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  1. #1
    Member ycookmd's Avatar
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    DK200 2011: Epic Fail, Excellent Adventure

    (I posted this to our local MTB club forum but wanted to post here as well, since I've found so much useful tandem information on this forum. Thanks to all the experienced posters who helped us prepare for our first tandem adventure.)

    Lorinda and I just arrived back from this year's Dirty Kanza 200 and I thought I'd give a ride report. We decided at almost the last minute to ride this as a tandem team. Lorinda received and built the Co-Motion tandem from Plano Cycling and Fitness a week before the ride. It's a beautiful Speedster Rohloff customized to take wider tires. We managed to get on it for a few shakedowns, dialed in the fit, sorted through a quick tire selection and went with Schwalbe Marathon Extremes 40c, liners, and slimed tubes. We had matching green kit, Plano Cycling Jerseys to wear across the finish line, and a bottle of champagne labelled DK200 2011. We were good to go.

    The ride starts without incident and the first 60 mile leg goes great. We start out slow, warm up, and work out a nice rhythm. No mechanicals, no flats, and no accidents. This was our first tandem, but we manage to figure out the Rohloff Speedhub and most of the important captain-stoker communication stuff in the first hour or two. I occasionally yell stupid things like "look out" and "hold your line" on the downhills. Lorinda is polite enough not to mock my novice captaining. Mostly. In return, I remember to call out the rocks and potholes before we hit them. Mostly. It works.

    The ride is one of the most beautiful we've ever seen. Meandering through Kansas ranch and farm land in the Flint Hills, it rolls over roads varying from maintained gravel to smooth double track to jeep roads. Winds are brisk at times but not unbearable. Weather is warm but not intolerable. There are a few climbs, but nothing we can't gear down and grind out, as long as we remember to pause before making the 8-7 downshift on the Rohloff. We reach the first checkpoint with 3 hours to spare. At that point, I tell the support crew to ice the champagne. We are 3 hours ahead of schedule. We aren't even remotely competitive with the other tandem teams, but all we want is an official finish and a glass of bubbly. What can go wrong?

    Bouyed by our cutoff margin, we started the second leg a little too enthusiastically, and I developed some cramping about 15 miles in. No problem; we slowed up the pace to spin it out. However, some errant course marking led us astray and we lost 30-40 minutes riding back and forth and debating with other riders on where to go. Finally back on course, we negotiated some mildly technical creek crossings (without killing ourselves, or each other) and looked good to make up some time. Then the flint hills struck and we tore a small hole in the rear tire. Off came the wheel and on went a new tube and the spare tire. Blown valve stem. Try again. 20 minutes later we were back in business and on our way. We rolled into checkpoint 2 -- a little less full of ourselves -- but still confident we could finish. We were 100 miles in, leaving the stop at 3:30 PM. All we had to do was ride 60 miles before 10:30 PM. 7 hours. All good.

    Out on leg 3, we saw some storms ahead. Lorinda remarked warningly on them, and I replied blithely that I could use a little "cooling down." When the lighting started up, we received a call from support telling us to seek shelter. We promptly ignored the advice until a few lighting bolts directly over our head changed our minds. Crouching on the ground like scared rabbits with 2 other riders, we wait out the fireworks and spent 15-20 minutes discussing the proper way to not be electrocuted. We decide that crouching on the ground like scared rabbits is the best course of action. After the lightning moves on, we wipe ourselves off, pick up the tandem, and saddle up. It's pouring and we are cold. But we are moving and the road is wet but rideable.

    Until the mud. We take a turn off the gravel onto a previously beautiful stretch of double track, fly down a hill -- and into the mother of all mud pits. A few hours before this would have been one of the smoothest and fastest stretches of road on the ride, but it is now a stretch of impassable black goop. The single riders carry their bikes. The tandem riders push. And push. The Co-Motion weighs 2, maybe 3 tons in the muck. We try once to mount up and ride the tiny strip of green running down the center of the double track. We bobble the start, and -- stuck in our muddy pedals -- fall over. We straighten the stoker bar, examines a small cut in Lorinda's knee, and begin to push. And push.

    Frustrated, I watch the remaining margin on our cutoff clock bleeding away into the black Kansas mud. Minute by minute, we are getting further and further from a successful finish. I swear. I curse. "Let it go," says Lorinda. "It is what it is." I swear again. But she is right. There is nothing else we can do. There is nowhere else we can go. We are channeled by 2 lengths of barbed wire into the mud. All we can do is push the tandem on the thin margin of soupy grass near the fence line. And push.

    3.5 miles and nearly 2 hours later we emerge from the pit. We are caked, and we are baked. The 3 hour margin we enjoyed at checkpoint 1 is now completely gone. Thanks to the Rohloff hub, we can still shift. But, we are only 30 miles -- halfway -- into leg 3 and we have to make perfect time on the last half to make the 10:30 PM cutoff. Perfect time. It would be close, even if we had blacktop... and of course it's Kanza, so we don't. Some of the other riders have moved the course markers to direct people out of the muck, up the the highway, and over to checkpoint 3. Still hoping for an official finish, we ignore the easy out and cut back onto the course to catch one of the other tandem teams and a strong single speeder still grinding it out.

