Biking Across Kansas

Frequently Asked Questions

New participants usually have similar questions and concerns about Biking Across Kansas. Below is a list of frequently asked questions/answers that may be of benefit to you.

Q: What is the purpose of BAK?
A: Biking Across Kansas (BAK) is an annual, eight-day, bicycle tour across the state of Kansas. BAK promotes health and wellness through bicycling, the history and beauty of the Kansas, and the warm hospitality of the Kansas towns and people.

Q: I thought the event was called Biking Across Kansas--what's with the "BAK" acronym I see on the web site?
A: It's officially "Biking Across Kansas," but most everyone calls it "B.A.K." for short. By the way, it's not pronounced "back"— each letter is spoken, as in: B–A–K.

Q: How long has BAK been around?
A: Biking Across Kansas began in June 1975 and has been held annually ever since. BAK is the second longest-running, statewide bicycle tour in the U.S.

Q: How many cyclists participate on BAK?
A: Biking Across Kansas is limited to approximately 850 participants plus support personnel. Participants typically range in age from six to 80+ years old.

Q: Do children participate in BAK?
A: BAK is considered an all-age, all-family ride. Some children participate as riders; some participate on non-riders. The youngest bicyclist is typically around six years old. Like adults, minors should be prepared for all bicycling, weather conditions, etc. on the tour. All persons traveling with BAK must be registered and sign a release. For minors, a parent or legal guardian must sign the release.

When traveling with children on the tour, remember they are vacation too and consider planning activities both on and off the bike that they will enjoy. Many families seek parks, swimming pools, and other places of interest to children.

Q: My friend lives close to where the route traveling. Can he/she ride with me a day or tour on the tour?
A: BAK welcomes a limited number of part-time riders. Part-time participants must register and sign a release just like all other participants.

Q: My family member/friend is coming with me on BAK, but they will not be bicycling. Do they need to register?

A: Yes, every person traveling with BAK must register and sign a release. No registration and release; no participation.

Q: Can I bring my pet on BAK?
A: BAK discourages bringing pets on BAK. Weather conditions are often not conducive to traveling Kansas highways with a dog or other pet. In addition, schools, which are BAK's overnight accommodations, often forbid pets on school grounds or inside buildings. 

Q: What route does BAK take across the state?
A: BAK is always routed on paved roads, using secondary state highways and county roads whereever possible. BAK makes every attempt to take "the road less traveled." The route varies from year to year. 

Q: Do law enforcement agencies close the roads to vehicles for BAK riders?
A: Law enforcement agencies do not close the roads to vehicles. BAK does, however, contact law enforcement agencies along the route and in overnight towns to provide them a copy of the route, discuss possible safety issues, and/or alert them that BAK is staying in their town.

Q: BAK sounds like fun, but I'm not sure if I would be able hang in there with the group—I'm afraid I'll get left behind. Should a beginning cyclist try this?
A: Many BAK participants are first-time riders. This is a truly diverse group with a good mix of beginners and experienced riders. It is highly unlikely that you would not be able to find several people to ride with at your level of ability. However, it is important that you prepare yourself by training consistently and progressively for at least two or three months prior to BAK. Bike Your Butt Off by Selene Yeager is one of many books that offer some training resources.

Q: Any suggestions for training before BAK?
A: One suggestion is that you should be able to ride, at minimum, 30 miles in three hours or less. Make sure you can ride 50-80 miles in a day--don't wait to find out when you're on BAK. A good way to get in shape is to ride with a local bicycle club. You'll be able to put in your miles with other cyclists and learn how to ride safely within a group. In addition, be certain to train on hills and in crosswind and headwind. Yes, Kansas does have hills, and the wind is usually a factor.

Q: What if I can't finish the ride?
A: BAK won't leave you stranded if you become injured, ill, or have mechanical problems and are unable to finish the mileage on a particular day. There are support vehicles (called SAGs) out on the route that can transport you and your bike to the next overnight stay. SAG transport is reserved only for riders in real need (where health or safety is at risk or a bicycle has serious mechanical problems). "Getting tired" is usually not a reason to use a SAG. BAK expects participants to be physically prepared to cover the mileage under their own power.

If a rider becomes too ill to finish BAK or his/her bicycle suffers irreparable damage, the best course of action is to make arrangements to leave the tour and go home. It's a good idea to have a back-up plan in place in the event you must leave BAK unexpectedly. BAK support is neither equipped nor obligated to transport tired, sick, injured or "mechanically-challenged" riders for multiple days.

