I’d been meaning to ride down to Whiterock Conservancy for some time now and today was the day I finally did it.  It’s a new month.  Time for new adventures.

Whiterock is generally known in the Iowa bike community as a place to go mountain biking and it is that, but it’s a whole lot more than just that.   Whiterock also a 5,500 acre parcel of land set aside under a conservation trust and managed for recreation and sustainable agriculture.  You can ride horses or hike or camp or fish or study and learn…pretty much whatever you want to do.  The property is a jewel and an example of all that is right with Iowa and the people who live here.  I’m proud to have it as a neighbor.

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48.8 miles of gravel, 12.5 miles of pavement, 2,000 feet of climb…most of it in Guthrie County.

So I went out to RideWithGPS and strung together a loop that included some hills at the southernmost end. This part of Iowa is generally flat, but once you get west of Iowa 4 and south of Iowa 141 it gets hilly in a hurry.  The further south and west you go, the hillier it gets.  My route just grazed the hilly land, but you can see the hills from about mile 25 to mile 30 on the elevation profile that accompanies the map above.  Hills are my friend on  these training rides.  I’ve learned to respect and look forward to them.

Today’s hills were especially delightful.   I was on my Salsa Fargo and rolling on a 2.25″ Vittoria Mezcal up front.  I love these tires.  Even though they’re heavy, they are fast on hardpack or pavement and really forgiving in the loose stuff.   They’re made with Graphene and (knock on wood) they just don’t go flat.   They are my go-to tires for gravel now…at least on the Fargo.

Unfortunately, I wore the rear one down a while ago and so I slapped an old WTB Ranger I had lying around on the back.  The Ranger is an off-road MTB tire and wouldn’t you know it but the extra grip allowed me to get out of the saddle and really work the uphills with minimal slipping.  All in all, it made for a delightful ride.  The Fargo’s built for comfort, not speed, but I ended up going faster than I’ve ever gone on my skinny tired “race” bike.  That was a real surprise.  I was back in the barn in a little over four hours.   That’s not bad considering the route had more than its share of loose and deep, not to mention an occasional rock garden.

Avenue M, Greene County.  3 lines to choose from…just don’t get into the loose stuff!
Whiterock Conservancy from Grant Avenue in Guthrie County.  Wide open spaces.
I wonder if he fixes flats, too…

Speaking of the barn, I went by an honest to goodness blacksmith’s shop in Guthrie County.  This was new territory for me.  I’m going to have to get down here and ride more.  No offense to the county road people in Greene County, but Guthrie’s roads are a whole lot more fun to ride.  They’re not as deep and loose and so they’re a lot faster…even with the hills.

And so now I’m thinking about riding the Fargo at GIRG.  I’d been going back and forth about this for some time now, and today sealed the deal.  I’m as fast on this bike as the skinny-tired gravel racer, even if it doesn’t feel like it.  It’s also so much fun to ride. The wide tires are forgiving.   I can bomb the descents and not give it a second thought.   It’s time to try it out in a race and see what happens.

One more thing before I let you go.  I’m going to plug the Camelbak Rogue hydration pack that I picked up on closeout at Rassy’s in Des Moines yesterday.  I was looking for a replacement for my Mavic hydration pack…also a closeout purchase from when we lived in Utah.  The Mavic pack just isn’t all that comfortable.  It sits low on my back and blocks access to my jersey pockets.  The bladder is also really hard to fill on the fly.

Camelbak Rogue – 5 stars.  Plenty of room for a pump, tire levers, multitool and a small tube of Stan’s sealant.

I generally like hydration packs for two reasons.  First and foremost, I find that I drink more when I carry water on my back. It’s just easier to suck on the hose than it is to grab a bottle on gravel.  I don’t have to worry so much about crashing.  Second, water bottles get filthy on gravel.  I usually carry two…one on top of the downtube and one on the seat tube. With bottles, I end up eating a lot of road dirt whenever I drink.  Not so with a hydration pack.

If today’s ride is any indication, the Rogue is everything I hoped it would be.  It carries 2.5 liters (85 ounces), sits high and was so comfortable that I really didn’t even notice it over 60 miles.  I also drank generously and came home with some water left in the bladder.  That’s a win any way you slice it.




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