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?