You hardly ever see overweight people on a road bike. Sure, you have the older men with their knees out. When you come back, you see a narrow butt and shoulders – only the position of the knees indicates that a belly is hanging down. But really big people on a road bike … No! For years I felt a great aversion when I saw one, a cyclist with significant overweight. Phew, I thought then. No face. In such a tight package, no, don’t do it, huh. These are things you don’t say out loud, of course, you do have that much decency. But secretly I chuckled with my well-trained bicycle sizes. Jesss…then look at that.
That you hardly ever see overweighted people on a road bike, I discussed this weekend with a good friend. She started cycling a few years ago. She was never sporty, even though sports were not for her… Sweating, muscle pain, panting, suffering: no… But once she got on a road bike, she was hooked. She wants to start again. But she has gained weight. Through medication, but also through just good food and life. You really hardly ever see fat people on a road bike, do you, she said to me. She finds it daunting. Just like the search for nice cycling clothing for the taller woman: it is almost impossible to find it. Over the years I have started to think differently about overweighted people on a road bike. I came across them in the clinics and the trips I organize. I heard their stories. About how they feel viewed. About how they are not automatically welcome if they want to join a group. About how to struggle through all the prejudices, as a big person on a bicycle.
If you are racing cyclist, you should be trained
That’s right. Just look at the brochures and the commercials: if you are a cyclist, you should be trained. This of course applies not only to bicycles but to all sports. We have a picture in our heads. If you do not comply, it is devilishly difficult to feel welcome when you want to start a sport. And that while we, athletes, would like everyone to participate. Because we know how good it is for you. Because we experience what it does for your body and mind. Because we have all experienced that it is nice to lose some pounds by being active.
We take our hats off for the cyclist who climbs Mont Ventoux in an hour and a half, while we chuckle at the cyclist who takes three hours. But hello… To suffer for three hours is, if you think about it, many times more handsome than an hour and a half. Actually, our scorn is downright bizarre. Exercise is much heavier if you are big. You carry so much extra.
My good friend will be leaving soon. Despite that tight package she has to go in. Despite the extra pounds she carries. Because she knows it’s good for her, and because she likes it. It is a utopia that she gets admiring looks. But it would be nice if the chuckle would get less. If we genuinely want people to exercise more, we will have to be a lot more welcoming from the sports world, yours in sport Marijn de Vries (from a weekly blog in https://www.facebook.com/Trouw.nl)