The Santa Cycle Rampage is Dead, Long Live the Santa Cycle Rampage

700 Santas are riding through Milwaukee this December, and you can be a part of it! Registration is open now.

I started the Santa Cycle Rampage 15 years ago with a handful of friends who ride bikes all year to give us something fun to do in the winter. Back then, if any of us saw someone we didn’t know riding a bike in the winter it was something to talk about. Now lots of people ride all year, which may be one reason why the Santa Cycle Rampage now attracts hundreds of people and has even spun off copy rides as far away as Boston. That is all great, but there is no way the Bike Fed can be in charge of organizing a 700 person pub crawl and get insurance.

This guy gets the award for the littlest Santa with the biggest heart for scooting along on the ride last year! We want to keep the Bike Fed’s part of the Santa Cycle Rampage Ride family friendly.

So this year I told everyone who asked that I was not organizing an official Rampage. No Virginia, Santa was not coming this year. Immediately a few of the Original Santas starting making Grinch comments, and  a couple of owners of the stops said I was foolish for walking away from a great event that has the potential to raise a bunch of money for the Bike Fed. Some of the owners of the stops have even donated money to the Bike Fed after because they make so much money in such a short amount of time.

Even in years when it was 40 degrees and raining we have had hundreds of Santas show up to Rampage. Awesome, but disconcerting without insurance for the ride.

After much haranguing and a few meetings over good beer at Cafe Benelux, my fellow Original Santas convinced me to try one more time. In order to revive the Santa Cycle Rampage with the Bike Fed taking the lead organizing it, we had to make some changes. What we decided to try this year is to charge a fee for registration with a waiver, get permits and pay for insurance.

This is a mock-up of the knit beanies we ordered this year. No pom, so they will fit under helmets.

This “official” Santa Cycle Rampage Ride will start Saturday, Dec. 5th at 9:30am from Cranky Al’s Bakery at 69th and North Avenue in East Tosa (one of the traditional morning Santa gathering places). The ride will be a slow, 6 mile group ride down North Avenue to Lakefront Brewery.  The idea is similar to our Polish Moon Ride, which means no stops for alcohol on the ride.

Registration for the Santa Cycle Rampage Ride includes your choice of a t-shirt or hat

  • Bike Fed members: $20

  • Non-members: $35 (price includes a one year membership and hat or shirt)

  • Register and you can buy an extra shirt or hat for just $10

  • Visit our online store to order hats and shirts for delivery.

Register to Rampage


Thanks the the talented Kyle Sartorelli for this year’s great Santa Rampage illustration.

We won’t make much money on the $20 charge to members because between the free hat or shirt, insurance, and permits, our costs add up to nearly that. We will make money from the sponsors of the gathering places and post ride parties listed below, so be sure to thank and support your local Santa Cycle Rampage Sponsor!

We picked Cranky Al’s as the start location primarily because they have great donuts and coffee, but also because 40 to 50 Santas typically meet there anyway. And Cranky’s is kind of on the way if the Santas who typically go to Cafe Hollander in Wauwatosa Village want to join the ride on their way down to Lakefront. We also picked East Tosa because they added the green bike lanes and virtually all the businesses along North Avenue support cycling. Some people suggested we have other official rides that start from Hollander on Downer and somewhere in Bay View or the Riverwest, but nobody actually volunteered to lead those rides and handle day-of registration. So this year we will start small and stick with East Tosa for the only official Bike Fed Santa Cycle Rampage Ride.

We want to keep the reindeer employed during the lead up to Christmas, so we had to make some changes this year.

We did contact all the other business owners where Santas traditionally gather in the morning or as post ride parties, and they all agreed to roll out the red carpet for holiday merry makers again this year. We even picked up some new places. All the business owners also agreed to sponsor the ride with donations to the Wisconsin Bike Fed. Below is the official list of Santa Cycle Rampage Day sponsors for morning gathering places and post ride parties. Note that some of these businesses have limited hours for Santas because they have tours and other events. The rest are open to Santas until close:

Morning Gathering Places:

Post Rampage Parties:

We are planning for up to 200 Santas on our ride, but we will be OK if we get the 50 regular Santas from Cranky Al’s. Of course, the more Santas the merrier, but we don’t expect everyone on the East Side or in Bay View to change their habits, register for the official ride and pedal out to ‘Tosa, just to ride back down to Lakefront Brewery. Santas around Milwaukee are welcome to keep their regular traditions and do their own things. You don’t have to register to put on a Santa Suit and spread holiday cheer. You can also buy a shirt or hat without doing our ride. Hopefully the number of businesses who welcome Santas continues to grow over the years, and there are even more people riding around in Santa suits in every corner of Milwaukee, getting more people to try riding bikes in the winter and spending money at local businesses to boost our economy.

If you have never tried riding around town in a Santa suit, you really should. It is the only time you get honked at riding your bike and everyone is happy to see you! We have lots more photos from Days of Santa Cycle Rampage Past here and here on our Bike Fed Photoshelter website.

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

4 thoughts on “The Santa Cycle Rampage is Dead, Long Live the Santa Cycle Rampage

    • Hi Rosie, Walgreens used to sell $14 Santa suits, but they don’t anymore. Sometimes you can find them at Value Village on Layton (27th just south of National), but they are cheap on Amazon here. You can also do an elf outfit, dreidel, Krampus, etc., but I find the traditional Santa gets the most positive honks when I am riding around in my costume.

    • Yes! The more Santas, the merrier! (Kids like Santa, right?) But there are sure to be a few Santas who drink a bit too much beer. It’s a really fun event — and except for the alcohol, it’s pretty PG.

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