Yesterday I arrived at the small park next to the Riverwest Public House just before 8:30am to get in line to register for the Riverwest 24 bike race. I figured I’d be first in line for the registration but Tony had slept overnight to guarantee himself pole position. He was 2nd position last year after I was the first to arrive.
My teams have won the Team A category (6 racers, one bike) 3 out of the past 4 years. Position in this race can mean almost an entire lap if you are taking this seriously, and even a 24 hour race can come down to minutes or seconds separating the top competitors. Many people ride the race just for fun, to hang with friends, and to experience one of the best days of the year in the Milwaukee. The RW24 is about more than bikes. It is really about how bikes can bring together a community and spread good vibrations during the last weekend of July each year in the Riverwest neighborhood.
Yesterday around noon the line began filling in fast, which got lots of looks from drivers along the busy stretch of Locust St. as it moves through the tightened blocks of Riverwest. Some likely knew what we were all there for, others pondered if we were part of #occupysomething. In a way it is the preface to Occupy Riverwest as the 24 hour race brings community together. The excitement grew as folks in line reminisced on past years, discussed what the race would like in 10, 20 or 50 years. Even on a foggy 50-degree day, spirits seemed high. By 2pm I said to a few folks that the line was full and you could tell there would be people turned away and most likely upset.
FlavorCycle provided those who couldn’t leave their spot with sustenance and Fuel Cafe provided some morning coffee for the early risers. Even people who weren’t waiting in line came by to hang out and see friends and neighbors.
As a Bike Fed staff member my commitment to cycling is obvious, so much so that I made sure to attend a conference call with all our full-time staff via the Public House wifi and my laptop as well as my phone with some borrowed headphones.
I don’t know how fast other bike races fill up, but this one filled all 750 spots in 80 minutes. This not only speaks to a quick and efficient line and registration system, but the popularity of a fantastic community event. Some people were upset at not getting a spot. I even saw on Facebook that folks were sending race organizers complaint emails. That upset me a bit. The organizers do so much to bring this event to the public it’s not fair to harass them.
If you underestimate this event you will be left in the cold dust. It has been called the best 24 hour bike event in the state, in the country, and in the world. That may be debatable, but I dare you to attend The Riverwest 24 Hour as a volunteer, rider, or fan and tell me it’s not.
As for my team, MKE Bike Polo, you can find us in Pole Position #3 defending our Team A category championship on July 27th-28th, 2012.