Thursday, July 2, 2009

Continuing the Discussion - What is the best approach?

Thank you to everyone who has weighed in so far on the previous post in the comments, via email, and in the very impressive and thoughtful thread sparked by this discussion on the Clydesdales/ Athenas forum at I encourage everyone to read through the comments here and at Bike Forums, there have been some great ideas and words of wisdom presented. Here are a few comments that caught my eye... Christa said...
I would definitely benefit from a program such as this. I have a great bike and just need beginner rides to work on. Like, " That way to the slight hill or here to stay flat." I would also like to know how to get around town by bike. I am so used to the car and don't have a clue were to start... 'The Historian' said...

I don't mean to be contentious, but I don't think there's an honest way to draw the fat masses to cycling. You could sell it as a magic pill, I suppose, but it's not. People ride bikes, and maintain a certain weight, because they want to.

What are your thoughts on these comments? Do you agree that there are people out there looking for a program or group that will help them overcome their hesitations or fears, or do you think that we should be leaving well-enough alone and letting people decide for themselves what they should do? Would a program or group which focuses on the overweight and obese serve to help that community or harm it?

I guess my reasoning for exploring this aspect a little further is this: I feel that if a program or group would be benificial for the community than something should happen in that direction right away. There's no time like the present. However, I would like to fully consider what is the best way to reach out to the larger-bodied community, and if a program or group isn't the answer, than we should be working to find out what is.

Please continue to share your thoughts. I am very greatful to those of you who already have. If anyone is interested in continuing this discusion one-on-one, feel free to contact me at the email shown on the right-hand sidebar as well.

Deacon Amos


  1. I think an important aspect that has not been mentioned specifically is the mental and social aspect of the obese.

    Many of us who are ever weight or obese can find ourselves somewhat isolated socially. This can be the result of depression which often accompanies being obese or simply a desire to isolate one's self due to being so large. The fact is, not seeing many large cyclists at your event might not even be because it was a cycling event at all. It could well be that even if it was just an out door concert the ratio might well have been low as well.

    An exploration of the reasons an obese or seriously overweight person turns to cycling would be beneficial. For some it comes as an act of internal desperation after many failed attempts at losing weight, or after hearing very troubling medical news. Others may simply reach a point where enough is enough and dedicatge themselves to making a change for the better.

    One thing that is common is that is a moment of realization that the current form of ones self is not sustainable or desireable. Whether openly admitted or not, this requires some sort of dissatifaction with who, or what, we currenly perceive ourselves to be, and a desire to change.

    Most obese or overwight beginning cyclists will usually ride alone. Part of it because the fitness level in the beginning is not going to allow a sustained 15 mph for 30 miles. The reality is that a 5 mile ride that takes 30 minutes and ends with total exhaustion is not uncomon. The other reason for riding alone goes with the self imposed social isolation due to being overweight or obese.

    In my opinion, reaching out to overweight, or obese, people in an effort to introduce them to cycling is a different effort than reaching out to someone who has already taken the plunge and decided to make a change.

    To reach out to the overweight and obese with cycling would be a two pronged effort. One, they need to find a form of social acceptance and a comfort zone. The definition of success needs to be amended to recognize that any and every effort is a positive. A two block ride with 10 rest stops for a person who is near or over 300 lbs is no less an accomplishment than aomeones first Century.

    Sincerity is the key. This is someone who is choosing life as much as choosing to ride a bike. Done properly, that person will be a cyclist who happens to be losing weight in no short order of time.

  2. I'm not your target audience because I'm an obese guys who already rides a bike and have been doing so for many years. I average a little over 5,000 miles a year, much of it towing a child in a trailer. At under 5'8" I tip the scales at around 260.

    My becoming a cyclist had nothing to do with wanting to lose weight although when I am in weight loss mode I do use my bicycle as one of the tools.

    Most of my cycling is done solo, not because I isolate, but because almost all rides are geared to paces and levels of difficulty that aren't designed for obese riders. Even the "easy rider" rides are far too intensive for most people who carry extra weight and the policy of "no rider left behind" actually works at a disadvantage to overweight riders rather than as an advantage.

    Obese people not being part of the cycling community is no different than them not being part of any community in general and is due to their desire to not be around people who pass judgement on them. Why would I spend time around people who tell me I'm fat because I want to be? I don't find cyclists to be any more tolerant of diversity than the general public.


  3. Hi Deacon (ironically I just blogged about another guy named Deacon not to long ago).

    I can't agree with The Historian's view because I gained 30 pounds after becoming disabled. I got into biking because it's a helluva a lot of fun, and it just makes sense as far as daily transportation is concerned.

    Any adult looking at getting into biking is going to have a lot of questions. For an obese person they're going to have even more, and there's a whole set of social concerns an obese person might have in this situation that others wouldn't.

    I think the best thing you can do is provide an atmosphere that is comfortable and encourages biking, but that meets the needs of new and obese bikers. Have some short fun rides around town that ties into a local event, that sort of thing. Let them know everyone is welcome, and that they don't need a Specialized Sequoia to enjoy the ride. There's a lot of bike envy and materialism at, even in the Clydesdales/Athenas threads.

  4. One program I haven't seen mentioned yet, but seems like a good way for new bicyclists (obese or not) to start is through a "bike buddy" or "commute buddy" match. A more experience cyclist from the same general neighborhood is matched with someone who wants to be shown the ropes and maybe shown a safe commuting route. SE Uplift had a program like that, but I don't know if it's still operating...

  5. Bikes are designed by 130lb former pro bikers. The materials are bought by someone who has never riden a bike in his life and thinks it's a toy for children. They're built by 90lb Chinese women and sold by people who look just like the 130lb designer. There's nobody in that loop that even understands what the bike has to withstand when a heavy person like me gets on it (I was 325lbs when I started and 250 now).

    So here's the truth:
    If you're heavy, you need a heavy-duty bike and you're going to pay for that. It isn't fair but that's how it is. Here's the list:

    1) Your rear wheel needs to be double-walled and it has to have at least 36 spokes (32 is standard, get a tandem wheel if you can).

    2) Your tires need to be strong enough to withstand at least 120 PSI or you'll bottom them out on a bump and pinch the tube (which pops it).

    3) You will wear out break pads fast, be prepared to replace them. If you find yourself adjusting your breaks more than once a week, get better breaks.

    4) Any time you hear a click, groan or creak out of any part of your bike is a BIG DEAL, do not ignore it the way your skinny friends do. If you ride with a groan/creak from your pedals, you're putting forces on your bottom-bracket (the device at the bottom of the frame the cranks hook to) that it wasn't designed to withstand. Over time those ball-berrings will become oval-shaped which will ultimately ovalize your bottom bracket and this totals the bike.