Hi, I’m Shannon Corley, AKA Marshal Taco. I am an avid cyclist and native Kansan. I grew up in Southwestern Kansas and ended up in Overland Park. I have traveled many parts of the state, either commuting to and from school, in earlier years, or in my career, which required me to visit clients in small towns. In my travels, I discovered many great back roads and interesting destinations. I love taking the road less traveled.
I created Kandango in 2013, after my experiences on RAGBRAI, Bike Across Kansas and other bike tours. I wanted to introduce my friends to the great riding that could be done in Kansas, and the interesting towns and communities along the way.
Here are my experiences that shaped Kandango:
The fun is on the road – it is not a race.
I learned what 15,000 riders learn every year – how not to race. I rode my first RAGBRAI in 1990. On the first day, I raced to the end town and arrived in the early afternoon. I may have won RAGBRAI that day (a dubious distinction). As I reveled in my need for speed and quick arrival, I quickly realized that the fun and my friends were behind me on the road and in the towns. My first thoughts were how different this ride was from the rides I had ridden in Kansas. I concluded that these folks were not real riders and just along for the party.
The second day, I slowed down a bit. I stopped in the towns and on the road to sample local cuisine and have some fun in a pass-through town. I met interesting like-minded people on bikes – folks I would not meet if I was in a hurry and made friends with the locals. I was surprised to discover how much more fun I had on day two than day one. It turned the ride into more of a road trip on bikes. The fun is on the road. If you race to the end, you miss all of this.
The small towns and communities are more fun than sag stops.
It was exciting to roll into a town full of locals and bikers having fun. Every town square had food booths, bands and vendors. It felt like I was riding from one county fair to the next. Volunteer groups sold food and other concessions. There are beer gardens and thousands of people.
The ride is more important to the towns than the riders. The towns and communities roll out the red carpet. For one day, their town becomes a tourist destination. This means tourism dollars and the chance to entertain guests who would otherwise never visit the town.
As the state of Iowa began to realize the benefits of bicycle tourism, it transformed the way rural towns and all of Iowa regarded bicycles. The popularity of RAGBRAI spawned the development of hundreds of miles of paved bike trails between towns. People in Iowa routinely ride from town to town, businesses cater to bikers, and every community has something interesting for bikers. The crown jewel of the trail system is the High Trestle Trail. It is a state-designated tourist attraction and worth the time to travel to Iowa to ride it. None of this would have happened without the awareness created by RAGBRAI.
Our towns in Kansas are taking notice. Even though our ride is small, we have had success turning on Kansas towns to biking. Victoria, White City, Olsburg, Brookville and Lindsborg have hosted Kandango stops. Our contributions to White City were used to fund their Fourth of July Fireworks. Historic St. Fidelis Church and Father John in Victoria hosted our first breakfast stop and beer garden in 2015, and again in 2016.
The ride isn’t just for experienced riders.
One of the things that surprised me on my first RAGBRAI were the number of casual and inexperienced riders. RAGBRAI attracts people who have never ridden a bike. Most people do not consider riding conventional bike tours because they are intimidated by the mileage and experienced cyclists.
New riders add to the fun. As a seasoned rider, it is enjoyable to meet new riders and see the ride through their eyes and how excited they are when they experience this for the first time. It turns new riders into repeat riders, and experienced cyclists.
RAGBRAI riders can ride as many and as few miles as they want and can join in the fun in the pass-throughs. When they get tired of riding, they are able to catch a ride to the next town or the end on a private bike club bus or RAGBRAI support vehicle.We use motor coaches and buses to support the road rides and encourage novices to join. Riders are able to design their perfect mileage and ride by using the buses to shorten the ride.
Kansas is not as boring and flat as you think.
When you mention Kansas as a tourist destination, most people, including Kansans, look at you as if you have lost your mind. Kandango is designed to take riders to interesting back roads and destinations not seen on most bike tours.
We find the scenic back roads and put them together with stops in the communities which they pass through. We provide riders with information about the history and local attractions. Kansas has a rich heritage of old Western culture. As you pedal down the roads and connect with the history and big skies you begin to understand what early visitors and settlors must have thought. As you ride the range, you begin to feel like an old cowboy in the Old West.
Kandango has more recognition outside the state than in Kansas.
We have had greater success with our messaging with out-of-state riders, because they have had more experiences with events like ours – particularly the Iowa folks. We charter a bus to bring riders to Kandango from Kansas and Nebraska, each year. We fill the bus and bring tourists to Kansas to ride their bikes. The notion of getting people from Iowa to sign up, pay for, and ride a bus to Kansas for a bike ride is far-fetched. Yet, we successfully do this every year. We have created a strong and loyal base of followers in Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado.
Kandango is not for everybody.
Kandango is not a race. If you want to race, sign up for the Dirty Kanza or any other of the epic races. If you enjoy charity rides, and demand free Fig Newtons and Gatorade, sign up for Bike Across Kansas, the Cottonwood 200 or the MS 150 rides. The charity rides are what got many of us interested in bike touring.
If you are attracted to a more interactive experience with the towns and the countryside, you should consider joining us. Our road rides are designed to take you on the most scenic backroads in Kansas. Our gravel rides are amazing! They may be even better than the road rides, because Kansas has many more dirt roads than paved ones. We bring both rides together in pass-through communities, so that both groups can share their experiences and fun in the middle of the rides. When you combine both the road and gravel riders and throw in a fun meeting town, everyone has fun – the riders and the host communities.
We end both the spring and fall rides with the Kandango Barbeque Extravaganza. We serve one of the best barbeque feasts known to mankind on a bike. We throw in some music and some beer and end the ride in style.
If you have enjoyed rides like the MS 150 or the local charity rides, and are looking for something new, you sign up and join us. If you enjoy the challenges of racing but do not want to race, you should ride our gravel rides, or our road rides. Be the first one in your group to discover just how fun Kansas can be on a bike. Kandango will change the way you think about Kansas and biking.
My first RAGBRAI in 1990 changed the way I thought about bike touring.