The Grand Slam Challenge

Hello everyone! It has been a while since I posted anything here and I’m going to blame it on the insanity of my life. Between cycling, sewing, cycling, my day job, cycling, and an occasional meal, I rarely have time to sit down. I feel like it is time to catch you up on my new challenge.

This past June I competed in the Tour Divide – 2800 miles of incredible gravel and pain which took me from Banff Canada to the very edge of Mexico. This race pushed me way beyond what I thought were my limits and into a new world of limits yet to be found. After coming back to the Midwest and continuing to compete in 100-200 mile gravel events I find I am in desperate need of another significant challenge. To that end – I am throwing down this gauntlet for all of the serious gravel grinders out there looking for a challenge. So – here it is –

The Grand Slam Gravel Challenge!

Timeframe – Jan 1, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2017

The Challenge – Participate and complete 4 organized events on gravel or other non-paved surface. Compiling with the rules of the race you must complete a 100-mile race, a 200-mile race, a 300-mile race, and a 400-mile race. You can choose the races and complete them in any order. Any distance over the designated distance qualifies.  It must be a non-paved organized event.

The Reward – Other than extreme bragging rights you get a really cool custom made cycling cap by Podium wear, a great MN based company with the Grand Slam Gravel logo. The Cost – $32 shipped anywhere in the USA via PayPal to along with your address so I know where to send the cap once you complete the 4 events.

Now I know some of you are thinking – do the math David, – that’s a 1000 miles – a cool grand – more than I ride in a season. To that I can only say – it isn’t supposed to be easy – it is designed to help you push yourself to the limits and then drive you past them, and keep pushing. The proper place to observe your limits is in the rear-view mirror just after you blow past them.

Sign up for the challenge today and start planning those events. I have several 100+ mile events already on next year’s calendar. My third trip to DK will fit nicely for the 200-mile challenge. I was just accepted into the Trans-Iowa race – if I can finish that would work well for the 300+ race. Once you complete an event email me about it!  It can be just a few sentences or a blog.  I’ll record it and maybe share it so everyone can read about how badass you are. If you have races planned that qualify let me know and I’ll pass them on to help inspire others. Any and all questions can be sent to Happy riding!!

Photo from Tour Divide 2016

The Grand Slam Challenge

Free to Breathe

Hello my name is David Markman and firstly I want to thank all of you who take the time to read my blogs.  My goal of sharing my experiences from the seat of my bike are nothing more than to build knowledge and excitement about the rides I participate in.  This year I plan to participate in more than a dozen century rides.  I hope you enjoy reading about these journeys.  As you may already be aware, I am now in the final planning stages for the Tour Divide.  This race will be unlike any race I have participated in for a couple reasons.  First, and most obvious, is just the length (2745 miles from Banff, Alberta, Canada to the Mexican border), the conditions (snow in the mountains and scorching heat in the desert), and the incredible amount of preparation and training I have been doing.  Secondly, and much more personal to me, I have decided to use this race to try to draw attention and perhaps support to a very important and personal cause – lung cancer.

This one fact about lung cancer tells most of the story very clearly.  Lung cancer kills more people each year than breast, colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer combined yet it receives less than 6% of the federal cancer funding.  Finding a way to identify lung cancer early before any symptoms are noticeable, is the best way to improve the less than 5% 1 year survival rate.

I know what you are thinking already – people who smoke know they are poisoning their bodies and lung cancer is just the consequence of that behavior.  Although I don’t disagree with that assessment, I also need to share with you the 10-20% of all lung cancer victims never smoked, never worked in a coal mine and never worked in an asbestos factory.  They were diagnosed with lung cancer for no apparent reason – but we know there is a reason – we just don’t know what it is . . . yet.

This is an issue I am extremely passionate about as it hits too close to home.  Non-smoking related lung cancer has already claimed the very young lives of my grandmother and my aunt.  Without progress in early detection and treatments, I too am likely in line for that fight along with family members given its possibility of caring a genetic component.  While I am still young and healthy – I want to join in funding this very important research.

Why I’m I sharing this with you?  This year I became an endurance athlete with Free to Breathe  an organization whose sole purpose is to double the survival rate of lung cancer patients by the year 2022.  I would like to invite you to help this cause and ride along with me by watching my progress on the Continental Divide race live on-line through SPOT Tracker.  I have never attempted a race of this magnitude and, I admit it is a little scary, but unlike non-smoking lung cancer, it is voluntary.

If you like the idea or want to discuss it more, please contact me.

Click the link below to find out more about free to breathe or donate to the cause.

Once again I thank you for taking the time to read this.

Free to Breathe

Tour Divide Gear List

Tour divide Gear list

I recently did a Bikepacking clinic at Angry Catfish bicycle shop and coffee bar in Minneapolis, MN. I spent the time talking about exactly what gear I will be taking with me on my 2016 Tour Divide attempt.  Below is the full list broken down into the bags that will hold them.


Seat bag

Sleep system

Nemo Siren 30 Quilt

Black Diamond Twilight Bivy

Therma-rest Pro lite sleeping pad

Big Agnes down jacket

Light weight hat

Lower frame bag pocket

Patagonia R7rain jacket

Patagonia R7 rain pants

Wind Podium wear vest

Giro Long finger gloves

Louis Garneau Arm warmers

Louis Garneau Knee warmers

Swiftwick Tall socks

Swiftwick Short socks

Upper frame bag pocket

2 Schwalbe EVO tubes

Power cables for helmet light, phone, gps

Exposure Diablo MK7 Helmet light 1300 lumens

Repair kit

Extra brake and derailleur cables

Pedros Tire levers

Sewing kit


Tire boot

Para cord

Mini pliers

Baby wipes- to stay fresh and clean at night

Park Tool gear brush

Non drive side of frame bag

Park tool hand pump

Tour divide maps

First aid kit

Front top tube bag


Rear top tube bag

Tooth brush

Tooth paste

Spare TP

Petzl spare head light

Eye drops

Chap Stick

Sun screen

Chamois butter

Lezyne carbon Multi tool

Bike lock a small snowboard cable lock

Feed bags

One for more food and one for trash


1 20oz bottle

1 24 oz bottle

100 oz MSR Drome

The bike

2015 Salsa Fargo steel

Whisky carbon fork

Enve M60 carbon wheels

Front SP dyno hub

Rear Hope Pro 4 hub

Super nova E3 triple dyno lights X2=1600 lumens

Vittoria Mezcals G+ tires 29X2.25 set up tubeless

Enve seat post

Salsa wood chipper bars (extended 2 inches)

