The Myth of “Self-Supported” Rides.

Yeah, I know.  I just wrote about the 10,000, which Axletree is bringing you in just a couple of weeks.  Here’s the counter-argument.

There are a host of rides out there which are described as “self-supported”.  The 10,000 is a new addition to the club, which includes rides such as the Trans-Iowa.  However, here’s the beef: they’re not self-supported.  When they say “self-supported”, they mean “eat and drink whatever you can carry on your bike and whatever you can buy at a Casey’s.”  It’s that latter half that is problematic.

If self-supported meant ‘carry what you can carry’, then I’ve got it.  Anyone can compete in that circumstance.  But when it means “eat what you can buy at a Casey’s”, then it basically takes a rider like me and renders us unable to compete on a level field.  When most riders go into a Casey’s (or equivalent), they’re buying pizza, sandwiches, and a whole host of ‘real food.’  At a Casey’s, for me, I can drink beverages, and can eat nuts and (plain) potato chips.  Maybe some jerky (if they have natural-ish jerky, which isn’t guaranteed).  Try finding a food that doesn’t have gluten, dairy or oats in it, at a Casey’s.

So saying that a ride is “self-supported” in what is now the accepted definition of that term in the gravel scene means that it’s self supported, except that you can eat pizza, hot dogs, sandwiches, ice-cream sandwiches, or whatever else you can shovel in while stopped, if you’re a person fortunate enough to have a traditional diet.  It’s like saying that you can only eat what you can carry, or what Pizza Hut serves.  Telling me that I can only ride with what I can carry on the bike (that won’t spoil when it’s hot out), plus nuts and chips…it’s just not the same.  And you cannot sustain a ride indefinitely without real food.

I haven’t solved this one yet.


8 thoughts on “The Myth of “Self-Supported” Rides.

  1. Hello, we haven’t met, but I’m a good friend of Matt (cycles in life) and the rest of the Bloomington/Normal cycling crowd. I’ll be little surprised if you haven’t looked into this since I’m sure you spend WAY more time thinking about/researching your diet than the vast majority of other people, but the rice based “portables” from The Feed Zone Cookbook and it’s follow-up Feed Zone Portables by Alan Limm and Biju Thomas are great. I use assorted rice cakes for the vast majority of my ride fuel so I can get away from processed bars and couldn’t be happier with them! You’ll still have to carry it all with you, but they beat the heck out of nuts and potato chips!

  2. Bzzzzt! Wrong. Case in point- Brad Lamson who did not buy anything at a Casey’s, used nutritional supplies he carried himself, and finished the toughest Trans Iowa ever held. Another example- Dan Hughes in the inaugural Dirty Kanza 200 who also carried everything he needed to compete and win the first DK 200. Finally, Mike Curiak also has demonstrated on several occasions that this is possible on courses that make the DK and T.I. look like a cakewalk.

    While I understand that you have a difficulty involving your dietary restrictions, it doesn’t mean it is impossible for “anyone” to do these events within your definition of “self support”. You can say that that what you have written is true for yourself, perhaps, and if this is your intention, I will defer to your opinion, but please- don’t think for a minute that it cannot be done within your parameters of “self support”. It has in the past, and it will be done again in future editions of all these events which you are pointing out here.

    And then again- not everyone is going to be able to take part in these types of events either, which is what it is.

    • GTed,

      I meant no disrespect to T.I. It is an amazing race–perhaps THE amazing race. And certainly, there are those who have done it self-supported (carrying everything on the bike). But that’s not what the event rules require…and there can be little doubt that for most of the super-long ‘self-supported’ races, you could ride it faster if you knew that you only had to carry enough food to get you through intermediate chunks between Caseys. If it is a 200 mile race, and I either have to carry food for 200 miles, or carry food to get me between the gas stations at miles 66 and 130, then my strategy will be very different–as will the amount of weight that I have to carry.

