On My Mind: Bike scavenger hunt is fun and free

Aaron Randle, Special to Ink

Ryan Jones is the creator of the urban cycling event Pub N Pedal.
Ryan Jones is the creator of the urban cycling event Pub N Pedal. Special to Ink

“You know, everything doesn’t always have to be about something,” says Ryan Jones, creator of the Pub N Pedal bike scavenger hunt. “I just want people to have fun.”

There was no greater meaning when Jones, 33, created Pub N Pedal (PNP) years ago in conjunction with the KC Sprints bike collective. The same is true today as Jones prepares for the 9th Annual Pub N Pedal, now recognized as the longest-running urban biking event in Kansas City.

“It’s basically a photo scavenger hunt,” Jones says.

This year’s PNP is from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday. Teams can register for free from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Art & Bicycle Clubhouse, in the Crossroads at 504 E. 18th St.

The premise of Pub N Pedal is simple: teams of one to four bikers are given a manifest with a list of bars spread anywhere from 1 to 20 miles apart. On the manifest are clues for objects at every bar. When participants find an object, they snap a picture of it. Each accurate picture is worth points, and the team with the most points at the end is the winner.

“There are some people who love the competition and really try to go to every bar, and some who’ll go to one, have a drink, and call it a day,” Jones says. “That’s the beauty of it.”

Initially, PNP would top out at about 25 riders. But lately, as national interest in health and biking have increased, participant numbers have swelled to over 100.

“The only goal is to keep it fun,” Jones says. “Keep it fun, keep it free, and let people have a good time.”

Alleycat origins: PNP feels like a pub crawl on wheels, but that wasn’t its inspiration. Instead, Jones says the idea came from the older tradition of alleycat racing that has taken place among bicycle messengers in cities around the world. Like the Pub N Pedal, alleycat races have historically been informal events, often placing just as much emphasis on biker participation as competition.

No pressure, do what you want: Jones constantly emphasizes that his only goal with PNP is for people to have fun in whatever ways suit them. He tells stories of a woman who, fresh off a breakup, used PNPas a way to reignite her inner strength. Or the countless riders who pedal to one bar, park it for the day and just get wasted. “There’s no wrong way,” he says, “to do the PNP.”

Exploration: Jones likes to use PNP to send riders to places they otherwise might not go, like gay bars. One of the more memorable PNP clues was a reference to a piece of Heineken memorabilia inside Buddies. “People see gay bars and get nervous,” he says. “But it’s like, ‘No, go there! It’s a lot of fun!’”

Partnering local: Though he usually tries to stay away from partnerships and sponsorships (making sure the money goes to where it’s supposed to can be a real pain), PNP has donated in the past to the 816 Bike Collective, a nonprofit that rescues and repurposes disposed bikes for those who need them for transportation. This year, PNP is partnering with Velo+, a local bike shop and coffee roaster, to provide free coffee to participants. Winners will also get custom-made fanny packs from local bicycle accessory company ATM Handmade Goods.