Dustin Michelson/Gazette
Dustin Michelson/Gazette

By Neil Shirley


So, here I am again, for the fourth straight year, looking down the barrel of yet another Dirty Kanza 200. For those that might not have heard of the now legendary Dirty Kanza, it’s a 200-mile gravel race held in the Flint Hills of Kansas that has helped define and spread the gravel racing segment far beyond the borders of the Midwestern states. This year, on June 3rd, 2,200 riders will line up for the 12th edition of the race.


Other than the obvious challenge–a daunting 200 miles of gravel–there’s also a lot of planning that goes into getting through what will be 12, 14, 16, and even up to 20 hours of riding for some of the participants. Unlike most events that have neutral service in case of a flat tire or mechanical, at Dirty Kanza, there’s no such thing. The only support a rider can take is from their own pit crew at one of the three checkpoints that come approximately every 50 miles.


This means being prepared for just about anything is essential in getting back to Emporia and crossing the finish line. That preparation isn’t something that can be taken lightly. Case in point, three years ago a broken derailleur hanger at mile 25 nearly had me calling for a ride back to Emporia and a big DNF next to my name in the results. But thankfully, my Lezyne Carbon 10 multi-tool and a little bike mechanic savvy allowed me to create a makeshift single speed. It took about an hour of road-side fabrication, but it got me back on the road and able to knock out the remaining 175 miles in my one gear. Not ideal of course, but I’ll take that over a DNF any day.


Without knowing exactly what technical issues could arise over the course of the day, and considering that Kansas in June can see anything from heavy rain to high heat to tornadoes, prioritizing the essentials is key to being prepared while not going overboard. Keeping weight at a minimum is an important part for those of us that have a goal of being competitive at the front of affairs. After three years of racing Dirty Kanza and refining the necessities, this is now what my packing list looks like:







Be sure to visit our Facebook page on June 3rd to see Neil’s progress at Dirty Kanza through the Live Tracking via his Super GPS computer.