Regular readers probably saw this post by the other Polish Dave announcing that with the new year, I will be stepping down as Deputy Director. I have had a great run at the Bike Fed and leave proud of the work we have done over the last 10 or 15 years. When I opened the Milwaukee office in 2001, it was rare to see anyone riding a bike in the winter. If I saw someone I didn’t recognize pedaling to work in the snow, I excitedly emailed the handful my of friends who did to tell them!
While riding a bike year-round is commonplace now, back before fat bikes were ubiquitous, it was considered a bit crazy. To celebrate our mutual craziness, one of the first things I did at the Bike Fed was organize a fun winter ride. Some friends in Chicago had a ride called the Santa Cycle Rampage in which they would dress like Santas, elves and driedels and ride to Michigan Avenue to sing anti-consumer Christmas Carols for all the shoppers on the Miracle Mile. I loved the holiday costumes and name for the ride, but was more interested in holiday cheer than jeers.
So I stole the name and invited a handful of friends to ride around Milwaukee with me. Oh we caused a bit of a ruckus when we rode through the Grand Avenue Mall and even through Koppa’s Farwell Foods. And we did get chastised by a sheriff for riding over the Hoan Bridge, but even the Grinch couldn’t give a ticket to Santa. We got off with a warning.
In just a few years, the ride grew to dozens of people. A few years later it we had more than 100 jolly Santas, elves, reindeer and even our own Milwaukee dreidel pedaling around town. It got to the point that I would alert the Milwaukee police about the ride, but not fill out a permit. While we would try to obey traffic signals and rules of the road, a big group of Santas on bikes was bound to cause some traffic problems. The police generally took it in good stride.
One year a younger officer pulled our group over on Wisconsin Avenue. As he tried to sort out who was the Santa in charge, a veteran officer pulled up and told him we were a holiday tradition and suggested he let us go.
These days there are so many people on our ride, we get permits, insurance and our official ride ends at Lakefront Brewery. Last year the Milwaukee Police estimated we had 1,200 people pedaling down North Avenue.
When I leave the Bike Fed, I can be proud that the Bike Fed’s advocacy efforts helped Milwaukee go from bike lanes on Farwell and Prospect to more than 100 miles of bike lanes in every neighborhood. And we can be proud that Milwaukee now has a City trail system, that our City and County trails are plowed in the winter. We can be proud that so many more people ride bicycles for fun and transportation.
While concrete advocacy wins like those are certainly most important, the Santa Cycle Rampage will always bring a smile to my face, because it does for so many other people. Few other events cause people in cars to cheer people on bikes like the Santa Cycle Rampage.
So come out and join me Saturday December 2nd for my last official ride as head Santa. Oh you may see me somewhere in the sea or red on the Rampage in future years, but I’ll just be one of Santa’s helpers. I look forward to being pack filler!
Santa Cycle Rampage Saturday, Dec. 2nd
7 am – 9 am – Day-of registration for procrastinators at Red Dot, 6715 W North Ave, Wauwatosa
Pre-registered riders check-in and get your wristband at BelAir Cantina Tosa, 6817 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa .
Preregistered riders stop in at Red Dot before you ride to check in, get your wrist band, and pick up free candy canes to hand out to kids watching along the ride. For those who save their holiday shopping until Christmas Eve, you can register for the Rampage that morning between 7AM and 9AM at BelAir.
9:30 am – Ride leaves from Cranky Al’s at 69th and North Ave.
10:30 am – Ride ends at Lakefront Brewery, 1872 N Commerce St. (open to Santa and his helpers from 10am – 12pm)
See the list below for other Santa Gathering places to enjoy holiday cheer before and after the ride. Keep in the loop as we add more Santa Gathering places and announce special offers for Santa’s helpers on our Santa Cycle Rampage Facebook community and Facebook event page. If you have a favorite cafe or tavern that wants to be listed as a Santa Rampage gathering place, ask the owner or manager to email email@example.com
2017 Santa Gathering Places (Your neighborhood holiday haunt not listed? Ask the proprietor to email Santa Dave to get on the list!):
- Belair Cantina, Wauwatosa, 6817 W North Ave., Wauwatosa 7am pre-ride check-in and special Golden Ticket breakfast with prizes!
- Cafe Hollander Wauwatosa Village, 7677 W State St. 8am
- Cafe Hollander Downer, 2608 N Downer Ave. 8am, the original east side official gathering place for Santa!
- Cafe Centraal, 2306 S Kinnickinnic Ave., Bay View
- Conejitos Place, 539 W Virgina Street, Milwaukee, The whole back room is reserved for Santa’s!
- Cranky Al’s, 6901 W North Ave., Wauwatosa
- Great Lakes Distillery, 11am-2pm, 616 W Virginia St., Milwaukee, Delicious food and beverages, with
- Kegel’s Inn, 5901 W National Ave., West Allis, Open to feed hungry Santas from 8am-11am, then group ride to Lakefront Brewery, reopens at 4:30pm
- Kochanski’s Concertina Beer Hall, 1pm-close, 1920 S 37th St., Milwaukee
- Lakefront Brewery, Open 10:o0am-noon, 1872 N Commerce St., Milwaukee
- Nomad World Pub, 1401 E Brady St, Milwaukee, Santa Mike lights the fire pit lit at 7AM with drink specials and food, then leads the shortest official Santa ride to Lakefront Brewery.
- Red Dot, 6713 W North Ave., East Tosa 7am-close, Day of regsitration for the official ride is on the patio at Red Dot.
Please save yourself some time at the Rampage check-in that morning and sign the waiver online by clicking the button below.