LARNED — Twelve Larned bikers recently took part in the annual “Biking Across Kansas” event this past month. The 2016 BAK ride began June 3 and ended June 11.
The bikers were Dr. David Sanger, Stacy Sanger, Katelyn Sanger, Deana Peterson, Johnathan Peterson, Meredith Peterson, Mary Duft, Kathy Tankersley, Shawn Harding, Terry Smith, Amanda Bickle and Dru Dougan.
Three riders earned the “Century Patch” which means that each rode 100 miles in one day — Terry Smith, Shawn Harding and Dru Dougan.
In case you have wondered what 850 bikers were doing on the paved roads during this time, you might be interested to know that they were biking 499 miles.
This year the bikers rode the northern route, beginning at the Kansas-Colorado border west of Saint Francis, Kansas and following a path which ends at Elwood, Kansas on the Kansas-Missouri border.
The nightly stops were (beginning with Saint Francis) Oberlin, Phillipsburg, Mankato, Belleville, Marysville, Sabetha, Troy and Elwood.
The Larned bikers were accompanied by Larry Peterson and Debbie Tomlinson. Their job as SAGs (Support and Gear) was driving the van/trailer responsible for carrying the equipment, providing refreshments, transporting suitcases, bike parts, tools, blow-up mattresses, and anything else necessary for a smooth and safe ride.
These two SAGS were vital to the group.
Every 10 to 15 miles there would be an official BAK-SAG stops where granola bars, bananas, water, and energy drinks were available.
No doubt, breaking up the trip into these increments had to be encouraging and motivating. Food stops are up to the bikers and the participants take advantage of both the SAG stops and the services in the towns on the route.
Dr. David Sanger, a Larned physician, has been instrumental in the encouragement and motivation of potential bikers for the BAK ride.
“We had six first-time riders this year,” he said. “It’s a testament to what people can do if they set their minds to it.!”
This is Sanger’s fourth year participating in the BAK. He is the “Father” of the effort and definitely the “Spearhead”. One of the bikers remarked in referring to Dr. Sanger, “None of us would have done it without him!”
This year, approximately 850 bikers took part in the Biking Across Kansas event. It would seem that there would be a gigantic crowd of bikers in one spot during the ride, but because they start at different times during the day, and because they ride at different speeds, there is no problem with everyone riding into each other. The traffic is courteous and watchful, and there have been no accidents.
The Larned group would rise at 5 a.m. and begin that day’s trip at 6 in order to beat the heat.
Some groups might start later, and most varied their start times depending on many factors.
However, by each evening at 5, the different groups were expected to have arrived at the destination. Upon arrival each would have signed in at the BAK location. If a group or individual did not sign in by that time, someone would go looking for them. Safety was of primary importance.
Humor is always a part of the fun as well.
Dru wore her helmet on her head backwards one entire day and did not know it was on her head wrong.
Once she discovered her folly and told the others, they took selfies with their helmets on backwards. The group named the “helmet” malfunction as “just Dru-it.”
Usually, because the roads are paved, there is a shoulder for the bicycles. However, in the eastern part of the state in the Belleville area, the roads were hilly, and there was no shoulder. That part of the trip was a physical challenge, and the lack of a shoulder made each cycler extra cautious.
In each town on the route, there are greeters waiting for the bikers with drinks and bathroom stops for rest time.
Some of the bikers use the time for tourism and sightseeing. Also, sleeping arrangements in these destination towns are provided with camping areas, and inside schools for overnight accommodations. Some bikers choose to stay in motels.
Seats on the bike could be pretty uncomfortable and bikers know that a “tough” bottom is necessary to endure the rigors of the ride. Training for the ride definitely toughens up that area, but in the case of chafing or rubbing, the sit could be pretty miserable.
The riders seemed to conquer that problem and there were no serious complaints. Padded bike pants are a necessity!
Although Kansas has no mountains, and is considered flat, the new riders discover quickly that Kansas is not so flat. There are sections of level roads, but there are many challenging inclines, particularly in the eastern third of the state. Kansas wind can be as challenging as climbing and it can persist all day.
At the end of the ride, it is traditional to dip your tire in the Missouri River. That is exactly what the riders did as a point of closure and celebration.
“The team did awesome this year<” Sanfer said. “The ride wears you down, but the challenging sense of accomplishment is an exciting feeling as you dip your cycle’s tire into the river.”
I’m sure there’s nothing like it!