Bikepacking Rant Pt. 2

Unlike most times I have written a “part 2” to anything, I resisted the urge to name it “Electric Boogaloo” or something else closely resembling the subtitle to the sequel to the classic movie “Breakin.”  Breakin was an inspirational movie for me, watching it at a young age on HBO, I decided I wanted to be a DJ.  That dream was never realized, and with that I give you part two of my disjointed rant on the Closely-Related-To-Walking sport of Bikepacking.

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I couldn’t resist. Obviously. I tried. 

So when we left off last, I was getting ready to kick off on a Dirt Bagging expedition which turned into a Tandem Bagging run to test out our collective camping gear at the Whistlin Donkey camp grounds in Woodward, IA.  There was no dirt, but there WAS an actual donkey (although, when pressed to produce a whistle it failed miserably), some really drunk people, and a live band who’s singer was hung up on his gout affliction. It was quite an adventure, in its own special sort of way.  Consider this past paragraph my ride report on that. Oh, and if it’s going to get down to 45 degrees, make sure you bring enough sleeping bags for everyone, or remember your emergency bivy. Lesson learned. Check the weather, dummy hahaha.

Dirt Bagging is the new Bikepacking.  You can spend a lifetime making up names for the same exact thing, but once Bob uttered the term Dirt Bagging, Bikepacking was officially OVER. No more naming, no more pretending that it’s a thing. I mean, we will still talk about it like it’s still alive, but in reality it is over.  We are cyclists, not walkers/back packers. Already covered, right.

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Read it and weep, corporate adventure sellers.

Honestly, I don’t know where this is going.  You probably don’t either. It’s late, this post is over. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Sam

CNB

Gents Race 7: A Most Epic Drop Out

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The Moots and the Bird

As most of you whom have had the experience of reading this blog know, I like to make a grand exit when dropping out of gravel races.  I’ve thrown my bike into a field then chugged Jim Beam (CIRREM 5), shotgunned a PBR pounder and grifted a sag from the checkpoint personnel (CIRREM 9), I’ve found the only bar in North English, IA, drank many PBR’s and Wild Turkeys,  then ended up at a Pizza Ranch after buffet hours and convinced them to make me my own buffet at my table (TIV10), taken a tailwind back into Grinnell to a Cafe for breakfast where I convinced them to let me stand next to their cooking equipment because I couln’t get my body temperature up, then ended up in the middle of a college dance party at the Rabbit at 8am, then day drank with the locals until my ride home showed up (TIV8), and so on and so forth.  My point is, when I ditch an adventure race/ride, I like to make it a completely different adventure.  Gent’s 7 was no departure from my modus operandi, but there was a twist. We will get to that a little later.

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Mark’s Steed, a total classic.

Let’s get back to the start, though. The Bike Iowa Gent’s Race is a 60-some mile gravel race held north of the Des Moines metro starting/ending at the Nighthawk Bar & Grill in Slater, IA. You assemble a team of 5 folks, you’re assigned a start time based on some secret algorithm developed by Kyle and Bruce, main organizers of this madness, and you line up and enjoy some mostly flat rock roads.  The staggered start has the fast teams going off the start later in the morning, and the slower teams at the beginning so that everyone can get to the finish around the same time. It’s pretty cool, IMO. The course is deceptively easy, as in you look at the elevation and say “easy peasy.” This is not true.  My team, the Careless Whispers, have done this race every year, and between the unforgiving wind from which you have no escape (last year we had 25+ mph sustained winds), and the sudden appearance of tens of miles of fresh chunky rocks, it’s always been a challenge. Some years almost comically challenging.

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K-Corn had a Top 5 beard.

