There was a little something extra on the menu this year at Trailnet‘s annual Beans, Bikes & Brews event, a special treat that was a long time in coming, and one that has whet the appetite of many area bicyclists.

The active-living advocacy group announced that it will host the first Journey Across Missouri (JAM) in 2014, a six-day cycling and camping adventure starting in Kansas City and ending in St. Louis. The ride is scheduled for September 30 to October 5, with overnight stops in Higginsville, Boonville, Jefferson City, Hermann and Defiance.

“Ann Mack, Trailnet’s CEO, has always wanted to do this ride,” said Steve Schmidt, rides manager for the local non-profit, which provides events and community education to help bi-state residents lead healthier and more active lives. “This seemed like the year to jump in with both feet.”

We recently sat down with Schmidt to learn a more about Beans, Bikes & Brews, Trailnet’s 2014 Ride Calendar and, of course, JAM.

First, can you tell me a little about Beans, Bikes & Brews?

Beans, Bikes & Brews has been going on for more than 20 years. It started as an informal chili party potluck for the Bicycle Fun Club when it was owned and operated by Tom Yarbrough. Trailnet continued the event when we took over BFC. We still operate it as a potluck, supplemented with food prepared by Trailnet staff. The event is casual and fun. Typically, we have raffles to liven up the night and to raise a little money. We invite bike shops and other community partners to have information tables at the event. Trailnet uses it as the annual Rides Calendar release event. There are usually between 200 and 300 people there.

And regarding JAM, how long have you been planning it?

Since the summer of 2013, when Ann said “or we could do a ride across Missouri” in response to my idea of holding a Gran Fondo. It has been a seed germinating in Ann’s head for many years that is now taking root and starting to bloom.

Can you give us an idea of some of the logistics that go into planning such a large event?

It’s a huge undertaking, but we have partners. Bike Walk KC is helping on the Kansas City end. We have local city governments and visitors‘ bureaus in all the overnight towns pitching in. The Carnahan family is also lending its support and expertise. I have my staff, marketing and two dedicated volunteers helping now. We’ve been working non-stop since the fall making connections, route planning and visiting places along the route.

This is a big, long ride. What skills/abilities/equipment would you recommend for riders?

When you think of it as six 60-mile days, it’s not that bad, and most of the days are closer to 50 miles. Once your rear gets broken in, almost anyone could do the ride. Experience is key to completing the full six days. The more saddle time you have going in, the easier it’ll be. The route is completely on pavement, so a smooth-rolling road bike would be ideal. We have tried to minimize the hills on the routes, but as some professional bike racers know, Missouri has hills and there is no escaping them. Riders will not need to carry anything other than money. We’ll transport their baggage between towns and supply them with breakfast and dinner every day. Lunches and snacks will be their own responsibility. Nothing more than a saddlebag is necessary for repairs, as we’ll have two professional mechanics from Trek providing SAG (support and gear) every day.

Who is your target rider? What do you hope JAM will give to/mean to him or her?

We want to show to our riders the beauty of Missouri, and there’s a lot to see. Traversing the state by bicycle is the ideal way to take it all in. Anyone who can make the time will be amazed by this ride. Anyone aged 14 to 94 will find something to love. 

What has reaction to JAM been so far?

People are excited. We’re sure that we’ll sell out. Our rider cap for the full six days is 125. With this being our inaugural year, we want everyone to have an exceptional experience. There will be a lot of TLC on this ride. We want to minimize mistakes and learn as much as possible.

Are you anticipating that this will become an annual event?

We want this to grow into a much-loved annual ride. We want to raise awareness of the healthy aspects of bicycling to everyone. We want to let people know about Trailnet and the other organizations throughout the state that are doing plenty to make Missouri a healthy, active and vibrant place to live, work and recreate.

The only question we have is where do we sign up? In addition to the six-day, cross-state adventure, riders can also choose between one-, two- or three-day trips. Riders choosing shorter options can decide where they want to join, so if they only want to cycle for a day or two, they can pick the days that work best for them. More details, including a daily itinerary and costs are available on the JAM events page.

JAM is just one of 21 Trailnet Bicycle Fun Club (BFC) rides for 2014, spanning from April 13 to December 6. These rides are held throughout the region, in the city of St. Louis and in scenic rural areas of Missouri and Illinois. They are designed for all levels of cyclists, and each features a “Group Ride” for newbies. The rides are often tied to local festivals or feature their own post-ride celebrations.

BFC rides range from five to 100 miles, are both social and fitness oriented and provide a low-stress way to get into bicycling, one of the healthiest forms of exercise. Started by Tom Yarbrough in 1996, the BFC is now one of the most active bicycle event programs of its type in the nation, serving up to 10,000 recreational bicyclists annually. Get more information about joining Trailnet’s BFC on the rides page.

Bicycle Fun Club 2014 Rides

Spring Chicken Bicycle Ride
Sunday, April 13
Libory, IL

Bottom Out Bicycle Ride
Sunday, May 4
St. Charles, MO

South Grand Cyclofemme Bicycle Ride
Sunday, May 11
St. Louis, MO

Vino Fondo Grand Fondo
Saturday, May 17
Augusta, MO

Strawberry Festival & Berry Bicycle Ride
Sunday, May 18
St. Jacob, IL

Great Pizza Bicycle Ride
Monday, May 26
Millstadt, IL

Route 66 Bicycle Ride
Saturday, June 14
Edwardsville, IL

Bike St. Louis City Tour
Sunday, June 15
St. Louis, MO

Cottleville Country Classic
Sunday, June 22
Cottleville, MO

Bridge Birthday Bash & Bicycle Ride
Sunday, June 29
St. Louis, MO

Big Bottle Bicycle Ride
Sunday, July 13
Collinsville, IL

Double Ancient Glacier Byways Ride
Saturday-Sunday, July 19-20
Grafton, IL

Fahrradtour und Augustfest Bicycle Ride
Sunday, August 3
Mascoutah, IL

I Scream for Ice Cream Bicycle Ride
Sunday, August 10
Edwardsville, IL

Regatta Bicycle Ride
Sunday, September 14
Carlyle, IL

Ride the Rivers Century
Sunday, September 21
Grafton, IL

Journey Across Missouri (JAM) Bicycle Ride
Tuesday-Sunday, September 30-October 5
Kansas City, MO

Apple a Day Bicycle Ride
Sunday, October 12
Marine, IL

St. Charles Wine Country Bicycle Ride
Sunday, October 19
Defiance, MO

St. Charles County Epic Mountain Bike Event
Saturday, December 6
St. Charles, MO

Author: Brad Kovach is the editor of Terrain magazine.
Image: Missouri Division of Tourism