The Tour de Fat is aptly named – a sedate bicycle ride around downtown Durham, followed by an afternoon of beer and food trucks.
It may not have been an Ironman event, but the leisurely parade of bikes stirred up the sidewalk crowd Saturday. The pedestrians smiled, laughed and reached for their cameras as a gaudily costumed vaudeville party rolled up Main Street to Duke East Campus and past Trinity Park in a lazy, traffic-stopping triangle.
A just-married couple on a tandem bike tagged along behind a unicorn on a scarily tall unicycle. A Mexican wrestler with a soap bubble machine left a floating iridescent trail in his wake. Leprechauns, butterflies, Santa Claus, Captain America, Wonder Woman, kilted women and a man in a German beer wench dress brought cheers from an apartment balcony along Trinity Avenue, where a man waved a half-empty fifth of liquor appreciatively.
Aaron Leininger was the lead of four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on a triple tandem, followed by his 4-year-old Logan, wife Lara and 2-year-old Daniel in a child seat caboose.
The Leiningers like riding their tandem on the greenways in Cary and Durham, though seldom in their Halloween costumes.
“This is a good cause,” said Leininger, who liked the fact that donations went to Triangle Spokes Group, which provides bicycles to low-income children. “And it’s social, getting the kids out and around other cyclists.”
The social lubrication was supplied by tour sponsor New Belgium Brewing Co., which makes Fat Tire Ale and supports human-powered transportation of all sorts. It was the fourth annual Tour de Fat in Durham, which also sent donations to the Durham Bike Coop and BikeWalk NC.
One of the most popular attractions at the daylong party (motto: Beer, Bikes and Bemusement) by the Durham Bulls Athletic Park was the interactive bike pit, a collection of jerry-rigged bikes straight from the workshop of Rube Goldberg.
Matt Clay, a post-doctoral student in biology from Duke University, tried a half-dozen bikes: one with tires crafted with old tennis shoes, one with car tires and a four-wheeled bike that tipped back and forth like a seesaw. His favorite was a Mad Max contraption he dubbed the Tug of War Bike: two bikes welded together, hinged in the middle, pointing in opposite directions. The grass on the back of his shirt showed the challenge of synchronizing two riders with their backs to each other.
“It’s a blast,” Clay said.
Some Durhamians rode their own contraptions. Rob Walpole crafted the day’s tallest bike at the Durham Bike Coop, welding one bike atop a second and positioning the saddle 5 feet, 2 inches off the ground.
“You have to really plan your mounts and dismounts,” Walpole said. “It’s a little scary at first.”
Walpole has yet to topple or fall from the bike. Thus emboldened, he has plans for more. He bought a new acetylene welding kit on Friday and plans on cobbling together a swing bike that’s hinged in the middle.
“That way, I can ride with one tire on the curb and the other in the street,” he said.