The image of a bike commuter, especially one with true bike style, is often one of a lithe woman wearing incredibly cute clothes, pedaling easily with cute Po Campo panniers. When I say I am a bike commuter, this is the image I like to think people have. The reality for me, however, is very different, but it is one that I do my best to accept with open arms. I am a fat girl on a bike.
Let me be clear. I don’t consider the term “fat” to be a derogatory term in this context; it is descriptive. I am 6’4″ tall, wear a dress size 28, and at last weigh-in I was at 375 pounds (down 25 pounds from the heaviest I’ve ever been). And I commute by bike.
Biking at this size comes with a variety of interesting challenges, admittedly. I had to send my bike in to the company to be repaired because the metal that holds the seat post ripped in half a few years ago. I’ve had to get my back tire rim replaced, because I kept popping spokes on the pothole-filled streets of Spokane. The internal hub that holds my breaks needs to be re-packed at least once a season. Clothes that easily go pedal-to-office are, at best, difficult to find.
Even with all of that, though, I absolutely adore biking. The feeling of freedom, the sense of accomplishment, and even the stares I get as I pedal by. I am a fat girl on a bike, and I love it. Biking allows me the chance to get in a workout in the time I would normally spend driving. Biking gives me the impetus to pay closer attention to my health. Biking is the one thing that is easy to fit into my (sometimes far too busy) schedule.
There are a few things I have learned that make biking easier, no matter how large or small you may be. First of all, leggings, tights and a cotton camisole will become your best friends. Skirts are amazing to bike in, but only with leggings to provide some coverage and comfort. A good camisole can also serve as your base layer. If you are like me and have to switch shirts when you get to work, because biking more than a mile or two means you will sweat, no matter how hard you try not to. A good cotton camisole means you can change shirts easily, no cramped bathroom or private office required.
Second, a good local bike shop is absolutely invaluable. I ride a Kona AfricaBike, which is a three-speed cruiser bike with a basket, a step-through frame, and a covered chain. Over the years, I have ended up replacing the rim, adding a back rack, adding panniers, and switching out the bike seat. Two local bike shops have helped me get the bike adjusted, sized, and repaired time and time again. They never flinch when I bring in my bike with the latest weird problem, they just do their best to fix it. I’ve never once had a local bike shop make me feel “fat.”
Bike Style has no size. Being a fat girl and a bike commuter at the same time means that I face some interesting challenges, but those challenges are worth solving.