Dirt Rag Magazine

‘The Mountains Don’t Care’ – Tour Divide gear rundown


The stuff. All the things that I’m carrying. When it’s all laid out, it doesn’t look like much for a few weeks of living off the bike. But when I’m pushing it up a mountain road, it feels like a ton.

I’ve never cared about how much my race bike weighed. I’ve always felt that the main difference between a 20 pound mountain bike and a 27 pound mountain bike is about $2,000, and the fact that a heavier bike won’t break when you hit a rock the wrong way.

But this is different. When the dry weight (no food or water) of the whole setup is pushing 50 pounds, I’ve been doing everything I can to save weight. I even bought a kitchen scale to weigh crap. And I’ve been debating the little things: do I need a wool hat if I have a jacket with a hood? Probably not. Saved 150 grams.

Editor’s note: Montana is a former intern at Dirt Rag and longtime friend-of-the-mag, so we were especially proud when he completed the 2,700-mile Tour Divide this summer in his first attempt. Read his epic account of the trip here. You can also follow along with all his adventures on his blog, The Skrumble.

Read the full story


‘The Mountains Don’t Care’ – A Tour Divide recap


I haven’t been able to sleep. Every night I wake up, thinking that I still have more miles to ride to the border.

“No, Colleen already picked you up, it’s over,” I tell myself. Then the sun comes up and my legs are rubbery.

Tour Divide was monstrously hard. I thought that I understood how difficult it was going to be, but based on my past experience, that just wasn’t possible.

I always thought “Yeah it’s a long ride, but there’s hardly any singletrack. It’s all dirt road. So it’s probably not that bad.”

I was so far off.

Editor’s note: Montana is a former intern at Dirt Rag and longtime friend-of-the-mag, so we were especially proud when he completed the 2,700-mile Tour Divide this summer in his first attempt. No stranger to big rides and crazy adventures, Montana ultimately finished ninth overall on his singlespeed Surly Krampus in 22 days, four hours and 21 minutes. You can follow along with all his adventures on his blog, The Skrumble.

Read the full story here.


Riding with the Breeze


It’s hard to imagine a more unassuming guy than Joe Breeze. Unlike his contemporaries Gary Fisher or Tom Ritchey, who are easy to spot in a crowd, Breeze could be the guy standing in line in front of you at the grocery store, or your friendly neighbor who always greets you with a wave and a smile. Of course, if you live in Fairfax, California, there’s a good chance he is both of these things.

Read more and see photos from our day with Joe Breeze.


Photo Gallery: Bilenky Junkyard ‘Cross


A long-standing Pennsylvania tradition, Bilenky Cycle Works has hosted a… unique cyclocross race each winter through a salvage yard. There are no UCI officials measuring tire widths, the barriers are not to spec, and #handupsarenotacrime.

This Saturday the annual event was pushed to new levels with the influx of humanity (and inhumanity) in town for the Singlespeed Cyclocross World Championships. The Junkyard Cross was tapped as a qualifying event for the Big Show, with heats of riders dualing for a finale and a chance to race in the Sunday’s main event. If you favored style over speed, you could still enter Sunday’s Everyone’s A Winner race, complete with universal #1 number plates.

There were a few scary moments, and likely some flat tires, but overall the event was one of the most amazing spectacles I’ve ever seen. Until Sunday that is…

Stay tuned for more!

Click here to see the gallery!


Trans-Sylvania Epic bike checks – the top racers and their rides

By Molly Hurford

Justin Lindine, men’s overall winner

Where you’re from: New Salem, Mass.

Is there anything special or different about your bike? Well, we just got these sweet new Novatec Dragon 29 wheels, so those are the newest/most different thing right now. I got them just before TS Epic and they have been awesome!  Nice and light, but holding up well to the PA rough stuff.

When you built up this bike, what did you dream about doing with it? Winning races… I mean, look at it, it just looks like it wants to go fast. I can’t let it down

Anything you plan on changing? Not too much really. I’m slated to get a slightly smaller frame in the near future to try that out, and I have an FSA riser bar coming to try instead of the flat bar, but other than that the bike is pretty tricked out for me.

