Saturday, December 12th turned out to be a great day for the The 2009 edition of the Santa Cycle Rampage. The weather was great with sunny skies and temps in the mid-30's most of the day. Undoubtedly the relatively mild conditions were part of the reason approximately 250 riders dressed as Santa, his helpers, reindeer or wearing other associated holiday garb did the ride. Conservative estimates placed the Santa participation at about 200 while several folks were bandying about the 300 number. I'd say 250 would not be a stretch. Shea from the Bike Federation, one of the sponsors, is going to check with Lakefront Brewery to see if they did a count of free beer chips they passed out to get a better idea. The weather was great so the participation was super!
Throughout the day we visited Cafe Hollander on Milwaukee's Eastside, Lakefront Brewery along the Milwaukee River, just north of Downtown, Rehorst Distillery in the 5th Ward, Kochanski's Concertina Bar where a live Polka Band and free food and the post-ride party at Cafe Centraal in Bayview.
There were also pre-ride meet ups at Fuel Cafe in Riverwest, the 'Tosa Cafe Hollander and Anodyne Coffee in Bay View where riders met to travel together to start at the Downer Ave. Cafe Hollander.
My ride for the day was 18.75 miles, the actual route was approximately 13 miles the extra being travel back because the route did not end at the starting place. Other riders put in upwards of 30 miles and, while we were milling about at the post-ride party we met up with 3 guys who had just ridden in from Chicago putting about 90 miles on that day! Joe, Kendall and I also added in a stop at Cubanita's on Milwaukee St. and Osteria del Mundo in the Knick on Juneau on the way home. I topped off the stops with a look in at Rascal's bringing my Santa Stop total to 8.
The main highlight for me from the even was the camaraderie of 250 Santa Cyclists. I started out with a core group of friends but found myself riding with other groups most of the day meeting people and making friends along the way. More highlights included free Fat Tire beer, the excellent weather that had us biking in sunny 35 degree conditions most of the day, the Polka Band at Kochanski's, more beer, the raffle and the Police escort (see more below!)
There was excellent beer to be had at each venue with some favorites including, Fat Tire, Riverwest Stein, Fat Squirrel, Wheat Monkey, Zywiec (Polish) as well as some great Vodkas at Rehorst and even a tasting of Absinthe at the distillery.
As we rode there was a tremendous outpouring of good will towards the Santa group. Hundreds if not thousands of people shouted, cheered, whistled, followed, photographed, shot movies and, in general, made the ride extra special. Being 250-plus strong the Santa procession often stretched over a city block. Motorists were, for the most part very courteous and allowed the procession to hold together. We did, on occasion split at a particularly busy intersection but usually caught up to the group and arrived at our destinations intact.
At the Rehorst Distillery stop we picked up a Police escort! The pair of officers in the squad were just awesome! They looked out for the group, herded it together when it began to stretch out and blocked intersections, errant motorists and random ill-willers so that we could travel safely and as a group. They broadcast our Santa Radio station on their PA, cajoled and rankled with us at stops and, even though they were not drinking, joined us at the post-ride party. Goodwill from the cops was the unexpected pleasure of the ride!
This was absolutely one of the biking event highlights of the year! I'll be back next year with bells on!
I know the Bike Fed was a major sponsor. I don't know all the others but South Shore Cyclery and Ben's both gave raffle prizes.
flickr photoset: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gasmith/sets/72157622875749911/
Video at Rehorst Distillery: http://www.facebook.com/GreatLakesDistillery/posts/201540295674
An article I answered questions for at Draft Magazine for the Beer Runner: http://beerrunner.draftmag.com/2009/12/13/the-santa-cycle-rampage-just-came-to-town/
JSOnline Article: http://www.jsonline.com/multimedia/photos/62680607.html?index=1
Santa Cycle Rampage on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=183604592722