Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wide Load

At one time or another, almost every human has felt ostracized from his/her peers, or felt as though they were too different to fit in with the masses. If you ride a bicycle for transportation, this can be a regular occurrence.  Various statistics point to slightly more than 2% of 1 mile or shorter trips by American's being taken by bicycle. The figure is a tad higher for slightly longer voyages by bike, but it's easy to see that bicyclists are the minority in a car-loving society.

A few weeks ago, I was reminded that I find myself in an even smaller statistic: women who are severely overweight AND cycle. This reminder came through various sources and on different days. One of the reminders was a post by Lovely Bicycle! that resulted in a fairly lively discussion of cycling apparel. Though I was already aware of this fact, overweight women (and even women larger than say a size 10 or so) have a very difficult time finding cycling wear. To top it off, the few sources that are available for those of us who fall into this category are not all that exciting. Even places like Terry and Shebeest that offer some relatively cute designs, don't make all of the styles in larger sizes.
Lambswool sweater in the misses section of Terry: cute, looks comfy, would definitely
keep me warm in the winter months
To top it all off, women like myself our forced into a 'special' section of clothing, which in the course of my lifetime I've discovered means 'limited.' I've sent emails and even made phone calls, but I have sort of felt the need to resign myself to a harsh reality: most larger ladies don't ride a bike, so why would manufacturers produce the clothes for them?
The closest, even remotely equivalent find at Terry for larger ladies -
Not anything close to the above design
The next reminder of my size came when I found a photo online, taken by a journalist, who was documenting the Venus de Miles ride I participated in a few weeks ago. As if it's not enough to already have body image issues, I have to discover a quite revolting photo of myself, mid-ride, third chin hanging to my knees. When seeing such a sight, I couldn't help but be reminded that I was likely the largest person on this ride.  I was pounded with the vision of just how large my thighs and legs are in general; I was reminded that I should never wear sleeveless shirts in public - ever; I was beaten over the head with the thought that I am alone in a world full of 'fit and trim' cyclists. True, the photo is extremely unflattering, and, yes, I've tried to keep this in mind; however, I can't help but look at the picture and think that I look as though I'm going to break my poor Sam Hillborne!
Good lord, why am I posting this?
The third time that I was reminded of my largeness was while reading another website. I enjoy following Simply Bike's adventures with her bicycle, and this connected me with the RAGBRAI website. Since Sam and I had visited the Midwest this past summer, and did a bit of casual riding while there, I was interested to see what RAGBRAI is all about.
Sam with the bicycles in Madison, WI
While reading a post by one of the trainers, I found, what I consider to be a rather rude comment by someone who stated, "... How come no one jogging could be {in} such poor shape as some of the bikers I see. Truthfully, some would go by me doing 20 mph and looked like their back tire would explode with all the weight it was handling." The response by the trainer was this: "One of the reasons you don't see a lot of heavy joggers is because their joints won't handle it. One of the beauties of riding a bike is that the bike supports your weight and you just have to provide the power to propel it. When running your body has to do both functions.  This is one of the great things about a bike. It allows people who are heavy a means to exercise and hopefully burn of some of that excess weight." I can't even begin to describe my annoyance with both the original comment and the trainer's response. While I do understand what the trainer is saying, and agree that cycling is much easier on the joints for anyone, I have no issue jogging, and I am no light weight. Sam and I actually completed a marathon a few years ago, so I don't enjoy being lumped into a category that adds to a very strong stereotype that already exists in the minds of many. The real plague to my head at the moment though is just because I run/jog, lift weights, and cycle, doesn't mean I'm going to weigh 100 lbs. The idea that someone is large because they are lazy or don't do anything throughout the day is not necessarily true, and it also isn't true that the person is 'out of shape' because they are large. I know many individuals who are quite thin and who also thought I was insane for even attempting the 26.2 mile marathon, as they knew they wouldn't be able to complete it.

So, where does one begin with changing the minds of the public? While I would love to be the size 2 that some are, it's honestly not in my DNA. My mom is large, my dad is large (and so are a slew of ancestors before them). While I can lose weight, it's minimal, and despite all the begging I've done with the doctor, he assures me there is nothing to do but what I am doing, and have done for the last decade or so of my existence. My life has been filled with the obnoxious football players making fun of my chubby cheeks, snooty cheerleaders giving me the 'once over' because I wanted to try out for cheerleading, and the comments from complete strangers, such as one of my favorites while visiting the Beverly Hills library: "Oh, dear. You have SUCH a pretty face... if you'd just lose a few pounds." I have to wonder if these individuals feel badly about themselves, and so they feel the need to bring others down as well? I honestly don't have the answers, but I have also realized that all I can do is to enjoy the journey. What else is there to say?


