Beer Bike, craziest Rice tradition

This is a college-endorsed event that involves beer, bicycles, water balloons, trucks, chugging, and general carousery? Students practice both chugging and biking for weeks? Records are kept? Where else?

When I schedule class field trips, the one Saturday I must avoid is the one in spring for Beer-Bike. This crazy tradition goes back a half-century or so. It is a relay race that intersperses beer chugging with bike riding. The chuggers and riders used to be the same people, but that changed a long time ago. And the fluid they suck down through those fancy bottles is not usually beer any more. It’s spring; classes are about half over; its sunny, usually, fun always. Besides the races is the parade, which involves open trucks and much water balloon throwing. Fair targets are anyone with a college t shirt on. When Philip was about 10 we took him to the parade, and he was disappointed no one would throw water balloons at him. Finally people on the Wiess truck tossed him a few. He threw them right back at them, so we had to teach him that we don’t hit our own team. I think he finally got splashed, but couldn’t find the photos to prove it.

Wiess used to make a giant war pig and float it. It took a lot of work, and the black plastic bags that formed it always leaked. They don’t seem to do that any more. And we didn’t have trucks this year, maybe because of the rodeo. So, the balloon fight was on the lawn in front of Lovett Hall. The balloon supplies were around the edge, and the colleges were arrayed next to their supposed rivals, though I think Wiess generally considers Sid the second coolest college, and Hanzen the uncollege. Isn’t Jones the rival, or is that so last year?

Wiess was very organized in passing out their balloons, and had made fewer than most colleges so they ran out early. While the others were busy throwing the balloons, Wiessmen were busy chanting Team Wiess, (pronounced with a long i, to rhyme with rice), and ubanging everyone around. This used to be a dogpile on a victim, often on their birthday. But they worried people would get hurt, so the first person on top stayed on their knees to protect the person underneath, and then everyone piled on. Now only one person climbs on and the rest just stand in a circle around and do the chant. Wiess does this to their friends as much as their rivals.

The whole thing may seem silly, but it’s fun to get out on a sunny day and see everyone, watch the races, which some colleges care more about winning than others. Problems include drunkenness, and inexperience with biking in a pack. The men’s race was stopped after several falls, and ultimately turned into a run. We didn’t stick around to see who won. Not many faculty besides the masters and judges go to Beer-Bike, but we went, figuring it was our last chance.

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The stage for the balloon fight.

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Wiessmen headed to Beer-Bike, practicing their T, their F, their W.

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We were between Hanzen and Sid for the balloon throwing.

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Even the new colleges get involved, though I think they look confused.

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No, Mariana did not throw the balloon at me, even though she’s through with my classes!

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The race is on!

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Ever since I’ve been at Rice, the chuggers and the bikers are different people.

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Get off the phone, Erica, future biology professor!

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When someone gets hurt, they switch from college cheers to owl wings, in support of everyone.

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About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
This entry was posted in Rice University. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Beer Bike, craziest Rice tradition

  1. Lucy says:

    Hi Dr. Strassmann,

    May I use one of the photos you took for Facebook? I’ll photo cred you to it. ((I would like to use the first picture of Wiessmen that you posted; I am the person in the sunglasses making the “W”)

    Thanks!
    Hope you’re doing well in Wash U,
    Lucy

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