Profile designs aero bars

Sram groupo 2X10

TRP HY/RD brakes

Specialized power saddle 168

Garmin ETREX 30X GPS

Riding gear

Podium wear jersey

Podium wear bibs

Craft cool max under shirt

Honey Stingers buff

Podium wear cycling cap

Lazer sun glasses

Whistle for bear protection

Bell helmet with light mount

I would also like to take this opportunity to introduce this

Feel free to visit the link above to find out more about this cause, I will have a lot more info on this in the up coming days.

Tour Divide Gear List

2016 LandRun 100


Welcome back friends – let the 2016 summer racing season begin.  A very mild Minnesota winter didn’t offer too many great fat tire rides so much of the winter was spend on the trainer.  I am very anxious to get outside and ride.  I have a dozen or so 100 mile plus events on my schedule this summer along with the Continental Divide and with some luck – I will document all of the details in this blog.  Some of the races I will be riding this year are races I’ve ridden in the past and some are completely new for me.  I am looking forward to a summer filled with incredible stories all told from the seat of my bike.

LandRun 100 2016 – Stillwater Oklahoma.

I came into this race with some experience riding the beautiful red clay roads of Oklahoma although this is the first year I have competed in the LandRun 100.  A quick review on the internet of previous year’s races and photos along with some long conversations with the race organizer Bobby from District Bicycles gave me a really good indication this was as much about conquering the wet mud/clay/slime as it was about riding 100 miles.  This 100 mile race starts in Stillwater and winds through a small town or two on the beautiful red dirt roads – I think of it as Oklahoma’s version of rolling out a red carpet for the 800+ riders that signed up for this race. Land Run 100 2016


Watch the weather – rain certainly means a mud bath – yep – plenty of rain – no doubt significant amounts of that red clay would be going home with me coating my bike and cloths.

My wet muddy plan was developed through several past races of muddy conditions – notably the Dirty Kanza last year.  Get out fast, even faster than you think you should, beat everyone to the muddy sections with the hope – not promise – that the first riders through the mud can actually ride rather than walk.  Once the first dozen or two riders cross a wet spot on the trail and the bike wheels have had a chance to cut fresh tracks in the mud – everyone else will be walking that section.  I also knew that even if this strategy was successful there would still be sections that that were impassable by bike.  This would be a good time to eat food and replenish my energy as I walked along.  With any luck – these two strategies would get me some time and distance from the pack.

The half-way point of this race was Perry Oklahoma and riders were allowed to meet a support crew or pick up a drop bag.  Since I was my only support crew on this race I opted for a drop bag.  My drop bag had extra water bottles and some energy food.  I also knew at this point the worst of the mud would be behind me and the last 50 miles would be hard packed and potentially very fast.

The Morning started off well.  The 6 Arby’s roast beef sandwiches which I bought for race day on my drive to Oklahoma – 3 for the bike and 3 for the drop bag had been consumed the night before on the long drive down– a new plan was needed.

I woke up early at 6 AM loaded my bike for the day.  The Salsa carbon Warbird was traveling light – two water bottles, two Must Stache garbage bags on the bars, and a very small tool kit tucked under the seat.  I chose Specialized Trigger Pro 700×38 tires for the anticipated mud – I rode these tires previously on the red dirt roads in Oklahoma and Kansas and I was very happy with their performance.  Breakfast Burritos were the breakfast of choice – 1 now and one to put in my drop bag.  There is a reason no one has ever called breakfast burritos the breakfast of champions – it went down hard and gave me little confidence the one in the drop bag would be any better but that was the plan.  With 60 minutes before race time, I spun my legs out and as race time approached – I felt really good – ready for anything Bobby and the LandRun team could throw at me.  I confidently took my place directly behind the lead police car next to my good friend Don Buttram and some other very experienced riders.

Stillwater police led us out of town on a neutral start and when we hit the gravel it was game on. It is unbelievable how fast the lead pack took off – with-in moments we were approaching 20+ mph and although I could initially keep pace with this group – I knew this pace was unsustainable for me past 15 miles.  I needed to reassure myself – I had a plan to go out fast – maybe not this fast – I was going to keep with the pack as long as I could.  I was able to ride through the first muddy sections but I knew very soon these sections would be walking sections for those behind me.  This part of the plan was working – even better than I had planned.  Ride when I could ride – walk and eat when I couldn’t keep riding.  I just kept riding.  Around mile 35, I hit the kind of mud that could suck the shoes off your feet and the anticipated hike with a bike section began.  I had not realized it until this point but moments after starting the walk – I realized my nutrition plan was severely lacking.  The fuel bank was overdrawn.  I had spent the past hours pulling energy out of my body and had not put any calories back in.  With 15 miles or more left before I hit the Perry checkpoint, I seriously needed the nutrition I knew was waiting for me in my drop bag.  I knew I had really messed up on one of the most important parts of distance riding – constant replenishment of energy.  I consumed everything edible on my bike which wasn’t much.  This was going to be a long tough 15 miles to the checkpoint. Land run 241 8