    We make decent time on the wet gravel roads, but not decent enough. When we come upon a turn taking us back into the mud, we realize that it's finally over. There is no way we can make the cutoff, and we don't have the energy or the stupidity to spend another 2 hours pushing the tandem. We call it, and head up to the highway to ride into town. We spend the next hairy 8 or 9 miles on a pitch black highway with no shoulder, but manage to survive becoming a statistic. We pull into checkpoint 3 at 11:30PM. 160 miles. Our loyal support crew is there waiting with a smile and a sandwich. They are the only ones in the parking lot. But they are there.

    This was a tough ride. Very tough. It's been a while since we have experienced such an Epic Fail -- and such an Excellent Adventure -- all on the same miserable and wonderful day. The bottle of champagne that says "DK200" remains corked, and unchanged.

    Except that the "2011" is crossed out and now reads "2012."






    "Every ride is a training ride for the next ride."
    -- Ancient Chinese Cycling Proverb

  2. #2
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    Great report...epic ride for sure! Memories of THAT ride will last a lifetime and will grow sweeter than if you would have blown through the course clean, fresh and well within the time limit. Great effort!

    Bill J.

  3. #3
    Senior Member colotandem's Avatar
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    Hats off to you two! You're both my heroes. I don't think I could convince my stoker to take on such a challenge. Good luck in 2012!

  4. #4
    lead out boss4774's Avatar
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    Are you coming back this year? I remember seeing you two quite a bit on the course last year....recognize the green jerseys.
    Zach

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  5. #5
    Trail Blazing NoTrail's Avatar
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    Great story. Congrats on making the 160 mile mark and good luck this year!
    Specialized S-Works Roubaix | Specialized Epic Expert | Specialized Source Eleven | Cannondale Road Tandem 2
    Watch the video of my West Coast Tour | Quest For Payne Website

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  6. #6
    Senior Member mymojo's Avatar
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    I see no fail in this report at all. I see LOTS of guts and effort though. Great story.

    And Lorinda is one of my faves @ Plano Cycling. She gave my wife all kinds of good info about stoking last year when we got our tandem.
    "It's the 41. If you don't have cool stuff, you suck. If you have cool stuff, you still suck" - Velo Gator

    "The 41 reminds me more of the big brawl scene near the end of Blazing Saddles." - mprelaw

  7. #7
    Senior Member coloroadie's Avatar
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    Amazing effort. You guys rock - look forward to reading your 2012 report!

  8. #8
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    Great report but I think you deserved to uncork that champagne and just get a new bottle for next year.

  9. #9
    Member ycookmd's Avatar
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    Thanks. We are signed up and planning to be at both the start AND the finish this year. Of course, we planned on being at both last year, too...
    "Every ride is a training ride for the next ride."
    -- Ancient Chinese Cycling Proverb

  10. #10
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    We're looking forward to this year's start-to-finish saga. Hope you had the bike detailed after last year's ride!
    Rick T
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  11. #11
    Senior Member CaptainHaddock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ycookmd View Post
    Thanks. We are signed up and planning to be at both the start AND the finish this year. Of course, we planned on being at both last year, too...
    Do you think you would have been able to do the ride w/o the Rohloff internal hub?

  12. #12
    Member ycookmd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainHaddock View Post
    Do you think you would have been able to do the ride w/o the Rohloff internal hub?
    Yes... but only because Lorinda is a wrench, and would fix us up. She builds, cleans, repairs, and then re-builds all our stuff. I don't know anything about bikes; my job is just to point and pedal.

    Since you ask about the Rohloff, though, I'll say this -- it is very definitely a mixed bag.

    There are pluses: nearly bombproof hub reliability in adverse conditions (like last year's mud-fest), a strong symmetrical wheel build, and low maintenance requirements.

    On the downside, however, cable length and tension adjustment can be tricky. More significantly, we think the Rohloff does not lend itself well to all types of rides and styles of riders. Shifting under load is very finicky, especially at the 7-8 switch (see multiple threads referencing this issue). In order to change gears successfully, you have to lighten pedal pressure while shifting and (virtually) eliminate pedal pressure when making the 7-8 switch.

    This makes it very difficulty to "walk" the gears up steeper rollers, where we would typically carry our downhill momentum up the next incline, keep cadence, and steadily climb while periodically downshifting until we either crest or run out of gears. With the Rohloff, we have to pause with each shift. On a steep gravel hill, even that brief pause results in a punishing loss of momentum; by the time we downshift a gear and settle back into cadence, we've already slowed down enough to need another gear. Repeat that multiple times on an uphill, and you basically end up crawling a climb you could have floated halfway up. It's quite frustrating at times.

    Tandem couples with more experience, or perhaps a different climbing style, might have a different view of the Rohloff hub. However, we think it's more suited to something like loaded touring -- where its outstanding reliability and simplicity could still be appreciated, but where the pace would be less intense. Our Co-Motion frame and fork are equipped for touring, so we may give it a try sometime. But for single day event rides and races where you are either competing, going for a PR, or just trying to make cutoff times... a standard drivetrain really might be better.

