The Santa Cycle Rampage has been bringing joy via nearly 700 Santas, Mrs. Clauses, elves, Krampuses (and even a Menorah or two) to Milwaukee for 15 years, but while this ride has become as traditional as a Bing Crosby classic, this year the format is evolving. If you want to participate, you'll be expected to pay.
According to organizer Dave Schlabowske via a blog post on the Wisconsin Bike Fed's site, this year the Santa Cycle Rampage is designed to help raise funds for the cycling advocacy organization. "I told everyone who asked that I was not organizing an official Rampage [but] after much haranguing…my fellow Original Santas convinced me to try one more time."
"In order to revive the Santa Cycle Rampage with the Bike Fed taking the lead…we had to make some changes. What we decided to try this year is to charge a fee for registration with a waiver, get permits and pay for insurance."
The official ride happens on December 5th at 9:30AM. It will begin in the land of green bike lanes at Cranky Al's (6901 West North Avenue in Wauwatosa) and follow in the footsteps of July's successful Polish Moon ride, which was a family-friendly slow ride that avoided stops for alcohol.
If you're disappointed by this, don't worry, there will be plenty of unofficial after parties that should look quite familiar to Rampage veterans. "We did contact all the other business owners where Santas traditionally gather in the morning or as post ride parties, and they all agreed to roll out the red carpet for holiday merry makers again this year," said Schlabowske. "We even picked up some new places."
So what's this gonna cost me?
The price of the official Santa Cycle Rampage is $20 for members and $35 for non-members, but that includes a Bike Fed membership, and a hat or event t-shirt. I dig the hat.
"We won’t make much money [on the registration] because between the free hat or shirt, insurance, and permits, our costs add up to nearly that. We will make money from the sponsors of the gathering places and post ride parties," said Schlabowske.
If you don't think it's fair that you should pay for something that was previously free, don't worry, there's a loophole. "We don’t expect everyone on the East Side or in Bay View to change their habits, register for the official ride and pedal out to ‘Tosa, just to ride back down to Lakefront Brewery," said Schlabowske.
"Santas around Milwaukee are welcome to keep their regular traditions and do their own things. You don’t have to register to put on a Santa Suit and spread holiday cheer."
But maybe, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus (or 700) who will find it in their heart to bring some holiday cheer to the Wisconsin Bike Fed.
More details on the Santa Cycle Rampage, including all stops and after parties, can be found at wisconsinbikefed.org.
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.