As if someone knew I needed help, I rolled into the Perry checkpoint to the familiar smiling face of Crystal Wintle.  (The Crystal part of Bobby and Crystal Wintle– owners of District Cycles) Her endless energy and enthusiastic encouragement really boosted my spirits.  Another volunteer was standing next to her with my drop bag in her hand.  This checkpoint was very well organized and running like a finely tuned machine – special thanks to all the volunteers at this checkpoint – you did a fantastic job!  I am of the opinion that rest stops or checkpoints are a necessary evil of endurance riding.  They certainly can play a critical role but my approach is to get in, get what you need, and get out as fast as possible.  The longer you spend off the bike – the harder it is to get back on.  A quick look in the drop bag and I knew still had a nutrition problem.  The burrito I added at breakfast – Pass! The hard boiled eggs that sounded so good in planning stage – Pass!  Coke – throw it on the bike for later.  RedBull – pound it down – leave the can.  Some Gu’s from Honey Stingers and a few nutritional bars – throw them on the bike.  Refresh the water and get out of there.  I am not advocating Gu’s, nutritional bars, Coke and Red Bull actually constitute a nutritional plan – they don’t.  I had lost a lot of time dragging my body into this checkpoint and feeling a lot better, I wanted to get back on the road and make up some of the time I has lost.

The stretch from Perry back to Stillwater was amazing gravel and although I hit periodic headwinds and the steep punchy climbs that seem endless I felt like I was making good time.  Not wanting to repeat the nutritional crash again, I spent the next 40 miles consuming every calorie on my bike along with a healthy amount of Oklahoma mud.  At some point around mile 80, Tim and Christie Mohn pulled up next to me riding their tandem.  It is amazing to me how much new energy you get with just a few simple words of encouragement from a friend.  Although I was getting tired and obviously not making as good of time as I thought since they caught me, I took this opportunity to fall in behind them and ride their draft as long as I could keep their pace – which ended up being less than 5 miles.

Not long after this, I found myself on a familiar section of road and again my body found a new source of energy.  I knew the road, I knew the finish was not far away, and I pushed hard to finish this race strong.  I was greeted at the finish by a cheering crowd and my good friend and race director Bobby Wintle.  With 30 seconds to catch my breath, I gave Bobby a big hug and smiled for the camera.  I was covered head to toe in red mud but stayed at the finish line cheering the other finishers until the last rider crossed the line.

The Conclusion:

Every race I ride I learn new things about myself and my bike.  During the 12 hour drive home I had plenty of time to recount the events of the race.  My nutritional plan for this race was poor at best and it was only with the encouragement of some friends along the way that I was able to finish as well as I did.  Once my body has used up all available energy my mind becomes my worst enemy.  I had started the day wanting to be in the top 10% of the riders – I finished 76th out of over 800 registered riders – I was good with that.  My bike worked flawlessly thanks to Salsa Cycles and SRAM.  I had no mechanical issues despite the deep thick mud that seemed to be more than an inch thick just about everywhere.   I was good with my tire selection – the Specialized Trigger Pros have become my go to tire when mud is part of the ride and I was again happy with their performance.  A well-organized race and great volunteers really make the day go smoothly – District Cycle did a spectacular job.  It is not possible to thank them and all the volunteers enough for their efforts.  District Cycles put on a great race and I’m glad I made the long drive to partake in the event.  I think a 200 mile option would be what I needed to entice me back next year – ponder that one for me Bobby.  Despite my best efforts to wash the Oklahoma dirt out of my mouth with the specialty brewed beer for this event – I still get an unexpected crunch every so often.  Could it be I just need more practice drinking beer?  I can think of worse things I guess!Land run 241 2.PNG

2016 LandRun 100

99 tips and tricks for bikepacking

Here are 99 best practices to keep in mind when prepping for a bike packing trip.

