Catch up: A cross-country bike tour with a twist: Chris Reichel is riding his mountain bike from Colorado to North Carolina and hitting all the best trails along the way. If you missed earlier installments of the Ultimate Ride to the Ride, see them here.
By Chris Reichel
I didn’t have much of a schedule or timeframe for this trip, but the one place I really wanted to be was Single Speed Kansas City. I begrudgingly left Wilson Lake, Kansas, on a 95-degree afternoon and pointed it toward Kansas City. That same morning I also got a message from my buddy James wanting to know where I was, because he wanted to meet up and ride along. James owns the bike touring oasis, Newton Bike Shop in Newton, Kansas. It is conveniently located smack dab in the middle of the Trans American touring route. One part bike shop and one part hostel, it’s a great place to take a rest day in the middle of the country. Although I was about 100 miles north of his shop and it was the busiest time of year, James still snuck away to ride with me for a couple days.
James is one of those guys that has contagious stoke and it was just what I needed. The miles and heat were finally starting to grind me down and it was great having his positive energy around. We proceeded to laugh, drink beers, curse the wind and pedal our way across the prairie for two days. When we finally went our separate ways outside of Salina, my batteries were recharged and I was ready to knock out the last miles to KC.
Single Speed Kansas City was born out of an internal feud amongst the singlespeed community over who would host Single Speed USA for 2015. What resulted was the best solution to any feud, ever. The race was held one week before Single Speed USA in Wisconsin and, if you were an ambitions driver, you could make both events back to back. I was really looking forward to this event. I would be hanging out with the 8-Lumens crew members, who know how to ride some bikes and throw a party. They would not disappoint.
I arrived in KC to a surprise delivery from Oskar Blues Brewery. They must have thought that I looked thirsty riding across Kansas so they sent an actual truck-load of beer for me to share at the event. That’s enough to bring a man to tears after towing a trailer for 600 miles.
We all met at a bar downtown on Friday night for a little registration party and some socializing. The night then degraded into a local-led group ride around the industrial side of town. Stairs were ridden and new friends were made. It was the perfect warmup for a proper singlespeed death march the next day.
Saturday morning came too early and I was sufficiently late for the start of the race. Riding across town, following the map on my phone, it was hard to believe that there were mountain bike trails around. But much to my surprise, when I arrived at Swope Park, there was just that. Punchy, rocky and technical singletrack right there in the middle of Kansas City! I jumped in the course a half-hour late and went for a little mountain bike ride while everyone else raced, including stalling out at a classic heckling spot on one of the final climbs. It was complete with a drummer and a guy playing the dobro.
After the race was finished and awards were handed out, the after party moved to the Pirate XC skills course, a Kansas City tradition and the sick brainchild of frame builder Sean Burns. We faced a mini time trial on skinny bridges, teeter totters and over a series of small jumps. It was more fun than should probably be legal and the winner received the biggest prize of all: bragging rights.
Kansas City knows how to throw a bike party and the trails inside city limits are downright amazing. I wanted to stay a little longer but St. Louis was calling and 300 miles of Missouri was standing in the way.
About the author: Chris is the chief stoke officer and head cat herder at drunkcyclist.com. He has recently escaped the grip of Corporate America and set out to see all that FUNemployment has to offer a mountain bike addict. Follow him on Twitter: @dirtybiker, and Instagram: @dirty_biker.