The Bean King: 100MoN Race Report, by Martin Bunge

11.15.2016 | 10:18 am


A Note from Fatty: I love all the 100MoN race reports that come my way, but there are certain people I always especially look forward to hearing from, based on their previous 100MoN efforts. Martin Bunge is at the top of that list. He brings an inspired nuttiness to his efforts, whether he’s riding a square mile of gravel road in rural Iowa over and over in the dead of night, or riding 111 repeats of a riverside bike path…in a Mr. Incredible costume.

This dude is my hero.

And this year, his 100 Miles of Nowhere effort…well, my jaw figuratively dropped when I understood what he set out to do — both because of his perfect and beautiful interpretation of “nowhere” and because I immediately grasped how difficult it would be (something he did not realize, apparently).

Folks, Martin is a 100MoN mad genius. I hope you enjoy and appreciate his story. 

The Bean King
by Martin Bunge 

I hadn’t given much thought about what I might do for this year’s 100 Miles of Nowhere. 

Two years ago I rode 25 laps around a one-square mile section of dirt and gravel roads—at night.


I hallucinated seeing a hyena on the road. Quite memorable.

Last year I rode 112 laps along the Iowa River in Iowa City—while wearing a Mr. Incredible costume.


As far as cries for attention go, the costume was very successful. And it didn’t chafe.

So what to do this year? Obviously I don’t want to go backwards by doing something lame, but there are limits to how far I can escalate the zany factor of my 100 MoN rides.

What to do?

I was pondering this as I drove through rural Iowa on a sunny October afternoon. In August I’d bought a new Salsa Bucksaw, a full suspension fat bike, and had just finished riding our local mountain bike trails and was heading home. 

I was thinking about how those big tires rolled over just about anything they came across and how scary-good the traction was on the leaf-covered trails when I drove by a freshly-harvested soybean field. 

02 Wide open spaces

Soybean fields look pretty smooth from the road.

A plan was hatched: Why not ride my fantastic, full-suspension Bucksaw on one of those bean fields? I could find a relatively flat field and have a ton of fun just riding randomly all over the field until I hit 100 miles. What says 100MoN better than riding nowhere in particular?


My plan was complete.

Maybe I should have researched this plan a little more thoroughly before I started shooting off my mouth about riding 100 miles in a bean field. This is a lesson I should have learned years ago but haven’t. Just goes to show you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. (Right, Leroy?)

I found a really flat field, 90 acres, owned by some good friends who agreed to let me “borrow” it for a day. I had to schedule my ride for Sunday, November 6th because they’d be doing field work the following weekend—the official 100MoN weekend. 

I had an overnight commitment on the 5th so I was going to have to rush to get to the site early if I was going to take advantage of what little sunlight there is at this time of year. 

November 5th was also the end of Daylight Savings Time which was a problem because the sun would be rising an hour sooner and I wouldn’t be able to start at sunrise as I’d planned.

01 starting the day
My Bucksaw and I are ready to roll.

Play the hand you’re dealt, right? So I made it to the field by 8 am, unloaded the bike (33 lbs. of awesome sauce), and proceeded to pedal across the field.

What the heck? 

Bean fields are not smooth. In fact, they’re downright rough. Those big combines leave HUGE tire marks—it was like riding washboards on steroids.

03 Bumpy
Hey! Who drove on my dirt!

And soybean stubble could easily be used stop speeding vehicles at security checkpoints.

After about 20 minutes—1.5 miles—I gave up on the random riding thing and started riding between the rows, hoping the ground between the stubble would be smoother. Between the trash (that’s farmer talk for the plant material combines spit out after they collect the soybeans) and grooves left by the combine, my progress was even slower.

04 Really Bumpy
Disillusioned. Bean fields aren’t smooth.

This was no longer fun. 

Trying to find something that resembled “smooth” was completely futile. As I searched for a useable line, I noticed tire tracks running perpendicular to the direction the crops had been planted. It turns out they were made by a large sprayer earlier in the summer.

These tracks were narrow, maybe six inches wide, but they were much smoother than anything I had been riding up to this point, so I decided to ride from one sprayer track to the next, zig-zagging my way through the field.

05 Sprayer Tracks
Sprayer tracks. Much better, relatively speaking.

I figured that by the time I rode all the tracks, down to the end of the field and back to my support vehicle, where an ice-cold Pepsi was waiting for me. It’s good to have something to work toward.

I’d head down one track, listening to the bean stubble crunch under my tires, and struggling to stay in the groove left by the sprayer. Suffice it to say I didn’t hold my line very well. But what I lack in technical skills I made up for in perseverance. 

07 Still smiling
Three miles under my belt. Still smiling.

The plan worked fairly well for the first 20 or so sets of tracks but eventually the sprayer’s grooves were obliterated by combine’s tracks. I was back to getting beat up by the washboards and crunchy crops—and riding really, really slow.

06 Sole survivor
A hardy bean stalk survived the combine.

By now I’d ridden 20 miles and it was time for my reward: a peanut butter sandwich and Pepsi. It took me over three hours to ride those 20 miles. It was time to come up with Plan C. 

As I massaged the pain from my palms and burning quads, it occurred to me that I was burning a lot of matches blazing trails through the crop stubble and rough terrain. If I was to have any chance to finish this, I needed to abandon my plan to ride willy-nilly over the field and stick to a trail I could ride for 80 more miles.

