In my recent post about strava and downhill segments, I said it was no big surprise the victories were mine as weight is an advantage downhill and I’m the largest woman out there on a road bike. I don’t think that means I don’t deserve them. After all, being small is an advantage uphill and yet we don’t say the fastest climbers don’t deserve their strava trophies because they’re small.
Here I’m using the bigger/smaller language rather than calling all larger people “fat.” Language is tricky. See here for why.
I confess I’ve often wondered why you don’t see more women of size on road bikes. Unlike running, cycling isn’t a weight bearing exercise. Your weight isn’t a huge disadvantage when riding on flat roads. Weight does hurt going up hill. Hill climbing is all about power to weight ratio but absent hills, weight doesn’t make a big difference.
It’s also an issue accelerating from standing still but again, how often do you do that on a typical ride?
Yes, modern road bikes are light but they’re not fragile. After all, they’re mostly built for men. Here’s a good discussion of bike choices which notes though the frames are typically built for 185 lb men they’re tested to a much higher weight.
Searching for information about road cycling and larger women was itself informative. I got lots of information about cycling as a means to weight loss. There’s some of that for men too, of course. But lots of the men’s info was much more matter of fact. “So you’re 350 lbs and you want to ride a road bike, here’s some advice on wheel choices.” Larger men who ride even joke about their size. A Clydesdale club was even selling jerseys that read “Big Men Break Wheels.”
I’d like to be leaner but it’s not the reason I ride my bike. Short version: I want to get up hills faster.
I see a lot more larger women running than I see riding. Of course, there’s women of all sizes running but I have wondered what puts larger women off road cycling.
There’s the image, I suppose. Road bike riding is all about the young, lean men with the physiques of greyhounds. But it’s a mistake to look at the Tour de France bodies and think that’s what you need around here.
A friend (hi Natalie!) recently suggested it was the extremely unflattering posture one assumes on a road bike that made cycling tricky for larger women. Let’s squish all the abdominal fat and breasts together! I laughed but later I wondered whether she might be on to something.
It doesn’t help either that you assume the unflattering posture while wearing skin tight cycling lycra.
Here’s the thing. I consider myself very body positive. Hills aside, I’m okay with my large active body. But Natalie got me thinking. Even I don’t like the way I look riding my bike! I love my bike. I love cycling. I post a lot of pictures of me with my bike, usually with me standing beside the bike. But riding shots? Not so much.
It’s not that I don’t own them. If you race, chances are there are photos of you out there riding. I hate it when they’ve got the camera near the top of the hill! But I tend not to share them. Tellingly, the photo below is saved on my computer with the file name “chubbyme.”
Maybe I’d be less self conscious if there were more of us out there. Come play! It’ll make you feel like a child again.
Here’s a happier me on a bike shot. I’m a little lighter it’s true but I’m also wearing a flowing dress on top. It’s from Red Dress Day on the Friends for Life Bike Rally…
Here’s some inspirational plus sized women cyclists with their stories:
Krista Henderson is an award-winning, multi sport plus size athlete. She began her athletic career in 2004 when her Fitness Director recommended she “train like an athlete”, in response to her commitment of living an active and healthy lifestyle. This advice dramatically shifted Krista away from the diet and exercise mentality, where she constantly felt the need to “fix” herself by solely focusing on losing weight. This fresh new approach set Krista on a path of changing the way she lived which resulted in becoming happier and healthier.
Since then, Krista has earned her certification as a Johnny G Spin Instructor and Can-Fit-Pro Personal Trainer, has coached athletes of all body shapes and abilities and has competed in over 20 races (triathlon, duathlon, half marathon and rowing).Through this journey, Krista has learned some key lessons and is now on a mission to share them and inspire other plus size women, to live a healthy life by tapping into their inner athlete. The foundation of the athletic lifestyle is rooted in properly fueling your body, working out with a purpose and getting plenty of rest.
Being overweight and being a cyclist is not contradictory. I’ve been both for 22 years. Too many women are psyched out by those lean bodies dancing on the pedals up the Gatineau Hills. Cycling does not require a skinny body, it helps if you want to go fast, but it’s not necessary to enjoy cycling.
The image of a bike commuter, especially one with true bike style, is often one of a lithe woman wearing incredibly cute clothes, pedaling easily with cute Po Campo panniers. When I say I am a bike commuter, this is the image I like to think people have. The reality for me, however, is very different, but it is one that I do my best to accept with open arms. I am a fat girl on a bike.