Who doesn’t enjoy a good bike ride? But many will go the extra mile and participate in Bike Across Kansas (BAK) from June 11-18, riding an average of about 60 miles daily on the 512-mile route.
BAK began in June 1975, and has been held annually ever since, except for 2020. It is the second-longest-running statewide bicycle tour in the U.S. Participants typically range from ages 6 to 80-plus.
BAK is not a race, but a recreational and social rally for cyclists. Participants can set a pace that suits their degree of expertise. The BAK website calls it “an experience … not an endurance contest, a race, or a test of stamina.” The event promotes health and wellness through bicycling, the history and beauty of the Kansas landscape, and the warm hospitality of the Kansas towns and people.
More than 400 bicyclists are expected to participate this year, which includes an overnight stay in Hillsboro on Wednesday, June 15.
Why Hillsboro? Well, the route varies each year, and this year Hillsboro agreed to host the bikers. According to City Administrator Matt Stiles, Hillsboro was originally on the route for the 2020 BAK event, but COVID shut that down.
“We’ve been working with the BAK organizers since then to remain on the route,” said Stiles. “The BAK organizers love to come to small towns. It’s an opportunity to introduce riders to all the cool small towns across the state that might not otherwise be visited. For us, it’s an opportunity to showcase our hospitality, and hopefully make some new fans along the way.”
Hosting an overnight stay for BAK is no small task, and several organizations will lend a hand.
The Hillsboro stopover will be supported by the City, Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), Golf Association, Hillsboro Community Foundation, Hillsboro Community Hospital, Lutheran Church and Methodist Church.
The Chamber is the community liaison and will circulate information. The City is supporting the operation with signage, traffic control, etc. CVB will provide beverages and snacks when riders start arriving in the late morning.
Hillsboro Community Hospital will be on hand to provide health-support services for riders.
The Community Foundation will host a meal at the Lutheran Church, while the Golf Association is having a beer garden at the Schaeffler house near the school, less than two blocks from the camping area. A DJ will help provide the entertainment.
Cyclists will stay at the Middle School and High School, or camp at the Jefferson Street practice field in the evening.
On Thursday morning, following breakfast at the Methodist Church property, riders will head out of town on the old highway.
BAK is always routed on paved roads, using secondary state highways and county roads where possible. BAK makes every attempt to take “the road less traveled.”
BAK advises cyclists to train on hills, and in crosswinds and headwinds. The website assures participants that, “Yes, Kansas does have hills, and the wind is usually a factor. While we don’t have the mountains of Colorado, new riders learn very quickly that Kansas is not so flat.”
Hillsboro native Paul Schultz, 68, now from Wichita, will participate in BAK for the 6th time. The first time was primarily to prove to himself that he could do it. Now he does it because he “enjoys the fellowship, the people we meet, and just seeing Kansas in a different way. I enjoy the food in the different communities; to get the local flavor. It’s like a week-long block party.”
BAK motivates him to stay in shape. “You want to enjoy the experience, so you bike ride to get in shape,” said Schultz.
Thanks to all who are helping to host BAK in Hillsboro, and be sure to give the visiting riders a warm Hillsboro welcome!