Month: July 2014

Biking and Busing in Kansas City

I took my bike out on the highway last week. We hit 55 mph before we had to slow down.

I wasn’t riding my bike of course. We were both on the 51X headed to the Plaza after work. I was snug in my seat, and Fifi was tightly fastened on the bus’s front bike rack. It made getting to the plaza much nicer, as I wasn’t sweaty and gross when I met up with friends, and I got there in about half the time it would’ve taken to ride (and not much longer than it would’ve taken to drive).

kansas city scout sunset skyline

Seeeeee? I told you that ride back from the plaza was beautiful!

Taking your bike on the bus opens up fun new ways of getting around town while getting a few miles in at the same time. For example, in the plaza example above I was able to ride home that evening, taking a couple of fun detours I would’ve missed if I’d been driving. Plus, it was a BEE-YOO-TEE-FUL night, and I got a little bit of exercise.

If you haven’t used the bike racks on the front of KC’s buses, I can understand if you’re a little apprehensive about using them for the first time. They don’t seem particularly welcoming, and it’s intimidating to think of holding up the bus when they’re on a schedule. I’m here to tell you that it’s easy to overcome both of these things!

First: watch this 2-minute video from KCATA. Loading and unloading your bike is super simple. As someone who will brag about my bikey leg muscles well before mentioning my upper body strength, I can assure you the front racks aren’t too heavy. Just be sure to leave enough space between you and the bus for it to unfold.

Second: I’ve yet to find a driver who is rude about me loading my bike. At worst they’re indifferent. That video may have lasted two minutes, but loading your bike — even the first, most awkward time — only takes a handful of seconds. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to load it in the time it takes for other passengers to board the bus and futz around with their bus passes.

(It’s normal to worry about your bike when it’s on the front rack. Just sit close to the front and breathe easy, mama. That bike isn’t going anywhere. You’re a wonderful bike parent doing the best you can. We all get nervous sometimes. It’s perfectly natural.)

Some of my favorite bike-and-bus combos (start/end in the River Market):

  1. MAX or the 51X to the plaza. Ride back via JC Nichols –> Westport Rd –> Pennsylvania, through Penn Valley Park, and back northish on Southwest Blvd. to Walnut. Bonus points for stopping at Murray’s for ice cream!
  2. Main Street MAX down to Waldo. Ride the Trolley Track Trail back to the plaza, then head over to Rockhill Rd which turns into Gillham which turns into Oak to get north. Bonus points for joining the Brookside Ride on Thursday nights!
  3. The 25 or the 108 to the Kansas City Zoo. Ride back via Meyer Blvd –> Paseo –> 9th St –> Charlotte (now with bike lanes!). Bonus points for finding the piano-key bench at 12th & Paseo!

Meet Sara Arendale, one of our newest bloggers

We had the pleasure to speak with Sara Arendale, one of our newest bloggers today, to talk about why she rides, her favorite thing about riding and the state of female riding in Kansas City. Check out the video below.

KC Spokes People: Meet Sara Arendale from BikeWalkKC on Vimeo.

Meet the Maker: Tara Tonsor

164246_10151512851448808_1011186810_n*This post is the beginning of a new series, called Meet the Maker, a recurring feature about how local Kansas Citians integrate cycling into their art, business or craft. This week’s feature is with Tara Tonsor, a local jewelry maker and owner of Lost & Found Jewelry by See{k} Design.

How long have you been making jewelry?

Steadily for over 5 years, but as a creative person I have always dabbled in jewelry even as a little kid. Craft nerd!

How long have you been biking?
When I lost my car it seemed to be the best solution at the time. I killed the engine, and realized I didn’t want to deal with another payment plan, and I lived and worked close, so temporarily I thought I’d wait awhile. That was three years ago. I do think I will eventually purchase a car, but the experience of surviving without one has changed me incredibly. Not only am I more healthy and in tune with my body, I am more aware of how i spendIMG_20130906_191719 money, how I affect the environment, and I how can make a smaller carbon footprint.

Why did you integrate bikes into your jewelry?
The idea just came to me one day. When I think of wearing jewelry, I think something worn around your neck is a symbol of perhaps your beliefs, your passions, what you love. It made sense.

How would you describe your jewelry design aesthetic?
I prefer natural materials. I find simplicity important, but a mix of materials that are warm and inviting. The lasercut designs are made from bamboo. The chain is usually bronze, and I add natural stones or charms as well. I’ve been working with bicycle inner tube tires as well lately.

