This Guy Opened Up About the Challenges He Faces as a 'Fat Cyclist'

Philip Ellis
·3 mins read

From Men's Health

Cycling can be a hugely enjoyable form of cardio for people who want to lose weight, improve their personal fitness, or just generally be more active in their lifestyle — and contrary to popular opinion, you don't have to be thin as a beanpole to do it.

Avid cyclist Leonard Lee makes YouTube content for people who share his enthusiasm, regardless of age or body type. In a recent video, he broke down some of the things he has learned while cycling as a bigger person, including practical obstacles that often arise, as well as the pervasive gatekeeping and fat-shaming that can occur in the cycling world.

"As a self-confessed fat cyclist myself, I can tell you that being heavy adds all kinds of challenges when getting on a bike," he says. "Probably the single main challenge faced by fat cyclists is that being heavy makes cycling hard work, especially when the road starts to go uphill. This is obviously down to the power-to-weight ratio... I'll be the first to admit, I'm one of the slowest climbers I know. But then that kind of makes sense, because I'm one of the heaviest climbers I know. Then again, I can climb."

It stands to reason, he explains, that heavy cyclists must have a high power output, otherwise they'd never make it up those inclines at all. But as they are carrying more weight, "much of that power is effectively lost." He adds that even minor weight loss can help to shift that power-to-weight ratio in a cyclist's favor, resulting in an increased speed both on climbs and flats.

A related issue that heavier cyclists should pay extra attention to, says Leonard, is their knees. "Because climbing is that much harder for us, we tend to put more pressure through our knees," he explains. "This can be improved through some degree through a good bike fit, and ensuring the saddle height and position are correct. Riding in lower gears will also prevent too much pressure being put through your knees."

Finding the right bike for you to begin with can help you avoid some of these problems, but Leonard points out that this in itself is often an obstacle. "Many frames, components and wheels have manufacturers' recommended weight limits," he says. "Never be tempted to exceed that limit, if you do, that item could fail. At best, you'll void warranty. At worst, you could be involved in a nasty accident." Similarly, finding cycling wear that has been designed to be both functional and flattering in bigger sizes can be a challenge — although Leonard says whether you want to wear proper biking kit or not is entirely down to personal choice.

One of the most frustrating and pervasive negative aspects to being a "fat cyclist" is the unsolicited health and dietary advice from strangers, some of which is well-meant, while other times is downright insulting. "Many people see an overweight person, and for one reason or another, think that they have no idea why they're fat," says Leonard. "Believe me, we know all too well how we got here."

For the most part, however, Leonard's enthusiasm for cycling more than compensates for some of the downsides. "Cycling in general has so many benefits that being overweight shouldn't be a reason to not get on the bike," he says. "Nothing in life is without its own unique challenges and obstacles. You can either see these obstacles and let them end your journey right there, or you can be excited about the possibilities that lay beyond."

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