As much as I normally prefer to ride alone, I have to admit that charity rides are fun. At such times I look forward to riding in a huge crowd of cyclists. This is the first year I’ve participated in the Tour de Brew, an event that benefits BikeWalkKC and the “low brow” approach really appealed to my sense of taste, not to mention the appeal of a cold brew wetting my dry lips following a hot ride.
The ride began in inauspicious fashion in an industrial district outside Knuckleheads Saloon, near the Missouri River in Kansas City, Missouri. One of the things I most enjoy about charity tours is looking at the other bikes. I stopped counting Lemonds after the sixth one I spotted and there were at least two Merckx bikes in addition to a host of vintage Schwinns and Centurions and Bianchis.
My heavy 1984 Peugeot P8, fashionably outfitted as a randonneur, held up well on this hot morning. She’s a comfy riding bike but I’d wish for a triple up front like that on my Shogun, and perhaps about five pounds shaved off the top for good measure.
The route took us past many of the building which formerly housed brewers in the city – many more than I had been previously aware of. I was also treated to a variety of sites, including those structures that fascinate me for some reason: diners and “greasy spoons.” The food isn’t even the point to me; they are a part of our cultural past and distinctly American in character. In a world plagued by homogeneity, it’s wonderful to stumble across a seemingly forgotten cache of individuality.
The ride itself was relatively uneventful. It was pleasant and hot and took us over some pretty roughly shod streets in the industrial areas of downtown. The Peugeot P8, decked out with fenders and wider 27 x 1 1/4 tires was the right choice for this ride, despite the disadvantage of weight… and in spite of that disadvantage, I managed to hold my own for the duration of the ride. The only time the carbon fibre weenies pulled to the fore was nearing the end of the route when my legs were beginning to tire.
I did nearly rear end a parked car at one point: shouting out to someone who turned out not to be the nephew I thought I was seeing, I found myself distracted enough that I had to slam hard on my brakes to avoid catastrophe. Only moments later another rider missed a turn and fell trying to make a tight left. As the pack slowed for the fallen rider, the cyclist immediately behind me ran right into my rear fender. All was well however and there was no damage to either cycle or cyclist.
As I mentioned before, I prefer to ride alone under normal circumstances. It’s not that I’m socially inept but I enjoy riding as “me” time. Now and then, it is nice to chat with up other riders and these types of events are just the place for it. A fellow on a red Merckx was genuinely friendly and a good conversationalist on wheels. Another rider that I met about midway through the ride was, like me, riding a vintage randonneur-style bicycle. His was faded chrome with fat fenders and showed plenty of road use: it is his functional commuter and sees the road every working day I presumed. I admired his bike immensely and genuinely regret having missed the opportunity to make a photograph of it.
Not originally on the route, there was a damn train blocking the last fifteen feet of the finish line and we wound up – ironically! – passing the Finish Line Cafe on the detour back up and around the final hill. Those of us too impatient to wait on the train came to the finish by way of the back door.
After the ride there were plenty of suds to wash away the grime of the road.
And so I washed that grime away.