Author: rachelbwkc

Normalizing Fitness in Kansas City

By Katie Young

B-Cycle extras 5In our culture, we hear the word “fitness” thrown around everywhere. It’s on the cover of just about every magazine. It’s the word that draws you into athletic stores, and spits you out with ridiculously expensive Nike shoes and matching neon leggings. It’s the word that sits on many of our to-do lists, but we can never quite cross it off. There is a reason for this.

Fitness doesn’t just happen. You can’t buy it, and you definitely aren’t born with it. Fad diets don’t pave the path to it, and neither will the workout videos that you buy, but never watch. Fitness is something that, if it isn’t a priority, will constantly loom over you, negatively impacting your confidence and your health. At BikeWalkKC, we hope to normalize fitness, and incorporate it into the Kansas City culture. With new bike paths and sidewalks being built constantly, and the expansion of our B-cycle rentals throughout the metro area, we are well on our way to making this vision a reality.

It doesn’t take much to make small changes to your daily routine. For some, that might mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator. For others, that might mean bringing a lunch instead of eating out every day. What matters is the effort, and every person is different. Biking can be just one more of those little changes that makes all the difference. Start out small and work your way up. Bike to the drug store occasionally, and then maybe take a trip to the grocery store on your bike. Before you know it, you will be biking everywhere and loving every minute of it! There is something to be said about the sense of SWTS Danny-Lizzie-Angie 5accomplishment associated with biking or walking to a destination.

Unlike vehicles, which can alienate you from your surroundings, bicycles allow you to see your neighborhood from an entirely new perspective. Biking adds depth to your day, and gives you the satisfaction of reaching your destination by your own effort. Biking is also a great form of exercise. It burns calories, tones muscle, and increases your aerobic capacity. Most importantly, however, when you implement biking into your daily routine, you are implementing the lifestyle that comes with it: health, wellness, and longevity.

It’s time to change Kansas City for the better. We strive to make Kansas City a safer, friendlier city for bikers and walkers, and hope that you will take advantage of the opportunities that we are working to supply. Remember to start small and work your way up. Once you’re biking everywhere, though, we promise that you’ll never go back!

katieAbout Katie: I began running as a sophomore in high school: seven years ago. Two half marathons and one marathon later, I am excited to notice more and more runners on Kansas City sidewalks, sharing my love for health and fitness. I recently graduated from Georgetown University in May with my Bachelor’s in English. As I begin my career exploration, I am thrilled to be involved with BikeWalkKC’s mission to normalize active lifestyles in the Kansas City area. 


B-cycling in KC: A ride through Kansas City parks

This post originally appeared on the VisitKC website, by our spokespeople blogger Ellen Schwartze.

bike_share1Downtown KC: another American concrete jungle, right? Not so! Downtown has several beautiful green spaces tucked between the busy streets and tall buildings. The next time you’re looking for a picnic spot, scenic view or downtown oasis, look no further than these parks, found on the BikeShare B-Outside parks tour.
I started at one of the most popular bikeshare stations, 3rd & Grand in the River Market. Since this is a choose-your-own-adventure tour, I’ll give you some options to get to the first stop, Berkley Riverfront Park. Option 1: bike across the Grand St. Viaduct (5 minutes) — be prepared to share the road! Option 2: bike a couple blocks up 2nd Street to the Town of bike_share4Kansas pedestrian bridge (10 minutes), walk the bike down the bridge and stairs to the path. (Pro tip: there is an elevator but it isn’t always on.) The park is decked out with paths, picnic tables and excellent views of the Missouri River and its bridges, including the Hannibal train bridge and the Broadway, Heart of America and Kit Bond bridges.

After frolicking — and frolicking is a must — head back the way you came and point your trusty steed westward to Case Park. Again, you have a couple options: Option 1: ride to the 8th & Broadway bike share station then walk up the stairs at 8th & Washington, or Option 2: go straight to the park by conquering the hill on 7th Street. Case Park views stretch to the horizons: to the north, the downtown airport (sit for a moment during the week and you’ll catch a few take-offs), and to the west, the river, West Bottoms and Kansas City, Kansas. The park also has a playground for the kiddos and tables and grills for weekend cook-outs.

Next, pick up a bike from 10th and Washington and turn into the downtown business district for two more parks. Oppenstein Brothers Park at 12th & Walnut (5 minutes) offers a shaded break from the weekday grind. Be sure to investigate the Star Disk, which displays seasonal constellations when you line up the month and day.

Four bbike_share6locks away is one of my favorite parks in KC, Ilus W. Davis Park (3 minutes). It stretches two city blocks between the courthouse and City Hall, with a beautiful water feature and reflecting pool in the southern block. It’s great for people watching in during the week, too. Plop down on the grass and consider all the fun you’re having and all the hard work people are doing in the high rises around you.

For your final leg, head due south to one of the most famous views of the KC skyline from Penn Valley Park, home of the Liberty Memorial. Drop off the bike at the Union Station kiosk (15 minutes) and then spend an afternoon exploring the park grounds — it’s huge! If you brought Fido, keep walking south to the off-leash dog park. If you’re a history buff, the WWI National Museum is not to be missed.

And, since you’ve reached the end of your journey, be sure to treat yourself at Parisi Coffee, Pierpont’s or Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Union Station!

Learning the art of framebuilding

By Julie Pedalinojpedalino, framebuilder and bike mechanic

It’s early morning and I’m alone in a quiet bike shop. The rasping sound of a file against metal is my companion, shavings of brass fall gently to the floor as I shape a fillet that forms a joint between two steel tubes.  I can pass hours this way, coaxing the simple raw materials of steel and brazing rod to come together into something magical:  a bicycle frame.

