many many cyclists at a stop light waiting to cross lake street

Powderhorn 24 is Awesome

Powderhorn 24 is an annual community event that is an all-night 24 hour bike ride around the Powderhorn neighborhood, and has been going on since 2011. It’s about having fun, riding bikes, and building community. This year, I was able to participate! It started Friday the 10th at 6:30 and went until Saturday the 11th at about 8, including opening and closing ceremonies.

Ph24 17 Map Rev Color 791x1024

The route we rode this year.

It was, no kidding, one of the best times of my life.

The whole event took a slow first lap around the route to show us where to go and what to expect. Neighbors on the route were so excited our first lap! They were on their stoops and lawns with cowbells and excitement, cheering us on. It felt like a little local tour de France, but in circles.

many many cyclists at a stop light waiting to cross lake street

Look how many people you can fit at an intersection when they’re not in cars!

Our camp rode over 410 miles around the neighborhood in 5 mile laps, and it was amazing.

One of us wasn’t able to sign up officially, but he rode an entire century and hung out at the camp during rest breaks. Another one of us got sick overnight and couldn’t come back to camp in the morning, but she was clutch when another one of us overslept his midnight volunteer shift and stepped in to cover it.

I picked the day breaker shift, riding 5 laps from 4am to 6am. It felt like I was in a movie – friendly people all around, chasing taillights, making jokes, exhilaration and exertion and a couple fun tiny hills to ride up and down. My headlight had been reappropriated earlier that week, but one of the checkpoint people kindly lent me theirs. I decided after a lap up 10th and a lap up Elliot that I preferred going up a freshly chip sealed Chicago, because it was much better lit and no cars were on the roads anyway. Hearing the birds wake up and start greeting the day with their songs was a real highlight – I didn’t expect to get to enjoy the urban forest speeding through it at 15 mph, but all the noisy automobiles were quiet as dawn started breaking and let the birdsong through.

Me with rainbow light up cape, lit up bike, and custom lawn sign with "#bancars" on it

My costume and yard sign brought nothing but good vibes.

Then, I worked a volunteer shift, punching cards to validate laps. It was fun, tons of energy pouring off the riders as they took a quick breath or two before starting off again. After an awesome vegan breakfast at the Corcoran rec center catered by Moroccan Flavors, I headed in for a nap, and back out to the camp after a couple hours when team mom came by to fuel us up with some snacks. The neighbors were on their stoops again, offering hose water blasts to riders who wanted a cool down – I happily took them up on it.

A tent and two lawn signs. 'Neighbors for More Neighbors' and '#bancars'

camp powdertusk.

Spending time in the community of cyclists and cyclist adjacent folks was wonderful. To have basic bike handling competence just expected and taken for granted, instead of my usual experience – “do you need help with that?” some man asks about half the time I board the train with my bike. I don’t.

We did one last lap together, the four of us who were left, posting one of the fastest laps we did all day in a blaze of glory. I kept our lead rider motivated and he blazed ahead at top speed, leaving half our pack in the dust. We made it to the finish line with only 45 seconds to go and 50 official laps accomplished.

Closing ceremonies were awards for different categories and champagne celebrations, and I ate the best taco of my life: two people were walking through the crowd handing out tortillas and carrying a dish of potato duck mixture. “Would you like a free taco?” Yes. Yes I would.

Overall, I had an absolutely excellent experience, and am looking forward to doing it again. Maybe next year we can coordinate Powderhorn 24 with an all-night Open Streets event to remove the car traffic? 

Thanks, team powdertusk!! And thanks, Powderhorn 24 coordinators!!!