By Jason McDowell Creative Director Published Nov 05, 2021 at 2:01 PM Photography: Dave Schlabowske

The Wisconsin Bike Fed's Santa Cycle Rampage fundraiser is back, but this time they're taking a different route. This year, instead of the usual starting location in Wauwatosa, the new, roughly 10-mile route will start at the Bike Fed offices at 187 E Becher St.

The ride leaves on Saturday, December 4 at 9:15 a.m. and will loop through Walker's Point, Downtown and the East Side before returning from whence it left at 11:00 a.m.

Panoramic image of hundreds of Santas on bicycles swarming the street.X

Riders can register for the Santa Cycle Rampage all the way up to the day of the event (9 a.m. online or in person at the Bike Fed's tent at the ride start), but the first 500 registrants will receive a custom embroidred patch with the tandem Rudolph and Santa design. Proceeds help the Wisconsin Bike Fed advocate for better infrastructure and safer streets throughout the state.

An embroidered patch featuring Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and Santa on a tandem.
Available for the first 500 registrants.

What is the Santa Cycle Rampage?

The Santa Cycle Rampage is a large-scale, slow roll on bicycles that includes several thousand Santas of all shapes and sizes. The ride is also speckled with other creative holiday characters, like Mrs. Clauses, reindeer, trees, menorahs, Jesuses, Rankin-Bass characters, and sometimes even yuletide horrors like the Grinch or Krampus.

A woman on a bike in a Grinch costume followed by Cindy Loo Hoo on a trail-a-bike.
Photo: Dave Schlabowske

"A few things stand out as my favorite part," said Jake Newborn, the Bike Fed's assistant director, "First, is just seeing the sea of thousands of smiling faces, red costumes and all the creative holiday season outfits. The Krampus, the snowmen, the Yukon Cornelius, the candy canes and more!

"My second favorite part is all the onlookers' faces. The smiles of kids in car windows wishing they were out riding with Santa, and the folks stopping on the street to cheer and wave."

What's the deal with the new route?

A map of the 2021 Santa Cycle Rampage route
While mostly nailed down, the route is subject to slight changes through December 4.

"The Santa Rampage has grown exponentially over the past 17 years," explained Newborn, "and the format has changed a few times since the inception. We moved offices in 2020 and we are excited to have a home we can welcome folks to, and use as a starting base.

"We also felt that a looped ride will make this route more accessible and will allow for more families to get back to a start/finish point.

"Additionally, with the large number of people expected to be on the ride, we felt it was safer to not crush 1000 sweaty santas into a ballroom at the end of the ride this year."

The Santa Cycle Rampage moves at a family-friendly pace (roughly 5-10 miles per hour) a reasonable speed for spreading cheer along the way.

While the official ride doesn't make any stops along its two-hour journey, once the loop is complete, the fun will likely not stop there.

Elvis in a santa hat on a bicycle, followed by thousands of other Santas and other Christmas characters.
Photo: Dave Schlabowske

"There is no 'after party' at the end point but we encourage folks to patronize our many ride sponsors with friends and ride safely throughout the day," said Newborn.

Official ride sponsors will be announced in the coming weeks, but the past decade and a half has shown that groups of merry makers will extend the trip to tipple at traditional stops, like the Lakefront Brewery, Great Lakes Distillery, and Kochanski's Concertina Beer Hall, well into the afternoon.

A Santa dancing next to a person in an air-filled Santa costume at Great Lakes Distillery.X

A note on parking: Riding to the event is highly encouraged. However, if you cannot, understand that parking in the area will be incredibly tight. Be prepared to park further away and ride in.

About the Wisconsin Bike Fed?

The Wisconsin Bike Fed is the only statewide organization that advocates for better bicycling for everyone who rides a bike. Whether you ride for transportation, train for health, fitness and competition or just ride for fun on trails, our staff and board are working to make it easier, safer and more fun.

Newborn outlined some examples of the Bike Fed's recent successes.

"Our Education Programs team did some amazing work with Milwaukee Public Schools, Lincoln Ave and Westside Academy, and Milwaukee DPW Multimodal Department to engage students in the process of making infrastructure changes around their schools.

A child in a green christmas light costume on a bike with reindeer antlers.
Photo: Dave Schlabowske.

"Our Mobile Repair staff trained and employed four high school students who repaired and gave away hundreds of bikes for free in neighborhoods around the city.

"Through a partnership with WebsterX and the Black is Beautiful Ride we were able to install a repair stand at Tiefenthaler Park as well as train and employ a young man to staff it in the summer.

"Bike Fed, with the help of you all, successfully fought down a Milwaukee County Board resolution that would have limited trail advancements on the Kegel Trails and potentially in other Milwaukee County Parks.

Two women on scooters in Christmas outfits.
Photo: Dave Schlabowske

"Bike Fed rallied and advocated successfully for the use of ARPA dollars and city budget funding increases for DPW to fast track rapid implementation infrastructure changes to make the streets safer for vulnerable users and combat reckless driving."

You can support the efforts of the Wisconsin Bike Fed by registering for the Santa Cycle Rampage.

Jason McDowell Creative Director

Jason McDowell grew up in central Iowa and moved to Milwaukee in 2000 to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

In 2006 he began working with OnMilwaukee as an advertising designer, but has since taken on a variety of rolls as the Creative Director, tackling all kinds of design problems, from digital to print, advertising to branding, icons to programming.

In 2016 he picked up the 414 Digital Star of the Year award.

Most other times he can be found racing bicycles, playing board games, or petting dogs.