Bike Ride Across Missouri – Katy Trail
Hardin-Simmons University – Leadership Studies Program
It shouldn’t be a surprise when you pull a trailer emblazoned with “Bike Ride Across Texas” on the sides to Missouri that you receive some good-natured comments about being lost. We heard them all.
Our most recent long-distance cycling adventure took us beyond the borders of the Lone Star State to the Show-Me State. After four previous rides across Texas and two from Mexico to Canada, a team of Leadership Studies students from Hardin-Simmons University chose to leave their road bikes behind and head to Missouri to ride the Katy Trail on trail bikes.
In addition to the 240 miles of the Katy Trail, a Missouri State Park that follows the corridor of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad from Clinton to Machens, the route also included 52 additional road miles from the Kansas border between La Cygne, Kansas and Amsterdam, Missouri and three miles from the end of the trail in Machens to the Mississippi River at Portage des Sioux, Missouri. In total, the ride was 295 miles across Missouri. We rode the distance in six days on bikes.
Katy Trail Information: https://mostateparks.com/park/katy-trail-state-park
After our Hurricane Harvey Relief Ride across Texas in January, we decided to do something different this summer. The Katy Trail ride was a perfect alternative. Six of us loaded our bike trailer with trail bikes and gear and drove from campus to La Cygne, Kansas on June 2, 2018 in a university Suburban. Five of the six team members had experience on one or more of our previous rides—only one member was a rookie rider. The experience of the team members was an asset to this ride. Individual differences, routines, and ways of doing things were already partially established from previous adventures together. We modified our trail bikes with SPD pedals, comfortable handlebar grips, and one behind-the-seat rack to carry tools and spare tubes.
On our previous rides, we traveled with a support vehicle on the road behind the cyclists. If a mechanical, weather, or personal problem arose, help was always with us. With the Katy Trail ride, students took turns driving the support vehicle one leg each day and cycling three other legs. The driver of the support vehicle would drive ahead to a designated trailhead while the cyclists would ride to the trailhead on the path. At a pace of 11-12 mph on the trail, a 10-15 mile leg could take an hour or more to meet up again with the support vehicle. With the exception of a 3-4 mile detour through Sedalia, the rest of the ride was on hard-packed dirt and crushed limestone. Trail bikes, with their wide tires, were perfect for navigating the occasional rocks and loose dirt on the trail.
Combined with the softer surface, the increased weight and added friction of the trail bikes slowed us down compared to our rides with road bikes, but the shorter daily distances, beautiful scenery, and mostly shady and car-free path made for enjoyable days on bikes. We were usually on the bikes by 8 a.m. and done riding by 2 p.m. every day. Temperatures were very pleasant in the mornings and pretty warm by the time we stopped each day. We were fortunate to have rain-free weather for our expedition.
The trailheads listed on the Missouri State Parks trail map were all equipped with parking areas, restrooms, shady places to rest, and places to refill water bottles. Many also had bike-repair stations with tools for minor adjustments. The trailheads were also nice places to meet and talk with fellow adventurers. We met cyclists from Idaho, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Indiana, and Texas—including one with a sister who graduated from Hardin-Simmons University.
Having a support vehicle and trailer allowed us to stop at a trailhead and drive back or ahead to our lodging each evening. The next morning, we could drive to where we stopped cycling the day before to continue riding the trail without any overlap. The unsupported cyclists that we met along the trail scheduled their daily distances around their lodging each night. Many of the towns along the trail are relatively small and very welcoming to cyclists.
We found friends to host us in La Cygne and Sedalia. Airbnb and online searches helped us find places to stay in Clinton (Calhoun), Rocheport, and Hermann (two nights). We spent the night in Joplin on the drive back to Abilene after reaching the Mississippi River in Portage des Sioux. In total, the trip took eight days—two full days of driving and six days of cycling. We left Abilene on a Saturday morning and returned the following Saturday afternoon.
As a former railroad path, the Katy Trail is pretty flat. The section from Clinton to Boonville has a lot of long and gradual uphills. At only 1-2 percent grades, the changes in elevation are not that great, but they go on for miles. The advantage is that downhills are also quite long and enjoyable. Once the trail meets the river at Boonville, the elevation barely changes and is almost flat. The trail runs near and next to the Missouri River after Boonville. The extra three miles from Machens to the Our Lady of the Rivers Shrine in Portage de Sioux is a nice place to end the ride.
The Katy Trail ride was an enjoyable cycling adventure. I look forward to riding it again and exploring more of the interesting towns along the route. To learn more about this and other rides, feel free to visit our website at http://bikerideacrosstexas.com/.
Written by: Coleman Patterson