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Case Study: Dirty Kanza Teapot Mound Training Challenge

In 2006, the first Dirty Kanza 200 had 34 riders. In 2017, there will be over 2,000. As they’ve grown and added other events throughout the year, they have transformed the small town of Emporia, Kansas into a global destination for gravel riding. In 2016, they opened a retail store called Gravel City Adventure & Supply. To accommodate riders looking to ride around Emporia on their own, the DK/GC crew created a catalog of branded routes they called their Iconic Routes. When blackriver went live in August, they were ready and immediately launched an incredible catalog of Classic Routes.

As we turned the calendar to 2017, we started talking to them about a series of training Challenges leading up to their flagship event in June. For the first Challenge route, they chose the 50mi Teapot Mound route. As a reward for participation, they offered a Teapot Mound Iconic Challenge sticker and 10% discount at Gravel City. They shared the Challenge through social media and an email to their followers.

The response caught them by surprise.

Throughout February, and especially on weekends, they had folks coming into the store because of the Challenge. Many riders came from out of town and some traveled as far as an hour. Using the “Export Challenge Data” feature, they could see who joined the Challenge, but they estimated 25% more people participated than what the export stated. The interactions with the riders coming into the store delighted the staff at the shop.

“We felt like we had a connection with the people coming in for the Challenge because we knew the route they were here to do and we immediately had something in common,” said Adam Blake, manager at Gravel City.

Roughly 50% of the riders who picked up their sticker also used the 10% discount to make a purchase. The sales associated with just this first Challenge covered more than half the cost of the blackriver annual subscription, and that is just sales immediately resulting from the Challenge. “Not everyone bought something that day, but we had a lot of great conversations that will lead to more opportunities in the future,” he said. One of the biggest surprises to the Gravel City crew was seeing so many customers they believed to be loyal to the other shop in town participating in the Challenge and coming in to redeem the reward.

If you visit the Explore page on blackriver and search in Emporia, you can see a number of people who rode the Teapot Mound Challenge and posted their own Ride Stories. A few of them rode in a groups and the groups often visited Gravel City together after riding course. The Ride Stories that riders share in the process of completing Challenges are incredibly valuable. At the bottom of the Ride Story, there is a link to the Challenge itself that invites other riders to participate.

LeLan Dains from Dirty Kanza Promotions handled the social media leading up to the Challenge. When asked about the social media reaction to the Challenge, he responded, “We had a fantastic response via social media, to the point that people were asking for the next Challenge well before we even made mention there would be another challenge. I think that just about says it all right there!”

DK/GC launched their second Challenge, the 100mi “Native Stone Challenge” on March 1st. For this time around, they’ll be scanning a custom SKU to track all associated purchases to do a ROI report at the end of the month. (We suggest this as a Best Practice).

We’re very excited to share these stories as they come in. Our sincere thanks to LeLan, Adam, and the whole Dirty Kanza/Gravel City crew for using blackriver and sharing their experience with us.

Eric and I are interested in hearing your stories, too. If you used the blackriver for business tools in a way that yielded results, we want to hear about it. Please send an email to

Stay tuned for more Case Studies in the future!

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