Fat and Drunk 

Coasting through Tour de Fat 2004

"Drunken family fun"--it is a rare breed of entertainment, to be sure, both because of the relative scarceness of drunken families and that pesky DUI-happy local constabulary. Select weddings qualify, baseball games, NASCAR maybe, and then of course New Belgium Brewery's Tour de Fat. Where else but this, Boise's third annual "Ballyhoo of bikes and beer" can one hear an emcee, polyestered-up like Elvis incarnate, proclaim to a crowd of 75 to 25 percent adults to kids, "You guys have already gone through six kegs and it's only 1:30? You shameless drunks!" Where else would a juggler end his show by shouting to an audience more than half made up of children, "Thanks a lot, kiddies, now go have some more beer!" The answer is nowhere--or at least, hopefully nowhere near a motor.

The king-clone was Chris Winn of New Belgium, self-proclaimed "Event Evangelist" and keg counter, who estimated the final consumption mark at 30 kegs in about six hours by the few hundred Tour fatties. The juggler was Devil Dan of the San Francisco-based Cyclecide, a danger promotion company that provided most of the afternoon's entertainment via the Heavy Pedal Bike Rodeo. For those who have not had occasion to witness Cyclecide's mixture of inebriated violence, castoff clothing and homemade bicycles--pedal driven Ferris Wheels, bikes with no seats, bikes with 100-pound motorcycle forks, 10-foot long chopper bikes and tiny kiddie bikes welded and stretched into immense jousting steeds, to name a few highlights--here is the basic recipe: rent Mad Max and Pee Wee's Big Adventure, toss them in a nuclear reactor together, and watch the ensuing mutant merriment from a safe distance.

But the Californians didn't have all the fun. Boise's cruiser, chopper and crepe paper-decorated communities also showed up in force to ogle paint jobs, compare spoke counts and vie for a select number of awards given by BW celebrity judges Bingo "dreams of operating a pedal-driven rickshaw" Barnes, Leila "dreams of having a rickshaw chauffeur" Ramella and yours truly. The rules of the competition were simple--"appeal to our thoroughly unpredictable flights of fancy and get a ribbon"--though the cycles themselves were anything but simple.

Dropped-down chopper bikes are quickly rising to eminence among the custom population, as evidenced by their presence at both bike and car shows around the Northwest, and Boise's specialists did not disappoint. Local lowrider Johnny Trietsh picked up the blue ribbon for "Best custom chopper" for his chrome-heavy ride "The White Warrior," built atop a 1978 Schwinn Stingray frame. With its spinning spare tire, low- and high-beam headlights and chain-link steering wheel (yes, a steering wheel), the Warrior provided the judges with an ad hoc education in the bizarre accessorial possibilities only available to today's riders. Second by a single tread was Owen Moss, local bike designer and operator of the customization business Asylum Cycles. His hand-built creation was a chopper in the classic motorcycle sense: ass low, hands high, front tire off on the horizon somewhere, and all wrapped up in a sparkly ruby paint that looked almost edible. That Moss had sculpted his masterpiece from the remnants of a $5 children's bike purchased at a yard sale made it doubly impressive.

On the "Best Custom Cruiser" front, a pair of members of the local cruising club Slowriders wowed the judges both with their elaborate Huffy reproductions and with how perfectly suited they were to the Tour de Fat--the club's motto is "Drink fast, ride slow." Winner Christian Wilcox and silver medalist Levi Dorscheus received extra points for functionality--a term unfamiliar to most custom riders--as both claimed their bikes to be their primary means of transportation.

The winner of "Best Decorated Bike" was 7-year-old Tess Goodwin of Boise, whose University of Oregon super-fan ride looked as if it should be leading a homecoming parade. Even in this age of 24-inch spinning rims and three-Playstation Hummers, all three judges were impelled to proclaim simultaneously, "Behold the power of crepe!"

The remainder of the afternoon, and the box of ribbons was spent in suggesting categories, immediately awarding the nearest qualifying spectators that they had won and facing the wrath of the losers--the same process, coincidentally, that led to the formation of the new Olympic event of synchronized diving. A few choice awards included "Best Trike," "Most Spokes" (141), "Coolest Old Bike" (a 1936 Schwinn Hudson) and "Coolest Schwinn"--oddly, won by a different Schwinn from several decades later. Logic notwithstanding, the entire event was as smooth and pleasant as a single-gear cruise on a cushy banana seat. If only we could say the same about our hangovers.

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