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Feb 16, 2018

Episode Links:



The Coast Ride 

Dirty Kanza

Scott Witthoff <Strava>

Episode 3 Recommended Ride <Strava ride link>


Scott Witthoff : 00:03 What's hard about the first 50 miles of dirty Kansas is you're in a group of 50 guys and women. You're surrounded by folks all around you and you. It's really difficult to drink. Craig Dalton: 00:22 That was this week's guest Scott Whitthoff two time, age group winner at Dirty Kanza, talking about the first 15 miles of DK200. This week we talk about West Coast versus Midwest gravel and as always we'll talk about a few more events that you should have on your riding bucket list. Announcer : 00:38 Welcome to the gravel ride. Your go to podcast about the people, places and products that defined gravel cycling. Here's your host, Craig Dalton. Craig Dalton: 00:51 Welcome to the pod. Scott, I really appreciate you making the time to come talk to us today. Yeah, it's good to be here. So I know you from just General San Francisco cycling and and mainly like that epic ride you do on Saturdays, but can you tell me a little bit about your background as a cyclist? Scott Witthoff : 01:07 So I'm born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska. In High School I had some classmates that I really looked up to. They race every Saturday and they come to class on Monday morning showing off their eighty / hundred dollar cash winnings. I was like, what is that? You know, what do you get that for? And they're a big bike racers. So I got started when I was probably 16 years old. Craig Dalton: 01:33 That's a long journey in the sport. Scott Witthoff : 01:35 Yeah. And then I slowly kind of discovered that I wasn't a great cyclist. I was just average and um, I wasn't meant to be a bike racer and uh, I was on a cross country and track team, so picked up swimming and I turned into a little triathlete. Hate to say it, but that's sort of already my early days of cycling. I was kind of a triathlete. Craig Dalton: 02:01 We won't shame you for that. So then, you know, onto the subject of gravel writing. It sounds like from talking to you earlier that you discovered riding on dirt quite early, just by nature, that terrain that was around your home. Scott Witthoff : 02:16 I felt like I lived out in the country in Lincoln, lived on a small lake in the winter months. The group of guys I would ride with, we would spend a lot of time riding gravel roads. We would just head out and ride 20 miles, maybe 30 miles straight into a headwind and then turn around and ride back. That's kind of what you do in the Midwest. You wherever the winds out of you ride in straight into that headwind. And then have a tailwind coming back. Craig Dalton: 02:44 And were you just writing your regular road bike out on those rides Scott Witthoff : 02:46 in the winter wheat. Then we'd try to ride a road bikes as much as possible. And then we slowly started riding her mountain bikes. That was more the, that fast forwarding a little bit. That was around 1987. I got my first mountain bike and I love riding on my mountain bike. Um, so that was, but up until 87I only road my road bike on the gravel also. Lincoln has really hard pack gravel so it's pretty fast and it's not too loose. And different states like Kansas, you need to be on like more of a mountain bike or a gravel bike. Craig Dalton: 03:29 Gotcha. But you've been living out in the bay area for a while and obviously like the gravel racing and riding scene has really become popular over the last, let's call it five or six years. Were there elements of the equipment that you saw evolve that really made it come back into your life in earnest? Scott Witthoff : 03:48 I feel like last weekend was the Grasshopper, a Old Caz, which you were there and we had a, like it was an absolute blast. Racing that years ago on with cantilever brakes. Um, if it's muddy or I don't know, it just feels like disc brakes have really changed the ability to run a fatter tire nowadays on these gravel bikes is wonderful. Being able to put a 40 millimeter tire on your bike is pretty wonderful. Craig Dalton: 04:17 I think it's huge. I'm excited to talk to you because you're one of the few guys I know who has experience midwest gravel riding and gravel riding here in Marin County and northern California. So I'm, I'm curious to explore that a little bit and you know, maybe one way to do that is to talk about your experience at Dirty Kanza because here I guess it's three time veteran of that event in two time age group, winner. So I think your insights are going to be really fascinating on that. Scott Witthoff : 04:45 First off, that's an amazing race. It's, it's truly a community when you go back there and I look forward to going back to see friends and and see a lot of bay area people that travel all the way to Kansas. So he seemed so out of