08 June 2011

Advice from Brian May

If you're of my generation--or a Queen fan (Come on, admit it, you loved Night At The Opera!)--you surely remember the Brian May song Fat Bottomed Girls.

Even though the song was recorded more than 30 years ago, it remains one of the few to celebrate those of us who aren't built like fashion models.

If you remember the song, good for you. If not, listen to it. And note that line: GET ON YOUR BIKES AND RIDE!

Would that Brian May weren't the only one giving that advice. I did find this entry on Women's Cycling.ca encouraging us to do just that. (The photo came from that site.) However, I find that as the cycling industry is taking more of its cues from the mass media, the cyclists portrayed in advertising, videos and films about cycling, seem to be more and more like those you see in ads for gyms and J.Crew.

And some bike shops perpetrate the bias against avoirdupois. One day, in the last shop in which I worked, a woman who was (at least by most standards I'm familiar with) at least seventy-five pounds "overweight" came in. She had been very athletic all through college, she said, but the detours of her life had taken her away from exercise and good eating habits. Plus, after a surgery she needed following an auto accident, her doctor prescribed a medicine with steroids in it, which put additional weight on her.

She wanted to get back in shape, but because of knee and other injuries, her doctor (who cycled and played tennis, if I recall correctly), advised her not to run or play basketball. Rather, he recommended cycling--an activity she once enjoyed--because it would put less strain on her damaged joints and ligaments. So, she said, she was looking to buy a bike.

One of the sales people in that shop told her she should come back to the shop after losing weight.

I felt badly for that woman, but I did nothing to help her. I hadn't thought about her in some time, and I've related the story as best as I can remember it.

Did you notice that near the beginning of this post, I wrote, "those of us who aren't built like fashion models." Yes, I include myself. Of course, when I was training as if I were going to enter the Tour de France for 40-and-older riders, I woulnd't have said anything like that about myself. Granted, I was trimmer and had more strength. But almost no one has the same sort of body in middle age as he or she had when young. (Trust me: I know that as well as anybody can!) Sometimes it has to do with life taking the turns I've mentioned; it also has to do with the way our bodies age. Also, in my case, taking hormones added a few pounds to the ones I was already gaining by other means.

And, let's face it, most people aren't born to be a perfect size four. (I'm talking about dresses, not Euro racing kit! In my prime, I wore a size three.) So why should that bar any of us from cycling? Is there any law that cyclists have to be, as one New Yorker columnist put it, "lycra sausages"?