How popular are your bike themed pieces for your customers?IMG_20131028_225707
Being a part of the bike community, they are very popular! Sometimes I end up meeting a mom or grandma who buys them for their daughter/granddaughter and they say, “She rides her bike everywhere, o this is perfect for her.” I think that is very cute. I have many guys that wear them too!

As a cyclist, what do you hope to see as the future of biking in Kansas City?
Personally I want to see KC (especially the more suburban areas) to recognize cyclists as part of the road and that many of us do obey the road laws just as cars. Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit uncomfortable in these areas, even family neighborhoods right next to schools where children ride their bikes! I think the concept of educating both cyclists and drivers of how to share the road without either party feeling accused or threatened is tricky, yet much needed.


A Cyclist’s First Racing Experience

By Tyler Galloway


Tyler Galloway, second from the right, raced his first bike race last weekend. Photo by Roger F. Harrison

I did it.

I finished.

I reached my goal but it was only slightly less than hellish finishing my first road race. Even better, I later found out that I wasn’t even in last place (though it kind of felt like it at the time), so I count that as a solid win.

Being relatively new to road bike riding, I really had no idea what to expect of a race scenario, beyond a lot of dudes in spandex with fancy bikes (which was met in spades on race day). On an impulse and out of impatience, I signed up for the annual State Line Road Race. The men’s beginner group in which I was slotted (“Cat 5”), would ride a total of 42.5 miles. Not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, particularly since it was only about a week before the race and my “training” consisted of squeezing in one 50-mile ride before the race, which would be about the farthest I’ve ever ridden. I never said I was the smartest at doing this; I was just excited about testing my mettle.

As I entertained delusions of keeping up with the pack during the race, my wife smartly advised me to go in with a “just check it out” attitude. I worked to heed her advice as a way to avoid nervousness, which was fairly successful, but I could think of little else the few days before the race. My sleep was restless the night before as my brain would not calm down, despite my best efforts.

The race started at a pace way faster than I had ever ridden before, but I was determined to stay in the pack because I knew the wind resistance would be much easier than going it alone. Some aspects of the first two laps were even easy as we zipped up and down the rolling hills on country blacktops – others were not. These guys powered out of corners and went into beast-mode up hills. I received a good dose of humility on my first lap as I watched probably 10 guys pass me ascending some stair-step hills. With a lot of effort, I was able to catch the pack and maintain the pace for another lap. About halfway through the race, though, the pack started to slowly pull away from me. There was nothing I could do to catch up and, disheartened, I watched a group of over 20 riders slowly but surely leave me (and a few others) to battle the wind and hills alone. Already feeling dejected that I had done so poorly, I waffled between giving up and slugging it out by myself. I thought about my wife’s advice and pep-talked my way through the remaining laps. It even felt like I finished my last lap a bit faster, as I knew the end was near and I would indeed survive.

Immediately afterwards I felt a mixture of happiness (that I had finished) and disappointment (that I was so slow, relatively speaking). Later, I was greatly encouraged after looking at my GPS stats to see that it was one of the fastest, farthest rides I had ever done, no doubt due to the competitive nature of the ride. In the end I realized that I had ridden two races – the first half was for the race itself, for others, to keep pace; the second half was for myself, to prove that I could stretch myself to achieve a lofty goal. The great thing is that it took the former to achieve the latter at the level I did, and that’s enough to make me

Tyler Galloway, a former low-level bmx-er turned low-level road cyclist, is an Associate Professor of visual communication at the University of Kansas. He lives in Lenexa with his wife and six-year-old daughter.

Taking Your Bicycle on Amtrak


Amtrak bike boxes come with written instructions.


By Caroline Helmkamp, local resident and experienced bicycle traveler. 

    Earlier this summer Amtrak announced that it was expanding bike service with specially designed baggage cars to carry bicycles without being placed in a shipping box.  Amtrak is still in the planning stages for bike racks in the new baggage cars, and specific information about how this will all play out is not currently available.  They do intend to improve service to cyclists and to make traveling with bikes easier according to Ms. Deborah L. Stone-Wulf in an email message to me.

This is very good news for those of us who want to take bike tours away from our local region.  Amtrak currently has a policy that allows bikes to be taken on some Amtrak routes, and we have done this a number of times.  We have taken full sized bikes and our folding bikes on board.  We have also shipped our full sized bikes on Amtrak and flown to our destination, collecting our bikes at the Amtrak Station.


Remove two nuts and turn the handlebars.

