Emporia, Kansas is a small town located just over 100 miles southwest of Kansas City, Kansas. It is home to the world’s premier gravel race, the Dirty Kanza. There are various flavors of the race including a fun ride, 50 miler, the Half Pint 100 miler, and the Full Monty, Dirty Kanza 200 – 200 miles of gravel racing in the Flint Hills of Kansas, or rather 206 miles per this year’s course. Yikes…
2016 marked the 11th running of this huge race, which attracts entrants from all over the United States and to some degree, from overseas. I’ve been riding and racing on gravel roads long before it became popular (haha, legit hipster cred), and Dirty Kanza 200 became one of my target events for 2016. Event registration opened in early January and sold out just two hours later… insane!
During my long and sometimes arduous drive from Florida to Kansas (mostly trying to stay awake) for the race, I was contacted by Mike Spilker, one of SRAM/Quarq’s technical ambassadors. Mike was providing support at the Dirty Kanza event and happened to be toting around a collection of Quarq’s Qollector devices for use at the race. Tyler covered the Qollector in nice detail back at Eurobike 2015, but this was an opportunity to get up close and personal with the device.
The Qollector uses the ANT+ protocol to pair itself with devices such as heart rate monitor straps, power meters, and even SRAM’s own eTap electronic shifting! The Qollector uses built-in AT&T cellular service and uploads its data every 10-60 seconds (or longer, depending on available cell phone service) to Quarq’s Race Intelligence website.
Signed up for live tracking with the Qollector at the 2016 Dirty Kanza 200 was retired CX racer Tim Johnson, retired pro road racer Robbie Ventura, 7-time world Champion Rebecca Rusch, several other riders, and me. Huh? I’m just a regular bloke! Retired Cannondale road professional Ted King was approached too, but he politely declined the offer, citing the Dirty Kanza 200 as his first gravel race ever – which ultimately he won anyway.
Flattered to be in the company of some very good riders, I accepted Quarq’s offer. The Qollector is small enough to stash into one’s rear jersey pockets, but considering my pockets would be laden down with food and hydration, I chose to install the Qollector on to my bike. In my case, my bike was devoid of a power meter, but data from my heart rate strap would broadcast live to those interested.
The Qollector comes with a rubberized case which makes for easy zip tying behind the seatpost of my Parlee Chebacco – Tyler is also doing a long term test of this lovely bike. For triathletes, there is the Qollector running belt which holds the device, gels, plus a race number.
Factoring in three zip ties, the Qollector and rubberized case adds about 163g of weight to one’s bike setup.
Operation of the device is very simple. Press and hold the On button for three seconds – the unit will vibrate, and the lights on the right side of the device will illuminate. The Qollector begins searching for ANT+ devices. As the Qollector finds ANT+ devices and connects to them, the appropriate icon on the left side of the device illuminates. To force the Qollector to search again, one simply presses the power button twice, the unit vibrates, and the search resumes. Holding down the power button for three seconds will power down the Qollector.
But the real fun begins when the event starts. The folks at Quarq entered the names of tracked riders into their system overnight, and began transmitting rider’s data a little before the race start time of 6am. I refrained from turning on my tracker until about 5:55am – nobody needed to see me stooging around my accommodations. Live race data is made available to the public at Quarq’s Race Intelligence website. In the above image, you can see my position live on the Dirty Kanza 200 course relative to other tracked riders.
Live tracking isn’t new, software is available for most smart phones to provide basic tracking functionality. However, the live tracking from Quarq was extremely helpful to my crew person, Jason, at the race. Jason could see my exact location on the course, speed, heart rate, etc. When I rolled into the race checkpoints, he was ready to go with bike service and hydration – thank you Jason! Additionally, friends, and family could watch my suffering and antics in the Flint Hills of Kansas, live from home. Fun times for 206 miles of gravel!
The Qollector is not yet available for public sale at this time, but it is available for rental at select events throughout the year. For more details, visit Quarq’s website.
Photos and article by Gravel Cyclist. Jayson O’Mahoney is the Gravel Cyclist: A website about the Gravel Cycling Experience.