Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tour de Fat: A Look At American Bicycle Culture


Everyone Is Included

Having been in Seattle for a couple weeks, I have been trying to find expressions of Seattle's cycling culture to export back to my readers in Taiwan. Although I have been documenting a trip away from the usual subject matter of this blog, I hope some of these pictures and stories from a foreign country can be used reflexively to give all of us who ride in Taiwan a different perspective of our own cycling culture.

As much as cyclists worldwide are bonded together through a shared activity, our expressions of this activity vary from place to place and much of what I have seen in Seattle has reminded me of how diverse bicycling culture really is. Even in Seattle's different districts the bike culture changes like regional accents.

In Seattle cycling has become deeply integrated into the social landscape and the built environment. Cyclists have become a ubiquitous element in the transportation structure which has resulted in the unexpected dividends of infusing declining neighborhoods with new economic vitality and creating jobs through cycling related construction projects (wider lanes, paths, routing etc...). It is really exciting to see the bicycle used for recreation, health, and transportation all at the same time.

Bike Path

Yesterday we attended the Tour de Fat, a one-day cycling event held every summer to help celebrate American cycling culture. The event looks like some kind of counter culture event, but really it brings out all types of cyclists and non-cyclists alike for a good time and a community building moment.

Ryan Along the Ship Canal

We rode across Seattle to get to the event at Gas Works Park; a park established from the ruins of Seattle's former natural gas utility. The red-rusted pipes and tubes provide an excellent backdrop for a cycling event with echoes of human triumph over industrial expansion.

Double Parked

Bikes of all shapes and sizes were locked to about every freestanding structure available. I think I saw only a single carbon fiber bike during the entire event. Compared to Taiwan there is less of a self-conscioussness about bikes... and I guess about lots of things.

Festivities

People were just out to be silly and have a little fun. I am not sure I have seen too many Taiwanese cross dressing and trying to look ridiculous in public to make asses of themselves. Maybe it happens, but not often.

Ridable Art

One section on the grounds was devoted to "ridable art". Artists had fashioned absurd, ridable vehicles based on bikes. Anyone could try as long as they acknowledged that it would be at their own risk.

Shoe Bike

Dave's Penny Farthing Tat

I saw quite a few bike related tattoos. Lots of cranks, gears, and chains. The body art thing is quite the thing in Seattle. It used to be more discreet. Now it seems all body art must be visible at all times.

Colorful Characters

32 Spoke Parasol

Many people brought their own bike related props, costumes and plain silliness. A little more prompting from the beer garden added to the atmosphere.

Ryan

Blowing Out The Back

Joyce Drinks In A Beer Garden

Tony Rises

After some bands had played, a car was traded for a bike and there were other bike giveaways with lots of crowd participation. The finale to this theater of the absurd came with a gigantic present box that opened up in a flurry of smoke and noise into a towering effigy of Tony Danza with outstretched "pride arms".

Who's The Boss?
U.S.A. Drinking Laws

Phallic Symbol

Before long the event was over and it was time to head out to the Buckaroo Tavern to get drunk enough to barely ride home. My wife was happy to have a bike to ride as well and actually circled Seattle as her final Seattle ride. I am happy she is now riding. So happy I picked up a killer deal on SIDI shoes from REI for her. $90 for a pair of ladies Dominators.
Lake Union

Kite Hill

Dunk At The Buck

4 comments:

  1. Great story, excellent observations.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey man, welcome back to the USA. Interesting to see how you see it all after living in Taiwan for so long. Enjoy the rest of your holiday.

    Nice post and thanks for sharing the photos from the weekend.


    Darryl

    ReplyDelete
  3. aauughh... are you still there? I was on the Olympic Penninsula myself for several weeks. I often rode on the 101 from Lilliwaup to near Olympia and back. 100km, no lights, just cold, wind, the smell of salt air (on the canal) and a view of the Olympics on the way back.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I know those roads. My cousin took off for a tour of the Olympc Penninsula yesterday. Now I am in Palm Desert, CA, with no bike and getting fat. I hit the bike stores today.Yay! Seattle is gorgeous in July, August, September and October. I always have to remind myself that there is cold and drizzle for most of the year.

    ReplyDelete