Tour de Fat Trades Car Culture for Bicycle Bliss

By Yvonne Zusel

Afro-wigged men in kilts and beanies, tiared-and-fishnetted ladies and 27 Waldos converged on Tempe Town Lake this weekend for one reason: to promote the benefits of the bicycle.

See more shots in our Tour de Fat slideshow.

Well, that, and to drink copious amounts of beer. Sponsored by New Belgian, brewers of Fat Tire beer, Tour de Fat brings costumed people together in 11 different cities to promote alternative modes of transportation. And if they get a little tipsy in the process, who are we to judge?

“Today, we are the sophisticates of society,” Chris Winn, New Belgian’s self-described event evangelist, told the crowd. Decked out in a bike-themed suit, a bike tire tie and a road tire belt, Winn looked every bit the cycle revolutionary.

“I always try to ride my bike to work,” said Tempe resident Richard Stuart, who came dressed as one of the 27 Waldos, an idea conceived by one of his friends. He said the group was supporting the Tempe Bike Action Group, affectionately known as…wait for it…TBAG. “When I drive my car, it usually takes me 20 minutes, but when I ride my bike it takes about seven. So there you go.”

In spite of the socially conscious vibe that flowed throughout Tour de Fat, people weren’t beat over the head with the message; fun was the name of the game. The event started at 10 a.m. with a bike parade, where cyclists got to show off their costumes and decorated bikes. Later, revelers were treated to music from several bands, including Denver-based Paper Bird and Chicago-based marching band Mucca Pazza, as well as a circus and a pancake juggler. You read that right: A juggler…of pancakes.

Dana St. Pierre of Tempe was the winner of the Slow Ride contest, which pitted him against other riders in a quest to be the first to cross the finish line without pedaling.

“”I don’t own a car, so I commute to downtown Phoenix and back everyday,” St. Pierre said of his training regiment. His prize? A champion belt festooned with a smashed Fat Tire can, letters from a computer keyboard and bike gears.

In the “crazy bike” area, people rode bikes with extra wheels or that did nothing but turn in circles.

Phoenix resident Joe DiStefano, who rode a bike that did nothing but go in circles in the Rideable Articles crazy bike area, compared the ride to “shotgunning five beers.”

The ultimate bike warrior of the afternoon, however, was Jennifer Glass, a PhD student at Arizona State University who traded in her 1996 Volkswagon Jetta at the event in exchange for a $3,500 custom-made bike.

“I’m going to miss it,” Glass said of the car. “But I’m not going to miss sitting in traffic or the emissions it causes. I’m excited to donate to a good cause.”

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Jonathan McNamara