Rides & Destinations: Flint Hills, Kansas
On the first Sunday of every month from March to November, Cassoday, Kansas, in the heart of the Flint Hills, wakes up in a big way.
Green and lush in the spring, the Flint Hills in eastern Kansas offer some of the best motorcycle rides in the state and the Midwest. Photos by Rachael Gonzalez.
By the Motorcycle Classics staff
Ya gotta love scientists. Always on the lookout for ground-breaking studies, a group of researchers at AIR, the Annals of Improbable Research, applied spectography to answer the age-old question, “Is Kansas as flat as a pancake?”
We applied our own research to answer that question, aiming our sights for the Flint Hills and Cassoday, Kansas, once the self-proclaimed “Prairie Chicken Capital of the World" and one of the best motorcycle rides in Kansas. With barely 130 souls to its credit, Cassoday defines small. But on the first Sunday of every month from March to November, this quiet little town in the heart of the Flint Hills wakes up in a big way, as up to 3,000-plus motorcycles converge on its two-block-long Main Street and the now-famous Cassoday Cafe.
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It all started in the mid-1990s when a group of riders from Lawrence, Kansas, picked Cassoday for their Sunday morning ride. The Cassoday Cafe, pretty much the only operating business in town and normally closed on Sundays, agreed to open if enough folks showed up.
And show they did. The first few years found 100 to 300 riders carving their way via Highway 177 through the lush hills of Chase and Butler counties for the monthly breakfast run. It was a relatively low-key, semi-local event. And then the word got out.
A recent Sunday found bikers from across the region descending on the town for a happening that borders on a festival. The Cassoday Cafe gave up serving everyone from its small kitchen years ago, and these days food is dished out from surrounding tents.
Sunday morning rides to Cassoday, Kansas, the self-proclaimed “Prairie Chicken Capital of the World,” started in the mid-1990s.
Mobile kiosks now regularly make the scene, serving food, selling accessories and tending to torn leathers. On our visit there was even a mobile dynometer from a Wichita shop on hand, with bikers lined up for a chance to test their metal as the sounds of wailing engines filled the air.
So what about the folks at AIR? According to their study Kansas is even flatter than a pancake, or at least flatter than what you order at your local IHOP. Maybe, but we think if they made a run to Cassoday, they’d reassess their conclusion. MC
Where: Cassoday, KS
When: The first Sunday of the month, March through November. Be there by 9 a.m.
Why: Small town, big bikes — and lots of them — make for a great Sunday morning ride.
The cycles: Lots of late-model Hogs and Hondas, but the classic element is always strong.
The scenic routes: Highway 177 through the heart of the Flint Hills. It’s a ribbon of blacktop unraveling across the plains. Riding the Flint Hills is like setting off across the ocean — except you won’t get wet.
The watering holes: There’s only one, the Cassoday Cafe. The fare’s limited, but hey, that’s not what we really ride for.
Best-kept secrets: Heading south from Interstate 70, Highway 4 is a must. Almost no traffic, stunning scenery and enough curves to make you forget you’re in Kansas.
Avoid: Watch for cycle cops: As the event grows, so does the chance for an unwelcome “discussion” with local law enforcement.