      Also, please note that I’m not suggesting that it makes any event impossible–just that it renders the playing field unequal.

      But going back to the very first point–I’m not suggesting a change in the rules to accommodate the minority of riders such as myself who have a dietary restriction. I’m just still trying to sort through the issues associated with a ‘eat what you find on the course’ ride.

  3. Get real. I’m sure they have fruit, both dried and fresh. Many riders swear by salted dates – or even raisins. Peanut butter – plain or on bananas (with honey!) Likely have canned tuna. Probably have sandwiches from which you can pull the meat from. Bouillon cubes are easily portable and likely there.
    You have diet restriction – but not impossibility. Don’t diminish others by a false assertion of unfairness which doesn’t exist.

    • I’m not sure how the post could be viewed as diminishing others, or why you’re quite so hostile.

      Not many Caseys have fresh fruit available. If you have a severe gluten allergy, then: 1) you can’t eat meat that has been on bread; and, 2) a lot of lunch meat has gluten and/or dairy in it. If you take the time to look at what is actually there that is truly gluten, dairy and oat free, the pickings are pretty limited. Many gf products have oats, and the gf pickings at a country gas station are limited to begin with. Read the ingredients. I have.

      I’m not aware of anyone who rides based on dates alone. It wouldn’t work for me. I also don’t think it is too controversial to suggest that real food is very helpful on a long ride. It’s a fact that the real food options for someone like me, at a gas station, are extremely limited. As I indicated in the post, the food options aren’t the same, and it is certainly a lot harder to accommodate medically based good allergies than it is to be able to eat anything on the shelves.

      All of that said, I’m talking about my issues and my experiences. I’m not insulting anyone or diminishing anyone else’s accomplishments or abilities. I don’t know why you’d react so negatively to that–but to each his own. For me, nutrition planning has a very different challenge on these longer rides, and it’s something I have to think about a lot.

      Interestingly, some rides like Kanza allow you to meet up with a support car, so you could have safe food with. That’s an approach that doesn’t penalize those with food allergies.

      Either way, Jay, there’s room at the events for everyone.

  4. LOL, man you were really fishing for some trolls with this post. While maybe you aren’t trying to diminish the efforts of others, using the word “myth” here probably raised some hackles. Just because you can’t eat most of the food at Casey’s doesn’t make the concept of self supported riding as we know it a myth. At Trans Iowa this year I did not travel very light, and carried a lot of gels, beef jerky, rice cakes, trail mixes, dried fruit, nut butter, etc… with me and supplemented my food intake at the very few and far between gas stations. If you can’t get what you need along the way, strap another fancy custom frame bag on and fill’er up with gluten free snacks! Set your own standard for self reliance. I believe in you.

    I don’t think it was very smart to try to frame the paradigm of self supported riding as mythical because you can’t find a way to work within it. Your dietary restrictions present you with a challenge. I guess your two options are to figure out how to deal with it and experience the success you want on your bike rides or just write about it online and field comments from peanut gallery members like me. You know what you can and can’t get on the road, so pack accordingly or BONK. That rule applies to all riders. I think Guitar Ted said it best though, in the end these types of rides simply aren’t for everyone.

    As someone mentioned above, the Feedzone Portables recipe book from Skratch rules. The rice cakes are my go to item for long days… Rice is gluten free right?

    • Again, didn’t mean–and frankly don’t see–anything offensive in the post. I’m not exactly an keyboard warrior , Jake. I put in my miles.

      My point is that when you call a ride self-supported, it should be self-supported. If there are feed zones, or restaurants, or support, so be it, but call it out. You did amazing at TI, and were largely self-supported. Others have done it as well. I’m working in my nutrition options, but I do think it is a valid point to note that if a ride isn’t purely self-supported, finding nutrition in a gas station is easier for some and harder for others. I happen to be in a camp that finds it hard, which makes races using that format more challenging than it would be if I had no food allergies. Is it unreasonable to express that point?

      Trolls gonna troll.

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