  1. GE. - this is such a powerful post. I'm sorry to read of all these frustrations, I think the sizing on clothes (and as you noted on Velouria's post - on wedding dresses along with cycling clothing) is BS! And I'm glad that the clothing industry and that snarky Ragbrai comment aren't keeping you from being the healthy and fit person you are. I think your blog is awesome and the voice you're adding to the bike blogosphere is invaluable :)


    PS: I don't think that picture of you on the bike is bad at all! But I feel the same way when I see the 'action' race photos taken by photographers as races, the ones that capture you in motion as you run by. I always feel like I have no chin and look like I'm barely running and nothing is ever flattering about them. Guess it's the curse of the action shot?

  2. You are a sweetheart. I suppose I am just always trying to figure it all out (as we each are in our own way). Sometimes, it all just gets to me, but I suppose this is the perfect place to vent it.

    Ugh! Those actions shots are brutal. When we did the marathon I was so upset that there were no pictures to prove that I had completed it (there was a long story behind it about how everyone would have at least one action photo and so on, but somehow I eluded all the cameras, even the finish line photo). In retrospect, I'm probably happier that I didn't see a picture of me dragging myself and trying to pick each foot up, especially toward the end of the run. I'm sure it wouldn't have been pretty.

    Thanks so much for your thoughts. I definitely appreciate it. :)

  3. This post is great. I have thought, felt and soapboxed so many of these same things my self. I think you are adorable and kind of might be superwoman... A marathon??? (i found you from the comment on velocoutour's post about the pendelton bag)

  4. Trina,
    It's nice to know there are others out there who feel similar things, so thank you! I hardly feel like superwoman, but the marathon was something I wanted to do, mostly to prove that I could do it. I may not have completed it in record time, but it was an awesome feeling just to finish at all, as there were several times I thought my mind would win out and I would stop along the way. It's nice to know that I do have control over myself, at least somewhat - or enough to finish that goal anyway. :o) Thanks again.

  5. Sometimes I think that it's no wonder that we as women have such issues with body image - we can't seem to win no matter our size/shape!! People always think we're too large or too thin and unless we have what the media and society perceives as the "perfect" body, we're deemed defective!!

    This may not make you feel any better, but I can tell you from experience that people are no less rude or cruel when they perceive someone as being "too thin" as they are if they think someone is overweight. Throughout my teen years I was constantly taunted and called all sorts of names because I was "skinny." Strangers had no issue with stopping me in public with statements like "don't you ever eat?" or "what do you weigh - like 50 lbs?!" I didn't try to not gain weight, I was simply one of those "lucky" people who couldn't seem to no matter what. This persisted through college, and even doctors sometimes assumed I had an eating disorder, even though family and friends knew that I ate very normally. I was well into my 30s before finally feeling as if people didn't look at me and immediately think I was anorexic or ask me what I weighed! I'm now what I would consider an average weight, and people also assume that I must exercise and be really fit or something. I hate to admit though that other than biking, I don't do any other form of exercise on a regular basis and my capacity for cardio activities really sucks :) There's no way I could walk or run a marathon and greatly admire you for being able to do that! I can hardly make it up hills on the bike! Don't let the rude people get to you!

  6. Traci,
    I think I just have my moments (as we all do) when the frustration takes over. People (as a whole, not everyone) tend to have preconceived notions about various segments of society. I think trying to help break those perceptions is certainly one of my goals in life. I may not always be successful at the mission, but I do my best. I very much appreciate your thoughts! Even when I return at later dates to read old posts, it helps to remind me that there are good people in the world, and that we all have our own struggles to go through.

  7. I discovered this original rant from the link on the update you posted yesterday. I just want to say, you are not alone in this. And - your SMILE is what I noticed first about your photo. You were obviously enjoying the ride and enjoying the day - it'd be a real shame if the photo you found later, taken at that moment, has spoiled that moment.

    And - as someone else mentioned above - when I read yesterday's post, the word "Superwoman" popped into my head and has inspired a blog post of my own on this topic. :)

    1. Thanks, Rebecca. I was definitely enjoying the ride. I'd ended up riding alone and managed to meet up with some people who let me ride with them and we were having a great time. The only frustration was seeing the event photos at the end of it all, but I've tried to not let it spoil the fun I did have that day. :O)

      Glad to inspire your own blog post as well. Can't wait to read it.


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