Skip to main content

Dirty Kanza renamed 'UNBOUND Gravel' after complaints term insulted native Americans

2019 Dirty Kanza
Races competing in the 2019 event (Image credit: Linda Guerrette (JC Photography))

Organisers of the popular Kansas gravel endurance event previously known as Dirty Kanza have changed the event's title after complaints that the phrase 'Dirty Kanza' is insulting to the region's indigenous tribe, renaming it 'UNBOUND Gravel' after a lengthy process of consideration.

The move came after a tumultuous year for the event and the United States, as unrest around police killings of innocent Black people led to widespread protests. A change.org petition to change the gravel event name preceded the summer of racial reckoning, with Cyclista Zine calling the phrase a racial epithet. Kanza is the official name for the Kaw people who populated the region before white settlers.

Organisers Life Time Inc initially dismissed the complaint, claiming solidarity with the Kaw tribe. But in June, the race founder Jim Cummins was forced to step down after insinuating that the police shooting of a Black man, Rayshard Brooks, was justified.

On Thursday, Life Time announced the new name UNBOUND Gravel, a new logo designed to "embody the Flint Hills of Kansas", and Garmin as the continuing title sponsor.

"This rebrand is the end of a chapter for us as the DK, but we'll continue to embrace the history of the land on which we ride. We hope that each time riders touch the gravel roads in the Flint Hills, they take a moment to remember what has been," said Kristi Mohn, UNBOUND Gravel Marketing Manager. 

"UNBOUND Gravel provides an opportunity to reimagine what an event can look like, and this rebrand is only step one in the process. So much is yet to come for the gravel community."

The event was cancelled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic but the organisers were busy over the summer with the name change, creating a 'task force' of Emporia leaders and cycling community representatives, and working with partners, athletes and the Kaw Nation Tribal Council on the change.

Life Time said it is "committed to providing access and education to all individuals, while initiating industry shifts around inclusiveness at events" and are taking "deliberate steps to enact change for riders and runners across BIPOC, LGBTQ+, gender-focused, economically disenfranchised and para groups, including lowering the barrier of entry to the sport, providing access to start lines, gaining a clear understanding of who we are, so that we can identify and implement the work that must be done and evoking change to benefit the entire Life Time family of athletes, volunteers, partners, team members and the broader endurance sport community."

Organisers are planning the 2021 event with the 'All Things Gravel Expo' on June 3 and UNBOUND Gravel races on June 5. Registration opens Monday, November 16. You can learn more at unboundgravel.com.