5 tips for surviving the 2013 Riverwest 24
The Riverwest neighborhood might have more established annual gatherings (Locust Street Festival, Center Street Daze), but none quite compare to the ramshackle chaos of this weekend’s all-day bicycle race, the Riverwest 24. The competition, in its sixth year, makes a 4.8-mile loop around the majority of the community. (Booth Street to the west, Keefe Avenue to the north, Humboldt Avenue to the east, and Commerce Street to the south.) The festivities extend out onto porches and front lawns along the route, making the event seem more like a neighborhood-wide block party than a cycling race.
That’s not to say the task isn’t daunting. Heck, even gaining entrance has become a challenge itself; it’s quickly becoming registration-day tradition to camp out for hours to guarantee a spot. The allotment of riders has grown consistently every year, with this year featuring 1,000 participants separated into the usual six categories (teams with the same bike, teams with different bikes, solo, solo male, solo female, and tandem).
With so many riders navigating through Riverwest’s burdensome streets, where traffic signs seem like mere suggestions and potholes abound, the course can become treacherous. But here at The A.V. Club, we’re concerned about your well-being, so remember these simple tips before embarking on the Riverwest 24, which kicks off Friday at 7 p.m. (Helmets and lights are obviously necessary, and, indeed, required.)
Secure your manifest
The single most important item of the Riverwest 24—other than your safety, of course—is the manifest. In order to complete a full lap, riders need to pass through the four checkpoints consecutively. Because race organizers are low-tech and non-dystopian, they eschew planting a microchip in a rider’s bike to follow their progress and instead pass out very organic, laminated sheets to be punched at every checkpoint. After recording 10 laps, the manifest gets turned in for a new one. That’s if you haven’t lost it yet; nothing hurts team morale more than a lost manifest. To avoid a lifetime of teammate scorn, find a shirt with a front pocket big enough to fit the manifest snugly, but that’s still easily accessible. It beats checking your back pocket every couple seconds or simply attempting to hold it for the entire ride.
Each bonus checkpoint nets a team two extra laps. The bonus checkpoints are spread out near the course and often take 20 to 30 minutes to complete. Even if winning isn’t a priority, the 25 bonus checkpoints usually contain some fun or rewarding challenge (the free breakfast, for instance). It also keeps the giant mass of riders off the street and gets people to do something for the first and probably only time—whether it’s pledging an oath to the neighborhood’s masked vigilante superheroes or, like, some tai chi.
Take the stairs
Coasting down to checkpoint No. 3, which is located beneath the Holton Bridge, is easy; climbing back up the incline to Booth Street can be brutal. Most riders ascend the Oak Leaf trail switchback hill below Kadish Park. Not only is the steep slope harrowing, but there’s also oncoming bike traffic before the turn to go up the path. Every once in a while, take the stairs that lead up to Booth Street. Hecklers will scream to no end and it might not save any extra time, but after several hours on a bike, it’s neat to work some different muscles.
Listen to the volunteers
Along the route, there are too many dangerous intersections to count on one’s hand. Afraid of someone being injured or murdered by a car, organizers enlist the assistance of a core group of volunteers who provide another set of eyes for riders. They won’t stop traffic, but they make you aware of it. If you see them pointing to the left or right, you should probably stop, or prepare to welcome your 35-mile-an-hour impending doom.
Just because the race never ceases, it doesn’t mean cyclists should relentlessly pedal themselves to death. Even if it’s only 30 minutes, find a place to sleep. Whether it be a bed, a couch, the front lawn, or even a sidewalk, that short rest will save enough energy to endure an inevitable crash in enthusiasm during the blistering Saturday afternoon.