    These are just our opinions; we are a very novice tandem couple. YMMV. In any case, we have ordered a new tandem frame and may try this year's Kanza with a crankset and cassette rather than the Rohloff.
    Last edited by ycookmd; 04-30-12 at 04:24 PM.
    "Every ride is a training ride for the next ride."
    -- Ancient Chinese Cycling Proverb

  13. #13
    Member ycookmd's Avatar
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    Redemption

    After our dismal failure at last year's DK200, we had "unfinished business" to attend to this past weekend in the Flint Hills of Kansas.

    Several weeks ago, we evaluated our tandem riding and realized that as a "casual" tandem team, we were woefully underprepared for our second shot at Kanza. Since last year's attempt, we had put in maybe 4-5 tandem rides, mostly longer gravel grinders. While we really enjoy our Co-Motion and its ultra-reliable Rholoff hub, I longed for wider tires and a bit more steering leverage in the loose gravel to accommodate my novice captaining. I am a firm believer in the concept that there is no level of inexperience or skill-lessness that technology cannot overcome. We did some talking and decided to try with the softer ride and stickier grip of a full suspension MTB tandem.

    The excellent folks at Ventana hooked us up with an el Conquistador de Montanas 29er. Sherwood at Ventana was very personable and helped us sort out some fit issues over the phone. Lorinda put together a build kit with help from her shop, Plano Cycling & Fitness. She consulted with Alex from MTBtandems.com, who was quite knowledgable. Due to time constraints from work and other events, assembly on the new tandem didn't start until a few days before the ride, but Lorinda pulled some late nights and somehow managed to get everything assembled and on the start line in Emporia by Saturday morning 6 AM.

    This year we were blessed with fantastic weather, excellent road conditions, and a very lucky day. It had been raining in Kansas the week prior to the ride, and we weren't sure how the roads would fare. However, the recent rains kept the dust to a minimum and the moderate winds dried the dirt roads just enough so there was no mud. Temperatures ranged from the upper 50s to the mid 80s. We had some minor shifting issues but no flats; the wheels stayed round, true, attached to the tandem -- and in contact with the road.

    And there was no mud.

    We finished in just under 18 hours, and came in last out of the 5 tandem teams. But we finished. Check this one off the bucket list.







    "Every ride is a training ride for the next ride."
    -- Ancient Chinese Cycling Proverb

  14. #14
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    Should hardly count consider the good weather Way to go
    Rick T
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  15. #15
    Senior Member colotandem's Avatar
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    Great job and congrats!

    Do you happen to know how much your bike weighs? I'm curious as we have a similar bike.

    Sweet looking bike and amazing job with the DK200!

  16. #16
    Senior Member CaptainHaddock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ycookmd View Post
    After our dismal failure at last year's DK200, we had "unfinished business" to attend to this past weekend in the Flint Hills of Kansas.

    Several weeks ago, we evaluated our tandem riding and realized that as a "casual" tandem team, we were woefully underprepared for our second shot at Kanza. Since last year's attempt, we had put in maybe 4-5 tandem rides, mostly longer gravel grinders. While we really enjoy our Co-Motion and its ultra-reliable Rholoff hub, I longed for wider tires and a bit more steering leverage in the loose gravel to accommodate my novice captaining. I am a firm believer in the concept that there is no level of inexperience or skill-lessness that technology cannot overcome. We did some talking and decided to try with the softer ride and stickier grip of a full suspension MTB tandem.
    So, in the context of this drier year, do you feel like you would have been able to finish with the Co-Motion had you ridden it instead? I guess I'm wondering if the bike was the issue, or the mud?

  17. #17
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    Great post.

    Everyone knows ceteris paribus, that green bikes are the fastest.

    Put some smaller tires on that new tandem (or the Co-Motion) and come west and ride the Possum Pedal on June 30. http://www.possumpedal.com/
    Last edited by Monoborracho; 06-05-12 at 09:07 PM.

  18. #18
    PMK
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    Senior Member PMK's Avatar
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    You probably brought the weapon of choice this year, that or a Fandango 29r.

    Good job on finishing.

    PK
    2006 Co-Motion Roadster, flat bars, discs and carbon fibre fork, size 22 / 19
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  19. #19
    Trail Blazing NoTrail's Avatar
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    Congrats on finishing!! Your new tandem is great.
    Specialized S-Works Roubaix | Specialized Epic Expert | Specialized Source Eleven | Cannondale Road Tandem 2
    Watch the video of my West Coast Tour | Quest For Payne Website

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  20. #20
    Has opinion, will express
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    Wow! What a great thread... awesome reading from start to finish. I'd never thought of a full suspension MTB tandem, but there it is!

    I am very interested in hearing what material it's made of and your opinions on its stiffness. And what is that little black box at the bottom of the captain's seat tube? Battery for lights? Or for DI2?
    Dream. Dare. Do.

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