Leadville Trail 100 MTB vs Dirty Kanza 200 - Which is harder?

So thought I would throw this out for experienced riders to comment on. Leadville 100 and Dirty Kanza are two of the premiere endurance cycling events each year. Leadville has the challenges of altitude and long tough climbs but Dirty Kanza is double the distance.

I’m curious to hear what people think is the harder event and why, especially for those that have done both.

Tough call, but I’d have to say DK200. In fairness, I’ve never done either one, but put in for the lottery for DK200 this year, but didn’t get lucky. In retrospect, it was probably a good thing because I was sick for half the winter and I wouldn’t have been ready (plus all of the KICKR problems I had that put my trainer out of commission for 4 weeks).

That said, I have to say that DK200 is harder for the following reasons:

  • Although the gross elevation gain for Leadville is higher and at higher altitude, the DK200 is not flat by any means. There’s 10k+ feet of climbing over that 200-mile ride, and very little coasting opportunities, so you’re pedaling most of the way.

  • DK events are entirely self-supported. And you can only get support at official checkpoints (every 50 miles). If you break a chain, run out of water mid-ride, or have a major mechanical failure, you’re on your own to fix (or with your fellow riders), and if you can’t fix or hobble to the next stop, you’re done. Your support crew is not supposed to help you mid-ride between stages unless you decide to abandon and need to be picked up. On the contrary, the Leadville has designated support stops roughly every 25 miles, so you can pack a bit lighter and not worry about carrying 50 miles worth of food or water.

  • Weather in that part of Kansas at that time of year is entirely unpredictable. Major thunderstorms, mild days, or 110F+ with 100% humidity are possible and not uncommon.

  • There is pretty much no shade at all on DK route. It’s literally in the middle of nowhere with a lot of rolling hills, so you’re under the sun the entire way (assuming no cloud cover).

  • Flat tires–the flint stone and gravel on the DK route was used by the natives to make arrows. It is not uncommon (even with tubeless tires) to have multiple flats on that ride. Some get no flats, others get multiple flats, and this burns up time and does a number on your morale (and remember–no support, you’re on your own to fix).

  • 200 miles. I’ve done a few 200+ mile rides in a single day, and after 150 miles you really start to shut down. Your mind plays games with you and your body crave sleep and rest, and 12+ hours is a long time in the saddle. I’ve done 80-100 mile rides with much more climbing than the 2x century rides, and they were still easier on the body and mind.

On the other hand, the Leadville has higher altitude, which can be hard to adjust to if you’re not used to it (I am not). And climbing 14000 feet on a mountain bike (assume this is what you’d use for Leadville?) is pretty damn brutal over 100 miles.

I forget the finish rate for the DK200, but I think it’s less than 30%. Maybe I’m wrong on that. Hopefully I get to find out next year :).


Haven’t done both, only Leadville.

DK seems harder. I have no desire to ride my bike for that long and in those conditions.

A buddy of mine did a full Iron Man and Leadville in the same year and said Leadville was harder to him because of the constant time doing one motion vs. breaking it down into three parts.

I’ve only done Leadville but 9 hours in the saddle is more than enough for me. I actually grew up in the DK host town and have no desire to do that race. 15 hours sounds absolutely miserable to me, so I’d give the nod to the DK being the least fun (harder).

I’m sure someone has done both and will have an experienced opinion.

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I’ve only done Leadville but DK seems harder.

It’s just so much longer.

The elevation at Leadville makes that race really tough.