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‘Everyone comes together:’ Riverwest 24 bike race is not about endurance or speed, but community

MILWAUKEE -- It is a 24-hour bike race. The first things that might come to mind is endurance and speed. But in this race, it is about community and fun.

Round and round they go, riding through Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood. Known as the Riverwest 24, the annual 24-hour bike race is much more than a competition. It is a full-on party.

Instead of multiple checkpoints, there are multiple stops. But they are not necessarily about checking the bike or keeping time or anything like that. Instead, they are there to offer different attractions and entertainment.

"It started with people wanted to have a shared block party. So people who lived in different parts of the neighborhood wanted to have a block party on the same day and they thought how can we connect that? Oh, we could have a bike race," said Erika Wolf, organizer of checkpoint 3.

Erika Wolf

They have a race -- and over the year, it has turned into a unique networking site.

"The first year there were just 188 people that rode in the race -- and now it's the 11th year and there's 1,300 people and there's more people that want to be in the race than can get in," Wolf said.

A lively and diverse neighborhood normally, the Riverwest 24 adds even more for locals Lane Burns and Jason Boos.

"Everyone comes together and it's diverse and inclusive and it's just a really great community," said Burns, a Riverwest 24 rider.

"With the kids they can get on the back of the bike and they are really enjoying the festivities," said Boos, a Riverwest 24 rider.

One of the checkpoints is of particular interest to Erika Wolf, who also rides in the race. The reason? She organizes the music at the top. It is not mandatory to drop in, but it is encouraged.

"Some people they do just one lap in 24 hours, and they try just hang out at every block and get to meet people," Wolf said. "Some people, they ride really hard the whole time and they have a whole schedule of strategy about how they're going to win their solo division or tandem division or whichever category they are riding in."

Teamwork seems to be the key to success in the event for Harvey Duerr, something his teammates are very well aware of.

"They're probably going to be mad it me because I'm sitting here talking to you. I should be getting some laps in. But what the heck, we are just having fun," Duerr said.

And there is the motto Duerr swears by for this race -- practice makes perfect.

"I started training like a week ago. I go do a couple of laps to go to a friend's house and drink a 6-pack and it's been good training that way," Duerr said.

Filling a card with checks is the goal for some -- while dancing and meeting new people fits the bill for others. But there is something all riders try to follow.

"The one rule to the race is don't be a jerk and it's the way everybody feels during the race," Wolf said. "It's amazing how much fun you can have by just challenging yourself to stay up and go to every part of the neighborhood and talk to people."