There are several caveats about planning an Amtrak journey with your bike.  The most important is to ensure that the Amtrak route you plan to follow is on a train that can actually accommodate your bike; not all trips will.  Most cyclists in our region are already aware that the River Runner with twice daily service between Kansas City and St. Louis allows four bicycles on the train with a reservation.  The cost is $10 per trip.

The Southwest Chief which runs between Chicago and Los Angeles with a daily stop in Kansas City in each direction will also take your bike, but it must be placed in a box and may not exceed 50 pounds.  The fee for this service is $15 for the box and $10 for the trip.  The essential thing to know, however, is that this service is only available if the station you go to has BAGGAGE HANDLING.  Kansas City does, but if you are going east on the Southwest Chief, the only place you can take your bike with you is to Chicago.  None of the intermediate stops currently has baggage service.


Remove the Pedals. I attach sandals and helmets to the rear rack.

The Amtrak staff at Union Station can always tell you the stations with baggage handling, and the baggage icon on the official Amtrak schedule also shows those stations. On one occasion we had to change our tour when we realized that a train we wanted to transfer to did not have baggage handling.

When we first shipped Long Haul Truckers on Amtrak, we wrapped our frames in pipe insulation, stuffed lots of bubble wrap inside the box and added additional padding.  Then we taped them shut with a vengeance!  Now that we have some experience, we don’t worry so much about their being damaged—because they NEVER have been.


Roll the bike, back wheel first, into the taped-up box

The process takes less than an hour, but it is a two person operation.  At the station in Portland, Oregon and Washington DC, Amtrak personnel actually assisted us in the process.

The box that Amtrak sells passengers is enormous; don’t think about the boxes you get from your local bike shop.  Those are meant for bikes that are broken down and are a lot smaller.  Our Long Haul Truckers roll into the Amtrak boxes with their fenders, front and rear racks and often a tent strapped to the rear rack.  We often fasten our helmets and shoes onto the frame as well.  Of course, you have to loosen the handlebars, turn them, and strap them to the frame.  Pedals also come off.  George’s bike is a large frame; mine is a 42 cm, so there is room to spare, but both go into the Amtrak boxes with no other alterations to the bikes.

Unlike at the airport, we have never seen the bike boxes disappear on a conveyer belt.  There are cutouts on the sides of the boxes for human hands. We have seen them in railway baggage carts, and on their ends, but they seemed no worse for the wear.

You can also check your panniers in the baggage car.  We zip tie two panniers together so they become “one” bag to check.  We carry the other panniers onto the train with us.  Everything goes on the train you embark on.  If you transfer from one train to another as we often do, the baggage handlers take care of bikes and panniers in the station.  Upon arrival, bikes and panniers are off loaded and presented to you.  It’s handy to have a knife to open the taped-up boxes and tools to reconnect the handlebars and the pedals. Then you attach your panniers and lights, put your helmet on, and roll out of the station.


Ta Da! Your bike is ready to go!

O.K., I know that many travelers have terrible Amtrak tales to tell.  We have a few as well.  But overall we find traveling with our bikes on Amtrak is pleasant, efficient, and economical.  There was a time when we used the airlines, but the days of free shipping + free boxes are long gone.  In addition, going from one Amtrak station to another is usually a lot more convenient than using airports far out on Interstate Highways.

It seems to us that the slow-paced tempo of a train ride matches the slow-paced tempo of our tours.  We look forward to the changes that Amtrak has in store, but we’ve already found that taking our bikes on board is a fine way to get to and from a self-contained tour.


Caroline Helmkamp is a retired educator and experienced bike touring guru. She is also involved with bicycling education and advocacy in Kansas City. Check out her list of resources at


What I learned from 30 days of biking

IMG_7385Back in March I stumbled upon a simple internet honor-system challenge: 30 Days of Biking in April. I had just promised myself I would start riding more around town versus my twice-ish-weekly group rides, so I impulsively signed up and started pondering places to go, like easy rides to work and longer rides to the zoo.

I feel like I learned a lot about riding (one would hope that’s the case after spending some time each day with a bike). Here are some highlights:

1. Don’t fear the granny gear. Some riders associate a sense of pride with powering up a hill without using their easiest gear. But a big reason that riding is enjoyable to me is because I don’t always feel the need to push myself to be faster. Pedaling in an easy gear — especially to a place such as work, where I don’t want to be a sweaty mess when I arrive — means I still get there, but without all of the huffing and puffing. Similarly on longer rides, a big hill won’t wear me out for the remaining miles.


