Shorewood — You don't have to be an Olympic-medal-winning cyclist to outrace a car from the North Shore to downtown Milwaukee.
That's the point former Olympic cyclist Brent Emery was trying to make when he switched from his $10,000 racing bike to an electric-assisted bike for this year's Greater Milwaukee 'Rider vs. Driver' Commuter Challenge.
Emery beat a car in last year's race with an average speed of 24 mph, but by switching to an electric-assisted bicycle, his speed topped out at 20 mph during this year's race on Monday, June 6. He said the electric-assist function makes bike commuting more manageable for those traveling long distances or don't want to be sweaty when they arrive at work.
'This bike will go the same speed no matter who's riding it,' he said.
Emery beat professional race car driver Andrew Hobbs by 7 minutes and 33 seconds in the 4.6 mile race from Rainbow Jersey Bicycles, 4600 N. Wilson Drive, to The Calling statue in downtown Milwaukee.
While Emery had clear sailing on the Oak Leaf Trail, Hobbs took Hampton Road to I-43, where he got stuck in rush-hour traffic. Having raced go-karts since he was 8 and cars since he was 17, 22-year-old Hobbs' racing skills were stunted by stoplights, traffic and parking shortages that don't affect cyclists on the Oak Leaf Trail.
The 'rider vs. driver' race is organized by the Greater Shorewood Bikers and the Wisconsin Bike Federation in celebration of Wisconsin Bike-to-Work Week. This is the third consecutive year a bicyclist has outpaced a car in a race from the Shorewood-Whitefish Bay border to the orange starburst statue.
Emery finished the race in 13 minutes and 27 seconds, which is 1 minute and 15 seconds slower than his ride last year. Last year's race started at Colectivo, which like Rainbow Jersey, is also located on the Shorewood-Whitefish Bay border.
To further emphasize the point that an average person can outpedal a car, bike commuters Mara Kuhlmann and Elaine Miller both reached the finish line before Hobbs. Melanie Maddux, a first-time bike commuter, reached the finish line less than two minutes after Hobbs.
Those three female bicyclists are just a small sampling of Shorewood's bicyclists. The U.S. Census reports that 3.4 percent of Shorewood residents get to work primarily by bike - a rate 3 times higher than the national average.
Hobbs and Emery placed a friendly wager on the race, and as a result, Hobbs will be donating $200 to Emery's favorite charity: Variety - the Children's Charity of Wisconsin.