Beer Bike Returns

The campus tradition was revived with a new format.

Photo by Brandon Martin
Photo by Brandon Martin

Beer Bike has been an iconic tradition and core part of the Rice identity since 1957. Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Beer Bike was canceled for the first time in its history. This year, thanks to months of coordination between dedicated students and staff, the annual cycling relay race returned with a vengeance — and a new format.

To safely accommodate all the residential colleges and the Graduate Student Association (GSA), Beer Bike 2021 featured two days of competition, April 10–11. Other changes to the traditional format involved having three colleges compete at a time across four separate races with only five bikers and chuggers per team (down from the usual eight). Having three cyclists racing at a time eliminated the need for the “catcher” position on the pit crew, further reducing the number of people on the track at once. A limited number of faculty, staff and students were also allowed to spectate at the bike track, but a multicamera livestream ensured Beer Bike’s audience of thousands could watch remotely. 

Baker College senior Pranav Khemka said he was excited to be able to ride for his college’s team and participate in what is a seminal event for Rice students. “It’s quite possibly the biggest celebration that happens on campus every year,” Khemka said. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Photo by Brandon Martin
Photo by Brandon Martin

The ability to host Beer Bike this year was a tribute to how seriously Rice students treated the pandemic, Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman said. COVID-19 rates on campus have remained low throughout 2020 and 2021, while vaccination rates in the Rice community are increasing daily. “This is 100% because of the students,” Gorman said. “They’ve been very diligent, they’ve been very caring and they’ve been very community oriented, which is frankly no less than I would expect from them.”

As Rice looks forward to a more normal fall semester, outlined by President David Leebron in a March 30 letter to the community, look for a return to form for Beer Bike, too. “Because of the vaccines, we’re looking forward to next year and what will hopefully be a more normal Beer Bike,” Gorman said.  


This year’s unique format for Beer Bike also yielded unprecedented results — both the women’s and men’s races ended in tied scores for the first time in history.

1st  McMurtry
2nd  Jones and Hanszen
3rd  Will Rice

1st  Jones and Hanszen
2nd  Duncan
3rd  GSA

— Katharine Shilcutt