  1. Reynolds Turkey-cooking “Oven Bags” are lighter than trash bags and more durable than regular zip-locks.They make perfect bag liners for waterproofing clothing.
  2. Baby wipes are excellent for Bikepacking, and for every other day out of the year.Toilet paper is barbaric by comparison.
  3. Spare spokes (I don’t carry them, but some do) can be taped to the inside of a chain stay or inside your seat post. Make sure you mark your spoke length or mark what side and wheel they belong on.
  4. Laminate a photocopy of your passport, driver’s license, and social security card and slip it into your bike’s seat tube, or better yet, top tube.It can be used to identify your bike in case a thief steals it and files off the serial number. It can also get you out of an international jam if you lose your passport.
  5. If you’re Bikepacking in an area with nearby bike shops, your emergency tube can be several sizes smaller than your tire size.It’ll inflate to make up the difference and, while it won’t last forever, it will last for a while until you can get a larger tube or re-seat a tubeless tire.
  6. A small pair of locking pliers like the Leatherman Crunch can replace all of your individual crescent wrenches.Since they lock to the bolt-head, the size can vary and you can still put down as much torque as you would with a regular wrench (grip strength alone is not enough most of the time, so normal pliers won’t work).
  7. Coat your tubes in baby powder (corn starch) before installing them to reduce the chance of a pinch flat.
  8. Cut down any excess straps and melt the ends with a lighter to prevent fraying to save a small amount of weight.Not much, but if you do this to ten straps you’re looking at more ounces than a titanium pot.
  9. If you’re out at night and you’re worried about encountering an animal, just sing while you set up camp.This tip doesn’t work if you’re Snow White.
  10. A 32mm or smaller cyclocross race tire with a folding bead, high TPI and thin, supple sidewalls will roll up to the size of an apple.Makes a much more efficient spare tire in areas that warrant a spare tire than having a big fat Marathon. You can strap two rolled tires, stacked, in a Salsa Anything Cage. Just replace with a burly tire at the next bike shop.
  11. If a bolt keeps vibrating out, loop a piece of string around the thread right where it meets the bolt-head and soak it in superglue. 
  12. A few zip ties can replace pannier or frame bag mounting hardware for at least 600 miles without fail, in my experience. They’re one of the most versatile pieces of repair kit in existence.
  13. Dryer lint mixed with petroleum jelly is an amazing fire starter. When was the last time you cleaned out the lint trap, anyways?
  14. Take a piece of dry birch bark and strip it with your fingers into very small strands.You can pack hundreds of small birch bark “hairs” in a film canister for fire starting.
  15. Pare down your first aid kit by thinking about the injuries you’re likely to sustain.I got rid of all insect sting reliever because I can just deal with a bee-sting. I don’t need more than a couple of small bandages because most small cuts and scrapes can just be left alone. Any large cut will need two things; wound closure strips and an ace bandage. Neosporin prevents infection. So, that’s basically my whole kit- just large-wound stuff, Neosporin, and painkillers. Maybe there’s a couple of antihistamines too…
  16. Body Wrappers Rip stop Pants are a fantastic wind and bug pant, weigh 4 ounces, and cost $20.I got a size large and it fits me great, and I’m a 32 waist. Great alternative to carrying regular 13+ ounce long pants in the summer for bugs and unexpectedly cold nights.
  17. A wind shirt makes a great bug shirt, too.Tight nylon weaves make it harder for them to suck your blood.
  18. Merino Wool won’t develop a stink from body odor.The fibers are antibacterial. You can wear a wool t-shirt for day after day. Just rinse it out and let it dry on your body occasionally to get the salt out. I wear wool bike shorts and socks, too.
  19. Sea to Summit dry bags are not waterproof.They’re very rainproof, but I went river rafting and my Ultra-sil bag leaked like a sieve. Don’t count on anything to be completely waterproof. If you really need to protect something, like a computer or camera, use a plastic bag inside your dry bag for redundancy.
  20. Your local hardware store sells 3M ear plugs with a connecting wire that fit into an included carrying case.The whole package is the size of a tub of lip balm. Use them when you’re camping near traffic.
  21. Your canister stove can be used to quickly light a campfire, if you’re careful.Hold a dry stick over the flame instead of using the stove as a blowtorch. An Esbit tab also makes a killer fire starter.
  22. Any bolt can be replaced at a hardware store.Get stainless steel hardware to resist corrosion. Smaller hardware stores tend to have a better bolt selection than most big-box hardware stores.
  23. Place your sleeping pad on top of grass, sand, or pine needles for extra comfort.A foam pad can sit on top of flat Hemlock or Spruce branches for more warmth in winter and spring. Using good campsite selection makes just as much of a difference in comfort as getting a plush 1-inch pad. I carry a tiny X-small 3-4 length pad and nothing else, and spend an extra 5 minutes prepping the place I lay down in the first place.
  24. Fleece is worth its weight. I find a thin fleece half-zip and a pair of fleece mittens totaling less than 8oz together take me straight down into the low 30’s temperature-wise. Fleece is soft and fluffy, and I use it as a pillow every night. No extra pillow needed! Fleece provides plenty of emergency warmth, and keeps working when wet. ZPacks makes uber-light fleece mittens, made in the USA.
  25. Heat a sewing needle with a lighter to kill bacteria before using it to lance a blister.Put a single hole in the blister, then drain it, apply neosporin, and bandage it. Don’t rip the skin off, unless you want an infection.
  26. A curved needle makes sewing a torn sidewall without breaking the tire bead much easier. This will let you keep running tubeless after a tear.
  27. If your Achilles tendons or knees hurt, make sure you do frequent stretches.Go to a local yoga class and politely ask the instructor to show you a few stretches useful for those specific areas, and do them at every rest stop. Prevention is way more effective than kinesio tape, braces, or powering through pain.
  28. Don’t ride desperately for the next food/rest stop.Remind yourself to appreciate the empty stretches for all of their positive qualities.
  29. Stow spare cables in your handlebars.Just pop out the bar ends and thread them in there looped a couple of times. They stay put and are there when I need them.
  30. Ditch the racks. Full frame bags are easier to ride with, have a better capacity/weight ratio, and are safer (no load shifting or rack failure).
  31. A dollar bill works as a boot for a slashed tire. 
  32. Used cork bar tape protects the drive side chain stay for less weight than a heavy neoprene sleeve.
  33. Soft bottles in frame bags can’t fall out on rough terrain, are lighter than bottles, and stay cold longer.They’ll stay cold for almost a full day if wrapped in your sleep shirt. Bring a strip of tent repair tape to fix a punctured bottle (it won’t bunch and leak when folded, like duct tape will).
  34. Pizza has lots of calories, lots of salt, protein, veggies, and it’s inexpensive and widely available.
  35. Peanut butter is high in calories and fits in a bottle cage.
  36. A tennis ball canister fits in a bottle cage, too, and can be used to carry CLIF bars, a wind shirt, spare tubes, trail mix, or anything else you’d like.Keep tools in an empty peanut butter container instead, since the plastic is burlier and won’t crack from a rattling multitool.
  37. Stickers make your bike look junkier and less prone to theft, and protect the frame from scratches and scuffs. 
  38. Use old Velcro scrap to cover any exposed Velcro so it doesn’t tear up your bike shorts over time.
  39. Shimano sells chain pins with an extra installation peg attached so you can use a chain breaker to replace pins if you don’t have a quick link, or if your quick link breaks.After you install the pin, the installation part just snaps off. The pins weigh less than a pea, so bring five.
  40. Ditch your camp shoes.
  41. Ditch your camp chair.
  42. Ditch your clothesline.
  43. Ditch your groundsheet.
  44. Ditch your magnesium fire starter.
  45. Ditch your mini tripod. Stack rocks instead.
  46. Ditch your bowl, cup, mug, pan, and plate.A spork and pot is enough.
  47. Ditch your stuff sacks.
  48. Ditch your spare anything, except tubes. 
  49. Ditch your fear of not having something.You can buy almost anything, almost anywhere. If you can’t, you probably shouldn’t be wanting it. If your trip is an exception to this, you probably don’t need this list.
  50. Have your wheels trued by a good wheel builder before you leave and once in the middle of longer trips, or learn to true them yourself (I still need to).Ditch the spare spokes. A properly tensioned wheel will almost never fail, and if it does, it’ll likely fail beyond a spoke replacement (or something else will have failed, too, like a fork/frame)
  51. 3M Safety Glasses are lighter than sunglasses and protect from kicked up rocks and dust.
  52. T-shirts are lighter than bike jerseys. 
  53. Any numbness in any part of your body should be treated as a warning sign that something needs to change in your seat height, seat setback, handlebar height, or stem length.Numbness can lead to serious problems.
  54. A cut down 1/8″ thick foam pad or a small sheet of Tyvek is multi-use.It protects an air pad or bivy from granite or gravel, provides a sitting area for cooking, lets you fold clothes and sleeping stuff up without getting them dirty, lets you step out of a hammock in socks, and the list goes on and on…
  55. A light-colored, slightly transparent dry-bag will work as a lantern if you shine a bike light into it.
  56. Aerobars provide multiple hand positions beyond normal drop or flat bars with bar-ends.Being able to rest on your arms makes a big difference for efficiency across wide, empty spaces with headwinds, which can be a real confidence-breaker.