Rain won’t kill you. Invest in rain boots.

2. More biking = stronger muscles. By the end of week one, I could tell that my biking muscles were stronger and quicker to recover from long or tough trips. And when I returned to my gym from a months-long hiatus, I didn’t feel like I was starting over.

3. Rain won’t kill you. There are definitely some safety precautions a rider should take when riding in the rain, but the rain itself isn’t as much of an issue as I first thought. Plus the fenders and chain guards on BikeShare bikes prevent mud from splattering my work clothes. And I have awesome rain boots.

4. Things are closer than you think. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that riding from my home in the River Market to Costco in Midtown was a relatively quick trip. (I also learned that I can fit a tub of feta cheese, five avocados and my bike lock in my backpack! Score!) And while the ride down to KCUR’s offices takes twice as long on a bike, I’m getting exercise the entire trip instead of sitting in my car or on the bus.

5. Riding is rewarding. Feelings of accomplishment, getting sIMG_7155tronger, seeing more of the city, saving gas money, getting some exercise and getting to eat more ice cream because I rode more miles — these are just some of the great things that come from riding.

I wound up riding every day (except that one day where there were tornado watches and pop-up thunderstorms. I stayed in on the exercise bike for that one…) and I’m really proud of that. Here’s my daily log of trips (“Fifi” is the name of my bike). Where would you go?

Portland. Whoa.

IMG_8954_sq**This is the first post written by Ellen Schwartze, our newest KC Spokes People Blogger. Welcome Ellen!

I just returned to my hometown of KC after ten glorious, zero-percent-humidity, bike-lane-filled days in Oregon.

Let’s just say I have a travel hangover.

Portland, Oregon is one of the best-known biking Meccas in the U.S., and two-thirds of my trip was spent in that city, very specifically, so that I could have fun exploring by bike. Not surprisingly, for most of the trip, I found myself mentally perched between joy — of experiencing awesome bike facilities and finding an easy place to lock up my bike and sharing the road with hundreds of cyclists — and longing because I want these things in MY city, too.IMG_8950

So, what does Portland have that makes the world think it’s so great?

  1. SO. MUCH. INFRASTRUCTURE. It seemed rare to be on a street that did not have bike lanes. On one bridge, there’s a bike path that has a passing lane for cyclists to pass other cyclists.
  2. Bike corrals. I just learned this phrase from Elly Blue’s book, Bikenomics, and I love it. Several bike racks are installed in the place of a couple parking spots. It makes parking your bike a breeze because there’s always space. Do you know how often have I locked my bike to a trash can in KC? Lots of times.
  3. People biking. The bike lanes and corrals weren’t installed just for funsies; as more and more people chose to bike around Portland, the city and area businesses responded. Plus, with the amount of cyclists on the roads, drivers learned how to safely navigate with bikes. As a cyclist sharing these roads, I felt very normal — like I was just part of the flow. And everyone bikes. Tall people, round people, purple-haired people, business people. People on cruisers, people with panniers, people with rented bikes and people on their first bike.IMG_8782

(You know what Portland doesn’t have? Humidity and hills. Okay, so it rains instead of smothering you with Kansas City’s famous humidity. And, okay, yeah, there are some hills. But they aren’t like KC hills. These hills don’t crush all your dreams when you try to ride up them for the first time. Alright, fine, you know what Portland really doesn’t have? Excuses. You just bike. It’s what you do.)

But guys! All is not lost for KC! We have lots of things, too. Things like:

  1. TIME. Portland didn’t have a magic wand. City officials and residents started acting on plans more than 30 years ago. KC is now standing at the starting line of its own self-rediscovery. Bikes can be part of it.
  2. ADVOCATES. You know why you’re reading this blog.
  3. PROGRESS. Bike commuting was up 42 percent in KC in 2012. The region gained miles of new bike lanes in recent years. And there’s a ride to be ridden on every night of the week, and new groups to ride with.

There’s plenty of room to grow, but we have come a long, long way.

Ellen loves Kansas City, where she works at the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) as a Public Affairs Coordinator for the Air Quality program. You can find her riding her bike from the River Market all over KC, to Alamo Drafthouse to watch something she’s already seen or Southwest Boulevard for tacos and good conversation. When not riding bikes on their travels, Ellen and her husband run, a site where cyclists can search for group rides all over the country. She tweets random thoughts at @EllenSaysHola, bike fun at @RoadGroups, and downtown love for the Downtown Neighborhood Association at @dnakcmo.