Written by Cody Thompson, ThreeBZine.com; photos by JJ Miramontes
New Belgium Brewing has been spreading the word about bicycling as a lifestyle since day one. In 1989, home brewer Jeff Lebesch went on a biking trip in Belgium where he found himself riding a “fat tire” mountain bike from brewery to brewery. Inspired by his trip, he came home to brew his first batch of amber ale and appropriately named it Fat Tire, clearly recognized by beer lovers across the country by the big, red, “fat tire” bike on its bottle or can. To this day, his love for all things biking is still a large part of what New Belgium stands for.
As a way to spread bicycling awareness, while also raising funds for local bike groups, New Belgium hosts the yearly event, Tour De Fat. Organizers describe the event as a “Ballyhoo of Bikes and Beer!” But what exactly is Tour De Fat?
Tour De Fat is a 15-city, free admission, sideshow event with the goal of connecting people through bikes and beer, while helping to raise funds for each city’s local bike advocacy groups. Funds from San Diego’s event will benefit the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition and the San Diego Mountain Biking Association. Attendees can support these groups in a few different ways. One way is making a donation during the bike parade event registration. Another is that guests will have the ability to purchase event specific merchandise, including New Belgium bike bells and Tour De Fat bike license plates. Items are $5 apiece and all proceeds go directly to the local groups. Of course, let’s not forget the beer tokens that will be sold at the event. $5 will get you one beer token, which can be used to purchase a New Belgium brew. All token sales will also go to these local bike groups. According to Alison Whitney, Social Coordinator for the San Diego Mountain Biking Association, the money their group earns from the event will go to building a new progressive skills bike park in San Diego where riders of all ages can practice skill sets from basic to advanced in a controlled environment. In total, proceeds from this free event will bring New Belgium’s total funds raised well past $2 million since its debut in 2000.
The sideshow gets underway at 11 a.m. September 29 in Golden Hill Park, with its legendary costume bike parade. Registration starts at 10 a.m. and riders are highly encouraged to dress up in flamboyant costumes and ride amongst each other for an approximately three mile tour through the South Park neighborhood of San Diego. The parade route is a slow speed, flat course meant for all ages and abilities. After the conclusion of the parade, Golden Hill Park will be transformed into a Vaudeville showcase, with attractions like circus-type acts under a sideshow tent, custom built bikes for guests to ride and more bicycle games. There will also be live musical performances on the Main Stage from Devotchka, The Cleverly’s, Yo-Yo People and Ssssnakenstein. Oh, and don’t forget about all the beer! Beer selections for San Diego’s Tour De Fat include Ranger IPA, the seasonal Red Hoptober, Blue Paddle Pilsener, Trip 13, Shift Pale Lager and of course- Fat Tire.
The main event is the Car-for-Bike Swap. New Belgium is looking for one person to donate their car, and in return will receive the ultimate car-replacement commuter bicycle. The willing participant will get to choose a local bike shop that will build their new ride, using an allotted $2,250 budget. The car will then be auctioned off, and all money earned will go to local bike groups. Whoever goes through with the trade will be asked to blog their experience for one year (also check out Brewery Rowe’s article on last year’s “swapper,” Alison Whitney.)
Cody Thompson was born and raised in America’s Finest City – San Diego, California. He showcases his passion for local bikes, bands and beers through his writing on the webzine Three B Zine (threebzine.com), which pedaled its way into the digital media world in June 2011. After being introduced to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale eight years ago, Cody knew he had found something magical, and wanted more. He recently decided to leap into the home brewing game and has brewed multiple batches. Cody now lives in South Park with his wife and their dog.