  57. Your front tire and back tire wear at different rates.But, switching them halfway through a trip isn’t a good idea because grip in your front tire is much more important than grip in the rear. Instead, get a heavy-duty tire for your rear and a lighter, more supple tire for the front. Both will wear at about the same time, and the lighter, more supple front tire will improve ride quality, improve grip, and decrease weight.
  58. Slide back an inch in your saddle on long climbs to engage slightly different muscles in your legs. 
  59. Stand up every 10 minutes all day long for just a moment to keep circulation flowing through your legs and rear. 
  60. Shake your habits.If your happiness and enjoyment is not dependent on coffee, hot food, sleep, warmth, being dry, being alone, being among others, moving fast, or knowing where you are, you open yourself up to a world of opportunities. “Type 2 fun” is knowing that at the end of a bad experience is a great story, and a stronger you. Embrace the suck!
  61. Wrap a CLIF bar in a tortilla, and add granola and Nutella or peanut butter.Then wrap it up in a bandanna or tin foil. All these ingredients are easy to pack, there’s no prep, it won’t spoil, and the result is easy to eat while riding (and it’s delicious).
  62. Squirt lime juice into bottles, hydration bladders, and soft bottles.Lime juice is antibacterial, so it’ll keep your bottles clean. It will mask the taste of metallic tap water or a dirty bottle. It’s also good for preventing scurvy. A single lime is good for about four days of water, and you can buy limes in liquor stores, gas stations, and supermarkets.
  63. Stay awake and stay alert. An injury will end your ride or race much faster than a power nap. Practice power-napping at home before you leave for your trip.
  64. Add longer zipper pulls to your raincoat, fleece, frame bags, and anything else.You’ll be able to open and close the zippers more easily while riding, or while wearing mittens or gloves.
  65. Learn to brush your teeth while riding to save time.Spray the toothpaste when you spit it, like someone told you something shocking while you were drinking wine. This prevents animals from licking up your toothpaste and getting sick. You also don’t need to rinse; after you spit, you’ll feel normal in just a few seconds. You can also spit on people’s windshields because cars are coffins. Just kidding… do not do that last part.
  66. Learn to sew a basic stitch so you can keep small tears from getting larger over time.Just a few loops of thread can permanently prevent a problem tear in your clothes or bike bags (or tires). Seal tears in your raincoat with a stitch and a little seam-grip.
  67. Pet stores and veterinary offices have lightweight, durable plastic cups with measuring for portioning out dog food.Use it to portion water into your oatmeal, Ramen, and coffee, or for measuring alcohol for a beer can stove. They’re also good for making sure you drink too much whiskey.
  68. If it’s warm, a wool shirt is better in the rain than a raincoat.You’ll heat up and sweat through even the most breathable raincoats in minutes. A wool shirt will wring 90% dry, and you can finish off the last 10% with the next tip.
  69. Wear wet clothes to bed.Your body heat will dry the clothes by moving most of the moisture out through your sleeping bag and onto the last barrier it comes in contact with (usually a bivy, tent, or tarp wall). I don’t know if this works as well with down sleeping bags, but it’s brilliant with synthetic. Andrew Skurka used this trick on his massive Alaska-Yukon expedition.
  70. Black clothing is cooler than white clothing while you’re exercising in the heat because the sun will dry your sweat faster, aiding evaporative cooling.Seriously, Google it!
  71. Wave and smile at cars even if they’re treating you with disrespect.A wave and a smile will dissolve most conflicts before they happen, and generally make cars more amicable to cyclists. If I wave every time I pass a vehicle, that’s thousands of waves per year!
  72. Nail polish works as touch-up paint and protects your steel frame from corrosion. You can always find your frame color, and it lasts forever.
  73. Use a reflective vest and bag details instead of reflective tape on your frame. Then, you can stealth camp better by hiding all your reflective bits in your tent/bivy.
  74. You can get mini-size plastic bags from a craft store.They’re usually used for holding jewelry or drugs, but you can use them for holding fire starters, painkillers, mini duct tape rolls, earbuds, stem-mounted cue cards, or just about anything else that’s small enough.
  75. A packable daypack fits neatly in the base of your handlebar dry bag for unexpected loads like loaves of bread, roadkill, and found objects. 
  76. Gold Bond is amazing as a replacement for messy chamois cream.The foot powder especially is a real treat for a beat-up rear.
  77. Local honey exposes your immune system to local plant allergens, easing allergy symptoms like congestion and sore throat.It’s also a great glucose boost for an active cyclist. Nature’s energy gel.
  78. Take your seat post out and apply a new coat of grease every time it rains, or once a week in the winter.Aluminum and steel can form a chemical weld if left in contact. Once the seat post is in there, you’re looking at hours of effort to get it back out, if you can get it out at all.
  79. Wear cycling gloves even if you don’t need the padding.They make thin padding-free gloves. Every time I’ve crashed, I’ve scraped my hands on the ground, and I was only wearing gloves about half the time.
  80. Eat before you get hungry.
  81. Drink before you get thirsty.
  82. The hardware store sells little nylon washers.Put them between your frame and your racks to keep vibration from rattling bolts loose. Locking nuts also have a nylon ring inside. Also useful for Salsa Anything cages.
  83. The plastic syringe that comes with a Sawyer Squeeze is also useful for irrigating wounds with sand and dirt in them.
  84. You can refill a travel-size toothpaste by squeezing in your home toothpaste through the nozzle.
  85. Lithium batteries weigh less, last longer, and work better with electronics like your GPS and camera.You’ll also put less waste into landfills.
  86. If you really like something, don’t take it Bikepacking.You are going to put holes in your shirts, dents and scratches on your bike, and tears in your bags. Buy used outdoors gear online to save money, and think of everything as ‘consumable.’
  87. Use your phone’s screenshot ability to save maps for offline use, which also saves battery.If you’re lost and out of battery/cell service, orient yourself using a compass or the sun and ride in the general direction of your next major checkpoint. You’ll figure it out.
  88. Eat lots of salty food to replace lost electrolytes, and make sure you have protein at every meal. Maximize fresh food whenever possible.
  89. Learn what to do when you interact with wildlife.Know what black bear predatory behavior looks like. Know how to hang your food. Use your phone to take a picture of the snake that bit you so they know what antivenom to use at the hospital — it might save your life. Once you learn how each animal interaction plays out, you don’t have to worry as much about the slim chance of ending up in a bad situation.
  90. Saddle sores happen to everyone sooner or later.Keep your rear clean with frequent washes and rinsed-out clothing. If you get a saddle sore, you can cut a piece of moleskin into a donut shape and surround the hotspot. Treat with neosporin before you go to bed and once during the day, and it should heal in 24-48 hrs. Don’t ignore it; it can get infected and end your trip.
  91. Use zip-ties on your rack to keep your pannier from sliding on the rail.You don’t have to zip-tie the pannier; just use them as spacers that keep the pannier mount from sliding in either direction.
  92. If you’re stealth camping off the side of the road and you see a car coming, just freeze.Drivers are looking for motion (deer, etc.) and won’t notice you even if you’re ten feet in from the road.
  93. If you’re getting chased by dogs, maintain a steady but slow course and shout “NO” in a booming voice.Almost every owner uses “no” as their standard command. If the dogs get close, spray them with your water bottle. Most dogs will chase you to their property line and then turn around. If you’re being attacked, kick!
  94. Don’t be afraid of people, but never tell anyone where you’re going.Be polite and tell inquirers that you’re passing through town and moving on, even if you’re planning to stay. That said, trust your instincts, especially with other cyclists. The people you meet can lead to awesome adventures.
  95. A Velcro strap between your front tire and your frame will keep your bike from rolling, turning, and falling over.It’ll also slow a would-be thief from carrying off your 45+ lb. Bikepacking rig.
  96. You can remove a BB without a BB wrench. Wrap a spare tube around your outboard bottom bracket cup, then cinch it down with a strap. Insert a lever of some kind into the strap before you tighten down, like a piece of pipe. Even a strong stick might do. You should be able to get enough leverage on to unscrew the BB cup for maintenance without a BB wrench. It’ll take a while to get the leverage just right, but there are very few other options other than carrying the heavy wrench.
  97. You can take a cassette off without a chain whip. Brace your wheel between your legs, put a sturdy piece of wood like a 2×4 on your cassette’s left side, and hit it down with a rock to release the cassette. You’ll still need the little lockring tool, but an auto parts store will have an adjustable wrench to grab the lockring tool so you can loosen it.
  98. Rub your disc rotors or rims down with rubbing alcohol to get rid of brake squeal.For disc brakes, if you unscrew both of the bolts holding the brake to the hanger and then hold the lever down while you re-tighten them, it should align the pads or at least get you close.
  99. Love every second of your trip.Love yourself when you make stupid mistakes. Love your riding companions when they annoy you. Don’t let negativity take over an otherwise great trip, because you won’t regret it until after the trip is over. Make every effort to maintain a constant level of semi-positivity.

