Milwaukee Magazine


Join the fun in Riverwest for this annual bicycle bacchanal.

- By Barbara Miner

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 (riverwest2­ 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.

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Polish Moon Bike Ride (here and below)
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