Seasoned Tour de Bier-ers have overcome their fair share of obstacles: potholes, trains, and thunderstorms are familiar challenges to our riders. When we opened registration in January, we were ready with experienced route planners, lots of spray paint, and an enthusiastic planning committee. But the Coronavirus pandemic tipped the whole world on its head and by the end of March, we were sweating. How do you hold a bike event with over 1000 riders a couple of short months after the initial lockdown?
We postponed the ride to early August, hoping that the pandemic and all of its tangential trouble would have passed over the summer. Our sponsors, partners, and brewery friends shared our optimism, and gamely agreed to stick with us. Pre-registered riders were enjoying Spring weather and the first hints of what became known as the Bike Boom, so they remained committed to waiting for the “real deal” Tour de Bier.
But as the weather got warmer, it became clear that the pandemic was not disappearing, and a large, single-day ride with an in-person afterparty with food trucks and vendors was simply not safe. So what to do?
The Tour de Bier is a major fundraiser for BikeWalkKC, and our budget depends on the money raised to fund our youth and adult education programs and advocacy work. We also felt a responsibility to our sponsors and partners, not to mention the breweries that were eager for a boost in business. And we couldn’t disappoint our riders who had been so excited for something to look forward to after long months of canceled events. So we pivoted again!
We had been working with Fanomena to offer digital race bags since early this year, though our original motivation was to reduce waste and costs associated with physical packets and in-person packet pick ups. And after many video calls and emails with our planning committee, breweries, and partners, we decided to go fully “virtual” and stretch the event over a month. Our idea was such a hit that one hundred more people signed up in two days and the Tour de Bier sold out!
From day one on August 15, to the last on September 15, we have been overwhelmed by the grace and team spirit exhibited by everyone involved in the Tour de Bier. Our brewery partners and their staff have been flexible, warm, and welcoming to our riders. Friends at Bar K have bent over backwards to make this ride happen. Our major sponsors at Port KC have been generous beyond measure even when we couldn’t party in their fabulous Berkley Riverfront Park, and every single sponsor stuck with us through thick and thin. No one pulled their funding even when the going got very rough indeed.
Because we all pulled together, Kansas City bicyclists celebrated Kansas City breweries. It is our hope that our intrepid riders will continue to mask up, wash their hands, and patronize local businesses. And it is our mission that we all strive to redefine our streets as places for people to build a culture of active living.