ATCHISON, Kan. — For David Mason, cycling is just a hobby.
He feels this way despite the arduous course of completing Biking Across Kansas, a weeklong trek lengthwise across the entire state over the last week, stopping only to sleep in a tent along with about a dozen other area cyclists. More than 850 cyclists are participating in the event.
“It’s a hobby,” he said. “It keeps me in good shape. I consider trips like this to be kind of my own sort of gym membership, except it’s suitable for someone who needs to be outside and outdoors, on the road. I like to be on the move.”
Mason’s views are a window into a lifestyle that Atchison, Kansas, celebrated this weekend as the cycling rally arrived on Saturday morning.
Riders followed a course through town and to the Atchison Riverfront Park, where they ceremoniously dipped their tires into the Missouri River to complete the journey.
Pam Rizza’s cycling is an extension of her lifelong training in sports medicine. The Atchison Hospital physician said she does this to better herself and to promote the kind of dedication to personal fitness and health most others aspire to. She hopes people are inspired by seeing their friends and neighbors ride from Goodland, Kansas, way over on the Colorado Border, to Atchison.
Rizza’s husband, Atchison Mayor Shawn Rizza, himself an avid cyclist, has worked since October on making Biking Across Kansas a success, following a campaign to get the event, which alternates between eastern Kansas final destinations, to return to Atchison for the 2019 finish line. From a shot in the local economic arm to bringing all Kansans closer together, Rizza said the impacts of the event are hard to overstate.
“Just raising awareness for cycling in general in town is always a great process,” he said.
Pam Rizza said Biking Across Kansas is a good test for anyone who is dedicated to the sport, but wants to find out what they are capable of.
“It’s more of a tour, not a race, so you can make it as hard or as easy as you want,” she said. “You just kind of do it by feel. The biggest challenge is the length of time you’re on the bike. Things start to hurt that don’t normally hurt, like your shoulders, or your butt. Just from sitting on the saddle for a long time, day after day ... But this is a way to get healthy that is pretty accessible to everybody.”
To welcome the riders to town, the city served as host for the 2019 Bike Rodeo, organized with the local nonprofit public health promotion agency, Live Well Live Atchison. Attractions include a bike agility course at the Riverfront Park that will permanently be in place for the enjoyment of future riders, helping cyclists try out their skills and to train young biker riders. Workers have also been installing new bike racks in town throughout the late spring.