Since signing up for Land Run 100 last fall I’ve been willing the universe to deliver warm and dry conditions for this notoriously wet and muddy race. Every time someone brings up the subject of red clay, tire clearance, and hike-a-bikes, I’ve steadfastly told them to hush and that it’s all nonsense since we’re going to have bone-dry dirt roads to float across come March 17.
Then, something incredible happened. Last week when the 10-day extended weather forecast finally showed Saturday’s predicted weather, I came to realize that I actually do have secret, super powers to manipulate the weather! Who knew?! So far, fingers crossed, it looks “pretty” dry and warm… and of course windy. These forecasts change every time I check them but I’m sticking with the warmest, driest options for now.
That all being said, I’ve decided to roll the dice with a dry setup and hope that it’s just a fluke that the “chance of rain” section of the forecast continues to grow and it’ll be back down to 0% with the next update that comes in 10 minutes. So, all you mud clearance-haters out there that are invariably going to mention that I don’t have enough clearance for that peanut-buttery, thick and gooey Oklahoma mud, just wait until Saturday to dig in, will ya?
My first ride on a Devinci Hatchet included shuttling up a twisty mountain road high in the Sierras before dropping into some sublime, singletrack trails and loose fire road descents. It was the most fun I’d ever had on a drop bar bike. Until the next day, when I rode the Hatchet nearly 60 miles up and down these same mountain roads as part of the Grinduro gravel race. This was, and still is, one of my favorite days on a bike. Ever.
While much of that bliss had to do with the amazing group of friends I got to share it with, the bike also helped in the equation. The Hatchet is a fun gravel bike. It was built for singletrack sidetracks, for tackling steep, rocky descents, and for hucking around like a mini mountain bike. It was designed by a mountain bike company, Devinci, and you can feel this in how it handles. It has a long top tube and short, stubby stem, slacked out head tube angle, long wheelbase, and big tire clearance (room for 40mm tires with 5mm clearance on each side).
Does this “fun” geometry translate well to long, straight, rolling mid-west gravel events? I’ll find out in a couple of days. But so far, the bike has been super comfortable on everything from short interval days to long training rides over 100 miles. It’s stable on loose gravel and feels fast on hard pavement. So, I’m pretty confident this bike is going to crush at Land Run.
Donnelly MSO Tires
I’m running Donnelly X’Plor MSO 36mm tires this weekend because as we’ve already discussed, I won’t need tons of room for mud since it’s going to be dry. These are my favorite gravel tires and I’ve raced just about every gravel race from DK200 to Grinduro to Gravel Worlds on MSO tires. Sure, they’re probably overkill for the smooth Stillwater roads but sometimes taking the thinking out of the equation is more beneficial for me than obsessing over what’s faster, lighter, or a better width. Plus, I’m going into Land Run with a fairly relaxed attitude. I’m there to race of course, but I also don’t have many expectations after a full cyclocross season. All that said, I tried to keep my bike setup simple, straightforward, using gear that I know well.
Shimano Ultegra 8000 Di2 Hydro
Full disclosure, I work in PR and communications for Shimano. Despite this relationship I can honestly say that Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes would be my choice for gravel even if I had no affiliations at all. Electronic shifting is da bomb and is especially great in gritty conditions like we often find at gravel events. Gunked up cables and missed shifts just don’t happen with electronic drivetrains. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend it (and I especially recommend Shimano’s Di2 system… wink, wink).
My gearing includes 50/34 front chainrings with an 11/34 cassette. This gives me such a huge range of gears from a massive (in terms of gravel) 50-11 big gear to the spintastic 34-34 little gear. I’ve decided to go with a 2x drivetrain rather a 1x setup to keep the jumps between gears smaller.
A couple other things to note on the bike is my Pro Stealth saddle. I only mention this because it’s a new saddle for me this season and I’ve been loving it. I’m a longtime Specialized Ruby saddle user but gave the Stealth a go after hearing great reviews and I have not been disappointed. If you’re having saddle issues, I’d recommend giving this one a try as it seems to work for a wide range of riders and body types. Gravel races can be long and miserable at times but that doesn’t mean your saddle should be uncomfortable!
When it comes to carrying food and water, I’m planning on two bottles on the frame, a small top tube bag for snacks, and wearing a CamelBak Chase Vest. Once again, this setup might be overkill depending on the conditions and speed of the race. But I want to wear the Chase Vest and get to know it well before heading to DKXL’s 350-mile race in June where I’ll definitely want that extra water and gear capacity. So why not give it a shot at a shorter race and get my systems down early?
That’s it for my Land Run 100 bike setup for now. Nick and I are getting excited for our trek down to Stillwater this week and to catch up with all our extended gravel family members. We can’t wait to hit the start line with everyone and soak up the warm Oklahoma sunshine and joke about how we were all so worried about the rain. Let’s all keep ignoring those chances of rain for Saturday and keep willing the clouds to float on past without a word…. Just don’t look at the most recent extended forecast… gulp. Might need to wield those superpowers soon.