place. When you step off a plane and going to Emporia Kansas, you're like holy cow, look at all these people from all over all over the US Craig Dalton: 05:08 What inspired you to do it for the first time three years ago? Scott Witthoff : 05:11 There were some folks, some guys that I used to ride within Lincoln, Nebraska that had been doing it. One Guy, he, he's done 10 of them. I've always wanted to go do it, but I've been so intimidated by that distance. It's hard to wrap your head around 200 miles. Once you do it, it's. It turns out it's not as hard to wrap your head around once you complete your first one Craig Dalton: 05:38 Given the type of terrain we have out here in Marin county, which is a lot of ups and downs in a sustained fashion, so you know you're climbing 800 feet or a thousand feet to translate that to more that the rolling hills in the Midwest. It is a bit of a disconnect on how you train for it. Can you talk a little bit how you train for it and how you got head around it and how that actually translated when you were on the dirt? Scott Witthoff : 06:04 I did a lot of Saturday and Sunday, big, big blocks of training and I don't like to call it training. It just. I grab a group of friends and we go out and we do big Saturday ride on pavement and then maybe Sunday followed up with another big day, maybe two really big six hour days on the bike. You need to do some training off road just to get your upper body used to all the, the abuse that it will take because it's pounding on the handlebars. Craig Dalton: 06:35 Over 200 Mile Day, it's gotta be a lot of abuse. Is a different that it's sort of smaller. Rolling Hills and then the sustained descending that we do out here. Scott Witthoff : 06:44 I feel like what's hard about the first 50 miles of dairy, Kansas is you're in a group of 50 guys and women. You're surrounded by folks all around you and you. It's really difficult to drink, to hydrate. So I think a camelback is a must. Craig Dalton: 07:04 And did you figure that out on the first go round or did it take to the second? I'm a huge sweater. I cramp pretty easily if I don't have a camel back, um, I'll be in big trouble. But the first 15 miles you're not really taking your hands off the bars a whole lot. And then once it kind of spreads out, then you can kind of, once you're kind of in your little group than you're able to eat and drink and gather yourself a little bit. Craig Dalton: 07:30 And I was surprised to learn that there was a lot of flats at Dirty Kanza. What element of the terrain creates that? The Flint hills of Kansas are those razor sharp rocks are. Scott Witthoff : 07:42 I mean you see so many flat tires. Those first 50 miles, you're also in a big group so you can't eat or you might not be taking the best line. You might have to follow somebody. And sometimes I find myself trying to drift back a little bit to give myself some space because I've learned the hardware, you know, just flooding a lot. It seems like I get a lot of flats. I've kind of had to learn the hard way. I've got to drift back a little bit and have a good side of line, you know, I can see what I'm about to run into. Craig Dalton: 08:17 What kind of equipment were you riding? Scott Witthoff : 08:19 I'm a big fan of the specialized trigger. Tubeless. It's a 38 millimeter tire. Which has good sidewall protection and does it have a knob on it? Yeah. Does it has a great file tread like perfect for cancer. I feel like everybody's making a great tread is just how good is the sidewall protection. A lot of tires out there. Just don't have a lot of good sidewall casing. Right. Craig Dalton: 08:48 It sounds like that's a good investment if you're going to go tackle Dirty Kanza. Scott Witthoff : 08:51 It's a heavy tire. It's really heavy. Um, I think it's worth having a little bit higher volume tire. Craig Dalton: 09:00 Yeah. That offers a little bit more sidewall protection. So it sounds like a couple of takeaways are. Consider camelback for hydration just so you can stay hydrated during the first 50 miles and obviously the later in the day as it adds up. Great tires with good sidewalls. Last thing you want to do is make a long day even longer with a couple of flats and then just getting out there and then putting the mileage on however you can. And in your local, the local terrain. Scott Witthoff : 09:26 I feel like I carry. I have three bladders waiting for me. Each rest stop. There's only three rest stops over the 200 miles I roll in the feed zone and I'll quickly swap out one bladder and put it in a fresh one. Craig Dalton: 09:44 Was that a neutral area that you'd like? They just transported your gear bag and you found your number and you grabbed it or did you actually have friends out there helping you? Scott Witthoff : 09:52 Everyone needs to have their own support crew or you can do a for hire crew, which I've done the last