At the 10th annual Riverwest 24, which has near-cult status nationwide, expect unicycles, tandems and homemade bikes – and lots of tattoos and costumes, from ballerinas to Pokémon figures. An all-time favorite: the clown with a cargo bike, hauling a sofa with friends drinking beer.
Participants compete for points based on laps completed and “bonus points,” which encourage riders to know the community and “interact with human beings,” explains Steve Whitlow, a ride organizer. You might, for instance, be asked to paint messages of peace at La Escuela Fratney, shoot hoops at the Children’s Outing Association, or get a 2 a.m. “barber’s choice” haircut.
Most of all, the ride is a 24-hour neighborhood block party that goes from 7 p.m. Friday, July 28th, to 7 p.m. Saturday, July 29th with strong community participation. “It warms our anarchist hearts when Colectivo gives out free shots of espresso, not just to racers, but everybody,” Whitlow says. “Or people pass out candy and Popsicles.”
Befitting the neighborhood’s ethos, the RW24 is an all-volunteer labor of love, without corporate or foundation sponsors. The ride is limited to 1,000 people and slots fill up quickly in early May. But no worries. Volunteers get a spot the next year.
And, as RW24 organizers know, the streets are free. “We certainly don’t ask permission to have our race, so we don’t expect people to ask permission to ride their bikes that day,” Whitlow says.
Of all the many things that make this ride special, perhaps the most compelling aspect is the simple-yet-magical joy of riding on city streets on a warm summer night, especially at 2 a.m. when the rest of the world is asleep.
More Biking Ops
Fat Tire Tour of Milwaukee
- June 17, 5-8 p.m.
- Best Place at Historic Pabst Brewery
Bikes, brews and mystery stops.
Polish Moon Ride
- July 21, Festivities: 5 p.m. Ride: 7 p.m.
- 1407 S. First St.
An abundance of accordion players set this ride apart. Family friendly.
Ride Across Wisconsin
- Aug. 25-27
- Various ride options and starting locations.
See our state up close with this scenic-but-strenuous ride. Two-day options are available.
See all 14 Weekends of Summer Fun
Tune in to WUWM’s (FM 89.7) “Lake Effect” June 2 at 10 a.m. to hear more about the story.
‘Pedal-palooza’ appears in the June 2017 (City Guide) issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
Find it on newsstands beginning May 29, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.
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