Gritty Take: Take Out The Trash

Gritty Take is an occasional feature on Riding Gravel where we allow editorial takes on issues and subjects related to gravel riding. The opinions stated are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of, its advertisers, or staff.

Gritty Take: Take Out The Trash- by Guitar Ted

I remember the ride well. I was in the Flint Hills near Emporia, Kansas, home to the Dirty Kanza 200, and the event was happening as I was out on my own ride. I was there with a good friend, who was riding the 200 that day. Since I wasn’t registered to ride, I took a route North of the city since the event was almost entirely South of Emporia. The ride was beautiful, spectacular, fun, and the remoteness of the area was awash with the peace and serenity that only a rural area ride can bring. To say I had been enjoying the ride would be a massive understatement.

The beauty of gravel riding should not be lessened by our trash. There is no place for that out here. Image of the Flint Hills of Kansas

Then I saw it……

Maybe it was because I had been so immersed in the alluring beauty of the Flint Hills that I had been made hyper-sensitive, or maybe it was just good sense coming to the fore, but the sight of that wadded up gel packet made me disgusted. To think that someone like me, a cyclist, someone maybe enjoying the Flint Hills, as I was, had trashed the road with this easily packed out nutrition container was unthinkable to me. I picked up the dusty container and finished out my ride.

The trash I found wasn’t on the route of the DK200, but had I been on that route, I undoubtedly would have seen a lot more of this garbage. It is one of the reasons why the Dirty Kanza Promotions team has had a “Kleen Kanza” ride a week or so after the DK200 for the last several years. Now they do a lot more trash picking up from other sources as well, but make no mistake, we gravel grinders are becoming a filthy bunch, and I think it needs to come to a screeching halt.

It is happening all over. I saw it at Gravel Worlds, I have seen it at the former Trans Iowa event. Gravel grinders too busy chasing the front or those who are thoughtless, (or perhaps both) are throwing out empty nutritional packets, tubes, and more along once pristine routes, sullying not only someone else’s backyards, but our reputations as cyclists in their wake. I don’t know about you, but I would rather not be associated with careless trash-tossing cyclists who have no regard for nature or thoughts for other folks who live where they are riding. It’s inexcusable behavior.

Event promoters should be making this a priority and enforcing better behavior from their riders. Maybe more events should consider “Kleen Kanza” type post-event clean up rides to promote goodwill in their respective event’s riding areas. Whatever the case, the bottom line is that we have to be better citizens and stewards of these places we have the privilege to ride in. Trashing the roads with our refuse is not what I want gravel riders to be known for, and I think that resonates with many of the readers of as well. Let’s be a force for change. Let’s take out the trash from our rides. 


Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. An inaugural member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004- Guitar Ted has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and back road events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

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6 thoughts on “Gritty Take: Take Out The Trash

  1. I agree 100%. I’ve (unfortunately) cleaned up the same race/touring litter along the GDMBR in the middle of a route easement that went through private land. No Bueno. The problem is how does a promoter enforce this? They’d have to either see it in occur or a competitor would have to turn the other rider in. I also wonder if having a clean up ride afterwards actually leads to worse behavior since the thought may be “it will get cleaned up anyway”?

    1. @S.Fuller- Yeah, the “post-event” clean up, if announced beforehand, probably does just what you’ve said. Unfortunately, many will “do anything” to win, place, or get their PR. Master’s doping scandal anyone?

      This is why, in my opinion, it is in the fellow rider’s responsibility to make it known that this isn’t right by speaking up when it happens. Don’t work with riders making poor choices, etc. Event promoters can also make it known that they do not tolerate such behavior and ask fellow riders to police this.

      I see it kind of like how helmet usage used to be enforced on RAGBRAI. You’ve probably seen instances of that yourself. But yeah, it is tough to monitor otherwise. Event promoters would have a tough time enforcing rules against littering if it was left entirely on their shoulders.

  2. Here, here! It’s not even just carelessness on the part of riders that can exacerbate the issue. I rode the Wild Horse fondo in Utah this past weekend and my feedbag ejected three full packages of energy blocks. Obviously, I didn’t want to just dump full packages of (precious, precious) food onto the road in the middle of nowhere but it happened. Particularly since gravel rides take us into places that are by nature not well-traveled (otherwise, there would be real roads there), we need to practice something like “leave no trace” ethics. As for the Wild Horse, I know that the race has sweeper cars for the riders and I imagine that a lot of events have the same – I wonder if it would be feasible to make these dual-purpose vehicles for litter removal?

  3. I agree 100%. Try well marked “trash zones” along the route. Carry your trash along and jettison it here or at the feed station. It helps on bike marathons here in Europe but is no substitute for individual responsibility. Didn’t the Oregon Outback event die partially due to the trash that was left behind by participants? To keep events alive and growing you need good relationships with the locals along the route. Leaving behind non-biodegradable trash is a quick way to squander good will.

  4. I agree with almost everything that was said above. I was at the Farmers Daughter ride in Chatham NY the other weekend. I saw a couple of things that disgusted me, maybe it is just me I don’t know. Somebody had thrown their gel wrapper and banana peel in the porta potty. I thought it was odd since there are trash cans at the ride and IMHO sure doesn’t help the cycling/non cycling community relations any. I have no problems on seeing an ejected water bottle or maybe some food that has ejected out of the bento box/feed tube. What I can’t stand is what I call mach riders that just throw they gel packs or whatever they are eating out on the road to kind of say I am here before you are kind of thinking. You do have me thinking and yes I will call out a rider that I see doing this in the future and yes maybe us riders have to police our own ranks. Food for thought and thanks. I am a hiker/backpacker and do the no trace left behind in nature and that is what we should do as cyclists. The only thing I would be ok with is a banana peel as that will rot up. I don’t think well marked trash zones is the ticket. I think riders should carry it and dispose of it at the rest stops.

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