Mark Metcalf

The Riverwest 24 – Community on two wheels

By - Jun 16th, 2011 04:00 am
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The finish line photo for the first-ever Riverwest 24 Hour Bike Race, 2008.

This phenomenon called the Riverwest 24 all started during the summer of 2008 when more than one hundred people cycled the streets of Riverwest for 24 hours straight — during one of the hottest weekends of the season. When race organizers set out to show off their neighborhood with an exercise in stamina and team work, they had no idea what the event would become. In the last four years, the event has grown considerably as the number of riders increases and more people from the community get involved. Each year, hundreds of people show up to spectate, volunteer and cheer riders on throughout the night.

The first year, roughly 180 people showed up to ride. In 2011, race participation has topped 600.

Riverwest 24 Hour Bike Race Finish Line 2010

RW24 Finish Line photo, 2010.

But if you ask co-organizers Jeremy Prach and Steve Whitlow (who are part of a larger consortium of organizers and volunteers), it’s not really a race, per se in that “winning” isn’t really the goal. You don’t have to wear a spandex outfit or ride a certain type of bike, you can complete one lap or 110; the point is to get people to explore the neighborhood and get to know the colorful residents who inhabit it.

“I’ve always thought of it as a ride,” says Prach. “I still don’t think of it as race…this is primarily a community event that started out of connecting block watches, and it still is that.”

The ride lasts for 24 hours, and participants are free to pedal along at their own desired speed and length. Along the way, everyone encouraged to stop and smell the roses. Beginning at 8 p.m. the night of the race (and every hour after that), a bonus checkpoint is opened, taking riders off the beaten path and introducing them to new people and places in exchange for additional laps. One might break up concrete at a community garden, get a haircut at a neighborhood barbershop or collaborate on a painting at a local art gallery.

“We’re encouraging people to slow down…instead of just pedaling as fast as you can,” says Prach. Whitlow adds, “For us, [the Riverwest 24] is a 75% community event, 25% bicycle event.”

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