From mountains to plains

Without Dirty Kanza, Alex Howes to ride from the Colorado mountains to the Kansas Border

Alex HowesAlex Howes isn’t one to sit around and let things come to him. He’s a man of action. Banging away on his old truck. Clearing the trails by his house with a little hand saw. He’s a get-it-done type. So when the Garmin Dirty Kanza was postponed, he decided he’d do a version himself. Hear from Howes below on the upcoming ride, his training plans, and how he’s going to make it home after the 220-mile journey. 

 

Background

 

What made you want to ride to Kansas from Colorado?

Well, I suppose the main reason I’m doing it is because I’ve always wanted to do it. I think every cyclist in Colorado has, at one point or another, experienced a windy day, and it’s generally blowing east. You always think, “Man, if I just pointed east and could find a way to get a ride home, I bet I could get to Kansas in three hours.” Unfortunately, I think it’s actually going to be a bit of a headwind all the way there, but we have the time, so I thought, “You know what? Why not? I’m going to ride to Kansas.”

 

We were supposed to be at the Dirty Kanza at this point. How much did that influence your decision to do the ride? 

Well, yeah. The timing with that all worked out well. This is sort of an ode to Kanza. I mean I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that riding the Dirty Kanza was one of the coolest events I’ve done. I’d even go as far as to say that it was probably the coolest thing I did last year and one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. So to have that postponed is a huge bummer. So this is what we’re going to try and replace it with. This is just lighting a little sparkler here for Kanza.

 

You mentioned in an Instagram post recently that it was time to put the saw down and get back to business. What did that mean?

So I’ve been doing a lot of trail maintenance up around my house. We had a really windy winter, and it’s just downed trees all over the trails out here. I’ve been riding the new Scalpel around a lot, just enjoying it. But doing two hours’ worth of riding and three and a half hours’ worth of tree cutting, it’s not exactly focused, WorldTour level training. So I think it’s time to get back to pedaling on a more full-time basis.

 

Tell us more about the route. How did you pick this route, and what are the roads like?

So I went with a combination of the quietest roads I could find. I know a good portion of them, at least for the first half. Certainly eastern Colorado is a bit of a mystery to me as it is to, I’m sure, most people in the world. Not a lot of people go out there. I was also trying to find the straightest route possible because, even with taking as few corners as possible and really just straight-shooting it at one latitude, it’s still 220 miles. So that’s a long way. For people running on the metric system, that’s 355 kilometers. It’s going to be a big day in the saddle.

 

Again with the sort of ode to Kanza, I was shooting to find as much dirt as I could, and that was sort of a combination of wanting to grind the gravel, but also trying to find the quiet roads. Obviously I don’t know the whole route by heart, but based on Google maps, pictures and stuff, I think roughly 60-70 percent of it is going to be gravel. So certainly most of the stuff out on the plains will be gravel.

It’s going to get pretty lonely out there isn’t it?

Yeah, I mean that’s kind of the point, trying to stay away from people as best we can. The idea and plan at the moment, and we’ll see how it pans out, is to not stop to resupply, so we’re going to have all our own food, have a water filter in case we can’t find any unattended spigots out there. I have some water crossings mapped out where we could potentially pull some stuff out but you never know how things are out there. But yeah, we’re hoping not to see anybody. That’d be great.

 

Are you going to do it with anyone?

Yeah. I’ve got a buddy here in Colorado who is basically at the same level of training I am, which is not a high level of training at the moment. The guy’s a wildcat. His name is Spencer Powlison. I kind of floated this idea out there, and I’d been  hemming and hawing over it for a while. Then he got wind of it, and he was like, “Dude, if you do that, I’m coming with you.” And I looked at his quarantine schedule, and he’s up in the mountains as well and equally hermited up. So I thought, “All right, well, let’s make some plans here.” And yeah, we’re just going to go out and swap turns into a headwind for probably 12 or 13 hours.

 

How are you planning on getting home from Kansas?

So I’ve talked my lovely wife into doing the shuttle. She’s going to drive out there. She said she had to go to Target to buy some things for her school presentation, and so I was like, “Well, the border of Kansas and Colorado is only two and a half hours past Target, so you can just swing on over if that’s okay.” And she’s into it. She says as long as I put a cooler in the car, she’ll bring the cooler full of drinks and a change of clothes and meet me at the border.

 

What do you think is the first thing you’re going to want to eat when you’re done?

Oh, I imagine some sort of cold beverage will sound nice. It’s supposed to be pretty warm out there, and it’s not like we’re packing an ice maker, and we’re not stopping at gas stations for cold drinks. I think it’ll be a bit of a challenge to stay cool. I think that’s probably going to be our biggest issue. So yeah, something cold to drink will probably be much appreciated at the end there. I am going to bring a GarminGarmin inReach Mini, and I’m going to set up a little page so you can follow us along. Part of that’s for the public, and part of that’s for my wife, in case she decides she wants to come get us earlier.

Follow his ride

 

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His gear

 

 

Bike stuff:

CannondaleCannondale SuperX bike

38mm VittoriaVittoria Terreno Drys on FSA AGX wheels

FSAFSA cockpit

Shimano groupset (36/48 x 11/32)

Garmin 830 head unit, Garmin Varia rear light/radar, Garmin Virb camera, Garmin inReach mini satellite

RaphaRapha large frame bag, handlebar bag, tacx seat bag

2L hydration bottle in frame bag 

Packing List:

8000cal food (lots of SkratchSkratch bars, rice cakes, cookies, snickers) 

Starting with 4.5L of water/Skratch hydration mix

Multi tool 

Pliers 

Plug kit

Tube

Tire leavers

Patch kit

Tire boot

Needle and thread

Matches

Bottle of tire sealant 

3ft Paracord 

3ft duct tape

Chain lube

Spare spoke

Pump

Knife

Spare battery 

Charging cables (phone, camera, lights) 

Sun screen

Hand sanitizer 

Face mask