MCC bike ride races to raise funds

Lily Pankratz

As summer draws to a close, bicyclists race to fit in those last few rides before the chilling winds set in. What better excuse to get together with friends and neighbors for one last cruise than a flatlander bike ride. Not to mention the added perk of raising money for a good cause.

The Mennonite Central Committee Flatlander Bike Ride will take place Sept. 19, 2009. With approximately 100 riders expected, the MCC Flatlander Committee is sprinting through checklists to make sure the event runs smoothly.

Native Kansans know how important the water supply is when farming. Unfortunately, for farmers in Colombia, it is not a system easily come by. During the past few decades, these families have had to relocate repeatedly in order to escape armed conflicts. This movement makes establishing water systems for crops almost impossible.

As the goal for this year’s Flatlander Bike Ride, participants are aiming to raise more than $6,500. Riders work to gather pledges beforehand. The person or family to obtain the most contributions receives a $60 gift certificate.

“We hope we have a lot of people who get friends and neighbors to donate to the cause,” said Fern Rudiger.

With seven years of service on the committee, Galen and Fern Rudiger have an idea of what to expect during the ride. Since Kansas, has a history of unpredictable weather patterns and uneven roads, support teams are set up at various checkpoints on the ride.

Support and gear stops are set up at each 10-mile marker along the route. At each SAG stop, participants can refuel with water, fruit and homemade cookies. Fern not only bakes several batches of cookies, but she hits the road and passes them out at the designated stops. Local churches in neighboring towns also bake and set up stops along the way.

“I enjoy working with the committee and organizing groups,” said Fern.

Bob Becker first caught the biker bug when Galen suggested he attend the event 10 years ago. Becker’s wife, Donna, immediately joined the committee and has been a member ever since.

Working with the Mennonite Press on the outskirts of Newton, Donna’s task is to design the event brochures. T-shirts are also produced and handed out to the riders and sponsors.

Four different routes are available to cyclists of varying lengths and levels of difficulty. For families or new recruits, a route of approximately eight miles is arranged throughout the town of Newton.

Other courses include traveling back roads to nearby towns. After the scenic ride of Newton, Hesston is the next destination with a roundtrip of 20 miles. If riders are feeling adventurous, a 40-mile trip to Moundridge can be arranged. For those who wish to push the pedals for a couple of hours, Burrton is the last destination for riders with a 60-mile route.

This year, the routes have remained the same as the previous two years. Because of construction on bridges and some roads, bicyclists must stick to the unchanged paths. However, there are several routes the committee tends to switch between every couple of years.

Despite raising money for a good cause and the homemade goodies, some cyclists still argue those are not the main reasons to get in the saddle.

“I enjoy the ride the most,” said Galen. “Interacting and visiting with people I know and strangers I don’t.”