Credit to Neil Beltchenko-

99 tips and tricks for bikepacking

Gear List

I’ve had a few people ask me questions about the gear I use while I’m bike packing so I thought I’d list what I normally take on a weekend trip. This gear list was used for a short over night trip at 140 miles.

Seat bag
Nemo solo tent
Big agnes 45 degree down sleeping bag
Thermarest close cell foam sleeping pad (cut shorter)

Handle bar bag
Big Agnes down jacket
Montbell down pants
Rain jacket
Rain pants

Frame bag
Repair kit
– tire levers
– spare cables
– parachute cord
– patches
-tire boots
– tenacious tape
– knife
– spare tubeless valve
– 2 tubes
Long finger gloves
Arm warmers
Knee warmers
Spare socks
Water bottle

Front Top tube bag
– gu’s

Rear top tube bag
Personal items
– tooth brush
– tooth paste
– sun screen
– lip balm
– eye drops
– TP

On me
Cycling cap
Sun glasses

The bike
2015 steel salsa Fargo with whisky carbon fork
SP dyno front hub that powers my usb and main headlight through a switchable system
WTB nano tires tubeless
Air strike aero bars
All bags made by Muststache bike bags
I ran one 24oz bottle on the down tube and an 80oz camel bak
Full weight for this trip 42 LBS

Although this was a short trip it is a typical set up for most trips, for food I used gas stations, convenience stores and cafés along the way. I am happy to answer any questions anyone has.

Gear List

New stickers!

With my new focus these days on Bikepacking I decided I needed a way to spread the word about this role.  My first thought was a business card but that seemed too formal and too difficult to find when you need it.  I asked my brother (graphics/animation major) to design me a logo that is simple and catchy and incorporated what Bikepacking means to me – exploring the world from the seat of my bike.  Here is what he came up with.  After many conversations we finally agreed on this design.

bikepacking sticker

The goal of course is to spread the word about Bikepacking and the resources available to help people try Bikepacking.  I’ll be having stickers made with this logo to pass out whenever I’m presenting seminars on Bikepacking and probably always have a pocket full of them to pass out.  If you would like to help spread the word please let me know and I’ll sent you some.  All I ask is you be respectful with them.  Please do not cover the neighbor’s cat with them or stick them to a public sign.  The purpose is to raise awareness for Bikepacking – not give Bikepacking or Bikepacking advocates a bad reputation.