This year as we gathered the Whispers, sans D-Corn and plus K-Corn, everyone was feeling pretty good about things. Mark, Steve, Bob, Kathy, Kathy’s amazing yarn beard, and myself took off at 9:04 with smiles and hope.  There was zero wind. In April. In Iowa. What a rare treat!  The first gravel was in impeccable condition, packed and fast, and we were off to a great start.  We were cruising along at a good clip, enjoying the scene, everyone was joking around and smiling. Except for me.  From the first few pedal strokes I just didn’t feel right, and within the first 5 miles I started experiencing the same shortness of breath and erratic heart beat that plagued my CIRREM attempt this year.  I’ve been on the road to recovery from a few years of bad habits taking their toll, and even after 5 weeks and almost 30 lbs of weight gone I just could not get it together. I sucked wind for a while, staying silent as I didn’t want the others to hear how bad off I was. I felt like a weight was on my chest, which was incorrect. It was my still-existing gut mass that was pressing up into my diaphragm that was causing some of the breathing problems. Super fucking cool.

As we neared the ten-mile mark, it became apparent that I was done.  Mark had spent some time hanging back with me, and had started discussing guitar gear.  It was a great device to help work through the pain I was in. If there is one thing that will take my mind off of just about anything, it’s discussing guitars. Lungs, Heart, Legs, all were gone, though, and I felt that it was time to stop before I hurt myself. It was embarrassing to say the least.  Ten miles. No wind. Fast roads. I had finally resigned to the fact that my day was over.  I crept back up to Mark, quietly stating “Mark, I’m done.” Now, my team mates are all great folks. I’m honored to be able to ride with them every year, and this is usually the only time we are actually able to get together in the same place at the same time. Mark lobs back calmly, “Ok, Sam. It was great to see you and ride with you for a little bit today.” I accepted his acknowledgment then started formulating a plan for extraction.  We were close enough to Slater at that point that I could just soft pedal it in then call for a ride, but I needed to find the right place to do so.  We rode for a bit longer.

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The King Of Drop Bags

The Whispers kept on whispering, I tagged along still plotting my exit. The miles kept ticking away, and as I swiped my Garmin screen to see how far we had gone.  nearly 20 miles had passed.  I had caught up to the group at that point,  then told them that I had quit like ten miles ago. I was doing a really bad job of dropping out. At this point, it made more sense just to ride the next ten to the checkpoint at Snus Hill Winery and have a few beers with the team before hanging a right and riding the mile back to the start.  We ended up being the last team out of the half way point, but when you have as sweet of a drop bag as the Whispers, you stay until you have only enough leftovers that you can pack on the bike.

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Half Way Checkpoint Time! Still quitting!


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Remnants of our “Drop Bag”

Our three beer stop was over, we packed it in and headed back out on the dusty trail.  I was planning on hitting that right turn and booking back to the Nighthawk.  I was still cooked. So I turned left with the rest of the team. Bob says “Come on, it’s just three tens!” so we embarked on that first of three.  At this point everybody had loosened up, and the train was rolling.  Bob was setting the pace, the FullerKeg was rolling strong, and Mark was crushing it as well.  I settled in behind the tandem and ticked off miles staring at that rear Nano, eating a shit ton of rocks along the way.  Our pace had picked up, and my legs finally found a cadence that worked. Fucking incredible. Mile 38 came, and we stopped for a little whiskey and whatnot.  I was at drop out mile 32, and still dropping out.  I don’t think I have ever dropped out for so long in my life. It was incredible.

We stopped again at mile 48 to finish what was left of our liquid lunch.  I got a text. The Stoker was at the Nighthawk and was ready for me when I got back.  I didn’t expect her so early!  We finished up and set to burning through those last 13 miles.  The dropping out got exciting. We were moving at a great pace, my body was cooperating, although a few times I had to call time out and back er down a notch to get re-situated.

“Hey, Mark, does my rear tire look ok?”

We were just a few miles from finishing, and my rear end was a little more wiggly than it normally feels.  Hissssssss. Shit. Fuck. Flatting at the end of a race is so disheartening.  After all these miles of quitting, there was finally a mechanical. THIS BIKE IS NOT SUPPOSED TO FAIL.  Alas, the team assembled to disassemble and reassemble my rear tire situation. Thanks, Steve, for doing all the pumping. You are a hero.  Also thank you, Mark, for being the best human bike stand in the history of humans and bike stands coexisting. The Warbird was back up and running in a few short minutes, and the Whispers were once again screaming towards a solid near-DFL finish. Hell yes. A few more miles passed and BOOM!!!!!!! My rear tire blew out at mile 59. We all searched for another tube, but it seems that the sidewall had blown away from the kevlar bead. FUCK.