  • Frame: Redline D680
  • Fork: FOX 32 float 29 fit 100mm travel with CTD 15mm thru axle, tapered steerer
  • Stem: Ritchey WCS C260
  • Bars: Ritchey WCS 2 x 31.8mm x 720mm
  • Brakes: AVID Elixir 7 160mm rotor
  • Wheels: Novatec Dragon MTB 29” wheels
  • Tires: Michelin Wild Grip’r
  • Drivetrain: SRAM XO
  • Pedals: Shimano SPD
  • Saddle: Ritchey Steem V2 WCS


Mike Wissell 

Where you’re from: Boston, Mass.

Is there anything special or different about your bike? It doesn’t ride as much like a race bike as much as a trail bike, which I enjoy. The top tube is a bit longer, the stem is a bit shorter, so you really have a lot of control over the front end. I take it dirt jumping, I take it to pump track, I take it racing. If I have one bike, I want it to be a fun bike.

When you built up this bike, what did you dream about doing with it? Having fun! Everything! This is one of my favorite things to do, I enjoy just riding.

Anything you plan on changing? I swapped out the wheels, they’re nice. I put on a wider handlebars, I run stupid long handlebars.

  • Frame: BMC Fourstroke FS01 29
  • Fork: Fox Racing Shox Float 29
  • Stem: Easton EA 90
  • Bars: ENVE Sweep Bar
  • Brakes: Avid XX
  • Wheels: Specialized Roval Control Trail SL 29
  • Tires: Fast Trak 29 x 2.2 Control
  • Drivetrain: SRAM XO
  • Pedals: Shimano XTR
  • Saddle: Specialized Phenom


Brian Ferrari, singlespeed overall winner

Where you’re from: State College, Penn.

Is there anything special or different about your bike? It’s singlespeed, and John Upcraft is the builder. He built for Cannondale for a little while before starting to build under his own name, Hubcap, and he’s just getting into it. He’s always been big into pulling the rear wheel forward; he has a signature curved-in tube to pull it in and give you a nice, short chainstay. So together we built on that, taking two of my favorite bikes I’ve ridden in the past, taking the front end geometry off of my favorite long distance bike and the rear end geometry off the back off my favorite short distance bike and did some whacky stuff with it. It’s great. Then I was tired of changing my gear all the time so we set it up so it only accepts two gear ratios: a 34/20or 34/19.

When you built up this bike, what did you dream about doing with it? Everything!

Anything you plan on changing? This is the bike I dreamed about for years and working with a builder to make it was just a lot of fun. I’m super happy with the way it’s set up now.

  • Frame: Hubcap custom titanium with custom paint job, including the ponies for “Ferrari”
  • Fork: Rockshox SID (“I just got it a week ago. It’s a little new to me!”)
  • Stem: Thomson
  • Bars: Salso Pro Moto
  • Grips: Ergon, “old-school, two bikes old”
  • Brakes: Shimano XT, “not the brakes I started with, but the brakes I’ll finish with!”
  • Wheels: Stan’s NoTubes ZTR Crest 29er rims with Chris King hubs built by Freezethaw
  • Tires: Schwalbe Racing Ralph 29”
  • Drivetrain: Shimano XT cranks, Chris King bottom bracket, Red Salsa chainring
  • Pedals: Time
  • Saddle: Fizik (selected not for a specific saddle, but because it was red to match the frame!)


Amanda Carey, women’s overall winner

Where you’re from: Victor, Idaho

Is there anything special or different about your bike? I have two Cannondales this season, a hardtail F29 and the Scalpel. The Scalpel is one of the most stable 29ers I have ever ridden. It corners so easily, it literally knifes through corners. I came from bikes that had a twitchy front end, so I really appreciate how the Scalpel’s geometry feels really confident and precise. I get all my bikes fit by Tom Coleman at WobbleNaught in Boise so my fit is consistent across bikes and seasons.

When you built up this bike, what did you dream about doing with it?  I chose the Scalpel for TSE because it climbs like a hardtail and eats up the PA rocks without losing any pedaling momentum in trail and descend mode.

Anything you plan on changing? No!

