My friend and I sat in the parking lot, eating oatmeal and mentally preparing for the next 10 days. We were halfway through our Alaskan bikepacking trip from Seward to Deadhorse, and the next stretch, along the Dalton Highway—27,976 feet of elevation gain over 500 gravel miles— was notoriously grueling. As we looked over our slightly damp gear, a tour van pulled up nearby. The passengers got off; some took photos of us as the guide loudly proclaimed that not many people successfully bike the Dalton. “In fact,” he said as he looked at me, “I just saw two very athletic men barely finish the ride.” Very athletic, I thought to myself. He means thin.

Here’s the thing: I’m fat. I wear sizes ranging from XL to XXL (18-22). When I first started biking, I worried about finding clothes that fit. I assumed that, as is true with many athletic clothing brands, the sizes available would be too limited. I was pleasantly surprised to find that popular bike clothing brands like Pearl iZumi, De Marchi, and Terry size up to XXL for women's bibs and shorts. Sizing that stops at XXL is still too limiting for many people, but for fat cyclists, that’s not the real issue.

Kailey Kornhauser
Gritchelle Fallesgon

The true problem is with our culture around sport, and our ideas of athleticism. Really, with who gets to move their body because they want to and who has to move their body because they need to fix it.

Cyclists with larger bodies are largely erased from the public image. We don’t see ourselves in promotional materials for bike events, or in advertisements for bicycle manufacturers or clothing companies, or on Instagram feeds.

Kailey Kornhauser
Gritchelle Fallesgon

When we are represented in media around sport, it is with the intent of selling weight loss. But I am not trying to lose weight. I have ridden thousands of miles in this fat body across Iowa, Utah, Oregon, and Alaska. I’ve cycled through remote mountain ranges and dense rainforests. My fat body, and other fat bodies, are biking all over the damn place, joyfully moving in tight spandex.

I am an athlete now, not in some alternative thin body.”

The ramifications of this erasure are real and significant. If fat people are not represented in cycling media, two things happen. Fat people don’t see themselves as cyclists, so they don’t cycle, and the cycling community is incapable of seeing a fat cyclist as a fellow athlete. The result is fewer people on bikes.

Kailey Kornhauser
Gritchelle Fallesgon

The cycling community has an opportunity to change. Bicycling is an accessible way for many people of all sizes to move their bodies if the space is created. What if we began to see images of fat cyclists riding alongside thin friends, or groups of fat people riding together enjoying their bodies just as they are now? What would it look like to include fat cyclists in films about biking or for companies to bring in fat cyclists to create gear that works for their bodies?

3 Shorts That Come in Size XXL
Women’s Pursuit Attack Bib Short
Pearl Izumi Women’s Pursuit Attack Bib Short
$50 at

I like the clip for the straps—it gets them out of the way of my boobs. They have a nice, thick chamois.

Breakaway Short
Terry Breakaway Short

I was worried shorts would cut into my stomach or create a muffin top. But then I tried this pair, and loved them. And so much easier to pee!

Leggero Bib Short
De Marchi Leggero Bib Short

These are an awesome, cheaper option. They are a bit shorter than the Pearl iZumi pair and have a thinner chamois.  

Fat people are doing this work across sports already. Fat hikers have built community and continue to influence brands like REI to provide more clothing sizes. Fat runners are beginning to appear in magazines as experts in their sport. Fat cyclists are writing about their experiences and sharing stories in spaces like the Womxn, Trans, Femme (WTF) Bikexplorers Summit. But a cultural shift requires that all people, not just fat people, accept that our idea of athleticism is flawed.

Kailey Kornhauser
Gritchelle Fallesgon

My fat body began to surprise me the moment I approached biking as a lifestyle. I am an athlete now, not in some alternative thin body.

After the tour guide packed up his van and headed north, another van pulled into the parking lot. This time a female tour guide popped out of the van and excitedly explained to her tourists that we would be biking the very route they were taking to the Arctic Circle. She told us how thrilled she was for us, handed us a sleeve of powdered donuts, and drove away. Upon finishing the donuts, we began the ride north.

No matter what you need to improve in your riding life, find it with Bicycling All Access!