Michael Denehy of Off Track Events moved to Columbia, Mo., from Iowa City about 13 years ago. Having spent many of his summers enjoying RAGBRAI, the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, it was quite natural from him to start organizing small weekend “party rides” with his friends. And as time went by, the rides started to grow.
One year, we decided to do a ride to Boonville and add music to it. We had about 400 people show up, and it kind of blew my mind,” Denehy said. “That was the year the Jamboree was born.”
Seven years later, Pedaler’s Jamboree draws upwards of 3,000 people annually for the two-day, 60-mile round trip from Columbia to Boonville and back. The ride takes place on the MKT and Katy trails, featuring crushed limestone trails flanked by cliffs and the Missouri River, as well as bands that play throughout the day in the communities and stops along the route.
“We’ll probably have about 30 bands this year, on the ride and at the pre-party and after-party,” said Denehy. “On all the stages there are really good bands that play back to back. People roll up, stop, socialize, eat and drink, then roll on.
“It’s a music festival scene, but unlike a normal music festival where people walk from stage to stage, you ride from stage to stage. Sometimes it’s eight miles between stages, and then you pedal into a party that’s already happening.”
Participants either pitch a tent at Kemper Park in Boonville, where the weekend’s top performers play, or stay in nearby hotels and motels. The ride includes camping, gear transport, support vehicles, music and entertainment, and food trucks and beverage vendors.
“You ramble out on Saturday, stumble back on Sunday,” Denehy said.
The Big BAM
New this year is a cross-state evolution of Pedaler’s Jamboree that Denehy has launched with Missouri Life magazine. Called the Big BAM (Bicycle Across Missouri), it will travel from Rock Port to Canton over a period of five days, with overnight stops featuring music and entertainment. Like the Jamboree, camping is free, or riders can pay for their own accommodations.
For a number of years, people have been telling me that we need a RAGBRAI in Missouri and that they think I could be a good candidate to do it. I recently got to a point where I thought we could realistically make it happen,” he said.
The estimated route is 304 miles total, averaging about 60 miles a day, primarily on roads that are “scenic, with less cars, but good for riding.” The idea is to visit a variety of towns, from university cities to “places that have seen better days. We’ll roll in and liven things up for a little while,” Denehy said.
The Big BAM will host between 30 and 40 bands, with music at all the stops along the ride. “We’ll be bringing back a lot of the old favorites from Pedaler’s Jamboree,” said Denehy. “We plan for every day to have a different style. We’re having Brewer & Shipley on classic rock day, and we’ll have bluegrass and other genres. No cover bands. I think people will enjoy the experience and look forward to music as they keep going.”
So far, the inaugural ride has more than 325 registered participants, which according to Denehy speaks to the growing popularity of cycling in Missouri. “I think the cycling culture here has changed a lot in the past 10 years. When I was first introduced into the Missouri scene, it was more competitive and elitist,” he said. “Now we’re getting to the point where there are events for everyone.
“Pedaler’s Jamboree is a great first event for those fresh on the bike and with families. It’s an event that feels comfortable to do. Then you feel empowered. Next thing you know, you’re ready to do a cross-state ride, then maybe to try cyclocross or mountain biking. There’s really an opportunity to grow with the events.”
Author: Brad Kovach is the editor of Terrain Magazine.
Images: Courtesy of Pedaler’s Jamboree.