  • Frame: Cannondale Scalpel
  • Fork: Lefty XLR 100 29
  • Stem: Cannondale OPI Adjustable -15 degree, 31.8
  • Bars: Tru Vativ Noir Flat , 700X10MM
  • Brakes: Avid Elixir 9 Carbon, 180/160MM
  • Wheels: I ran Stan’s NoTubes Race Golds, probably my favorite feature on the bike. 1,390 grams for a set sounds really light (and they are) but the are really trustworthy. They spin up really fast and can take some pretty heavy abuse – they can handle the TSE! Plus, the rim profile is wide enough (Internal width is 21.3, external is 24.2) that I can run low pressure without fear of burping or bottoming to the rim.)
  • Tires: Kenda Kozmik Lite II 29. I’m a huge fan of Kenda’s new line of sealant compatible tires (SCT). A little extra weight for a lot more confidence. I do run standard tube type tires in less rocky areas, but the SCT version of the Kosmik Lite IIs in the 2.0 is what I ran every day at TSE in all sorts of conditions and not a single flat! I did run 2.2 Honey Badgers in the SCT for the enduro day just for fun and safety (to protect my significant lead in the GC). Actually, the entire Stan’s Women’s Elite Team only had one slow leak (never a flat just a small burp) over the entire TSE. We were pretty stoked about that!
  • Drivetrain: SRAM XX
  • Pedals: Crank Brothers Egg Beaters
  • Saddle: Fizik Tundra. I am addicted to the Fizik Tundra 2 saddle. I have it on all five of my bikes for three years in a row. No seams that cause friction, narrow so it allows you to get on the nose when you need to and narrow enough so that your sits bones can really contact the saddle properly while allowing you to get behind the saddle with ease.


Sonya Looney

Where you’re from: Boulder, Colo.

Is there anything special or different about your bike? I like that it’s full suspension. This is my first rear suspension bike! I’ve wanted one for a really long time. I said, please, I really need a full suspension for the East Coast, and they sent it so I got it a day before I left on this trip! I haven’t had it out, I didn’t have the suspension dialed, I just took it out of the box and said, yeah, this looks good. I’m really glad I had it! The major con is that it’s kind of heavy, it weighs almost 26 lbs but it’s worth it.  If I were to have one bike it would be a full suspension.
When you built up this bike, what did you dream about doing with it? Racing some of the rockier races on the East Coast!

Anything you plan on changing? I’m looking forward to a carbon full suspension that’ll be a bit lighter!

  • Frame: full-suspension Canyon Nerve AL
  • Fork: Magura TS8 R 120/100/80 29"
  • Stem: Ritchey WCS
  • Bars: Ritchey SuperLogic Carbon Rizer
  • Grips: Ergon
  • Brakes: Magura MT-8 Disc Brakes
  • Wheels: DT Swiss XR400 29”
  • Tires: Continental
  • Drivetrain: SRAM XX
  • Pedals: Crank Brothers Candy 11
  • Saddle: Ergon

Gravel racing: A look at my Dirty Kanza 200 weapon

By Mike Cushionbury

Gravel road racing is filled with innovations and inventions. Bikes range from road to cyclocross to full-on Frankenbikes cobbled together from a mix of road, cross, touring and mountain bike parts. As a mountain bike racer and first-time DK200 competitor I momentarily considered setting up my 29er cross-country race bike for the task late last year but further consideration led me towards my cyclocross bike—namely a 2013 Cannondale SuperX Disc—with the goal of keeping it as simple and familiar as possible.

I knew for sure a Frankenbike was not the answer. I didn’t want to gamble with a cumbersome bike I wasn’t used to. I also wanted something I could consistently train on, making sure my position was completely dialed. In February, after ‘cross season, I set up my SuperX with the exact same measurements as my road bike, a professionally fitted position I’ve had for as long as I can remember. My saddle height, reach and stem length are all exactly the same on both bikes.

I also chose the same model Fizik Areone saddle (that’s well broken in by now) and same crank arm lengths (being a mountain biker I use long-ish 175mm on the road for consistency.) Once everything was set I put road tires on and used this rig as my road bike, compiling as many miles as I could to make sure the bike and my position was deeply burned into my muscle memory and as comfortable as possible.


The SuperX’s carbon frame is lighter than many road bike frames and with SAVE seat and chain stays it’s compliant and forgiving over rough terrain. It is truly an elite level ‘cross bike that performs like a refined road bike with snappy acceleration and geometry suited to longer road races opposed to crit-style racing—just the ticket for DK. Front and rear disc brakes insure precise stopping will never be an issue.



Nothing too radical for parts save for some drivetrain adjustments. I choose a short reach Ritchey WCS Curve carbon fiber handlebar and WCS 4-Axis stem for ultra lightweight and reliability. I also went with a bump absorbing Ritchey WCS Carbon Flexlogic Link seatpost. The post’s carbon layup provides a claimed 15-percent increase in vertical compliancy compared to standard posts without giving up any lateral or torsional stiffness. For a little extra comfort I double wrapped the top of the bars since this is where I will mostly be, not down in the drops.