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Steve standing by as Mark discovers the root of the problem. Shredded Tire. The High Trestle Trail is about 50 yards up in the distance.

I had almost finished dropping out of the race, and here I was with a major mechanical within sight of the finish line. The silos stood off in the distance mocking us as the team formulated a plan of attack. The Fullers rode back and were going to drive their truck to pick me up.  They ended up sending Meg (thank you one million, Meg!!!!) to  the rescue.  We had some visitors come by and Fireball was distributed, thank you Jess and Michelle, we waited a bit longer, and finally it was time for yours truly to be done with the quitting.

The Stoker and Mini Stoker were waiting for me patiently, my hour estimate for return was about an hour past. I said my goodbyes, packed it up, and headed back to the DSM for some dinner and rest.

It was a great day for epic quitting, but not the best for stopping.  Thank you to all that put on the race, the volunteers, the Nighthawk (a regular summer stop for me), Meg for the rescue, The Stoker for the ride home, and Mark, Steve, Kathy, and Bob for being the best team mates (and substitute team mate) I could imagine having.  It was an honor to spend the day with the Whispers, I can’t wait until next year.

Sam, CNB

Stoker Stoke II: The Stokening

After writing about the mothballed Co-Motion Cycles Java tandem the other day, the thought of it just sitting there waiting for a good cleaning, tune up, and parts swap out was burning a hole in the pocket of my mind.  I decided to eschew my planned dealings of the day and delve into putting this beauty back on the road.

The Obligatory Before Picture shows that we are missing a stoker seat (the captain saddle was also poached for my road bike, this Selle Anatomica was put on a few days before the picture was taken), the bike is dirty, the  bar tape on the captain’s bars has started unraveling from the bottom (?) of the bars, there are also some Crank Brothers Mallet pedals on the stoke spot that were meant to replace the Mallets on the touring bike, as I had broken one of the retaining springs on the pedal but HEY IF YOU FLIP IT OVER, IT RIDES JUST FINE. Lazy ass.  There is an unnecessary stem extension that needs to be removed, it was installed while I was searching for some hand numbness solutions.  During the test ride it felt like the bars were in my beard. Too High. A problem I know all too well.

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Co-Motion Cycles Java Adventure Tandem: a beauty, even in such a sad state of repair. 

The Nano 2.1 Tires are a little overkill for the planned pavement trial runs (stoker isn’t very experienced in off-road or gravel cycling, we are going to keep on the hard surfaces until we get more comfortable, also the tires are practically brand new, I would hate to wear them down on pavement), so they need to be swapped for high volume road tires.  The front shifting is a little wonky, I remember it was prior to being put in storage. The front Surly Nice Rack is total overkill, so that’s going to probably go away until we decide to do some actual touring/camping. My camping setup is small enough to fit in a Revelate Viscacha, I have joked about just bungee cording that to the top of the rear rack, eliminating the need for front panniers for S240 trips (which will most likely be the extent of our adventures for now).

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JAVA on the road, looking healthier for sure. 

The Necessary After Picture looks a little cleaner, and the bike is rideable now.  The Stoker position has been adjusted, the Terry Butterfly saddle and Crank Brothers Stomp flat pedals have been installed, Schwalbe Big Apple tires have been installed, bar wrap has been redone, tune up has been performed, and I did a good wipe down. The stem extension still needs to be removed, and the front rack either leveled or removed.  I will  be digging through my water bottle cage collection, and the Edelux dyno light/USB charger needs to be moved back over from the Cargo Bike.  BUT SHE RIDES!  It’s so great to have this thing back on the road.  Here’s to hoping that the Stoker enjoys stoking, and we can get stoked on some tandem adventures in the future.  Up next: The Test Ride Report, coming to you after the snow melts and we can get this baby on the road.

Sam, CNB