Biking big, thinking big

My latest column over at Grist is about bicycling when you’re big.

It was going to be quite a different piece. Krissy Durden, a Portlander and fat-acceptance activist (who publishes a zine on the topic called Figure 8) connected me with the woman featured in the column.

Durden also gently steered me away from the partial focus on weight loss that I’d planned without really thinking it through. Despite popular claims to the contrary, weight doesn’t necessarily correlate with health; in fact, body fat can provide health benefits and help fight disease.

Also, despite the stereotype of bikers as skinny athletes, unless you’re out there doing intense training for races or centuries, bicycling will make you strong and healthy without changing your overall body type much. I sometimes forget that, too, despite my own experience.

In part because of this conversation, and in part to keep the word count manageable, I didn’t end up sharing another excellent story that came my way yesterday. Mike McKisson, a journalist in Tucson who also runs the Tucson Velo blog, wrote his own story, here.

He didn’t, he told me, start biking to lose weight, but rather for the joy of it — and that’s what’s kept him at it all these years.

“Eventually I started to use it to lose weight and I remember one guy at an LBS said something to me that I’ll always remember. He was making sure I was set up for my first race/ride and I told him I was trying to lose weight. He said, ‘You know Mike, if you never lose another pound, you’ll still be so much better off and healthy just for getting out there and riding your bike.’ His point was to not worry about the weight, but just get the exercise and enjoy it.”

If I were writing McKisson’s story, I’d probably focus on the transportation angle. Actually, he already tells this one nicely, the tale of the 7,000 pounds of steel and plastic his family has let go of since they had a child and his wife started getting excited about bicycle transportation as well.


Want to read more good stuff like this, but in pocket-sized form? Check out the Taking the Lane zines.

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One Response to “Biking big, thinking big”

  1. Gary Kavanagh August 15, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

    Another interesting angle in the discussion of cycling and weight, is that bicycling is more accessible, and can be even excelled at by heavier people more so than something like running. In part because physical mass is kept constant when one pedals, rather than overcoming gravity with each cycle in a run. Weight on a bike can be a speed disadvantage going uphill, and accelerating, but I have seen some heavier folks that could absolutely crush many “fit” looking cyclists on more level terrain, and going downhill weight can even be an asset. The physics of running makes it much difficult to accomplish a similar outcome between different body sizes and types. The bike becomes an equalizer.

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