Shifters and front derailleur are standard SRAM Force. For the road I used a Force rear derailleur, SRAM Red 11/26 cassette and Cannondale Si 53/39 crankset. Because 200 miles is, well, 200 miles, I wanted extra low gearing for the later hours of the race. I switched out the rear derailleur for a SRAM XX mountain unit and matched that to an XX 11/32 cassette. I also geared down the front with an FSA K-Force compact crank and 50/34-chainring combo.

This is a set-up I successfully used at last year’s Iron Cross race so I’m already comfortable with it. I’ll be using Shimano XTR Race pedals and mountain bike shoes because I believe top-level mountain bike shoes, though they do have very stiff carbon soles, vibrate less over such harsh roads. Super stiff road shoes could lead to early foot numbness and fatigue.

Wheels and tires

Wheel selection was simple; I’m using the same NoTubes Alpha 340 Team road wheelset I’ve been on all winter—simple, light and ultra reliable. Initially I was going to use a NoTubes ZTR Crest mountain bike wheelset to widen the tire’s contact patch but tire installation proved difficult due to the increased rim width (something I didn’t want to deal with in Kansas.)

My tire choice was simple as well: Challenge Almanzo’s. These super-durable, 360-gram, 700x30mm tires are specifically designed for gravel road racing. They roll very fast and utilize a special Puncture Protection System belt between the casing and belt—perfect for the spiky rocks on the roads around the Flint Hills.


Since I’m not much of a water pack wearer, I plan on going with two bottles on the bike and one in my pocket—three bottles per 50 miles to each checkpoint where I’ll have a drop bag loaded with supplies including real food like sardines, pepperoni sandwiches, black licorice and of course drink mix and bottles. If I stay on point of not using a water pack I’ll add a large seat bag with three tubes, a multi tool with a chain breaker, two quick links, a few links of chain, electrical tape and a tire boot. I also have a Lezyne mini-pump secured to the bike. As a precaution, I’ll have a full water pack in my drop bag at the midpoint checkpoint.

Veterans of the race may think I’m gambling by going minimalist but when I built up my bike for this mammoth event I went with what I know and am comfortable with. It’s a roll of the dice I’m willing to take.

Dirty Kanza is Saturday, June 1 in the Flint Hills region of east-central Kansas. Go to dirtykanza200.com for more info.

Keep reading

For more on the Dirty Kanza 200, check out our race report from last year, and see how other riders set up their rigs






How We Roll: Montana Miller’s fat-front Kona Honzo

Editor’s note: While we at Dirt Rag get to ride a lot of very nice bikes, most of them are bone stock or very close to it. I’ve always enjoyed seeing how individual riders personalize their bikes with component choices, accessories or other little touches that really make them their own. We’re starting a new feature called How We Roll to highlight some of the cool, unusual or just awesome bikes we see out in the wild. Up first: our current intern Montana Miller.

What terrain do you ride the most?

Sharp slippy rocks in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

How many hours a week does the bike get ridden?

Around 10 to 15. Sometimes more, usually not less.

If this bike was a sheep, would you rail it hard in the corners?

No. I’d pump it through the rollers.

Is there anything special or different about your build?

The fat front. It turns the Honzo into a rigid bike that I can actually ride hard. With a 29er front wheel, I was constantly pinging the rim or folding wheels over. The 135mm spacing on the fat bike fork let me build the front wheel with even spoke tension (most standard front disc wheels have only have about 60 percent tension on the non-disc side,) so I ended up with a wheel that’s stiff and really strong.

With six psi in the fat bike tire, I can take the same lines that I used to take with a 120mm suspension fork. I just have to be a little careful on sustained descents, because once the fat tire starts bouncing, it can get out of control pretty fast. Since my home trails are so wet and gritty all year, and all my riding is off road, I was putting new seals in my suspension fork almost every month. With the rigid fork, I don’t have to do anything. That’s nice.

I have a Pugsley, and did some rides on that on dry trails, but the fat rear tire is pointless in the summer. A fat front adds a lot of control, but a fat rear just adds a lot of drag.

You brought this bike to a gunfight. What now?

I’d get shot, and probably wouldn’t be super happy about it.

