Bike riding serves as integral part of local culture

Fortunately, it was a lovely night when Missouri Hall Director Zac Burden took an impromptu bike ride around town and got a flat tire. He was forced to walk home. Walking beside the road, Burden recalled five or so people pulled over to ask if he needed help or a ride. Other people he had only met once or twice even stopped and talked to him. He enjoyed the walk home. He enjoyed everyone’s kindness.

Burden is one of the many people at Truman who enjoy being part of an active biking community.

Burden said he enjoys the opportunity biking gives him to experience his community. When Burden bikes he gets to view the beautiful homes in the area and stop and talk to people. He also appreciates the health benefits. He even uses his bike when he shops for groceries. He has a rack on the back of his bike with two saddle bags, both large enough to hold a full paper sack of groceries. He has a light at the front so he can ride at night and has a Bluetooth speaker so he can rock to tunes. Sometimes, he flies the Missouri flag on the back of his bike. Burden has found motorists treat him well while he rides on the road with them.

Burden is a member of Truman State University’s bicycle advisory committee, tasked to ensure Truman is a bike-friendly campus.

One of the ways Burden said he has accomplished this is hosting cycling events. This year will be the debut of the Sandy Bottoms Gravel Grinder. The idea was to put together a cycling event that would include the entire Northeast Missouri community, Burden said. He said hopefully the event will become a bigger deal during the next few years and become a major tourist attraction.

Burden also participates in other biking events nearby, such as the Pedaler’s Jamboree, a 30-mile ride from Columbia, Missouri, to Boonville, Missouri. There is entertainment along the way and a music festival at the end. Burden said these events are for people from all walks of life, ages and levels of athletic ability. Some cyclists are interested in going fast and making their way through the race, while others are elderly folks or families taking their time and enjoying the ride. People also ride on a variety of bikes, sporting anything from high-end bicycles built for racing to rickety bicycles.

“That’s one of the nice things about cycling, is it’s very scalable for what you’d like to do,” Burden said.

Truman professor Monica Barron also likes to ride her bike around the community. She bikes around the Kirksville area because she considers it a good biking town, often riding out to the lake and back.

“I’m the kind of person who would ride 10-20 miles for exercise or just for the hell of it,” Barron said.

Barron’s favorite part of riding is feeling herself relax and the speed at which she is looking at the world. She likes riding on trails, such as the Katy Trail, because she doesn’t have to think about cars. It is a chance for her to breathe better and admire the vegetation, birds and sky.

While sharing the road with motorists, Barron was surprised to discover men tend to give her more room on the road, especially when there is no paved shoulder for her to use.

Barron often rides by herself, but she said riding with friends is a blast.

A misconception Barron found with bicyclists is people assume riders have to be athletes and wear clothing with bike logos all over it. People don’t need to be hardcore riders to enjoy riding a bike. She said there are a lot of ways to work exercise into one’s life.

“I think it’s really sweet to grab your bike and stick a loaf of bread into a bag and ride over to a friend’s house for dinner, dump the bike on the lawn, and then ride it back home later,” Barron said. “Just be sure that you get a light for your bike.”

On Truman’s campus, there is a Bike Co-op available for students and members of the community to learn about bike repair and maintenance.

“We really do want to help,” junior David Bradbury, Bike Co-op president said. “Even if it is a problem beyond our area of expertise, the Bike Co-op is here for you.”

Bradbury said, students are supposed to cooperate at the Bike Co-op to learn about bike repair and maintenance. It is sometimes frustrating for workers at the Bike Co-op because students occasionally treat it like a shop where they can drop off their bike for repairs and pick it up later. Bradbury wants people to understand they are supposed to hang out with the Bike Co-op workers and work on the bike together. He said he understands if people have to run for class or an appointment, but people shouldn’t be surprised they are asked to stay and assist. That way, everyone gets to learn, Bradbury said.  

To prevent bike theft, Bradbury recommends buying a chain. Once someone secures their bike, they need to make sure they’re wrapping it around the right part of the bike, specifically the frame of the bike, so the bike can’t easily be taken apart and stolen. That is how Bradbury said he and his friend were once able to retrieve a stolen bike — the thief didn’t properly secure it. To keep a bike safe from would-be thieves, make sure it is put through a part of the bike that cannot easily be removed.

Bradbury said recently the Bike Co-op helped set up a bike sharing program on campus with funds received from the Student Giving Campaign. He said there will be a bike rack installed outside of the Student Recreation Center, where students can rent bikes. It’s like how a student would check out a vacuum cleaner for their residence hall room, Bradbury said. A student would go to the rec center, turn in their student ID, receive the key, unlock the bike and then ride around. There are still logistics to work through, but soon the rack in front of the rec center will be active, and the Bike Co-op is looking to expand the idea beyond a bike rental service to opening a bike kiosk on campus.

“That way there would be a hub for the bikes on campus,” Bradbury said.