New stickers!

Challenge Accepted!

Early in the year I signed up for the Cup O’ Dirt challenge.  The Cup O’ Dirt tracks and acknowledges dirt riders through the year as they complete rides or races over 100 miles long (Century Ride) with 80% of the ride on non-paved surfaces.  There is also a Metric Century category for those looking for a shorter distance.  The reward for completing 6 Dirt Centuries in a single calendar year – a stoneware mug emblazoned with the immortal words Cup O’ Dirt.  Races such as the Dirty Kanza would count as 2 rides over 100 miles since it is essentially two, one hundred mile rides back to back.  More details and a chance to sign up for this challenge can be found on

The races that I used to qualify for my first 6 rides this year were:

  • 3/28/2015 – Dirty Kanza training camp day two in Emporia, Kansas – 110 miles
  • 4/25/2015 – Dickie Scramble in Elgin, Minnesota – 80 miles (didn’t count for the 100 mile rides but could have counted for the metric centuries (100 km) – if I were doing those)
  • 5/16/2015 – Almanzo 100 in Spring Valley, Minnesota – 100 miles
  • 5/30/2015 – Dirty Kanza in Emporia, Kansas – 210 miles
  • 8/22/2015 – Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska – 152 miles
  • 9/12 2015 – Inspiration 100 in Alexandria, Minnesota – 105 miles but with a wrong turn 115 miles

Challenges such as this are meant to engage riders and give them goals to strive for.  Challenge accepted and completed!

Part two of this challenge for me is to complete 12 such races.  I am currently planning to ride

  • Jay P’s Backyard Gravel pursuit September 26th 2015 in Island Park, Idaho – 120 miles
  • The 101 Gravel Ride October 10th in Perry, Iowa 101 miles
  • The Filthy 50 October 11th in Stewartville, Minnesota 50 miles
  • The Ten Thousand on October 17th in Stockton, Illinois125 miles with 10,000+ Feet of elevation gain.
  • The Dirt Bag on October 18th in Clearwater, Minnesota 88 miles

The short races are for filler, they allow me to keep the legs spinning and count towards “base” miles.  Also it forces me to make time to ride, with an already packed lifestyle finding time to ride can be a challenge of its own.

If my math is correct – completing these races will not give me my 12 Century rides so – in the spirit of the challenge – I guess I need to find some more rides.  I would love to hear any suggestions of favorite last season gravel rides/races.   I do not think finding the rides will be that difficult – finding the time will be much more challenging.  I guess I just need to ride my bike more – major bummer there!

Congratulations to everyone who has earned this beautiful cup – as soon as mine arrives I shall drink a toast to you!

Special thanks to the organizers of this great challenge!

Challenge Accepted!

Inspiration 100

Inspiration 100

The Inspiration 100 is an annual event on some memorable gravel in Alexandria MN.  It is a free ride hosted by Deek and Chinn and very well organized.  This would be my second time riding this race and I am a much stronger rider than I was a year ago.  I was looking forward to bettering my time on this course.  An unfortunate missed turn last year did not help my time and turned the 105 mile course into a 115 mile course.  If I could just stay on the course I knew I could at least cut off an hour or two of riding.

I live about an hour from this race so the plan was to head out early in the morning and arrive about an hour before race time.  Having got all my gear packed and ready to go the night before meant I could sleep in until 6AM.  There are many things to like about Minnesota but a clear crisp fall morning standing in the darkness looking at the stars is hard to beat.  Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Cassiopeia – yep they are all still in their proper places – time to roll.  The temperature on the dash of the VW Golf said it was a brisk 35 degrees and I was glad I had brought about every kind of clothing I had.

I was feeling really good about this race as I checked in early and then went back to the car to stay warm.  The temperature had risen to a balmy 39 degrees and the forecast said given time – it would approach 68 today.  I consider temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s to be ideal riding conditions and it looked like today would be perfect.  I also consider 0mph to be the perfect wind speed but it didn’t look like I was going to get ideal wind conditions today.  I could hear the wind blowing outside my windows as I looked at a vast array of clothing options for the day.  I consider clothing a very important part of a ride.  In this weather it would be easy to overdress or underdress today.  Arm warmer? Long sleeve jersey? Knee warmers? Leg warmers? Wind vest? After pondering my choices – I decided to stick with the clothes I had on.  My Salsa team kit, knee warmers, arm warmers, my buff as always, gloves, tall wool socks and a Craft undershirt was a safe bet.  It had being tried and true for many other events this year.  Thirty minutes before race time, I jumped out and gave my wind vest one last consideration before closing the door.  Every athlete will correctly tell you to never start a race without warming up the muscles – I took off for a 15 minute warm up ride.

My plan for the day was to ride with the fastest group for as long as I could.  I knew eventually I would not be able to keep their pace but I wanted to enjoy the benefits of group riding as long as I could.  After I watched them pull away, I generally just look for the next rider in front of me, catch them, and move on.  I find setting goals like this is good motivation for me and I felt I could finish this race with an average of 15 mph – a sub 6 hour finish would be great.  At 8AM, we left the start following the pace truck until we hit the gravel.  The gravel was wet from the morning dew and softer than I expected – my mind instantly started to second guess my tire pressure.  At this point I was riding with the lead pack and stopping to adjust the pressure was out of the question.  Stick with the lead group – that was the plan and I was doing well.  Perhaps the first mistake I made in this race was looking down at the Garmin while keeping pace with this lead group – we were cruising at 24mph on gravel – I knew I could not sustain this pace and began to drop back – fearing I would burn myself out before the end of the ride.  I dropped back to the next group and spent the next 50 miles playing slinky with them.  I would take off feeling like the pace was too slow and they would catch up 5 miles later.  I don’t mind riding with others but I am not a good group rider in events like this.  I prefer to ride my pace rather than the pace of the group.  This often means I’m riding by myself and today was not going to be an exception.