When you built up this bike, what did you dream about doing with it?

When I built up the Honzo, I dreamed about having a bike that I could ride for more than one season (I was on race frames before that, and cracking one every year.) So far so good.

Anything you plan on changing?

I’m planning on racing this setup this season, so I’m going to build up a 29er front wheel for smoother courses. The 3.8 Knard is just a little much to drag around on a buff trail.


Does your bike have a name? Have you assigned it a gender role?

No and no. It’s a machine. I don’t make it dinner or take it to bed with me either. Although I have been tempted. I get lonely sometimes.

What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done with this bike?

I dropped down a set of stairs carrying a six-pack home the other night. The cardboard ripped, and I was left gripping a six-pack handle while I watched all my beers explode on the pavement. It was a sad night.

What makes this bike unique? What makes it yours?

The bad rattle can paint job that rubs off on my shorts.

Vital stats

  • Frame: Kona Honzo
  • Rear Shock: No
  • Fork: Salsa Enabler
  • Headset: Cane Creek 40
  • Stem: Thompson X4 50mm
  • Bars: Jones Loop
  • Grips: ESI Chunky
  • Brakes: XTR Trail M988
  • Rotors: Formula R1 (F180/R160)
  • Rims: F:Surly Large Marge Lite, R: Stan’s Flow
  • Hubs: F: Surly Ultra New, R: Industry Nine Single Speed
  • Tires: F: Surly Knard 26×3.8, R: Maxxis Ardent 29×2.4
  • Cranks: Shimano SLX
  • Chainrings: Raceface Turbine 36t
  • Cassette/ cog: Surly 20t
  • Derailleurs: No
  • Shifters: No
  • Pedals: Shimano XT Trail M785
  • Saddle: WTB Volt SLT
  • Seatpost :Thompson Elite
  • Seatpost clamp: Salsa Flip-Lock



Cold Weather Riding Tips

Editor’s note: This feature originally appeared in our sister magazine, Dirt Rag. These tips apply both on and off road, so we wanted to share them with you here. Each of the links goes to the Dirt Rag website.

By the Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times staff

When the temperature drops and daylight wanes, many riders confine themselves to an indoor trainer or hang up their bikes altogether for the winter months. True, winter riding presents unique challenges, but it also reaps great rewards. Aside from the physical benefits of riding all year long, winter riding opens up a world of opportunities for adventure, fun, and natural beauty.

Part 1: It’s all in your head

Part one begins with a single step…outside. The mental decision to brave the elements is often times harder than choosing the appropriate gear for your ride. When you’re warm and cozy inside your bed/house/car, the prospect of getting all geared up and facing physical discomfort in the form of cold, ice, snow, and/or rain doesn’t seem like it would be all that much fun. Indeed, often times the first 15 minutes of a winter ride are uncomfortable, but after a good warm-up the fun begins.

Part 2: Toes and feet

In the second installment on winter riding and how to enjoy it, or at least survive, Shannon focuses on the all-important toes and feet. Keeping this area of the body warm and dry when the temperature drops below freezing can be a struggle. With the proper foot gear though, a trail ride or commute to work can be as easy as slipping on a pair of socks.

Part 3: Legs

In the third installment of our cold weather riding series Justin moves up the body to talk about keeping one’s legs warm and comfortable as the mercury falls. The legs are an often-overlooked aspect of cool weather cycling considering they are our primary source of power. Keeping your knees warm is paramount to preventing unnecessary wear and tear of the joint, while keeping your muscles warm will help to prevent strains and pulled muscles, as well as torn ligaments.

Part 4: Layering your torso

As we continue to work our way up the body, Eric explains the ins and outs of keeping your torso toasty. Layers. You knew that already didn’t you? Installment four in our series covers two different layering systems that work well into the low twenties.

Part 5: Studded tires

Karen covers the topic of studded tires, a very valuable tool for winter riding. Studded tires are one of those things that may not be useful a large percentage of the time, but for those times when they are useful, they are absolutely essential.

Part 6: Face

Matt provides some tidy tips on keeping your face warm and clean during your winter riding sessions. S’not a problem when you read this.

Part 7: Physical limitations

There is a panoply of excuses we can choose from when wimping out of cold weather riding. Some of them have more validity than others, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be overcome. Here we address a couple of physical limitations that can be good reasons to bow out of a cold ride, but that don’t necessarily need to stop you, especially in their milder forms.


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