When Dirty Becomes Too Dirty

Quite a few years ago I remember hearing about this event called “Dirty Kanza” from a bike media person who had participated in it. It was a 200-mile ride or race or something on unpaved roads in Kansas. I knew right away that this was something I’d never do–not because I have anything against Kansas, or unpaved roads, or even challenging myself physically, but because once a ride reaches a certain level of difficulty I just look at it and go, “Why?” and Dirty Kanza seemed well beyond that threshold for me.

Since then, Dirty Kanza was purchased by Life Time Group Holdings, Inc., the creepy real-estate-cum-fitness corporation, and then changed its name to Unbound Gravel, even though the Native Americans who were supposed to be offended by the name weren’t and wanted them to keep the name:

While a 200-mile (or 350-mile as of 2018) gravel race by any other name would remain just as uninteresting to me, clearly this was not the case for many other people, which is why you basically had to pay a bribe to Life Time if you wanted to do it:

The idea of giving a publicly traded company lots of money to torture me sounds like something out of a Kurt Vonnegut novel, though I suppose this is the business model of pretty much every company on the S&P 500, so clearly I’m the one who’s out of step, not the people paying over two grand to go to “gravel camp” so they don’t have to enter into a lottery in order to ride their bikes.

Anyway, given my feelings about this ride or race or whatever it is (which, to be fair, I’ve never done, but since when do you have to have firsthand experience with anything in order to criticize it on the Internet?), I couldn’t help smiling wryly as I read this:

Yes, I realize I’m very late to this story, but I guess a lot of people didn’t finish:

All because of this hill that gets really muddy:

As a result, the ride wasn’t hard in that cool, fun, inclusive way the bike media tells you gravel is supposed to be fun, but rather in that power-wash-your-ass-crack-afterwards way that makes you regret having spent over two grand for the Life Time gravel camp:

I may be a semi-professional bike blogger who enjoys perks such as free menstrual cups, but I’d say overall I’m closer to the average person as described above, in that I’ve got a family and all the responsibilities that come with it, and I even have to “work.” As such, the amount of sympathy I have for my fellow average people whose expensive bike vacation doesn’t pan out exactly the way they’d like it to is exactly zero. If you get two weeks’ vacation every year, you spend your hard-earned money to go to a resort, it rains every single day, and then on the last day it finally clears up but you get robbed, then that sucks and I totally feel for you. But if you go to Kansas to do a ride that’s explicitly marketed as being really fucking hard and it turns out to be really fucking hard in exactly the way the ride has always been described then it seems to me that, like it or not, you got exactly what you paid for.

I mean sure, Life Time is selling a product, and it’s certainly fair to question whether they could have curated their designer pain vacation somewhat differently. It’s all a big circle jerk and clearly they didn’t provide enough lube. But “injustice” seems a bit extreme:

Yes, it sucks to spend thousands of dollars and not get to feel like a “champion” afterwards:

But training for months or even years for an event only to have your hopes dashed immediately is something probably every actual champion has experienced at least once. To what extent should a participant expect the organizers to factor this very real possibility out of the equation? Either it’s the “Superbowl of gravel” or it’s not. By the way, I guess this is the mud section:

Seems like it did exactly what it was supposed to do, which was make the race really fucking hard.

If the course poses a serious threat to the riders’ physical safety than that is absolutely unacceptable. But if it damages their equipment then instead of changing the course maybe they should change the equipment:

Ah, if only there were another material out of which we could build performance bicycles…

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