Guide to the Rice University Beer-Bike Records, 1950-2000
When the Beer-Bike race first began in 1957, it was a competition between two residential colleges, run on the campus inner loop, with the victorious college receiving a keg of beer from the loser. At that time, the people who rode the bikes were the same as those who chugged the beer. The Beer-Bike race of today is more of an intercollege bike race where 10 non-riding people chug between riders.
In the early days, riders and drinkers worked out for only a couple of days before the race, just to make the team and get in the spirit of things. The beer drinkers opened the taps of their cans with a standard opener and the riders rode "English Bikes." The crowd, which numbered only a few friends, stood anywhere they pleased to view the action. In those days, the race was a test of mechanical durability as well as speed, for the same bike was used for the whole race. This involved ripping the incoming rider off his speeding machine, slapping on a fresh rider, and casting him out in front of the pit. The spent rider was then scooped up and removed from the course. During this time, the beer drinkers knocked off their refreshments in the living-room time of six or seven seconds. High speed was not necessary because of the time involved in changing riders.
In, 1968, Beer-Bike moved to the Rice Stadium. The first women's race took place in 1972 when Brown and Jones Colleges competed. In 1976, the seed of the parade tradition was planted when Sid Richardson College entered with torches, followed by a brass band playing the theme for the Olympic Games. Alumni participated in the first alumni race in 1982. In 1987, when the drinking age changed from 18 to 21, water was offered at Beer-Bike for the first time to quench underage students' thirst.
Today, technology dominates the race. Nearly all the bikes are of the ten-speed type ridden in the Tour de France (some machines costing as much as $600). The beer drinkers have special 14 oz. "tall boy" cans with mouthpieces custom fitted and thoroughly tested. Several bikers are used throughout the race with the gears matched to the rider's style of riding. The speed of the beer team now counts heavily since the outgoing rider is mounted and ready to go before the incoming rider reaches the pit.
College and bike teams practice for months ahead of the race, and making the team of 10, or at least securing a spot as an alternate, is a sought-after goal for many college members. Parade coordinators plan weeks in advance to devise an innovative parade float, or theme song, or chant, or mode of transportation to the track on race day. Team participants seek financial sponsors, design team and college t-shirts, work to determine the optimal chug technique, and hold coordination practices to ensure that a biker starts riding precisely as the chugger finishes. Every year race coordinators hold meetings to choose team colors, to schedule practice races, and to revise or change rules.
Excerpted from Sallyport, April-May 1992, Thresher April 7, 2000, and The Beer Bike Race, by Jim Llamas, Captain.
The collection consists of two boxes containing the history of Beer-Bike, the race rules, resolution, reports, and financial lists as well as some programs. The largest part of the collection is made up of articles published in various campus publications such as the Thresher, Rice News, the Sallyport, etc.
This material is open for research.
Permission to publish from the Beer-Bike Records must be obtained from Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library.
Rice University Beer-Bike Race Records, 1950-2000, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.
Some of the records had been part of the Woodson Research Center Information Files. A large portion of the files were given to Woodson in August 2001 by Jen Cooper (Will Rice, BA, 1990) who is currently (2004) the Student Media Advisor, Office of Student Media and a former Beer-Bike participant.
Detailed Description of the Collection