles. In 2002 I had cancer which thankfully got sorted. Anyway, when I got into off-road distance cycling saddle comfort was a big deal to me. I went through most of the options you mentioned as well as a several much weirder and expensive options. I ended up with a SQlab 610 ERGOLUX Active that I’ve now ridden thousands of off-road miles on.

    What makes the 610 comfortable (for me anyway) is firstly it’s relatively flat so doesn’t push up into soft tissue between the sit bones and cut off blood flow. And secondly, the rear of the saddle forms a raised plinth relative to the nose, which elevates the sit bones relative to the nose of the saddle and reduces pressure far more than any cut out.

    I’d think the nose on the one I’ve got would be a bit wide, but fwiw the company’s got a range, so maybe one of their other offerings might help. Their US distributors got a list of reviews here

    Thanks for the article and good luck with the training and race.


    • Avatar Caroline

      Thank you. I just had that saddle pop up on my radar. I’ll try it out.

  7. Avatar Sean

    I ran a 50 front ring last year in and it was worthless on the rolling hills. Id think a 46 be spot on if you stay with 2x.
    I think you got a good 650B tire choice but, Tubeless Tubeless Tubeless. This is so important. A tubeless setup gives you the best chance to stay rolling.
    On saddles, have you tried Specialized Mimic? Been a game changer for my wife.
    I think you got a great bike and ready to conquer DK. You obviously have the conditioning to finish the race. Setup tubeless and you will be fine.

    • Avatar Caroline

      I have tried the Mimic. I actually have a Sitero on my TT bike where I’m in aero all the time, but for some reason the Specialized saddles at too hard on my sit bones.

  8. Avatar Jon

    If you are not going to replace your old iPhone 6s, look into a Mophie case. If you don’t care about the color, you can get one for about $10.

    • Avatar Caroline

      That looks awesome. Thank you.

  9. K-Dogg K-Dogg

    Last year Mrs. K-Dogg and I each packed dry socks in the last rest area tote…which was
    about mile 150 with 50 with to go. It was wonderful and really cheered us up!
    There are usually several feet soaking creek crossings that, combined with 200 miles of pounded sand, make your feet unhappy.


    • Avatar Caroline

      Brilliant. I suspect that wet feet are like cold ones… miserable.

  10. to go with quote of JOM, KS is not, seriously consider a new crankset with the 46/30 rings already installed. I just googled this up, and there may be even cheaper options. If you can get 2 new lower geared rings this size on your Ultegra crank go for it, otherwise go for the lowest gearing. This is a long term investment in your knees. The GRX stuff will shift beautifully.

    Tubeless! Tubeless only!! Yes tubeless will flat, but they can be plugged over and over and over without ever removing the tire, good plugs will last until the tire wears out months later. The Tubolito should be considered as a spare, and make sure any spare tube you carry is not punctured from tools/seams in seat bag. Wrap in nice plastic baggie to protect tube when on the bike.

    Go with John Bronze suggestion and carry plugger in jersey, if you puncture you want to get a plug in QUICK! Less air loss is less pumping. Try to get a finger over the leak asap whilst the other hand get the plugger out. For this reason I use Sahmurai Sword that is carried in bar end. Bring a dozen spare plugs as you can stack them side by side in a bigger cut. Sealant companies over exaggerate the hole size their product will fill. Plugs work, big sticky ones work better. Skinny plugs are great on the road for small nail and wire punctures, but a hole in a dirt tire can easily be a few mm’s across.

    As soon as you install a tube, you are now at much higher risk for another flat, this time from a pinch flat of the tube. Especially if you don’t refill tire to a higher pressure (than tubeless) to protect a tube from pinching.

    A much lighter and more compact tool can be had, something with only about a dozen bits and integrated chain breaker. Shoot for under 150 grams. Your selected tools are garage size, great if your bike is half assed before the event and you plan on fixing it on the trail. But if your OPEN is dialed before the event, it should need nothing. And if it does, a minimal tool is all you really need.

    Consider Orange Seal or Stans Race as they are chunkier and will ‘help’ fill the bigger cuts from the sharp gravel. You can easily put in several plugs per tire and ride it in, use a super sharp knife and cut off the excess to just above the level of the tread.

    Where is the spare derailer hanger?

    I don’t see a pump? Forget about the quick fill and adapter head and get a nice light mid volume pump and mount it on the frame. It is good for hundreds of flats, quickfill is only good for just over 1.

    If using Stans rims you don’t need more than 1 tire tool, but get a good one. Maxxis and Schwalbe (others?) make tire tools that have a much shorter ‘nose/hook’ on them. that way you don’t slip when snapping a tire on the rim and the long nose tears the rim tape. I know that long nose tire tools are common, but 2 of the biggest bicycle tire companies make unique tire tools that share a common design theme of a short nose/hook.

