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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Oct. 20, 2014

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Can a bicycle possibly beat a motor vehicle in a race? (PHOTO: Cristina Valencia (CC by 2.0))

Pedal to the metal: A race between cars and bicycles


Wednesday, Wednesday, WEDNESDAY marks the middle of Bike to Work Week, and what better way to roll over the hump with a little competition, a friendly wager, and some additional cash for a local non-profit?

The competition? A race between David Hobbs — a driver in the Indianapolis 500 and owner of David Hobbs Honda — and Ward Fowler, founding partner of the bicycle-friendly Colectivo Coffee. One will race in a Honda CRV. The other will race on a carbon fiber Specialized Roubaix. One will have unlimited speed. The other, unlimited coffee. Both will have unlimited drive.

The winner? Regardless of who crosses the finish line first, one of two local non-profits will benefit. According to the press release from the race's organizers, the Greater Shorewood Bikers, "the participants have made a charitable wager between themselves, each betting $500 that he will be first."

If Fowler wins Hobbs will donate $500 to the Sojourner Family Peace Center. If Hobbs wins, Fowler will donate $500 to the Greater Milwaukee Boys' & Girls' Club."

The competitors will start the day for a cup of coffee at Colectivo Coffee in Shorewood at 4500 N. Oakland Ave. and participate in a Q&A session involving the Wisconsin Bike Fed, the Greater Shorewood Bikers, and their panel of celebrity riders, drivers and experts.

At the sound of a horn, the two will embark upon their 5-mile commute via the route of their choosing, comply with all traffic laws, and end at di Suervo's "The Calling" (aka "The Sunburst") at Prospect and Wisconsin Avenues.

What is the fastest way to commute to work? The Oak Leaf Trail or the interstate? Oakland Avenue or Lincoln Memorial Drive? With pedal power or pedal to the metal? The winner may already be written in the Letterbox tea leaves.

According to Fowler: "Every prior Milwaukee commuter challenge has been won by the cyclist. My goal is to keep that streak going, even if I'm competing against a legendary competitor."

Hobbs, however, seems to side eye the validity of the results. "Despite the fact that I shall be competing against a cyclist much younger than myself, I want to assure the public that I shall compete in this event without the assistance of performance enhancing drugs – I've never needed them. I hope my competitor, despite how much I know he wants to win this event, takes the same pledge."

Nevermind the caffeine, of course.

But Fowler is looking to stretch his odds along the trail. "I'm hoping to run into friends to speed the trip down."

"The cyclist has always won but I hope it's at least going to be a close race," admitted Hobbs in a phone interview. "That's not to say I should rather commute to work on a bike, though. I'll be ready for work when I get there and he'll have to send a taxi for his briefcase."

Fowler, who has ridden his bike to work every day for the last 10 years in unperturbed. "The ride from my home in north Shorewood to my office in Riverwest is always faster than any car. When I travel between most [Colectivo] locations, I usually take a bike. It's almost always quicker. The rides that take longer aren't that much slower than driving."

No matter who wins, according to deputy director of the Wisconsin Bike Fed, Dave Schlabowske, the event should show how fun, convenient, and fast cycling through the city can be. "The goal of the event is to publicize the fact that for more and more people, biking to work is an enjoyable and healthy way to start their day, and to encourage more people to give it a try."

We'll update with the results here when they arrive.

UPDATE: According to Schlabowske, Ward Fowler beat David Hobbs by a mere 10 seconds.

About Greater Shorewood Bikers: GSB is a local cycling advocacy and promotion group. Founded in 2012, it was instrumental in getting the League of American Bicyclists to name Shorewood as a Bicycle Friendly Community (the first and only village in Wisconsin to gain that designation). The mission of GSB is to help make the Milwaukee area an even better place to live, work and grow a business, by making this area an even better place to bike. Its current president is Sandie Pendleton, a local attorney, who has commuted via bike regularly for many years, in all types of weather.

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