Rudey's Room

Bikes, Beer and Bemusement at the Tour de Fat


It’s the Tour de Fat! The festival rolled through Chicago last Saturday as part of a 12-city, traveling bike fest. The neighborhood party was organized by New Belgium, the makers of Fat Tire beer.

Last year, we stumbled upon the outdoor festival while taking a family hike in our neighborhood. We gawked as a giant group of fancifully costumed bikers circled the park, and unloaded their bikes. As though lead by the Pied Piper, we were drawn in and stayed for a few hours of laughter and rumpus. We were blown away by the Yo-Yo People and Los Amigos Invisibles.

We marked our calendar to join in the merriment in 2013, and make a 12 – 5 afternoon of it.

Hundreds of bikes dotted the perimeter of Palmer Square, marking the spot for Chicago’s sixth annual Tour de Fat.




The formula is bike-based amusement to celebrate cycling.

And good deeds too: The brewery raises money for local bike shops (over $30,000 to West Town Bikes in Chicago).

If you like to dance the edge of humor, this festival is for you.

There are circus-type acts: The day kicked off with a man frying a giant pancake on stage and juggling it to the beats of Eminem, while taunting the interactive crowd. At one point he called out, “I bet this guys smells like hot dogs,” to the man huffing down chips and a couple dogs.




This vaudeville-esque married team inspired the crowd to go wild by threatening spit-up bananas in your face if you forgot to cheer. I kid you not.




The below bi-stander was taunted with spit bananas in his face several times, before he was called to the stage to partake in some ring games. He became the male actor’s new wife. My youngest pleaded, “Dad, don’t go. I don’t want you to go up there.”




As the grand finale, the above duo pulled out a rainbow-colored parachute. The girls bum rushed the stage to grab a side. Nothing completes a show like a dancing unicorn.




What is a carnie without a strong woman? She called on the crowd: Dahn dahn dahhhhhhh to find her evil arch nemesis. She smashed applesauce with her biceps for breakfast, and donned a hot pink thong to break a pencil with her butt.

She told the audience, “I locked myself in a room until there were no more pencils and no more pride.”

It was astonishing!




One man was challenged to a phone-book ripping dual. When he failed, his consolation was to also break a pencil with his butt (which he amazingly did!). My youngest, so involved, on her way to the Potra-Potty, grabbed a fallen tree branch, and tried to break it with her bare hands. Incredible Hulk-style!

It’s not all silliness. The strong woman offered up some girl power: “Girls in the crowd, please make sure your mom is proud of you.”

We have lots to talk about at home. For weeks.

The many food trucks brought in outstanding, gourmet food from all over the city:




The costumes were head-turning on young and old:




The company’s guiding focus is renewable energy and eco-friendly practices, as evidenced in the bike-themed antics.

Below Stella’s giving a bike-game a whirl:




The festival went the extra mile for families. Kids were welcomed with little spots of family entertainment. There was Hula Hooping, a life-size Connect 4 and Jenga:




For the singers in the family, there was a Portaoke, just next to the real line of Porta Potties. Never resisting a chance to sing, we sang Billie Jean. Not the best pick (I’d prefer to dodge a conversation about lovers and illegitimate babies), but the songs were from the 80s and 90s. Veronica’s request for Call Me Maybe was not in the book.




If singing’s not your thang, then you can take a spin around here while deciding if you want to be part of the awe-inspiring car-for-bike swap. The climix of the tour is the bike trade, in which a local participant trades the keys and title of their motor vehicle to New Belgium in exchange for a new commuter bike to promote bike riding and sustainability. You have to pledge to live car free for one year!



If nothing else, Tour de Fat, is a perfect excuse for a little day drinking.


Enjoy your bikes and always stay safe: Wear a helmet, y’all. They don’t look cool – I get it – but they save your cranium. And drivers, please share the road with bicycles. There are far too many tied up bikes and flowers in memorandum on the street corners in Chicago.


Is there a Tour de Fat in your town? If so, go! It’s a good time.

Ciao and enjoy your ride.


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