This weekend’s Riverwest 24 can seem like an overwhelming experience. It is a 24-hour bike race, after all. But the Riverwest 24 is much more than just a bicycling competition. It offers an opportunity to see the neighborhood like never before, and it essentially forces participants to work together to help out the community. But the really significant takeaway from the Riverwest 24 is that it’s by far the best party of the summer.

To help out any novices who are riding the Riverwest 24 for the first time, here’s a list of terms you’ll probably hear over the course of the 24 hours.

24 (n.) – an informal version of Riverwest 24 (see: People’s Holiday)

bonus checkpoint (n.) – A time-sensitive location (usually open for two hours) where a participant can earn two extra laps by completing a task. Paper copies containing the time and locations of all the bonus checkpoints are available at the start/finish line (also known as Checkpoint 4). The special achievements mostly change annually, but some remain consistent every year (see: haircut; tattoo).

check-in (n.) – the act of reporting one’s presence in the race. Check-in takes place at the corner of Pierce and Clark streets on Friday starting at 12 p.m. and is open during the race, with the exception of being closed temporarily between 6-8 p.m. on Friday.

checkpoint (n.) – a designated place along the route where riders pass through in order to advance along the race. Riders must pass through each checkpoint in order to complete a full lap. These locations sometimes offer complimentary refreshments (“Did you take a whiskey shot at Checkpoint 2?”)

dunce (n) – a rider that engages in lewd and/or unsportsmanlike conduct. Upon being branded a dunce by organizers, the rider must complete one full lap wearing a dunce cap. The lap does not count towards the team’s total.

espresso (n.) – a strong coffee-based drink that’s available outside the Colectivo Coffee on Humboldt Ave. and is free-of-charge for riders.

grimy (adj.) –  covered in a film of dirt; a description that’s often unfairly used to define Riverwest but is never more accurate than at the conclusion of the race.

haircut (n.) – an annual bonus checkpoint where volunteers recklessly shave portions of hair off a rider’s head.

ice sculpture (n.) – a handcrafted block of ice that serves as the grand prize for winners of the six categories.

helmet (n.) – a head protector that’s a requirement for participating in the race.

kids 24 (n.) – a race within the race. Children are welcomed to participate in a miniature version of the Riverwest 24 at Fredrick J.Gaenslen School on Saturday afternoon. Start times are 2 p.m. for kids aged 4-7 and 3 p.m. for kids aged 8-12.

lap (n.) – Completing all four checkpoints in order; the team with the most amount of laps (including extra laps earned at bonus checkpoints) wins the race.

manifest (n.) – a laminated yellow sheet that gets punched at every checkpoint to keep track of how many laps a rider has accomplished. The sheet counts a total of 10 laps. After finishing 10 laps, riders turn in their completed manifest for a new one. If a manifest is lost, teams lose all the laps accumulated on the sheet. (related expression: Manifucked – a feeling of despair when your manifest is lost).

Marsupial Bridge (n.) – a walking bridge above the Milwaukee River and beneath the Holton Street Bridge that connects Riverwest to Checkpoint 3. (“There are so many people trying to walk across the Marsupial Bridge right now.”)

Mayor of Riverwest (n.) – an unofficial title bestowed by a group to a person whom exudes the characteristics of the Riverwest neighborhood (“Joe, you are half-naked, covered in glitter and dirt, and slightly buzzed. You truly are the Mayor of Riverwest.”)

Riverwest (n.) – a neighborhood in Milwaukee that’s crazy enough to fully embrace a 24-hour bike race through its urban streets and prides itself in that fact.

route (n.) – any path between the four checkpoints. There is no strict course that riders must stay on. (“I rode a different route last lap in order to buy a pack of smokes.”)

people’s holiday (n.) – a colloquial term for the Riverwest 24.


photo (n.) – a group picture taken of all participants after the conclusion of the race. (see: grimy)

soak (n; v) – to cool body by sitting in water. (“I hopped off my bike and took a soak in the bed of somebody’s pick-up truck.”)

spoke card (n.) – a laminated sheet inserted into the spokes of a bicycle that prominently displays a team name and number.

switchback (n.) – the treacherous incline up Kadish Park that leads riders from the Marsupial to Booth St.. (“Screw the switchback.”)

tattoo (n.) – a design of the current Riverwest 24 logo tattooed on a rider. The design is not made available until race day. The tattoo counts as a bonus checkpoint and earns a team five bonus laps.

turn on your headlight (v.) – an exclamation yelled from riders passing by (usually near the switchback) when your headlight is turned off at night (related expression: Turn on your fucking headlight). A light is required to participate in the race.

Twizzler (n.) – a rope-like candy that’s sometimes offered to bikers along Reservoir Ave.

volunteer (n; v.) – a person who freely offers time to help the race run smoothly. Volunteers help coordinate the event, cook meals, and perhaps most importantly, seek to keep everyone safe by pointing out incoming traffic. (“I would’ve nailed that city bus if it wasn’t for that volunteer.”)

About The Author

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Kevin Mueller is a local freelance writer. Despite whatever bullshit reason he gives, he actually supports Tottenham Hotspur because of Ted Lasso, a fictional American football coach with no understanding of the differences in the sport who's brought over to head the team.