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Updated at 3 p.m. Friday with route map and description of course.

In a way, for the past two years, St. Louis has been cheated out of a proper Moonlight Ramble.

The nighttime bike ride was postponed twice two years ago: first because of stormy weather and then because of protests that required police resources. Last year, the ride was canceled after a corporate merger of its organizer, and it couldn’t be organized in time.

But the ramble returns Saturday, with an earlier 10 p.m. start (it traditionally started at midnight) and a new organizer, Big River Race Management. The group is used to the logistics it takes to run such a thing, since it also organizes Girls on the Run events, MO’ Cowbell in St. Charles, the Macklind Mile in south St. Louis and the Biz Dash downtown.

“Our goal is to make this event as sustainable as it has been and last another 55 years,” says race director Matt Helbig.

The ramble started in 1964 and had a sole participant, Dick Leary.

He was a ride leader for the Ozark Area Council of American Youth Hostels, and his idea for an urban bike ride started that year at St. Louis Union Station. More people showed up in subsequent years, with thousands rambling by the early 1970s.

Hubbard Radio St. Louis obtained the rights to the ramble from Emmis Communications in May 2018. That didn’t leave enough time to properly organize the event, and Hubbard didn’t think its insurance company would allow it to put on the ride, Helbig says.

Helbig reached out to Hubbard in December to see what he could do to help, and Big River ended up agreeing to run the race. Hubbard is still a partner, advertising the event.

“They’ve been awesome with the transition,” he says.

The earlier start time was requested by the city, the police and Downtown STL Inc. Helbig was on board, saying it made the ramble more accessible for families and early birds — and when the bars close, bicyclists will be off the streets.

The festival opens downtown at 7 p.m. Saturday, with vendors and food trucks. The appropriately named band Hazard to Ya Booty will play from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Traditionally, Moonlight Ramble organizers haven’t revealed the route until the time of the event. There are 17-mile and 8-mile options. They announced the route Friday: it generally goes east along Market Street, south on Broadway, west on Chouteau and Manchester avenues, through Forest Park, and east along Clayton and Forest Park avenues and Market Street. The shorter route stops short of the park and turns north on Vandeventer Avenue.

The course will close on a rolling basis, but will begin being shut down by 9:30 p.m., Helbig said. It will also open on a rolling basis starting at 10:30 p.m. from the start. 

They’ve contacted businesses along the route to provide a heads-up. The route will be mostly in the central corridor of the city, Helbig says.

“We’re going to go through some of the up-and-coming neighborhoods in St. Louis, some of the historical sites and places you’d expect to see on a moonlight tour of St. Louis,” he says. “We’re going to hit one of the big parks.”

Proceeds from the ride will benefit St. Louis Bicycleworks, which teaches basic bicycle maintenance and safety to 350 kids every year. Participants in the program also have the chance to earn a bike.

One of the ride partners is Trailnet, which promotes safe bicycle and walking routes in the region. The Moonlight Ramble presents a great case for promoting safer trailways year-round, says president Cindy Mense.

“People will go out there if you make it safe,” she says. “One night we close the streets, and look who comes out.”

What Moonlight Ramble • When Festival is 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Saturday; ride begins 10 p.m. Saturday • Where Poelker Park, Tucker and Market streets • How much $40-150, $25 for ages 6-17, free for ages 5 and under • More info moonlightramble.com