Gravel Crushin’

The Almanzo 100 (aka super crazy, famous gravel race in Minnesota) is a mere 20 days away. Neither me or Keri have had the time to truly put in a good amount of miles in the saddle. In all honesty, we’ll be glad if we finish half of it, but have made a pact to ride until it stops being fun. Whether that’s 40 miles or the whole 100, we shall see.

If we’re taking vacation days and spending money on a hotel room, we need to make sure both of us have fun doing whatever it is we are doing, otherwise the trip isn’t worth while. Fortunately neither of us are really wanting to participate in the race because of it’s “epic-ness”, but rather because it involves riding in a scenic setting with a bunch of other bike lovers. We’ll also be there along with the Midwestern Saris/CycleOps rep to promote the company. Saris graciously donated a heap of product for those who podium in various divisions of the race.

Today we decided to go ride one of our local rail trails to get in some gravel like riding in before the event. Most of our local trails are crushed limestone, but Glacial Drumlin has a section that deviates from the regular trail and has more loose chunky gravel. Having a few variations makes for more interesting riding. I personally haven’t ridden on the country roads of Southern Minnesota, but I’m guessing it’s not all nicely groomed and packed down dirt.

Another reason for the ride was to test our personal setups for the event. Keri is riding her steel Fuji touring bike with a rack and one pannier. I’ll be riding my Raleigh RX 1.0 with a Banjo Brothers Waterpoof Saddle Trunk, Jaand Frame Pack, and a Banjo Brothers Top Tube bag.

Each of our packing lists will include the following:
-2 waterbottles (may bring a third for good measure)
-1 camelbak
-1 pump
-tire levers
-patch kit
-chain tool
-park hex tool wrenches
-FixIt sticks (w/flat head)
-cycling computer
-pocket knife
-rechargeable headlight
-back up small headlight (battery op)
-rain jacket
-hi vis packable vest
-arm warmers
-tube of NUUN hydration tablets & probably some Skratch labs mix
-a few packs Clif Bloks w/caffeine in various flavors
-Kind Bars for snacking
-Almond butter packets for snacking
-Road ID bracelet
-Joule GPS cycling computer (as back up, doesn’t give turn by turn directions, but has a little bit of a breadcrumbs feature in case we take a wrong turn- traditional GPS is not allowed, maps and cuesheets only!)
-cue clip
-aaa batteries & 2032 batteries
-small first aid kit w/ibuprofen & antacids
-Hoo Ha ride glide (best chamois cream EVER)
-Go Girl (so we can pee standing up with bibs on…a really awesome invention)
-trowel (we’ll be in the woods)
-lip balm
-cycling clothes & shoes

The list is long and short at the same time. The Almonzo is an unsupported race, so there are no aid stations with food or water on the route. As far as we know there are only 2 possible locations for stopping for food and to refill water. Hopefully it’s not blazing hot or cold and rainy. We’ll have to call for back up if we need to bail from the route.

Overall, I think we’re both excited to be a part of something fun and unique like the Almanzo. There’s about 1300 folks signed up for the race. I’m guessing about 1100 will actually show up, but maybe less. We’ll most likely start at the back of the pack since we’re not looking for glory and the caboose of a ride/race is always more fun over a long distance 🙂

Check the photos below of our adventures!

Gift Guide

We had done a post suggesting local Wisconsin made products, but also wanted to give a few general gift ideas for the cyclist in your life.

First we’ll start off with Planet Bike’s Grasshopper Fenders. They retail for $134.99 online or at your local bike shop. The price tag is a little bit of a shocker for just a set of fenders, but believe us when I say they are some of the nicest around. They are made of sustainable bamboo, fit bikes with up to 35mm wide tires, and add a touch of class to any ride.

For the cyclist living in cold weather we highly suggest Bar Mitts. The makers of Bar Mitts have come up with a super easy way to keep fingers/hands warm while out riding. The mitts are made of neoprene and are wind proof. Most users claim they don’t even need to wear gloves with the mitts installed because they are so warm! A set of mitts retail for $64.99 and are worth every dime as they can be used for many years. Neoprene is also easily repairable should the rider ever crash and rip a hole in them. Shoe goo is what one our favorite blogger’s, the Lazy Randonneur, uses for his repairs.

USB re-chargeable lights are one of the hottest cycling accessories this year. More and more companies are getting into the market. Some of our favorites include Knog, Nite Rider, Light & Motion, and CygoLite. For the rider who needs to be able to see and not just be seen, go for a headlight that’s at least 200 lumens. Prices vary by manufacturer, but usually run anywhere from $50-$300. Keep in mind that the USB feature negates the purchase of batteries which can add up over time.

Lots of road riders, mountain bike riders, and commuters alike don’t have a kickstand on their bike. You’ll find that most bikes aren’t sold with kickstands anymore and that they are an add on that bikes shops will up charge you for. The Click-Stand solves that problem while being lightweight and sturdy. They have size options available and retail from $31-39 a piece.

Reflective bands are a great stocking stuffer. They are inexpensive and can be used as a leg band, around the tubing of a bike, attached to a pannier, attached to a backpack, used as an armband, attached to the underside of a saddle, or pretty much anywhere a cyclist needs a little more attention drawn to them. Reflective bands or straps are also great for runners. The most basic of bands start around $2 or so, but you can get ones with built in lights for $10-15. yellowracerTools. Any cycling enthusiast appreciates a nice set of bike tools to keep them rolling on the road. The best part about tools is that multiples are almost never a bad thing. In some cases having two of something actually makes it more handy for certain adjustments. Pair them with an instruction book like the Park Tool Big Blue Bicycle Repair Book or Zinn and the Art of Road/Mountain Bike Maintenance. To add to that, no one will ever turn down a nice bike pump or repair stand!parktoolA classy bag or panniers. Roadies and commuters alike love the timeless look of a tweed, canvass, or a Cordura bike bag. It can be a little under the seat bag, panniers, a handle bar bag, or a rack bag. There are tons of options, but I highly recommend Rivendell’s Sackville bags. Ironweed and Swift Industries also make some amazingly beautiful bag options. These tend to be items that most cyclists wouldn’t normally splurge on themselves, but would make a great gift.

Portland Design Works makes beautiful bike accessories. You can pretty much do no wrong by purchasing your friend, loved one, co-worker, or the general bike junkie in your life something from PDW. Our item of choice is their Takeout basket. It fits on a wide range of bikes, is super easy to install, comes with a bag already (sized to fit a 6 pack perfectly), and even holds a U lock. You really can’t go wrong. Add a Paul or other branded threaded light attachment in the mix and you have on hell of a great gift! The basket retails for $120 online or at your local bike shop.

Last, we come to one of the most important items for any rider to have. A Road ID or similar active ID bracelet. We like to support Road ID because they donate to a lot of events and charities. They donated a handful gift certificates to the Saris Gala and even sent along a TON of free shipping and $2 off coupons. You can usually find these in any race packet or even codes online to get either discount. I (Cassandra) have the Road ID slim which is the same size at any charity silicon bracelet, but has a small stainless steel plate with my important info laser engraved on it. You are able to fit up to 5 lines of info on the ID so I chose my full name, emergency contacts, and a popular medicinal allergy.*Full disclosure: None of the companies listed paid us to recommend these products. We support products we have used/owned or are familiar with. Spoke Haven strives to be transparent, fair, and honest about all products and companies featured on the site.