body image · cycling

Fat lass at the front?

If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile you know all about my ambivalence about the word “fat.”

Big, large, strong, powerful…I like all those words. I wish we had better words for big women. Like “brawny.” I like that word. But it feels masculine, seems gendered. (What do you think?)

Nevermind, I know by our society’s definition I am fat. And I know lots of people see me that way. I am a member of the “Fit Fatties” group on Facebook. So why not embrace it? Reclaim it? Have fun with it? Lots of women do.

This bike clothing company is.

Women's Purple Cycling Jersey


It occured to us that if we couldn’t find top quality cycling gear, in proper manly man sizes, then probably, no one else could, so we took a bit of a punt and set up a sportswear brand which didn’t just do ‘usual sizes’ but it also did bigger sizes.


By happy coincidence Fat Lad At The Back had been the nickname of founding Fat Lad and our Lad In Charge, Richard for around 20 years – He had other nick-names but none of those are publishable and anyway, in Yorkshire, Fat Lad At The Back is a term of endearment and we think a pretty cool name for a sportswear brand.


We didn’t just want to size up our gear, we wanted to redesign traditional garments so that they would properly fit and flatter the new ‘average’ size of cyclist. It took months to track down a manufacturer prepared to make the larger sizes and pattern changes we required and we finally found a superb family run company in Italy who had been making sportswear for 35 years and who understood that we wanted cyclewear which didn’t make the wearer look like a shrink wrapped chicken. 


The Fat Lad brand was created for Mr Averages, MAMIL’s with a 44” chest and a 38” waist but it quickly became apparent that there were bigger cyclists who needed something to wear too, so we introduced larger sizes. More and more Lads said to us, “as soon as I read it, I knew you were talking to me!” and a community started growing. The lads started sending us photos of themselves wearing their FLAB jersey’s and having fun on their bikes and posting funny and supportive comments on social media.


Then we met Geoff, at 23 stone he had already shed 15 stone, but our largest jersey didn’t go anywhere near him. Geoff’s story touched and inspired us, so we designed the Spare Tyre range, a collection specifically tailored for Geoff shape and all the other lads like him. 


In no time, the lasses were saying “what about us?” so we began work on our women’s range. It has to be said it was a touchy subject with the lasses – some loved Fat    Lass, some hated it, but on the basis that we were sure you didn’t have to be a virgin to travel Virgin, we persevered and designed a lasses range which took into consideration women’s curves and women’s comfort.


We have extended the range to include triathlon wear and running wear and will continue to bring new colours, designs and garments into the collections.


Core to our success have been our customers. They help us develop our product range, they fill our social media with comments and hilarious one-liners and great photos, they take part in our photoshoots, they come and chat to us at events and they generally keep us on the right path.    

FLAB continues to grow (no pun intended) and in a short space of time it has become a people brands. Key to that is encouraging everyone to have fun and enjoy their sport. We don’t differentiate between lads and lasses, skinny and fat, beginners and pro’s. The only thing that matters is we’re all part of the bulge.


Sticking with the simple theme, our values are pretty simple. We’re serious about our sportswear but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We make top quality sportswear that does what it says on the jersey.

We are the Fat Lads and Lasses at the back, Join us and be proud.

What do I think of this company’s playful bike jerseys? I like their expansive size range but I’m not sure I’d ever wear a jersey that refereed to me as a “fat lass.”

I think it’s easier for men to get away with this kind of self-deprecating humour. Why “self-deprecating”? Why not just factual? “Fat” need not be an insult. And that’s true. Except here it’s the “at the back” part that self-deprecating. Men get to make jokes about their size in ways that women don’t. I considered briefly getting my partner a bike jersey that says on the back “Big Men Break Wheels” after he’d had a run in with a series of broken spokes. There were no equivalent jerseys for women.

I did buy a Fat Cyclist jersey when he was selling them to raise money for cancer research after his wife’s cancer diagnosis a few year’s ago. Team Fatty joined the Livestrong Challenge and raised more than a half million dollars.

Here’s his blog post from August, 2009:

Susan died tonight (August 5) at 7:25pm. It was a hard, long day, and Susan fought right to the end, for much longer than anyone would have thought she could.

My mom, my sisters Kellene and Jodi, and my Brother-in-Law Rocky were all here to support my family as Susan passed away.

I’ll have more to say soon, but consider this. Susan inspired me to expand the focus of my blog from nothing but bike-related jokes to a serious and pitched fight against cancer.

Then she inspired 500+ of you to join Team Fatty, the largest LiveStrong Challenge Team there has ever been.

And Team Fatty has raised close to more than $500,000 — a record amount.

Susan’s part in the battle is over, but she didn’t lose. She led the charge. She showed the rest of us how to fight: with determination, focus, creativity, and outrageous endurance.

Now it’s up to the rest of us to Fight Like Susan.

Of course, the Fat Cyclist isn’t really fat. He’s just a regular sized guy who drops weight each spring to race. You can read his bio and weight loss story here. He’s now remarried and races triathlons with his new wife. I love his blog. Read it here.

I’m digressing a lot.

Back to the point of the post: I bought a Fat Cyclist jersey, like this one:


It’s pretty. It’s black and pink, two of my favourite colours. Sadly, I can’t wear it. Each time I do, people feel the need to tell me that either: A: You’re not fat really. You’re just chubby; B. You’re fat now but keep it up. Keep riding and you’ll lose weight; or C. Don’t call yourself that. Focus on the positive.

Women have a harder time than men claiming the label “fat” without the sympathy. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. Often I’m not the “fat lass at the back.” Depending on who I’m riding with (and whether hills are involved)  I may well be the “fat lass at the front.”



6 thoughts on “Fat lass at the front?

  1. I’ve been reading Fat Cyclist’s blog for a while now, and have liked the (past) jersey designs. Love the Clydesdale icon, the Fight Like Susan tag, the colors, the whole gestalt. And I want to show my support for the work Elden’s been doing in the cause of support for cancer families. But I weigh far more than I am happy (or healthy) with, and I just can’t bring myself to wear the written word “fat”. God bless the women and men who have no problem with that; I’m not comfortable with it.

  2. Men share those reasons for not wearing something that says Fat Lad at the Back. Plus the shared reasons like being mocked and yelled at. I just found out about this brand yesterday (from seeing your share on Facebook?) and excitedly showed it with my husband because he’s been shopping for cycling and tri gear. He immediately began searching for only the jerseys with the wordless logo for all of those same reasons. We were disappointed to see their bio said they began making clothing with the intention of including larger sizes than are most often available to accommodate more people, but originally included only up to a 38″ waist/ 44″ chest, which is typically readily available. Then, they made a separate line when sometime contacted them about needing a size outside of their range. Only then did they actually make sizes that can’t be purchased just anywhere (which is fantastic that they make these sizes), and that line appears to be the same jerseys at a higher price. One of my husband’s and my fat shaming pet peeves has always been when a store expects a 3x to pay more for the same shirt as a 2x.

  3. When I was racing, I was a solid “back of the pack” racer in everything except the bike…I would totally wear one of those, but I would be way better with just “Fat Lass” because of the pun 🙂

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