About 120 bicyclists from Wauwatosa and beyond paused for a 15-minute break the evening of July 19 to catch their breath, share a beer and look at the moon.
Actually, the full moon.
It's a monthly gathering for bicyclists — some more experienced than others — to share camaraderie and a love for the sport. The event, formally known as the Tosa Full Moon Bike Ride, took bikers on a 10-mile ride through the streets and trails of Wauwatosa before it stopped, for a moment, to catch a glimpse of the bright, cantaloupe-colored moon.
'God is good, he gives us a monthly full moon,' said organizer and Wauwatosa resident Marty Vander Velde as he passed out cans of Budweiser beer to new faces under the light of the moon.
Vander Velde started the event about five years ago, mimicking an idea from the National Park Service. Throughout the years, the number of bikers in attendance has grown from a few to more than 100. Children, families, couples and solo cyclists make up the crowd.
Before the trip began, Vander Velde, perched up high on a parking barrier near Rocket Baby Bakery on North Avenue, asked participants to raise their hands if they're new to the group. Several hands went up. New bicyclists from Wauwatosa, Cedarburg and other communities were in attendance, learning of the event through word-of-mouth or the group's Facebook page, 'Tosa Full Moon Bicycle Rides.'
Ride safety is prioritized and bicyclists are encouraged to bring a helmet, lights and wear reflective clothing. The rides are canceled if weather conditions present a risk to bicyclists.
The rides through the metro Wauwatosa area are social and slow paced, averaging 10 to 12 miles per hour. All rides depart from North Avenue and 69th Street at the Wauwatosa city parking lot next to Rocket Baby Bakery. The group fuels up beforehand at Cranky Al's, 6901 W. North Ave., about an hour before the ride begins
Following the July 19 event, riders patronized Camp Bar for a cold beer. Every month, the bar changes. In June it was Walter's on North and in August it will be Wy'east Pizza on Vliet Street in Milwaukee.
Vander Velde said he never imagined the event would turn into what it is now. But thanks to help from his bicyclist friends, the event runs smoothly every week. His friends chip in to help lead groups and monitor intersections and road crossings to ensure everyone gets across safely, Vander Velde said.
'They really step up to make sure there's enough ride support,' he said.
During the July ride, the atmosphere was friendly as bikers commented on neat features of others' bikes and warned each other of nearby cars, yelling 'Car up!' or 'Car back!'
Arriving back near North Avenue after a leisurely 10-mile ride, some bicyclists pedaled their way back home, while others migrated toward Camp Bar.
'See you next moon,' they told each other.