08 June 2011

Advice from Brian May

If you're of my generation--or a Queen fan (Come on, admit it, you loved Night At The Opera!)--you surely remember the Brian May song Fat Bottomed Girls.

Even though the song was recorded more than 30 years ago, it remains one of the few to celebrate those of us who aren't built like fashion models. 

If you remember the song, good for you. If not, listen to it.  And note that line:  GET ON YOUR BIKES AND RIDE!

Would that Brian May weren't the only one giving that advice.  I did find this entry on Women's Cycling.ca encouraging us to do just that.  (The photo came from that site.)  However, I find that as the cycling industry is taking more of its cues from the mass media, the cyclists portrayed in advertising, videos and films about cycling,  seem to be more and more like those you see in ads for gyms and J.Crew.

And some bike shops perpetrate the bias against avoirdupois.  One day, in the last shop in which I worked, a woman who was (at least by most standards I'm familiar with) at least seventy-five pounds "overweight" came in.  She had been very athletic all through college, she said, but the detours of her life had taken her away from exercise and good eating habits.  Plus, after a surgery she needed following an auto accident, her doctor prescribed a medicine with steroids in it, which put additional weight on her.

She wanted to get back in shape, but because of knee and other injuries, her doctor (who cycled and played tennis, if I recall correctly), advised her not to run or play basketball.  Rather, he recommended cycling--an activity she once enjoyed--because it would put less strain on her damaged joints and ligaments.  So, she said, she was looking to buy a bike.

One of the sales people in that shop told her she should come back to the shop after losing weight. 

I felt badly for that woman, but I did nothing to help her. I hadn't thought about her in some time, and I've related the story as best as I can remember it.  

Did you notice that near the beginning of this post, I wrote, "those of us who aren't built like fashion models."  Yes, I include myself.  Of course, when I was training as if I were going to enter the Tour de France for 40-and-older riders, I woulnd't have said anything like that about myself.  Granted, I was trimmer and had more strength.  But almost no one has the same sort of body in middle age as he or she had when young. (Trust me:  I know that as well as anybody can!)  Sometimes it has to do with life taking the turns I've mentioned; it also has to do with the way our bodies age.  Also, in my case, taking hormones added a few pounds to the ones I was already gaining by other means.

And,  let's face it, most people aren't born to be a perfect size four.  (I'm talking about dresses, not Euro racing kit! In my prime, I wore a size three.)  So why should that bar any of us from cycling?  Is there any law that cyclists have to be, as one New Yorker columnist put it, "lycra sausages"?


  1. Hi Justine, Here is a great blog and post for you to read


    Its a fellow Vancouver Blogger, Cecily Walker. She is doing a series of posts on people who like to bike and who don't look - or care to look - like hungry greyhounds.

  2. I don't know about Euro racing kit sizes (btw your link does not work) but I was horrified to discover that I am a Campagnolo Women's size Large as far as cycling jackets go. Oh and my legs totally look like sausages in the 1 pair of horrid lycra shorts I've worn. With Ibex wool it's not so bad, but still sausage-esque.

  3. Paddy Anne: I'll definitely check out that post. Thanks!

    Velouria: In most European cycle clothing, size three is considered a men's medium, while two and one are small and extra small, respectively, and four and five are large and extra-large.

    Ever since my gender transition, I haven't bought any cycle clothing, save for a couple of pairs of shorts I didn't like. That's why my knowledge of sizing is mainly in men's clothing. But, as I understand, the men's sizes correspond to a size larger for women.

    The funny thing about wool is that when it's knit properly, it can be just as form-fitting as synthetics. But it's also more flattering to more kinds of bodies.

  4. "I felt badly for that woman, but I did nothing to help her"

    And such is a lesson for us all. I appreciate the honesty and the reminder to not let such opportunities pass. I hope no criticism is implied.


  5. What a shame for that unfortunate woman who was treated so badly by that bike shop. There are some great options out there now for people who are overweight and want to start riding again.
    On Memorial Day weekend, I purchased a Trek Pure Sport (step through model). The build of this bike is very sturdy, it has 21 speeds, and the 13 inch frame and 26" wheels put you close to the ground. I've tried to get out as much as possible, and feel much better- I'm ready to throw out my anti depressants- I feel like I have something to look forward to and live for again.
    Terry has some great cycling clothes for plus sized women. I prefer to ride in a skort- I just feel better about it but they have some other options.
    Anyone of any size who climbs up on a bike and starts riding is to be cheered on, not ridiculed. If they have a problem with me, it's their problem. After all, I can lose weight, but they will be stupid and mean forever.