It’s hours of monumental effort punctuated by brief interactions to resupply. It’s a test of perseverance. When everything goes right, it’s still painfully difficult. It’s 200+ miles of gravel and prairie.
It’s Dirty Kanza.
I’ve never flatted at Dirty Kanza. Five years consecutive, +1,000 miles, millions of rocks, not a single flat. Just uttering these words guarantees me a sealant slinging good time in 2018. This 5 year run can be attributed several things, a quality tire/wheel combo, picking conservative lines, and dumb luck.
They all play a role.
I minimize dumb luck by using quality components and regular maintenance. For my 2017 Dirty Kanza effort I was given an opportunity to ride Lauf Forks new gravel/adventure oriented fork, the “Grit”. The program included 12 participants whom agreed to train and compete with the Grit, then provide feedback on their experiences. We’re known as the “Lauf Forks Dirty Dozen”.
That’s not something you hear often. With origins dating to medieval times, and still relevant today, the leaf spring is the “unsprung hero” (sorry, couldn’t help it) of suspension technology. A leaf spring graced the first Model T that rolled off Henry’s line in 1908, and you’ll find one on the 2017 Corvette. There’s something to be said for staying power, and that staying power is due to one specific attribute.
They simply work.
The Lauf Grit combines carbon fiber, fiberglass, and engineering magic to provide 30mm of suspension travel. For the gravity gnar crowd, 30mm will likely sound appalling. For the #gravelroadies of the world, it’s SPOT ON!
Late December, 2016 I took delivery of my Salsa Carbon Warbird equipped with Lauf’s “Grit” fork. This fork, combined with a high volume low pressure tire/wheel combination (Stans Crest MK3 with Terravail Cannonball 700x38c 120TPI) running tubeless at 30psi front and 32psi rear, has produced a level of plush control that I would have previously thought unattainable.
I trained in sub-freezing temps, heat, rain, and mud. The Grit consistently performed. You know a component is doing its job well when you quit thinking about it. It takes a ride on my rigid gravel bike to make me fully appreciate what’s going on at the center of my front wheel.
The Lauf Grit, combined with decent fitness and ideal racing conditions, yielded my best finish to-date.
My 2017 KD200 Stats:
I spend far too many of my days in a building with mechanical engineers. This exposure, combined with 50+ years of life experiences, has taught me to view any given design objectively. The Lauf fork design has always intrigued me. A complete departure from the norm.
In November of 2016 I was given an opportunity to experience Lauf’s new Grit fork. Jim Cummins, Executive Director of Dirty Kanza Promotions contacted me with promotional campaign offer. The purpose of this campaign would be to drive excitement for the Lauf Fork Grit and the Dirty Kanza event. I would receive a free Lauf Grit Fork, and in return I would agree to join a group of likewise indoctrinated riders known as the “Lauf Dirty Dozen at Dirty Kanza”. This commitment included my participation in the 2017 Dirty Kanza 200, as well as social media sharing of my experiences with the Grit.
In less time than it took the 2017 Dirty Kanza registration to sell out, I agreed. How could I turn down this opportunity!
The Grit is a trick piece of cycling hardware, and for the cycling nerds out there (my people), here’s the technical deets.
At the time the Dirty Dozen opportunity arose, I was in the market for a new gravel bike. I purchased a Salsa Carbon Warbird from Gravel City Adventure & Supply Company and had the Grit installed at the time of purchase. For context, here’s an overview of my Warbird:
I’ve spent the last 5 years and 16k miles riding gravel on a carbon CX bike. The bike has served me well, but definitely not the optimal tool in the sketchy gravel descents that are the norm in my preferred riding surface. I’ve historically been a conservative descender, but my first sketchy descent with the Grit equipped Warbird left me grinning ear to ear. At times I train on gravel with my mountain bike. The Grit gave me that same feeling of confidence during descents, a plush ride afforded by a suspension fork and a high volume / low pressure tire setup. In my initial experience, any weight penalty is more than offset by the confidence inspiring performance through the rough stuff. There is minor suspension “bob” during aggressive sprinting on hardpack surfaces. To date, this characteristic is of little concern to my riding style.
This weekend (March 11th), I’m joining my fellow “Lauf Forks Dirty Dozen” teammate, Jim Phillips, on a journey to Stillwater OK for the Landrun 100. We’ll join our fellow Team Kuat Racks members and the gravel cycling community at large in the amazing red clay mud marathon. It will be a challenge, and I love a good challenge.