Over the next ten miles I did just that, riding over the same track, wearing down the bumps and vegetation. This was when the ride went from “kind of fun” to a test of my determination.

I completed mile 40 sometime after 2:30 pm. It was pretty obvious I wasn’t going to be able to finish 100 miles before the sun set. BUT I might be able to complete a metric century, but even that wasn’t a sure thing.

Back and forth I rode. Each lap was approximately a mile. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how many miles equal 100 kilometers. In my younger days I ran 10K races almost every weekend. My recollection was they were 6.6 miles in length. My new goal was to ride 67 miles.

09 My route
My route. Began the day riding an aimless route, then switched to riding the sprayer tracks (the horizontal lines) before giving up and riding up and down the left side of the field for 40+ miles.

The miles started to add up and around 5 pm I had completed 60 miles. Only seven to go. I don’t know what possessed me, but I decided to check my phone to see just how many miles equal 100 kilometers. Turns out it’s 62 miles and change. Wow! I only had two more laps to go! 

Sadly, this was the high point of the day.

My final two laps went by quickly. I struggled to dismount the Bucksaw and chug another Pepsi. I’ve never felt so glad to finish a ride.

12 Time to rest
I’m smiling as the sun sets on my 2016 100MoN adventure.

Even though my day had just 728 feet of climbing elevation, I was spent. I felt stronger after completing a 150-mile gravel ride in August. 

11 Speedy
Lots of climbing and speed.

Some things I learned: 

  1. No matter what it looks like from the road, farm fields are NOT smooth. 
  2. Even with a fat bike, dirt makes a terrible riding surface. 
  3. A 33-pound fat bike doesn’t roll nearly as easily as a road bike.
  4. Nine hours on a fat bike will wear you down
  5. You might consider training a little bit before you tackle something like this.

90 acres. No crops. No trails. No roads. No traffic. No plan. 100 miles? No way. No time.

In so many ways, that bean field beat me, but I also managed to come out on top, as the winner of the 100 Kilometers of Nowhere – Nowhere Division. 

10 Done
A metric century!

What will I do next year? If there IS a next year…


  1. Comment by Don | 11.15.2016 | 10:40 am

    Hi Martin,
    Well done! Crazy effort, must have bean tough.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Comment by Corrine | 11.15.2016 | 10:48 am

    That is TOTALLY INSANE! Wow! Riding on bumpy trails is crazy and slow and hand and butt numbing. You rock, Martin. Love the Strava track and the sunset picture!

  3. Comment by BostonCarlos | 11.15.2016 | 11:17 am

    I would like to see the flyby of this…

    Great work, Martin!!!

    @Don – You are winning the pun game right now. keep it up.

  4. Comment by Christina | 11.15.2016 | 11:30 am

    Yes! YES!

    I love it. I love the “this should work” and the rerouting.

    Math is my bonk gauge. If I can’t figure out things like how many miles in a metric century, I realize I need to eat more.

    Excellent job!

  5. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 11.15.2016 | 11:43 am

    Isn’t it amazing how much, and how little – at the same time – thought goes into these crazy things? Makes for great stories, though.

    Super job! Hope your fat bike experiences are more pleasant in the future.

  6. Comment by Jenni | 11.15.2016 | 12:12 pm

    Insane! Excellent job on a fantastic ride!

  7. Comment by Kate | 11.15.2016 | 12:12 pm

    That sounds insanely terrible. So impressed with your resolve and the fact that you stuck with your awful plan for an entire metric. Congratulations!

  8. Comment by leroy | 11.15.2016 | 12:15 pm

    Dear Martin — My dog asked me to congratulate you on being outstanding in your field. We both agree that a metric century in a bean field is a pretty neat trick for dogs of any age.


  9. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 11.15.2016 | 1:09 pm

    Martin, great job! Perseverance in the face of a difficult task to be sure. I would have been tempted to ride the road circling the bean field.

  10. Comment by MikeL | 11.15.2016 | 1:12 pm

    Kind of looks like the gravel road in front of my house in terms of smoothness. 1.62 km = 1 mile, more or less.

  11. Comment by Tom in Albany | 11.15.2016 | 2:46 pm

    Anotha winnaaahhhhhhhh!!!! Great job!

    Glad you survived and aren’t too banged up from all of the rattling!

  12. Comment by UpTheGrade, SR, CA | 11.15.2016 | 3:05 pm

    Seems like you had a field-day with that ride. It took incredible perseverance to make 100km. Certainly no one can call you a has-bean.

  13. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 11.15.2016 | 4:17 pm

    @Mark in Bremerton
    I think that’s a given.

    @UpTheGradeyou and @Don may need a showdown

  14. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 11.15.2016 | 4:18 pm


  15. Comment by Brian in VA | 11.16.2016 | 7:47 am

    Wow. Mad props to you sir for hanging in there and completing the Metric.

  16. Comment by Jeff | 11.16.2016 | 8:00 am

    Jeez, those are impressive stats! Must have felt good, Congratulations!

  17. Comment by Kel | 11.16.2016 | 10:07 am

    Awesome! I declare you the winner of the division.

  18. Comment by MattC | 11.16.2016 | 4:40 pm

    Some serious perseverance to finish…not sure that I wouldn’t have given up…yikes! Well done Martin!

  19. Comment by mbunge | 11.17.2016 | 8:17 am

    Thanks for the kind comments! LOVED the bean puns! And thanks, Fatty, for giving the world’s cyclists an outlet for our repressed weirdness.


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