“Once you get out here you realize you really aren’t that big.”
Riding your bike through the Flint Hills under a full moon is more than just another bike ride, it’s almost a spiritual experience. Gazing out at the horizon, the brilliant moon emits just enough light so you can see the rolling hills meet the sky. The hushed peacefulness connects you with the people that have been there before, the vibrant life surrounding you and the journey that has brought you to this point.
For years my mom and I have watched (OK, I’ve watched and she’s been the best crew this side of the Mississippi) my dad and brother compete in events like Dirty Kanza, the Leadville Trail 100 MTB and TransIowa. So when Dirty Kanza Promotions announced Lunar Kanza, she suggested we complete this leisure ride and get our own taste of gravel.
I may have thought she was crazy. Neither of us had ever ridden gravel and she wanted to ride 50 miles of it in the dark in 5 weeks. I looked up Lunar Kanza and discovered it was designed as a fun alternative to the grueling #DK200. While I was apprehensive, when your 50-something-year-old mother asks you to join her on the adventure of a lifetime, you don’t say no. After the first ride (where my gravel-loving brother turned our easy 20 miles into a grueling 35) we were hooked. When we pulled up to #LunarKanza, we were confident and excited and the ride went perfectly. As I cruised, I started thinking about all of the things I’ve learned in our condensed training process:
- Gravel teaches you to be OK giving up control. My dad mentioned this from the onset, but it took me some time to really get it. You have to listen to your bike. It tells you where you need to go and you need to trust it to take you there.
- Gravel pushes you out of your comfort zone. Our first night ride was one of the craziest things I’ve ever done. You’re cruising down the road with only a few small lights to guide you. Have faith, take a deep breath and let it fly.
- Riding gravel at night makes you feel alive. Your eyes work overtime to see the road in front of you, your ears are treated to a chorus of low humming cicadas, deep groveling frog croaks and high chirping birds, while your body uses every ounce of awareness to feel the road beneath you. Not a second is a wasted.
- “Once you get out here you realize you really aren’t that big.” More words of wisdom from the king of gravel. And it’s true. Riding in wide open spaces where the plains unfold beneath you and the sky canvasses an unending blanket above you is a humbling experience.
- Gravel riders are cool. Lunar Kanza reinforced how friendly, kind and optimistic gravel riders are. Nothing against road riders (I am one, after all), but I’d rather hang out with adventure-loving gravel grinders any day.
Talking with the Dirty Kanza Promotions crew before the start, they hinted at some new rides coming up later this year. They are committed to providing life-enriching cycling experiences in what they believe to be the best gravel in the world and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.