three years. Um, it's a local, it's like $75. They and it's wonderful. I've highly recommended and they're the first. You go through the timing mat and they're the first group waiting for you, like big purple shammy butter tent. So you can find your crew quickly and then they have your back laying out for you. That's amazing. They call it in and they were like, can come see, you know, Scott would off and they've got your bag waiting for you. Craig Dalton: 10:26 I guess that comes with being a 12 year old event versus you know, many of the events were riding these days are, are one or two years old. Yeah. It kind of reminds me of sort of the iron man experience where it's just a little bit more dialed. You have to get you through the end of what is inevitably going to be an epic day. I mean we're talking about what a 13 hour day, which is far beyond what most of us usually ride. Scott Witthoff : 10:51 I would gladly open a couple more rest stops along the way. I find myself stuck in between usually the second and third totally dehydrated. No water. One year I had to pull off a group that I was in right up to a farmhouse and asked for some water how to sell. Wow. That got me to the third checkpoint. Craig Dalton: 11:14 I think what's interesting about all these gravel events is there, you know, they're, they're going in multiple different directions. Like something like Dirty Kanza, which has obviously been around for a long time, is an ultra endurance race, which is different than, you know, the four hour races of the grasshopper series or gravel mob or things like that. Um, and that's what I find really interesting about the sport in general is that things things are going in multiple different directions. And you know, I, for one, as I mentioned earlier, like I love the idea that the festival atmosphere, yeah, of these events that I hope regardless of how many people come on the front, that that spirit of adventure and that sort of community persists throughout these events. Scott Witthoff : 11:56 The one, one thing I really love about Dirty Kanza, the entire town of Emporia, they'd come out for it and they have, they have all these tents and pop up food vendors and it's neat to see all the, the winners, they come back out and they cheer people on until midnight. I mean, it's a party music going and I just think that's wonderful that it's neat to see the winners that come back down and cheer every last finisher. Craig Dalton: 12:25 Those guys have put together such an incredible event and I think, you know, for those of us who may not have spent a lot of time in Kansas to be able to go and participate in an event that has such a legacy in the sport and see how it's done. Right, and see how the community comes behind it. I think it's like a great model for, you know, some of the newer vans to aspire to. Scott Witthoff : 12:48 In Europe is now taking note of what dirty Kansas has done and they're putting on races over in Europe now. Based on that, the formula that works for dirty cancer, like what is it that makes a great race. I think we're seeing that everywhere people are putting on amazing races. Craig Dalton: 13:07 Are there some other events that you've done in the past or hope to do in the future that you're excited about? Scott Witthoff : 13:13 You know, I missed, I was signed up for Rebecca's private Idaho last year. Everyone says I've never heard one negative thing about that event. Rebecca does an amazing job putting on a neat reason. I want to. I signed up for it, so for this year? Yeah. Great. Yeah, so I'm excited. Grinduro up in Quincy is another incredible event. Craig Dalton: 13:36 And what did you think about that format? So for those of you guys who don't know, with grinder row, they had four time segments, so essentially you can ride as slow or fast as you want in between those segments, but the only timing that counts is in the segments. Do you like that format? Scott Witthoff : 13:52 Yeah, I really. I liked it because you're riding, you grab a group of friends and you ride pretty chill and then it's all bets are off. He'd go for it and he tried to smash one another up sometime segment. I usually get dropped pretty much in the parking lot. I'm, I'm already off the back early on that first hill climb. But you get an opportunity later to shine maybe on a descent, I'm maybe on the flap tt or there's four different types that in the last one is the single track. Yeah. Which was a lot of fun. Craig Dalton: 14:29 It made for some interesting sort of decisions about equipment because each one of those sections of taking something different. Scott Witthoff : 14:37 Yeah. I think, I mean if I had a lot of bikes at my disposal, I would choose a hard tail on that course because that lasts. Single track looks. Those guys on mountain bikes had a blast. Craig Dalton: 14:49 Yeah, it's funny. I was riding with a mutual