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Proposed early Beer Bike starting time will have negative effects

By Christoph Meyer     2/22/12 6:00pm

If you had the choice, would you want to wake up an hour earlier? I'm guessing that for most of us, the answer to that question is "no" and wouldn't be any different on Beer Bike. Regardless, Beer Bike coordinators are proposing a 9 a.m. start time to the water balloon fight in an effort to allow sufficient time for the two stops of the water balloon fight before the start of the alumni race. As an added incentive for increased race attendance, they are suggesting the colleges bring kegs to the track to increase participation and involvement. While increased focus on the "bike" aspect of our legendary event is a positive ambition, moving the schedule up is not the solution. This proposal fundamentally changes Beer Bike for participants and detracts from the greatness of this grand tradition.

The water balloon fight, one of the pinnacles of Beer Bike morning, essentially determines the wake-up time on Beer Bike. Most colleges plan to wake up four to five hours before the start of the water balloon fight in order to leave plenty of time for music, drinks, breakfast and general merriment. This usually leads to a fairly rude awakening at hours we never otherwise see in college. In 2009, the fight started at 11:30 a.m. In 2010, the schedule called for 10:30 a.m. Last year, we had a 10 a.m. start. This year the proposed starting time for Beer Bike is 9 a.m. While this year's start time fits in well with the general trend of moving the time up earlier and earlier, it is simply going too far. With a 9 a.m. start time, most colleges will begin waking up between 4 and 5 a.m. Ridiculous.

Surely, many will argue that we do not need four to five hours before the water balloon fight. Like many other incredibly fun things, of course we don't need them. With that argument, we don't need a water balloon fight or a party in the morning at all. Of course we don't need these things, but we are not really Rice without them. Beer Bike morning is one of the most amazing moments one experiences at Rice. There is simply no better way to start Beer Bike than being surrounded with friends, music, breakfast and, for some, beer, as the sun rises on a beautiful spring morning. These moments are some of the most cherished memories I have of Rice, and this does not have to do with the fact that drinking is involved. Beer Bike is intended to unite a whole college and bring people together on the morning of this special day. Of course, four to five hours may seem like a long time, but this is also an event that happens only once a year.

The problem isn't the fact that people wake up four to five hours before the fight; it's that the fight continues to be moved to earlier times. Moving up the fight by more than two hours in four years is the crux of the problem here. People will continue to celebrate Beer Bike as they have in years past, and if the timing changes, Rice students will simply change their timing as well. However, this has important consequences. With a 4 a.m. wake-up, most students will likely have had a very short night's sleep. An earlier wake-up will not necessarily induce an earlier bedtime, as many of us know from 8 a.m. classes. In addition, most colleges provide breakfast food as the morning starts. With most restaurants opening around 6 a.m., a 5:30 or 6 a.m. wake-up was feasible, as food arrived shortly thereafter. However, the gap between wake-up and the arrival of food will be significantly longer this year, especially if colleges decide to wake up at 4 a.m. With a day that consists of a lot of drinking, a lack of sleep and insufficient food are some of the worst ways to get started. Rice students' spirits may adjust to an earlier morning, but their bodies might not do quite as well.

Moving up the start of Beer Bike is unlikely to turn the focus toward the "bike" aspect of the event. In fact, this decision is a disservice to both students and alumni. Recent alumni who wish to come visit the colleges will now have to come at the crack of dawn to see their friends and celebrate. Drinking time will not necessarily be curtailed, but rather occur with students who have had less sleep and food. Furthermore, those students who do perceive there being less time to drink will likely resort to more concentrated forms of alcohol. While some colleges have mentioned lull time on Beer Bike mornings, an earlier start time will have no effect if their students continue to plan for a wake-up time four to five hours before the balloon fight.

While the mission of attracting more attention to the race is valid, this proposal is not the right approach. Coordinators should have fully realized the ramifications of a two-stop parade, which pushes our morning that much earlier. A later start time has numerous benefits and allows us to experience Beer Bike in a more controlled and enjoyable fashion. Colleges should seek to modify their own morning schedules if they have had problems in recent years, rather than relying on a cross-campus solution that will not ultimately benefit anyone. Even the proposition of kegs at the track does not compensate for the detriment an earlier start time causes.

Christoph Meyer is a Hanszen College senior.

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