The only water stop identified on the course was at a convenience store at mile 55.  I was feeling great at mile 55, I had plenty of water and I chose to ride past without stopping.  This was not a mandatory stop and an easy point to pass a dozen riders.  Miles 50, 60, and 70 clicked by quickly riding by myself.  I was still on pace to finish this race in under 6 hours and feeling great.  I had no idea how badly the plan would fall apart in the next 30 minutes.

Riders in these event are guided by cue cards.  Well laid out directions provided by the race coordinators to define the course for the day.  With the aid of the Garmin telling me the distances between turns, these cards generally work very well.  At mile 86, turn right onto 435 road, the plan started to fail.  435 road was unmarked and I blew past it thinking it was the next road – it wasn’t – or the next road – it wasn’t.  I knew I had missed it, stopped, and turned around, back to the unmarked road and back on course.  The nice part about cue cards is they tell you what mile from the start line you need to turn.  This works great until you have added an extra 5.3 miles by taking a wrong turn.  Now – every mileage number on the cue card needed an extra 5.3 added to it.  It happened again another couple miles down the road and after third time – the cue cards caused more damage than help.  The best plan at this point is to follow someone who knows where they are until you can get recalibrated.   This was a mental defeat more than a physical defeat.  I was starting to feel the physical effects of the ride by this time but after losing so much time and getting frustrated with wrong turns – I had lost the mental game.  I just needed to find the finish line at this point.

Jake’s Bikes, a local bike shop, had set up a relief station at mile 95 complete with cold soda, beer, cookies, and chips.  Although the beer was tempting, I needed to finish this race.  Making a couple wrong turns had taken the wind out of my sails and I mentally needed to regroup.  I grabbed a cola and a bag of chips and tried to refocus.  No – my time would not be what I hoped – but in the end – crossing the finish line was the most important goal.  All other goals are second – not finishing haunts you much longer than the agony of getting back on the bike and pushing through the pain.  Ten miles left, 6 of those straight into the wind, I can do this.  I took off, moving slow against a brisk head wind.  I was very disappointed when my GPS told me I had now completed the race in terms of mileage and I was still on the course.  Gravel turned to pavement and pavement took me to the finish line.  The joy of seeing my finish time more than 3 hours better than last years’ time should have excited me more than it did.  I knew I could have done better.

According the race coordinator, Deek and Chinn, next year will be the last year for the Inspiration 100 and it is already on my schedule.  I encourage all gravel riders to join me in this final year’s race – I consider it to be a gem of gravel roads in Minnesota.  Thank you to Deek, Chinn, Jake’s Bikes, and all the people who made this race possible.

Inspiration 100

What Makes an Adventure

Almost every Thursday night I make the 30 minute drive to Revolution cycle and Ski for a group ride.  The Thursday night ride is billed as a somewhat casual ride, no drops, let’s have some fun, and we may have time to stop for a beer at the end ride.  Typically we ride 50 miles =/- and average about 18 mph. This week I decided to use this ride as a light ride day because I am riding the Inspiration 100 in Alexandria on Saturday.  I met the group of riders as they passed through Avon – roughly half way through the ride figuring this would be a good 20 miles to keep the legs loose.  At this point in their ride – they are heading back to Revolution to end their ride – I met them as planned.  This was the point of my plan where things started to fall apart – although I didn’t exactly realize it at the time.  We finished the ride at Revolution and a couple of us decided to ride the couple miles over to the local brewery for a beer.  On the way, we met a couple other riders who frequently ride with us – they joined in.  This made four of us, sharing a few beers and swapping stories of rides and races both past and still coming up this year.  A few beers and a few hours later and it was time to head the 20 miles home.  I hopped on the Salsa Carbon Warbird and headed down the back roads weaving through side streets to avoid the traffic but to take advantage of the street lights.  At some time between the end of the group ride and now – it had gotten dark and cold.  (Mental note to self: Do more research on the relationship between sharing beer with friends and the setting of the sun)  The sky was crystal clear and the night air a brisk 54 degrees.  After about 10 miles I found myself in St Joe on the Lake Wobegone Trail.  I have ridden this trail hundreds of times and it felt good to get off the roads this late at night.  I had two lights with me – a Petzl head lamp and a NiteRider Mako.  Once on the bike trail, I turned off the headlamp and enjoyed the view the NiteRider presented.  The round light danced ahead of me on the silky black trail seemed as if I were viewing the world through a port window or a camera lens.  Several times the light would catch the glowing eyes of animals on the trail – none of which were higher than me on the food chain – I find comfort in that.  Worst case scenario – that honor easily goes to the skunks that would be enjoying the warm asphalt on a cool night like this.  Several time I could smell them near but fortunately for me – lots of glowing eyes – none belonging to skunks tonight.  It might have been a cool night but after a few miles it was clear I needed to shed the wind vest.  I general do this while riding but tonight, I stopped and took this opportunity to be one of those animals enjoying the heat of the asphalt.  I laid my bike aside and took a strange but rather comfortable position lying right in the middle of the warm asphalt trail staring straight up at roughly a billion, plus or minus a few hundred million, gleaming stars.  Warm asphalt or not, I cooled off quickly and my private viewing of an incredible night sky was to be short lived tonight.  Another dozen miles or so – I was home.

The point of all of this is a simple lesson for all of us.  It has become common for me to travel hundreds or in some cases over a thousand miles to ride a trail, compete in a race, or just have an adventure.  Here, just a dozen miles from home, this dark night, the cool signs of Minnesota’s Fall weather, and the most incredible night sky made this an unforgettable ride.  This was important to remind me not every adventure needs a fully loaded bike and thousands of miles; sometimes all you need is a familiar trail, a night sky, and the silence of the cool night air to make an unforgettable moment.

What Makes an Adventure