Q: Since Kansas is flat, is BAK one of the easier cross-state bike tours?
A: While we don't have the mountains of Colorado, new riders learn very quickly that Kansas is not so flat. There are sections of level roads, but there are also many challenging inclines, particularly in the eastern third of the state. Kansas wind can be as challenging as climbing, and it may persist all day. Climbs usually lead to descents that provide breaks in the work; however, wind does not provide built-in breaks unless you change directions.

Q: Are there any other challenges about riding in Kansas?
A: The wind is usually a factor in Kansas cycling. Hot June days can be gusty on the Kansas plains. BAK always travels from West to East to take advantage of the prevailing Southwest winds, but nature can be unpredictable in Kansas, and you should not expect tailwind all week. You must be comfortable riding in crosswind and capable of pedaling into a significant headwind for miles. Even strong cyclists who have never ridden in wind are often surprised how challenging Kansas cycling can be.

The weather is generally clear to partly cloudy to sunny during BAK, but an occasional thunderstorm is not uncommon at least once during the week. Temperatures typically average between 70 and 80 degrees (F), but some years bring much hotter or cooler temperatures. Morning temperatures in the area near the Colorado border can be quite chilly, sometimes dipping down into the 40s overnight. Conversely, it is not unusual to encounter temperatures in the 90s or over 100 once or more during the week, so acclimatizing by training in heat, when possible, is wise. It is not uncommon to experience a rain shower or thunderstorm at some point during the week. Be sure to bring rain gear just in case.

Q: Do BAK riders make stops along the route to sightsee, or do they ride straight through?
A: While a few participants enjoy fast cycling and often ride straight through each day, most riders feel that active sightseeing is the whole point of BAK. Most participants do stop often to enjoy the experience of rural Kansas. Stops include anything you might imagine: visits with locals, towns with interesting cafes, shops or museums, local tours, roadside historical markers, lemonade stands, scenic vistas, shady trees, etc. BAK's participant route guide outline many historical sites, museums, and places of interest along the route.

Q: Do I have to finish riding by any particular time each day?
A: Each rider will determine his or her own pace—you are not required to arrive at the day's destination at any set time (provided it is before dusk). SAG support is available no later than 5:00 p.m., so it's a good idea to be finished by then. Typically, most BAK participants depart each morning between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. and arrive at the overnight destination between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. Some arrive sooner, others later. The luggage trucks begin to unload about 1:00 p.m., so some riders try to coordinate their arrival at that time. Riding in the dark (before sunrise or after sunset) is extremely dangerous and is not authorized by Biking Across Kansas.

Q: Do BAK organizers provide guidance during the week, or I am on my own?
A: The BAK leader team works to ensure that participants are kept informed of changes in route, road hazards, points-of-interest, etc. A group meeting is held most evenings at 8:00 pm to provide riders with vital information about the next day's ride and recap interesting things that happened during the current day's ride. Information is also posted daily on the electronic message board at the overnight stop. Each participant receives a printed route guide at the beginning of the week and has the option to download an electronic/mobile route guide. The route guide provides maps, notes about meals and dining options, overnight facilities and historic features along the route. BAK also uses text messages to communicate select information with participants.

Q: If an emergency arises or dangerous, inclement weather is approaching, how will BAK notify riders?
A: The BAK leader team will notify participants of emergency situations or that dangerous, inclement weather is approaching through a text messaging system.

Q: Where do BAK participants eat?
A: Participants are responsible for most of their own meals throughout the week. BAK does provide a four meals during the trip and a celebration dinner/picnic. BAK riders usually dine at local restaurants or (if we're fortunate) at community fundraiser meals prepared by local civic groups.

Q: What about food stops during the day?
A: BAK provides several SAG (support) stops throughout each day on the route. SAGs are positioned between towns, in areas where riders will most need water and energy food. SAGs provide water (and sometimes energy drinks), fruit, and other energy snacks to help cyclists make it through the day. BAK attempts to place SAG stops 15-20 miles apart. BAK participants should take advantage of both the SAG stops and services in the towns we pass. We don't recommend relying only on the SAGs during the day. If you're in a town and are getting low on water or food, find a place to recharge right there. Don't wait until the next SAG stop; you could be in dire need by then.

Q: What does the word "SAG" actually stand for?
A: SAG is a widely-used term in the cycling world and usually refers to a stationary vehicle or location that provides support for passing riders. While there are several theories as to what it stands for, most likely it's an acronym for "Support and Gear." You will also hear the term used as a verb meaning the someone did not finish the day's ride. For example, "He got hurt and sagged in."

