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Here's Everything You Need to Know About Tour De Fat 2017 in Tempe

Cyclists at last year's Tour de Fat.
Cyclists at last year's Tour de Fat. Alexandra Gaspar
Tour de Fat has changed gears a bit this year.

Don’t worry, the ultra-popular touring event put on by New Belgium Brewery – which touts itself as a mix of “beers, bikes, and bemusement” – is still stopping in Tempe this weekend. But you should probably know that there have been a few changes to the TDF since the last time it rolled into town.

The day-long celebration of cycles, suds, and surreal thrills and entertainment, which takes place on Saturday, October 7, at Tempe Beach Park, will be just as giddy and gonzo as in years past.

Thousands of people will flock to the event, which benefits local nonprofit cycling organizations like the Tempe Bicycle Action Group and Central Arizona Mountain Bike Patrol. Some folks will be dressed in costume or cruising about on art bikes and decorated rides.

Others will be busy playing games, checking out weird-looking and pedal-driven curiosities scatted about the park, or checking out the sideshow-like array of entertainment or various bands performing.

All that said, there have been a few changes to Tour de Fat this year. The annual “car-for-bike swap” has been retired, for instance, and there’s now an admission price for the event.

But despite what you may have read online, there’s definitely going to be a bike parade.

Earlier this summer, word surfaced that the popular event, which sees hundreds of riders cruising the streets of Tempe prior to Tour de Fat, wasn’t going to taking place this year. Thankfully, that decision was ultimately reversed, and the bike parade will indeed take place prior to TDF.

Even better, a three-hour street fair dubbed “Cyclovia” will happen along Mill Avenue, which will be closed off from traffic for bike riders, before Tour de Fat kicks off at Tempe Beach Park.

Full details regarding the parade, street fair, and everything else connected with Tour de Fat can be found in the following guide, which includes everything you need to know.

click to enlarge Costumes are very much encouraged at Tour de Fat. - ALEXANDRA GASPAR
Costumes are very much encouraged at Tour de Fat.
Alexandra Gaspar
When and Where: Tour de Fat 2017 rolls into Tempe Beach Park, 80 West Rio Salado Parkway, on Saturday, October 7. The official festivities at the park – including live music and entertainment, games, and theatrics – run from 3 to 9 p.m. The Cyclovia street fair along Mill Avenue, however, will go from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the annual bike parade starts at noon (signup is at 11 a.m.)

Prices: Tickets for Tour de Fat are available for $25 per person and include admission to the event. It’s free to attend the street fair and participate in the bike parade, however. 

Getting There: Tempe Beach Park is located on the northeast corner of Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway. As with any other event in downtown Tempe, we recommend taking a light rail for both its convenience (a station is located a block or so from the park) and practicality (fares are $2 for one ride, $4 for a day pass). It’s cheaper than getting a DUI, and you can bring your bike on board.

Parking: Look, we won’t judge you if you insist on using your vehicle to get to the event, which is decidedly anti-car in spirit. We’ll even suggest parking at public lots like the one at the Mission Palms Hotel, 281 South Mill Avenue, or behind Gringo Star Street Bar, 501 South Mill Avenue. (Both will run you $2 per hour.) The Hayden Ferry Lakeside Garage, 68 East Rio Salado, is located across the street from the park and is $3 per hour, $6 for the day.

And if you do bring your bike, there will be a large area to lock up your ride for free.

Weather: It's technically fall right now, although you wouldn't know it by looking at the thermometer here in Arizona. You should expect triple-digit temps around 101 degrees on Saturday and dress yourself accordingly. It'll cool off a bit in the evening, getting down into the 80s.

Beer: One of the hallmarks of the event. The selection will include a dozen different New Belgium beers for sale, including brands from its year-round lineup like Fat Tire, Voodoo Ranger IPA, and Citradelic Tangerine IPA, as well as a number of seasonal selections.

Water: Besides downing beverages of the malt-and-hops variety, it’s a good idea to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Not only will it help you pace yourself, ace, it’ll keep you hydrated in the heat. Vendors will sell bottles of water and a free refill station will be available.

