The Philosophy of A Group Ride: KC Mid Day Mid Week
The Mid Day Mid Week (MDMW) Ride started rolling in the spring of 2006 with a ‘handful’ of riders. At the time there were plenty of weekend club rides. And plenty of weekend Fitness Center rides. On most evenings in the summer one could find a “blow and go” ride launching from a neighborhood drinking establishment. What was missing in the south Kansas City scene was a ride where one could learn and share the ‘craft’ of road riding within the fellowship of a good group.
The Wednesday Ride started over 10 years ago with less than a handful of peddlers. Our initial target group of retirees (yes boomers!) was joined by the self-employed, part-time employed and unemployed when the economy tanked in ’07 and ’08. Housewives found that we were a welcome relief from their spin class while the kids were at school, and teachers discovered us in the summer time. Our riders range from categorized racers to newbies. (Cool!) Of course, numbers bulge in the warmth of the summer with people training for vacations/charity events and plunge to the core group in the winter months. (Sad.) Some of the best riding is found in the brisk, sun-filled days of the winter. On an average, we will have over 2 dozen riders in the summer months and a core group of 10 riders in the winter. Of course, like any group, people have joined and departed over the years.
The MDMW Ride (now called ERIK’S OP Wednesday Ride) is a road ride of 25 – 30 miles at a 13- 15 mph average pace with a stop in the middle for coffee and to solve all the problems of the world. We utilize 4 different routes that venture both directions into the city and out into the country. The Ride rolls year round at temperatures above 40 degrees with dry streets at the start of the ride (no rain or snow). There are hills and wind. “Totto, we must be in Kansas.” Riders are asked to sign a yearly, standard “Ride Waiver” form and to adhere to all local and state vehicle laws. A leader steps forward on each ride, but the consensus of the group is always sought and valued.
The purpose of Erik’s OP Wednesday Ride is to provide a fun road ride in as safe an environment as practical in a social setting. Because our focus is safety, the routes are thoughtfully selected. We ride in the middle of the day and out of the chaos of rush hour traffic. We ride as a group ……no, this doesn’t provide a bigger target…..but it does allow good visibility and better command of the road. The mission statement of the Ride is to: “Leave no rider behind.” We regroup at several points along the route and a “sweep” makes sure everyone returns to ERIK’S at the end of the ride.
Please understand: ERIK’S Wednesday Ride is not a club! Yet there are a number of hallmarks that make the Wednesday Ride unique in order to further our mission statement:
- We utilize a Yahoo Group to share ride information, technical wisdom, events and photos among the riders via email.
- Each Ride is started with a “safety discussion.” Not a big deal, but the discussion may include something on the route that needs attention or a “lessons learned” from one of the riders sporting a new scar.
- Continuous improvement in riding technique is encouraged. Group riding techniques, including voice and hand signals, are taught and used. Pace lines are utilized.
- The mid-point stop for coffee is social time and we have had some wonderful discussions concerning cycling. Throw a dart at the cycling, subject “dart board”……we have talked about it. Cycling safety is the center of the dart board. Fun!!
- When a core member of the Ride “drops” for some reason (extended illness, cancer, knee replacement, etc) we generate a “get well” letter to induct them into our Skunk Works team…..sorry Specialized. They receive a Skunk cycling cap engraved with “No Rider Left Behind.”
- Through the years we have ventured off the pavement (road) onto some of the local Rails to Trails conversions (Katy Trail, Prairie Spirit Trail) as well as our local bike path with fatter tire bikes. These are special trips to explore other avenues of cycling.
- Yes we “ride to eat and eat to ride.” The group rides to lunch around Thanksgiving and enjoys a Christmas party (i.e. Food!) each year.
- Through the years we have attempted to serve the community. One Halloween we dressed up and pedaled a route visiting three Assisted Living Facilities. This endeavor landed us on an evening television news broadcast giving a speech that cycling was “more than Lance Armstrong.” Our TV “paceline” complete with rolling witch / bike /broom stick would have shamed the Garmin Pro Tour Team.
- A yearly community service project is our Cranksgiving Ride for a local food pantry in the fall. Even though the Ride is billed as an “alley cat” race, we ride the event at a slower pace to view the city’s fall foliage, laugh at the event’s craziness and donate food. Miles of smiles are enjoyed for a good cause.
In summary ERIK’S Wednesday OP Ride is a fun ride. It is well organized and has a good group of riders. There are interesting hallmarks. But the one important aspect that has sustained this Ride has not been noted. That element is the relationship of the Ride and the Shop…..now ERIK’S Overland Park.
Throughout the years after a Ride our people have walked into the Shop to ask questions, purchase goods, repair their bikes or just visit with store personnel. The relationship between the riders and Shop personnel has been beneficial for both parties. I personally have seen people become better riders because of this relationship. Craig Stoeltzing (past store manager and now General Manager) and Travis Stephens (service manager) were key in developing this close relationship. The new OP store manager, Jeff Keele, is meeting riders and answering questions with the return of warmer temperatures this Spring.
As an example: last fall with the return of freezing temperatures during the night time hours, one of the sales personnel came out at the start of one of our rides to warn us of ice “hiding” in the newly paved, ‘chip and seal’ pavement. He discovered it the previous weekend on his road ride. This caring relationship with the Shop is deeply appreciated.
It was the synergy with the Shop on my rides in the 70’s and 80’s where I started to learn the real intricacies of cycling. I’ve seen the same kind of interactions between our group riding from the Shop over the last 10 years. This makes me smile and hopefully will encourage you to ride from your own local ERIK’S Shop. Ride on!
Ron Johnson, Mid Day Mid Week Ride Leader
Overland Park, Kansas