friend of ours, David Belden, and we came to the same conclusion like our hard tail mountain bike overall would have been a faster vehicle to cover the terrain, although we both agreed like being on gravel bikes was a fun part of the experience, so we'll we'll see next year if I go hard tail mountain biker or stick on the on the gravel Finally I wanted to talk about an event that you put on and that has a really great history. The Coast Ride while it's not a gravel event, it certainly classifies as adventure cycling. Can you tell us a little bit about the origin of the Coast Ride and really what it is for people who aren't familiar with it? Scott Witthoff : 15:34 The Coast Ride, you know, everybody asks where did it start, and I honestly feel like it's been happening for as long as I've been alive. It just everybody rides in San Francisco. The old days they wrote San Francisco to Santa Barbara to San Diego. Greg Lemond the are stories of Greg on riding with his dad down the coast and I think he called the coast ride, but there are a bunch of triathletes I want to say ron early nineties that started it. They started here in San Francisco when they road down to San Diego and that was kinda their kickoff to the year and I started joining them 15 years ago where we would all carry a backpack. That's how we got down the coast where you'd carry backpacks and some years it was raining and some years are beautiful. Then in 2005 I had wasn't able to ride it, so I drove my car. I want it to be a part of it. So I drove it, started raining and everybody said, Hey Scott, do you mind if I put my backpack in your car? I was like, yeah, absolutely. Throw it in so I carried about 20 bags and that was the end of self supported. I ruined it for everybody. So ever since 2005 now we've had sag support. We only ride to Santa Barbara. It's a three day bike ride, but each day's I'm about a 125 miles and we stay in hotels along the way. Craig Dalton: 17:05 Yeah, it was my first version. I finally got to go on it this year. I loved it that I'd written the coast before by myself or with friends and there is something liberating about just heading south and running all day long and the camaraderie and just the basic organization that that you've been able to kind of cobbled together with other people involved has been really great for the cycling community. I mean obviously I know dozens of people who every year it's on their calendar today. Speaker 2: 17:33 Yeah, it's a neat. What I love about it is it, it really brings groups of people together. You know, this is a no frills bike ride like we don't. We have pizza at the end of the day, some sag stops, but it's really. You're just responsible for getting yourself down the coast and we'll take your bags and the whole goal is just, you know, I love seeing people meet other fellow cyclists. We had a couple get engaged a couple of years ago, which is pretty wonderful that they pulled over and proposed to his wife, so that was pretty neat. Craig Dalton: 18:10 That's great. And that's. There's a website. It's dot, correct. Yeah. For those who you want to check it out, definitely take a look. There's some great pictures there. Talks about the routes. I mean obviously you can go out there and do it on your own with a backpack and Scott said, but if it makes sense in your January training plan, definitely come out there and check that out because the highway one down the coast, it just, it can't be beat. It's a world class place to ride your bike ever. Scott Witthoff : 18:35 We're truly lucky where we live to get and we've had some wet years people have done. Those are scarred and they won't come back to the coast ride because it's three very long days in the saddle, but if you have good weather like we've had last few years, it's pretty special. Craig Dalton: 18:50 Yeah, absolutely. Well, Scott, I appreciate the time today. It was great to learn a little bit more about your background and, and Midwest gravel riding. I think it's very illustrative. Um, as we as listeners start to explore, like where should I go? What should I put on my bucket list to gravel riding? I think he gave us a few good options. I'll put links to all the events that you mentioned in the podcast and uh, if you're comfortable, I'll put a link to your strava profile if people want to check out where you've been riding. Yeah. And I'll also post if you could send over one of your favorite travel routes. Absolutely. I'll post that as well. Thanks for. Thanks for having me. Absolutely. Craig Dalton: 19:35 It was great to talk to Scott this week and let a little bit more about Dirty Kanza in The Coast ride and some of the other events he's participated in. I'll post notes to everything we've talked about in the show notes, and as always, if you have any questions or suggestions, follow us on instagram @thegravelride or shoot me a note at