The Riverwest 24-Hour Bike Race—Ride On!
The RW24, like many of
Riverwest’s existing traditions, is really a manifestation of the neighborhood
itself. Rather than the shaved legs, carbon-fiber bike frames and competitive
pelotons of elite racing, think tattoos, handlebar mustaches and DIY bikes with
fixed gears. Cyclists of all performance levels are invited to take part,
either as an individual rider or as part of a team. The classes include: Solo
(one rider, one bike), Tandem (two riders, one tandem bike), Team A (two to six
riders sharing one bike) and Team B (two to six riders each with his/her own
In tune with Riverwest’s
“Follow Your Own Path” attitude, the RW24 doesn’t have a specific race route,
just a suggested one that measures 4.6 miles. Riders are free to choose any
route they want, just as long as they visit each of four checkpoints in order
and have their visits validated on the manifests they are given at the
Riders can earn extra
points (one extra point is worth one lap) by participating in bonus
checkpoints, which are kept under wraps until the day of the race. Previous
RW24 racers, for example, have earned extra points by shaving their heads at a
participating salon, getting a tattoo and helping break up concrete in a
The winner in each
racing category is determined by the person or team who completes the most laps
in the 24-hour time period that occurs between when the race starts at 7 p.m.
on Friday, July 30, and when it ends at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 31. Winners
are eligible for some great prizes donated to the RW24 by local businesses,
including a custom-made trophy created entirely out of recycled bicycle parts.
Perhaps the most
extraordinary aspect of the RW24 is how quickly it has become one of Milwaukee’s most popular
summertime traditions. In its inaugural year, the race boasted 187 registered
riders, and now, just two years later, the race has already closed its
registration with 500 participants. The RW24 has a devout army of volunteers to
ensure that the entire event, which includes two meals—dinner at the Riverwest
Co-op and breakfast at St. Mary of Czestochowa—runs
smoothly. Little enclaves within the community close down their streets for
block parties, and neighbors, armed with lawn chairs and coolers of PBR, line
the suggested race route to watch the two-wheeled spectacle.
While the Riverwest 24-hour bike race promotes physical fitness and endurance, it also advocates a more holistic urban biking culture in America, one that helps reduce vehicular traffic and road maintenance, conserve increasingly scarce energy resources, discourage suburban sprawl and promote local businesses. The RW24 is a stellar example of how a select group of caring individuals can enact significant change in a community—literally overnight.