Q: Are personal vehicles or personal SAGs allowed on BAK?
A: For the safety of the bicyclists, personal vehicles traveling with BAK are strongly encouraged to travel an alternative route, which will be provided by the BAK leadership. The fewer the personal vehicles on the roads and at SAG stops with bicyclists, the safer the conditions are for cyclists. Statics show that vehicles cause more accidents on bicycle tours than bicyclists themselves. 

Q: Where do BAK participants sleep?
A: Arrangements are made with our overnight host cities to provide facilities for camping, restrooms and showers. Typically, local schools are the overnight accommodations for BAK riders. All participants should come prepared to tent camp; however, most nights there is indoor space (e.g., gymnasium) for about half of the riders.  Indoor sleeping space is limited though. Some BAK riders choose to reserve motel rooms where available.

Q: Does BAK provide a list of motels or RV parks in or nearby overnight towns?
A: No, BAK does not provide a list of or endorse any motels or RV parks in or nearby overnight towns.

Q: If indoor sleeping space is so scarce, will I have to race to get to the next town to get a spot before they are all gone?
A: BAK will NOT allow the available indoor space to be claimed only by the fastest riders who reach the overnight towns first. At the locations where adequate space is available, indoor sleeping will be open to all.

Q: If I do tent camp, where will I be able to set up?
A: Most school facilities allow BAK participants to place their tents on the maintained lawns immediately surrounding the school. On rare occasions, designated camping facilities are a block or two from the school. Specifics will be included in your route guide.

Q: What should I pack?
A: Generally, pack as light and tight as possible. Riders must provide tents, sleeping bags, towels and other personal items. You will be allowed two bags not to exceed 40 pounds total and not more than three cubic feet each. BAK does not permit the indoor use of sleeping cots, chairs or any other item that could damage the surface of a gymnasium floor.

You will need clothing for both on and off the bike. It is a good idea to have at least two sets of cycling gear in case you wash your clothes in the shower, but they don't completely dry before the next morning. Good-quality, padded cycling shorts sare recommended. Clothing that wicks, like cycling jerseys, will be more comfortable than cotton, which will hold sweat. Cycling jerseys also generally have pockets that are handy for holding ID, money, on-bike snacks, lip balm, etc. Be sure to bring your cycling shoes, socks, and helmet. Cycling glove may also enhance your comfort on the bike. You may want shower shoes in the locker room. Lightweight, packable towels take up far less room in your bag and dry more quickly than conventional towels. Bring comfortable sleeping clothes, suitable for a slumber party with several hundred friends. You will probably want loose, comfortable shorts and shirts off the bike, and it is wise to bring at least one sweatshirt and pair of long pants for chilly mornings or evenings. You will need sweat-resistant sunscreen. Travel-sized versions of your toiletries will be most practical. See the suggested packing list here for more details.

Q: What type of bicycle should I have?
A: While you will see people on a wide range of bikes, a road bike will likely be most enjoyable on BAK. Mountain bikes are generally heavier and not designed for the distance BAK covers on the road. Your local bike shop can advise you and make suggestions for your budget and experience level. Most importantly, your bicycle should be in good condition with good tires and a clean, lubed chain. You should carry two extra tubes in a seat bag, and you should have a frame pump or CO2 cartridges. While there will be floor pumps on the ride, you should be self-reliant with the equipment and the knowledge/experience to handle a flat. A vehicle with a floor pump may not be nearby when you need it.

Q: How do I get to the start and back home from the finish?
A: Participants are responsible for their own transportation to and from BAK. Many choose to take one of the chartered buses from either the Kansas City area or Wichita. Others are delivered and picked-up with personal vehicles driven by friends or family. Still others get together to organize a carpool. A few even ride their bicycles to the starting point.

Q: What if someone needs to contact me during the week?
A: For emergency situations, the best bet is for someone to contact the local police/sheriff department in the closest overnight city so they can relay a message to BAK. BAK officials will also have cell phones, although service is not guaranteed in rural Kansas. During the week of BAK, call 913-735-3035 to reach the executive director. For non-emergency communication, participants will need to make their own arrangements (e.g., your personal cell phone). BAK staff may also be reached at webmaster@bak.org, but this is not intended for emergency messages.

Q: Is there a participant forum at which I can meet and communicate with other BAK riders?
A. Yes, visit Biking Across Kansas’ Facebook event page at www.facebook.com/bikingkansas. This is a great way to get informal information about BAK from previous and current riders.