Food: A variety of vendors and food trucks will be serving eats at the event.

click to enlarge Cyclists at last year's Tour de Fat. - ALEXANDRA GASPAR
Cyclists at last year's Tour de Fat.
Alexandra Gaspar
Bike Parade: As we said, there will definitely be a bike parade happening at this year’s Tour de Fat in Tempe. Registration starts at 11 a.m. along Mill Avenue. The parade will depart from Mill and Third Street at noon and travel a 3.5-mile route through various side streets and will eventually end up at the Cyclovia street fair on Mill north of University Drive.

Street Fair: If you’re up for riding your bike as much as possible on Saturday, a stretch of Mill Avenue from University Drive will be blocked off from traffic from noon until 3 p.m. for the Cyclovia street fair. Various vendors will also be set up and certain bars on Mill will offer drink specials.

Costumes: Tour de Fat attendees are “highly encouraged” to wear colorful get-ups and costumes of every style to the event. And you can make ‘em cycling-themed or go with something else entirely. Some folks settle for funny shirts and hats, while others go all out with cardboard, paint, and other materials to create something memorable. It’s up to you.

Games and Activities: Distractions will be in abundance at Tour de Fat, to say the least. A collection of funky, bicycle-like contraptions – including modified bikes, strange devices, or cycles with wheels made from tennis shoes – will be available to ride in the bike corral and elsewhere.

There’s also the annual “slow ride” challenge, which (as its name implies) requires participants to ride as slowly as possible without letting their feet touch the ground. Various games and activities will also take place, including gonzo karaoke sessions and other feats of skill.

Live Music and Entertainment: Tour de Fat’s always served a chaser of vaudeville theatrics and sideshow-style thrills along with its slate of bands and musicians. This year is no exception, as the event will feature the “Roaming Sputnik Stage,” a kitschy venue on wheels that will roll throughout the park and host jugglers, contortionists, and other entertainment.

More specifically, it will offer a mix of “Vaudeville Nouveau-meets-classic melodrama, Tim Burton-meets-Wile E. Coyote, all-American, one-quarter European, contraption-riddled, character-driven, risk-taking, expectation-breaking, circus-infused, standing-ovation-inducing, theatrical extravaganza.” Whew.

Both the main stage and the Fat Tire Belgian White Stage will host live music from local and touring bands, a fashion show, and performances by others acts. The band lineup will include headliners Michael Franti and Spearhead, as well as locals like Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, The Stakes, and Sunset Voodoo.

Bring: Your ID for starters (since you'll need it to buy adult beverages) and some cash (since it's easier than using plastic). Sunglasses, hats, and other forms of protection from the sun's rays are also a good idea, as are comfortable walking shoes and a sealed bottle of water.

Oh, and bring your bike, too, if you've got one. 

Don't Bring: Weapons of any kind, fireworks, or any sort of potentially dangerous item. Outside beer, moonshine, or any sort of alcoholic beverage is also forbidden. (You're free to pre-game on Mill beforehand, however.)

Schedule: As we mentioned, both Tempe Beach Park and Mill Avenue will be a hullabaloo of activity throughout the afternoon and evening. So much so that it helps to have a schedule handy of what’s happening and when, much like the following rundown.
  • 11 a.m.: Sign-up for bike parade
  • Noon: Street fair along Mill begins, bike parade starts, and the Tour de Fat box office opens.
  • 3 p.m.: Tour de Fat officially kicks off at Tempe Beach Park
  • 3:15 p.m.: Shows begin on the Roaming Sputnik Stage
  • 3:30 p.m.: Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra plays the Fat Tire Belgian White Stage
  • 3:30 p.m.: Fire Leopard performs on the main stage
  • 4 p.m.: The Tour de Fat fashion show begins on the main stage
  • 4:45 p.m.: The Stakes perform on the main stage
  • 6 p.m.: The Slow Ride takes place on the main stage and Sunset Voodoo plays the Belgian White Stage
  • 6:25 p.m.: SSSSnake performs on the main stage
  • 6:45 p.m.: Dance contest on the main stage
  • 7:45 p.m.: Michael Franti and Spearhead headline the main stage
  • 9 p.m.: Tour de Fat ends

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.