In its 4th year, the Riverwest 24 Hour Bike Race has quite literally grown by leaps and bounds. What began as about 180 riders and a few neighborhood block parties in the balmy summer of 2008 has become a phenomenon. Last weekend, nearly 700 riders and hundreds of volunteers, organizers and local spectators dominated the streets of Riverwest for a 24-hour exercise in stamina and community involvement.
Riders ranged in age from 18 to their mid-60s, many hailing from our own fair city, with some traveling miles across state borders to ride. They wore spandex, tutus, wigs and capes, rode vintage two-seater bikes and top-of-the-line road racers, and lit up the Beerline trail at night with dozens of flashing lights. Along the way, neighbors came out to cheer riders on with music, candy, fruit and cups of water — in the scorching mid-day heat, a few even offered riders a much-need spritz from the hose. Back at the start/finish line, drummers kept the beat all night long, giving road-weary cyclists momentum in the pre-dawn hours.
But the Riverwest 24 is not a race, per se. Sure, there are prizes and trophies awarded for most laps/points, and having your chance on the podium after the long ride is most definitely rewarding. But it’s not really about winning or not winning — it’s about the collective experience. It’s about pushing yourself mentally and physically, it’s about connecting with your fellow riders and exploring this small but robust enclave of Milwaukee.
One of the best ways to enjoy the Riverwest 24 is to participate in pre-determined “bonus” checkpoints. Beginning at 8 p.m. Friday night and every hour after, a different checkpoint was opened. These locations were kept secret until the day of the ride, and required riders to slow down and deviate from the route in exchange for extra points. Bonuses could mean collaborating on a sculpture at the Jazz Gallery, meeting Milwaukee’s own Real Life Super Heroes in a super-secret locale, hiking along the river in search of The Bridge to Nowhere, or chatting with teens at the COA.
TCD’s Co-publisher Jon Anne Willow, Senior Editor Tom Strini, and Photo Editor Brian Jacobson set up shop in the lovely courtyard of the Florentine Opera’s Riverwest practice space, encouraging riders to “Pedal their blues away” – on camera. Many thanks to Mario Costantini, co-owner of La Lune Furniture and the Florentine’s building, for being on hand and helping us with everything from water to electricity. Brian Jacobson compiled two hours of footage and edited it down into the fun little ditty you see below. Look closely and you find Managing Editor Erin “Unicorn” Petersen, who rode in the tandem category this year, and went a little overboard on the “silly” factor.
As an added bonus, photo interns Dylan Huebner and Sarah Weiss captured a few quieter moments from the RW24. Check out the slideshow below, or view it on TCD’s Flickr here.