Trans Iowa: The Legacy
Updated 2016: As I sit here and contemplate the legacy of Trans Iowa I have several thoughts running through my mind. Not the least of which is how pompous it might seem for me to be writing about this subject. I mean, usually your “legacy” is something others write about after your demise. Well, I’ll let others judge the impact of Trans Iowa in whatever way they seem fit, and the consensus of all those opinions will ultimately be the “legacy” of this gravel road event, for whatever that is worth.
So, leaving that part of the story to the rightful writers, I will only say that Trans Iowa has begotten several things during its short life. The idea was hatched by Jeff and I in late November 2004 and before this, neither of us knew of any gravel road competition besides the defunct, (at the time) Kansas Death Ride and the Colfax 40. Since then it has become obvious that certain events and happenings have occurred since the first whisperings of a Trans Iowa were heard and those happenings are matter of fact, not opinion. I feel safe in at least pointing out the obvious, that being that the “dominoes” that fell after T.I.V1 were many and have brought this idea of “underground”, rural, competitive, adventurous events on bicycles to heights I never dreamed they would reach back in 2004.
The Gravel Culture: Certainly Trans Iowa wasn’t the first gravel road event, and it surely will not outlast the ones following in its wake, but for whatever reason, Trans Iowa struck a collective nerve among the riders of rural roads all across America. T.I.V1 hadn’t even happened yet when the fellows that put on the Dirty Kanza 200 hatched a plan to do something similar in their flinty back yard. Shortly after we announced Trans Iowa, the Dirty Kanza organizers contacted us and picked our brains for ideas for their inaugural 2006 event. We also got e-mails from Pennsylvania, Florida, and several folks in the Mid-West about how we went about putting on the event.
Within a few years there were several smaller Mid-Western based gravel events, some of which simply copied and pasted our rules into their own web pages for their respective events. In all cases we gave our hearty approval, wanting nothing more than a little recognition of where the rules sprang from. Of course, as I have detailed, Trans Iowa was influenced by the great western epics and Mike Curiak’s group. Who were we to say we came up with all the rules? In the end, we felt it best to promote the idea freely, and share in the fun. Due to the nature of the internet, it spread in a viral manner into all corners of the nation. Now there are so many events that are taking place based off of ours directly, or indirectly that it makes my head spin.
The events happening all across the U.S.A. may or may not have happened without Trans Iowa, it is hard to say. One thing is certain though, Trans Iowa was a big, big influence on what is going on now with gravel based events. The popularity of the “gravel grinder” is off the charts and at the time of this writing shows no signs of slowing down. Certainly we all can agree that there will come a day when that sort of rising popularity will be replaced by a decline in these events. When that happens is anybody’s guess, but Trans Iowa was certainly at the forefront of this movement and I am proud to have had some part in helping events like these become what they are.
Interestingly, it has become popular for several of these “following events” to Trans Iowa to say in their promotional writings things like the following, “the grandaddy of all gravel cycling races in the US”, and “the premier gravel grinder event in the World.” Very amusing when I know full well where they got 90% of their ideas from, but that’s okay. Those events, whether they admit it or not, are also part of the T.I.legacy.
Will Trans Iowa last another year? Ten? Who knows? All I can say is that there are more events on gravel and Trans Iowa isn’t the only “big” event anymore. Some events have eclipsed Trans Iowa in importance and influence. Right or wrong, all I can say is that Trans Iowa will be around for another year. Someday it will not be, and then the real legacy will be written by those that follow. The “gravel culture” will likely survive as long as there are bicyclists out on the rural byways and back roads. Trans Iowa may have helped it along, but it is bigger and more far-reaching than this little Iowa based event.
What The Future Holds: Whether or not Trans Iowa lasts isn’t going to stop gravel grinding. It was going on competitively in Iowa and Kansas, and elsewhere far before 2004, and it will continue on into the future. How “big” it gets is anyone’s guess, but I am betting that it continues on for quite some time. I may not be involved as I am now, but rest assured, I’ll be grinding some gravel somewhere for as long as I can.
See you on a dusty road somewhere!