Bicycle Culture

Tour de Fat 2015 at Tempe Beach Park: A Field Guide

Nothing goes together quite like bikes and beer. For many a scruffy cyclist, a day of hard-core riding is only complete after guzzling a pint of frothy IPA. Gear-heads and craft brewers have a lot in common, after all: They like their toys, they savor their experiences, and they like to dot things the hard way.

The Tour de Fat celebrates this hedonistic marriage in the best way possible – by also benefitting local nonprofits. Established by Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing, Tour de Fat is a colossal get-together in Tempe, drawing thousands of cyclists for a full day of pedals and pours. Partners include Tempe Bicycle Action Group, Bike Saviours, Mountain Bike Association of Arizona, and Central Arizona Mountain Bike Patrol. Tour de Fat takes place in 10 cities across the country, from D.C. to Boise. (But ours is obviously the best).

The wheels start rolling on Saturday, October 3, at Tempe Beach Park.

So what actually happens at Tour de Fat? Lots of wholesome craziness: crazy bikes, crazy costumes, crazy music, and crazy amounts of food and libations. It’s like Burning Man spilled all its two-wheeled enthusiasts into Tempe’s waterfront. There’s tons of live entertainment, and if it weren’t for the logjam of bicycles everywhere, you’d think it was just a really eccentric music festival. Meanwhile, you’ll find all kinds of New Belgium beer, and if you’re not a huge fan of New Belgian Beer, you can expect the crowd to spill over into Mill Avenue, especially after 5 p.m., and revelry will probably continue long into the night. So what doesn’t happen? Cars.

Here are some highlights from this year’s Tour de Fat:

Bike Parade (11 a.m.): Bicyclists ride down the streets, flaunting their wild outfits and far-out conveyances. Although there will be plenty of normals, too, so don’t feel intimidated. The bike parade is the perfect juncture between “freaky” and “welcoming.” The parade starts in Tempe Beach Park and traces a big circle (well, rectangle) around Tempe.

Fashion! Best Costume (11:50 a.m.): Once the parade winds down, the stand-out vestments should be more than evident. Find out which costumed cyclist wins first place. With all the capes, horned helmets, and lederhosen, you can expect some tight competition.

Le Tigre Circus Tent (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.): There is only one thing that yo-yos, The Honeymoon Cabaret, and Marnie Sams Muffin Show have in common – they all take place in the Le Tigre Circus Tent, a neo-vaudeville variety show spawned on April Fool’s Day in 2010.

Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds (noon): The New York-based funk band plays an upbeat set, just in time for lunch. And beer. And getting grooves on.

Lips Lounge Tapping: Thirsty patrons will all eventually gravitate toward the Lips Lounge, where the beer will flow pretty much all day. The pear ginger beer and hop stout will start pouring at noon, followed by the eyebrow-raising “Carnie’s Blood” at 2 p.m. 

1,000-Person Dance Contest (2:10 p.m.): Will 1,000 people actually congregate in the streets of Tempe to “get served”? They might. After all, the winner will score a cruiser bike from New Belgium.

Car for Bike Trade (2:40 p.m.): This is probably the most intense aspect of the Tour de Fat tradition. Basically, one lucky driver will forfeit his or her car, promise to commute by bike for a year, and receive more than $2,000 in bike-buying money. The car is auctioned off and the money goes to a good cause. Sound incredible? See the above video for insight into the journey.

Sssnake! (2:50 p.m.): Sssuper-eccentric, sssuper-fun band from Chicago. Also Tour de Fat regulars.

Nahko and the Medicine People (4 p.m.): Finish the day on a pensive note with Nahko’s beautiful ballads. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Nahko honors spiritual themes and traditional peoples.

Tour de Fat takes place Sat., Oct. 3, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tempe Beach Park. Admission is free, but donations (with perks) are available for $10 to $20. Booze is available to purchase for those 21 and over. See more at the Tour de Fat website.
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Robert Isenberg