body image · cycling

Why should a fat girl care about riding a light bike?

As a big/fat/whatever person who rides a very light weight bike (made of carbon fibre, it’s a Cannondale – Super Six Hi-Mod, a few years old now and bought used) I get this question a lot. I ride the kind of bike that people are surprised when they lift it at how little it weighs. It makes a big difference to the weight when I take the water bottles off. And given the light frame, I don’t load it down with heavy components. My other bike bits are on the light side too.

Light bikes aren’t cheap and you might wonder if it wouldn’t have just been easier to buy a heavier bike and lose a few kilos? Put the way it’s often asked, isn’t it easier just to lose rider weight? (All the bike forums where this question is posed also add “and sexier” to the question about losing weight. Of course.)

Why buy pedals made of pricey “unobtainium” someone once jested when you could just drop a few pounds?

That question was then repeated by a friend who speculated that it’s easy to buy things. Anybody with money can do that.

Now, he did admit that it’s also hard to lose weight. But the contrast stood, between fat people who take the easy route and just buy things and other people (with discipline!) who work hard and lose weight. At the heart of the question I fear though is the thought that fat people don’t deserve nice things. We ought to save them for rewards, you know for after we get thin.

I’m a frugal person about many things and I’m not that sensitive about my weight. So let me take up the challenge here and try to answer the charge, why should a fat person care about riding a lightweight bike?

First, rider weight isn’t easy to change. I won’t detail my efforts at getting leaner but I work very hard to lose very little weight or stay the same. Of course, I want to be leaner, of course, but my options are limited. If I could buy the weight off, I would. Instead, I’m settling for slow progress with nutrition counseling, mindful eating, and moving lots. You can read about that here.

The reason the fat/big/whatever person wants the light go fast bike is the same reason as the thin/lean whatever person does: It’s lighter, it’s faster. Whee! Zoom!

Second, some bike weight matters more than rider weight and rotating weight matters most of all so my light weight wheels are definitely worth it.

Third, as for the bike itself. I bought a carbon bike for a variety of reasons, weight is just one of them. It’s not the only characteristic of carbon fibre that I care about. It’s a smoother, less jarring ride than my aluminum frame. It accelerates nicely. It’s stiff. It’s a thing of beauty. Yes there are lovely steel frames out there but I crave acceleration, not just steady state speed, and my carbon bike is very frisky in ways I quite like.

In the end the reasons a fat girl rides a lightweight bike are the same reason pretty much anyone who rides a light bike does. Yes, I take note each time I climb a hill how much easier it would be if I weighed less but I’ve done that, had that same thought, no matter what my body weight is. I think if I approached the hill on a heavy bike, I’d wonder about losing bike weight too.

Luckily, I don’t have that excuse. It’s you and me hill, here we go!

Read more:
The Science of Bicycles
The Effect of Weight on Speed
Does wheel weight matter?
One of the oldest cycling dilemmas resolved: Weight vs. Speed
How Much Does Body Weight Affect Your Cycling Speed?

5 thoughts on “Why should a fat girl care about riding a light bike?

  1. Sam, thank you. I so appreciate your thoughtful posts. I’ve been following your blog for a few months now, and your and Tracy’s posts are pivotable in my painfully slow but steady mind set shift away from believing that I must loose weight so I can be attractive/fit/healthy. Yes I’m overweight/fat/big/whatever, but I’m also fairly fit. At 52 and having just got my group fitness certification a few months ago, I still struggle with my own self perception: “I’m not a Barbie doll instructor” I say by way of acknowledging my doubts that I don’t look like I think a fitness should.

    It’s been my interest in blogging that led me to your and other similar blogs, (Fit and Feminist was the first and led me to yours) and has now created great cognitive dissonance for me with regards to my entire belief system around self image, and the value I put on physical appearance. How shallow I have been, and absolutely clueless about it! I’m still in a mild state of shock over the possibility that I don’t have to diet and be thinner in order to…to…to…do and be anything! What I love about this mindset is that it’s not me just being obstinate and saying I’m fat and I don’t care. It’s me saying I’m bigger than socially acceptable standards, and so what. I’m also fit. And other great things.

    I’m still sorting it out, struggling against my long held habitual self hating thought patterns (hate is such a nasty word). But with each of the blogs I’m now reading along these lines, and all the links to more insightful information, I am feeling very hopeful. So um yeah, thanks, keep it coming.

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  2. This was a great post, and a thoughtful one. And yeah, “In the end the reasons a fat girl rides a lightweight bike are the same reason pretty much anyone who rides a light bike does.” this should just be obvious. The idea that someone would even ask the question blows my mind.

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  3. Love this post! I have both a carbon and a steel road bike. They are most definitely different rides and I hands down prefer the carbon especially to get my fat up the many hills around here. The unsaid assumption many have is that I shouldn’t be on a light bike because it “can’t hold the weight”. I’ve had my carbon bike for 7 years now and it’s still in one piece! 😀

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