That’s no hyperbole by the way, I truly believe that bicycles have magic stitched up in them.  I know this from personal experience – a direct revelation from my bike that has completely transformed my life in the most astounding ways.  The simple act of riding has brought me community, health, confidence, and uncovered within me a wellspring of passion for the art and science of creating, building, and maintaining bikes.

jpedalinoLast fall, my bike lead me on adventure to become acquainted with the generous and gifted folks at Velo+ in Lenexa, KS.  The more I rode my bike, the more I wanted to know, and what began an occasional stop at the shop for service or parts (not to mention some of the best fresh roasted coffee in town!) grew into a wrenching apprenticeship with the shop mechanics, David and Tim.  As I learned, the veils of mystery surrounding all things bike began to part and I discovered how satisfying and empowering it is to understand, fix, and assemble.

I also began to realize how much opportunity there is for self expression through bikes.  I was fascinated by the ever expanding array of components – all made with different styles, materials, colors and offering unlimited potential to customize a bike for any riding style.  It was only a matter of time until my obsession progressed to the ultimate customization – a handmade bicycle frame.  The fates were on my side, because not only does Velo+ staff mechanics with encyclopedic knowledge and skill, but the owner, Vincent Rodriguez, is a custom steel framebuilder.

Vincent kindly agreed to share the trade with me and now I find myself in an unbelievably fortunate position as an apprentice of steel framebuilding, as well as continuing with my mechanic training.  I am still very much a novice to be sure, but as I work on my frames I’m convinced that I have found my true calling in life as a framebuilder; the most exciting aspect of which is to have the ability to create and share a thing of magic… a bicycle.

Although handmade frames are certainly rising in popularity, there are only a handful of  women builders working in the field.  Gender equality is a complex issue to be sure, but perhaps I have access to a bit more bike magic than my male counterparts. It would be a great joy to serve as source of inspiration for other lady makers, riders, and dreamers out there. And maybe, just maybe, that inspiration will be the gentle push that starts another person on her own bicycle adventure of transformation.

BikeMS: As told by Disney

On Sept. 13-14, I and thousands of my newest bikey friends completed BikeMS, the annual, national  fundraiser for the National MS Society. Being the child of the 90s that I am, I thought the best way to relate my ride to you would be through Disney songs.

Mile 0: “Be Prepared” (The Lion King). Ok, so the song talks about being prepared for the Hamlet-esque overthrow of a lion’s kingdom, but the title is nothing to snub your nose at. Before you ride 140 miles, you should be prepared. A lot goes into that: putting the miles on your bike, getting a proper tune-up, figuring out what food you need to eat before, during and after a long ride, making sure you have sunscreen.

Mile 1: “You Can Fly” (Peter Pan). The first miles are beautiful. You’re happy! Your muscles are ready! Those hills are nothing! The wind is in your hair!

Mile 35: “Just Keep Swimming” (Finding Nemo). There are, after all, more than 100 miles to go. At some point you have to knuckle down and just keep pedaling. You’ll make it up the hills, and you’ll have lots of fun on the way down, too!

Mile 70: “Fixer-Upper” (Frozen). It’s possible that my chain hadn’t been oiled in a while. Thank goodness that each rest stop of the ride has mechanics from local bike shops ready and able to care for your bike’s needs. Fix a flat, tighten a screw or ask anything else. They’ll be willing to help.

Mile 110: “Just Around the Riverbend” (Pocahontas). The middle part of each day’s ride wound up being lots of hills. I would think it’s the last one, but the next one would be waiting for me at the bottom. I came upon a turn which I was sure was hiding a big climb around it. But it wasn’t, and I laughed a little because if that isn’t a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is. You can’t tell what’s around the riverbend, so don’t worry about it.

Mile 120: “Bibbidi-Bobbidy-Boo” (Cinderella). Because Biofreeze is MAGIC I TELL YOU.

Mile 140: “I Can Go the Distance” (Hercules). The whole point of BikeMS can be summed up with the line from this song, “I know every mile / will be worth my while.” Every person involved with making BikeMS a success is grateful for every rider. Anytime I would thank volunteers for being awake at some ungodly hour, just to serve me trail mix and PB&Js, they wouldn’t miss a beat in thanking me back. They know better than I do what a difference the donations to the National MS Society make in the lives of people with MS.

Meet the Maker: Elise Keeling of ‘Pilot Valve’

IMG_0460Meet the Maker is our series of profiles on Kansas Citians who use bikes as inspiration for their art and craft. This week’s Meet the Maker is with Elise Keeling, owner of Pilot Valve jewelry.
What’s the meaning of the word “Pilot Valve“?
Pilot Valve” doesn’t mean anything in particular with my work. I found a brass tag with “pilot valve” stamped on it. I had no luck coming up with name for my business and this seemed to work-gender neutral, easy to spell, distinctive.
How long have you been making jewelry? How did you first get involved?
I’ve been making jewelry for over 20 yrs. I’ve been using bike parts for 2-3 yrs.  I had a friend show me how to break down the bike chain and that’s how I got started.
Are you a cyclist yourself?
I’m not a very serious or consistent biker, but I love to ride around the Nelson Art Gallery on a Sunday morning.
Why did you start integrating bikes into your jewelry?
I use bike parts because they are accessible (every bike shop has a pile of parts waiting to be taken the scrap metal yard). The pieces are small and lend themselves to jewelry.  I don’t have metal smithing skills so I take a “finished” item and then manipulate it for another purpose.
How would you describe your jewelry design aesthetic?
As for the look of my pieces, some would label it “steam punk”. I think it’s more broadly “industrial”.
Where do you acquire all your materials for the jewelry?
I know some great and generous people who work on bikes so I can get parts pretty easy. Garage and estate sales also are good places to look.  If you buy some de-greaser, most bike shops are willing to find a greasy gear cassette to donate.

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