My weight doesn’t need to change but the bike world’s attitude toward me does.
My friend and I sat in the parking lot, eating oatmeal and mentally preparing for the next 10 days. We were halfway through our Alaskan bikepacking trip from Seward to Deadhorse, and the next stretch, along the Dalton Highway—27,976 feet of elevation gain over 500 gravel miles— was notoriously grueling. As we looked over our slightly damp gear, a tour van pulled up nearby. The passengers got off; some took photos of us as the guide loudly proclaimed that not many people successfully bike the Dalton. “In fact,” he said as he looked at me, “I just saw two very athletic men barely finish the ride.” Very athletic, I thought to myself. He means thin.
Here’s the thing: I’m fat. I wear sizes ranging from XL to XXL (18-22). When I first started biking, I worried about finding clothes that fit. I assumed that, as is true with many athletic clothing brands, the sizes available would be too limited. I was pleasantly surprised to find that popular bike clothing brands like Pearl iZumi, De Marchi, and Terry size up to XXL for women’s bibs and shorts. Sizing that stops at XXL is still too limiting for many people, but for fat cyclists, that’s not the real issue.
The true problem is with our culture around sport, and our ideas of athleticism. Really, with who gets to move their body because they want to and who has to move their body because they need to fix it.
Cyclists with larger bodies are largely erased from the public image. We don’t see ourselves in promotional materials for bike events, or in advertisements for bicycle manufacturers or clothing companies, or on Instagram feeds.
Original publication 13 September, 2019
Posted on NatCorn 18th March 2020
Reference to an article does not infer endorsement of any views expressed.