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7 Things We're Looking Forward to at Tour de Fat in Tempe This Weekend

DeVotchKa performs during last year's Tour de Fat at Tempe Beach Park.
DeVotchKa performs during last year's Tour de Fat at Tempe Beach Park.
Benjamin Leatherman

The weather's been unexpectedly pleasant lately, which means your lazy ass has one less excuse for not going outside. Perhaps you might even consider dusting off that bicycle that's been cloistered in the garage since May and going for a ride.

If you require further incentive to mount your neglected steed, how's about some potent brews served up with a chaser of bizarre characters and off-the-wall entertainment? Such a mix will be on tap this weekend when the annual Tour de Fat rolls into Tempe Beach Park.

See also: The People of Tour de Fat 2012 (Slideshow)

Both you and your two-wheeler will be welcomed by thousands of fellow cyclists that attend the afternoon-long festival, which is put on by the hops-heads at New Belgium Brewing and is self-described as a blend of "beer, bikes and bemusement." It's also essentially a celebration of the weird that's invaded by thousands of members of the cult of the bicycle and includes live music, strange sights, scads of amusements, and (of course) tons of brews.

Tempe's been a regular stop on the nationwide Tour de Fat for years, and we've been in attendance at a few of 'em. Here's a list of what we're looking forward to seeing and doing this round.

Salud!
Salud!
Benjamin Leatherman

The Beer: In case you weren't clued in by the fact that New Belgium Brewing puts on Tour de Fat every year (or that it's named after the company's signature ale), beer is definitely a big part. Vendors are set up around Tempe Beach Park pouring a wealth of different New Belgium hops and barley creations, ranging from such signatures as Fat Tire (natch) and the cycling-themed Shift lager to seasonal selections like Pumpkick ale. Serious beer snobs can check out the "Lips of Faith Tent" with its specially curated New Belgium selections.

The Bike Pit at 2011's Tour de Fat.
The Bike Pit at 2011's Tour de Fat.
Melissa Fossum

The Contraptions: Pedal-powered machines are in abundance at Tour de Fat and not just the sea of bicycles found around the park. New Belgium also brings out a variety of peculiar-looking devices for people to ride in the "Bike Pit" that harnesses various cycling components. During the past few years, for instance, we've seen contraptions that use rings of tennis shoes as wheels or human-powered cycling fans. And depending on how much you've had to drink, they can often be a little difficult to operate. There are also games and other amusing distractions about, such as tightrope walking and the Port-a-oke (read: karaoke in unused porta potty).

Cooling off at last year's Tour de Fat.
Cooling off at last year's Tour de Fat.
Benjamin Leatherman

 

Good grief, those are fun costumes.
Good grief, those are fun costumes.
Benjamin Leatherman

The Costumes: Freaky and unique ensembles are not only welcomed at Tour de Fat, but are downright encouraged by its organizers. So much so that costumed patrons frequently outnumber the non-costumed at Tempe Beach Park during the festival. Some spend weeks planning what they're going to wear, while others simply throw on whatever is in the closet. It creates a weird and wild cavalcade of outfits and costume mashups throughout the day that includes plenty of urban Vikings, post-modern cowboys, cardboard knights, and other colorful ragamuffins.

The Bike Parade: The bikes that people ride out to Tempe Beach Park can sometimes be just as lively (if not moreso), including many two-wheelers of the mutant, modified, and decorated variety. Many can be seen during the annual Bike Parade that kicks off Tour de Fat and commences at 10 a.m., two hours before the event's official start at noon.

It's a social ride that begins at the park and has cyclists of all ages following a circular route through the Tempe streets and nearby neighborhoods before heading back to the festival. (Participants are requested to make a $5 donation, which goes to Valley bike-friendly non-profits like the Tempe Bicycle Action Group and Bike Saviours.) It's also a sight to behold as this teeming, roaming mass of cyclists cruises along and -- quite fittingly -- shut down traffic along Mill Avenue and elsewhere.

 

Bronan the Barbarion bangs his drum at last year's Tour de Fat at Tempe Beach Park.
Bronan the Barbarion bangs his drum at last year's Tour de Fat at Tempe Beach Park.
Benjamin Leatherman

The Performers: Tour de Fat has always had sort of a traveling circus vibe, probably because of the sort of sideshow-style performers and acts that are involved every year. Wander around Tempe Beach Park and you might encounter such unusual characters as Bronan the Barbarian and North America's only strongwoman Mama Lou. Or head to either the side stage located within a red tent or the main stage itself and witness the antics of the husband and wife duo performing as the Yo-Yo People or the thrilling and humorous vaudeville entertainment of the Handsome Little Devils and their "Squirm Burpee Circus."

Los Amigos Invisibles
Los Amigos Invisibles
Nacional Records

The Music: And the lineup of musicians that are featured on the main stage during each tour -- which usually are of the indie, fringe, or folk vein -- tend to be a bit funky and unusual themselves, or at least a little bit curious. This year's headliners, for instance, both offer a blend together a number of diverse genres into their musical palettes, like the pastiche of acid jazz, disco, funk, and Latin that's dished out by Venezuela's Los Amigos Invisibles. They'll be preceded by Pitchfork favorites He's My Brother She's My Sister and their genre-straddling and hyphenate-heavy mix of glam folk, cirque rock, cabaret blues, and garage country.

 

Eric Palmer of Future Loves Past rides through the crowd at last year's Tour de Fat at Tempe Beach Park after giving up his car.
Eric Palmer of Future Loves Past rides through the crowd at last year's Tour de Fat at Tempe Beach Park after giving up his car.
Benjamin Leatherman

The Car-For-Bike Trade: Tour de Fat's organizers also have an offer that one green-friendly Valley resident might be interested in partaking in. In each of dozen cities that are visited, one local is afforded the chance to give up their gas-powered vehicle for an entire year. In exchange for handing over their car, which is auctioned off for cash that's donated to the aforementioned Metro Phoenix biking organizations, they receive $2,250 to be used to purchase a custom-built dream bike.

The swap is made during a big spectacle of a ceremony on the main stage that involves the participant being carried to the stage in a car-shaped chariot of sorts before riding off through a cheering crowd on a cycle. Just ask local musician Eric Palmer of Tempe band Future Loves Past, who participated in the ceremony and was toasted by the crowd. If you're interested in getting similarly lauded for ditching your gas-guzzler for 12 straight months, organizers are still looking for someone to make the trade at this weekend's event. More info on how to sign up can be found on the Tour de Fat website.

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Tempe Beach Park

54 W. Rio Salado Parkway
Tempe, AZ 85281

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