How to Ride a Bike: A Guide for Plus-sized Cyclists (02.05) | Dr Charlotte Cooper

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When people talk about the alleged global obesity epidemic, they are talking about me. The London Cycling Campaign’s commitment to helping eradicate obesity is actually about eliminating people like me. Whilst using this anti-fat rhetoric may be politically useful in generating support and securing funds, and whilst this organisation is far from alone in doing it, this kind of attitude to body shape diversity encourages no one to get on a bicycle. Instead it demonises an often battered section of society, contributes to a moral panic about body size, feeds on fear and shame, and is deeply insulting.

The negative effects of dieting and yo-yoing weight on the body and soul have been well documented, so why follow that route? After a lifetime of health-threatening yo-yoing, together with the knowledge that 98% of dieters regain the weight lost, many of us are no longer interested in trying to punish ourselves with fantasies. It’s better to integrate fatness and good health instead, and learn to develop a healthy appreciation of our bodies, whatever their size. This can be a tall order since most fat people grow up in cultures that demean us as lazy, greedy and ugly, and where many of us believe this to be true of ourselves. Happily, cycling can help.

If you are fat it’s likely that the only time cycling is presented to you in a positive light is as a means to lose weight. This has bound the act of getting on a bicycle with notions of duty, poor self-image, body anxiety and more – could there be a more depressing prospect? It’s unlikely that these feelings would make anyone feel good and excited about riding.

There are lots of reasons why fat people might be reticent about cycling. Perhaps we haven’t cycled since we were kids, or maybe we never learned to ride. Maybe we associate it with punishing weight loss regimes instead of an activity that can be enjoyed in its own right. Some might worry that they are not fit enough, and this combined with emotionally damaging harassment from passers-by – or even the fear of it – is enough to put anyone off from having a go. Bigger fat people might be concerned about damaging a bike, or injuring themselves, and then there is the hassle of finding appropriate clothing that fits.

As a fat cyclist this has been my experience too, but here are some tips and ideas I’ve found over the years that might help others get going . . .

MoBikeFed comment: Please click through to read the entire article for Dr. Cooper's excellent tips for getting started with, and staying with cycling.

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