    As for seat pressure… If it is your ‘sit bones’ that are hurting then another seat may be the answer. But if it is girl parts that are hurting… your bar still seems too low for endurance events even with the spacers and angled stem. IMO your bar top should be closer to level with the seat. This will allow for less pressure on the front part of the seat/body parts. Maybe a ‘riser’ drop bar as you already have a stack of spacers and a stem that angles upward. I have a few women customers that love the Terry seats, but if you are too aero, maybe a seat isn’t the answer. A side benefit of the higher hand position is you can spend more time on the drops when it gets rough and sketchy for more bike control.

    • Avatar Caroline

      Wow, thanks for all the great advice. I am running tubeless. The tubes are only for spare. I obs didn’t make that clear.

  11. Avatar AK_Ben

    Why do the Stan’s 650b wheels only take 47mm tires? I’m not understanding that. Those JCOB shorts are interesting, had not heard that Cobb/JCOB made shorts in addition to saddles.
    Best of luck!

    • Avatar Ben T Link

      – ditto @ AK_Ben, are you sure about the 47mm(650b) tire limitation? – good luck

    • Avatar Caroline

      Actually, that was a dumb comment on my part. I already made up my mind that I should run Panaracer Gravelking tires. They only make 1.9” for 650b. Other tires would work, but then I have to choose another tire. Hahaha. My mind is spinning.

  12. Avatar William Armstrong

    From a 2x DK200 rider with a 3rd coming up, all on an Open UP:
    Make sure you have extra plugs.
    Definitely carry a spare waterproof battery with cords for both phone and computer (and maybe your lights!)
    Recommend both a bike headlight and a helmet headlamp. You can add the helmet light at the last checkpoint when you know whether or not you will finishing in the dark.
    Tubeless is definitely the way to go, but make sure you are comfortable with it before attempting at DK.
    Consider Cane Creek eeSilk seatpost as an upgrade.
    Lake makes a nice gravel shoe (but expensive)
    Tire alternative: Donnelly X’Plor (2x DK200 & no flats!)
    Carry sunblock for skin and lips! If it’s sunny you will need to reapply.
    If it’s really hot (90+ the last 2 years) you might consider a cooling buff for your neck.
    Cloth to clean sunglasses (there will be mud somewhere on the course)

    • Avatar Caroline

      All great advice. Thank you so much. I’ll take a look at those tires.

  13. Avatar Tonya S

    My Chase vest fits my older iPhone 6 (in a plastic baggie for water safety) and the extra battery in the left front pocket and I don’t even notice them. I plug in my phone as needed and unplug as needed to save the extra battery life (I’m one who’s out there well past darkness). For the long section of the race I have a larger Camelbak to switch to at checkpoint 1–I was very glad I had it during the hot 90 miles last year. My light and its extra battery (which goes in my top-tube bag) stay at a later checkpoint so I’m not carrying them all day.

    I also have some duct tape wrapped around a CO2 cartridge, just in case. Never had to use it yet but you never know. I also carry a spare derauiller hanger.

    I love my WTB saddle; my lady parts have never had issues on it in three years, and you can probably find a version that works for you. Oh, and I run tubeless but in lieu of a tire boot I’ve used an empty GU packet between a tube and a hole before, and it works great.

    • Avatar Caroline

      Thanks for the great advice. My father would be upset if I didn’t carry some duct tape. Haha. I’ll take a look at the saddle.

  14. Avatar Zeke Reimers

    OMG, this is awesome, mono-boob is now in my vocab. Wireless charging battery backup is great, some wet-wipes or similar, $20 bill, love my shock stop too. Keep up the good work 🙂

    • Avatar Caroline

      Always happy to expand vocab. Thank you.

  15. Avatar Ray Howard

    Agree with changing crankset. For the last two years I have run Di2, 46/30 with SRAM 11/36 in the back. 2019 had some steep, rough hills and I needed the 30-36! Tubeless without question and keep that dyna plug close by so you can plug quickly. I am an advocate of aerobars. I know this is a point of contention but I never ride in them when I am close to folks and they allow for a comfortable, quicker position when you are alone. Some would say they are dangerous and I agree if you ride in them when you should not. I have not seen any obvious wrecks because of aerobars but I have seen some horrific wrecks when people ride outside of their abilities, especially on descents. Ride smart and within your ability.

    • Avatar Caroline

      Actually I agree about the aerobars. I have certainly heard some strong opinions on both sides, but as long as it’s within the race rules and will improve my chance of finishing, I think it’s fair equipment. That being said, I’ll get draft legal bars, I won’t be in aero among other riders, and I’ll get a lot of practice on them on my gravel bike before I get there.

  16. Avatar Scott C

    Are you bringing a pump? Not much point in having 3 spare tubes and only 1 CO2 cartridge. I’ve been happy with the Lezyne Sport Drive. Fits in my saddle bag or you can mount it next to a water bottle cage. Be sure to wrap it with a few feet of duct tape to look super baller.
    And I always stuff 4 zip ties into the handlebars (always 4, always on the left side. because that’s lucky).
    I also take a packet of clotting powder (I’ve only used it on other people so far) and 3 pieces of KT tape (in case my knee or neck starts to go. sucks getting old) and a spare cleat. And some dog spray. And some spare spokes in the seat tube.
    And now I know why my bike weighs so much.

    And I’m right there with you on the shorts thing. This year I started using suspenders with plastic buckles (made for fly fishing waders). All the benefits of bibs, but can be ditched in an emergency.

    • Avatar Caroline

      I agree about pump. I’ll also bring a couple extra CO2 cartridges. Zipties are a great idea. Actually, my bike bag straps broke this weekend at Dirty Pecan and zipties would have fixed the problem. Luckily, I was able to jury rig a solution with a bungie cord, but zipties would have been better. A friend suggested GripLockTies because they are reusable.

  17. Avatar David S

    I like reading your posts since I got into DK too (my first)…I’m down in south Florida.

    I’ve been using my road shoes and speed play pedals since it’s tame here… the issue I have is I love my road shoes, they are the Rapha classic lace ups, wide toe box, 0 hot spots, high arch insert…Rapha is expensive, I got them on sale, I never thought I’d buy anything from that brand but I’m probably going to also get the all road shoe now too. I also use Bont since they also have a wide toe box, but I did get hot spots on longer rides…I never thought I’d like lace up shoes, was worried I’d want to adjust tension on the fly, I can say I put them on and never think about them again during a ride…

    I use the orange mud pack, I find it to sit higher up than the camel back on me and I have a little more storage options where I carry orange mud soft flasks, iPhone, sis iso gels, slim wallet, knife, light, neck buff ( I’ll use this at the start of a race to avoid breathing in all the dust)…also nice to have to soak in cold water for the neck…I use 2 bottles on the bike…

    I use a roadrunner handlebar bag…I carry in it, 1 tube, 1co2 & adaptor, pump, plugs with tool, Zip ties, tire leaver, slim battery pack for the wahoo or iPhone if needed, super lightweight jacket…and thanks to Scott above now I’ll add kt tape in case my neck gets jacked…as well as wrap my co2 with duct tape :)…I’m also going to put my plugs in my back pockets now for easy access…But I love the handler bar bag vs the frame or saddle bag…

    I’m still struggling with saddle choice too…I’m using the brooks cambium c17, but will more than likely try the new wtb saddles since they have so many options now…the brooks is good but I feel it’s not “perfect”…wtb has a saddle finder method they use…

    I was considering swapping out to a 1x and almost have a 1 to 1 ratio to survive the DK rolling hills for spinning up them…I currently have 11×34…32/48

    I’m so curious about the stem you have , I’ve been thinking of swapping mine out for the redshift, I also thought about their new seat post too…do you love your stem?

    Clothing I use bibs, I had my wife sew on 2 pockets on the back, I pulled off 2 pockets from an old jersey (home made cargo) I will use a jersey usually mesh, but I love using my mesh T-shirt More it’s the airism from Uniqlo…the bibs and jersey are mumu apparel.

    Still experimenting with nutrition currently I’m using sis products, beta fuel, iso gels mostly and real food with 2 options so far banana, and Hawaiian roll with cream cheese and jelly…the sis tabs that you drop into water make me nauseous though…I have a sensitive gut…

    • Avatar Caroline

      Thanks for sharing your equipment. This is so helpful. As JOM said, I have the Redshift stem. It’s heavy compared to most stems, but I was getting a lot of soreness from vibration when I first got the bike. I don’t anymore, but I’m not sure if that’s the stem or I’ve gotten better at riding. I can feel it move which is annoying when climbing, but I don’t notice it at any other time. I rode 100 miles yesterday over some super bumpy roads and don’t have any soreness in my neck and wrists, so I consider that a positive.

      Pactimo makes a set of bibs that have pockets. They are meant to be worn under shorts because they are practically see through, but they are super comfy when it’s really hot with a tank or just a sports bra (probably not what you’d want to wear though – haha).

      Sensitive gut is a pain. I’m fine as long as I don’t go too hard. Normally, I do regular food to start and switch to gels, then to liquid fuel, but I’ve been practicing reversing that on gravel. At the start of a ride/race with lots of other riders around, it’s just easier to take in gels.

  18. Avatar RCK

    I have the WTB Rocket saddles and love them, they work well for me. They come in Ti rails, too, if you want to save weight.

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