Cycling has had a big fat problem.
Specifically, it has traditionally not made room for riders in bigger bodies. Just look at the equipment with low weight limits, the cycling kits that stop at a size XL (and those bibs and jerseys are hardly XL-sized), and the messaging that weight loss is “good” and weight gain is “bad” (this author pleads guilty as charged for many years). It was clear: cycling is not really for every body.
Kailey Kornhauser, who graced the cover of Bicycling’s second issue in 2020, and Marley Blonsky are on a mission to change that mindset. The duo is featured in a new Shimano Originals film, All Bodies on Bikes, which is out on March 29.
The film follows Kornhauser and Blonsky on a two-day bikepacking trip along the Corvallis to Coast Trail, a 65-mile route through the lush, picturesque Oregon Coast Range. Along the way, they have thoughtful, often poignant discussions, about society’s obsession with weight, what it was like growing up fat, and issues of disordered eating.
They also have a really good time on the ride, sweeping along flow trails flanked by massive ferns, grinding up steep climbs through tall pines, and sitting fireside when the day is done.
“Bikes are awesome,” Kornhauser told Bicycling. “When I first started riding, I was mad for myself wishing there was a community for me. Then I found Marley, and we made one. Now we want to help others see that they’re not alone, and they can ride a bike wherever they want to go.”
“I get emails all the time from people who tell me, I loved riding, but I stopped after I gained 50 pounds. Now I realize I don’t have to,” Blonsky told Bicycling. “That’s really gratifying.”
Both women are quick to point out that they recognize they are certainly not the first, nor the only fat people to rides bikes—and yes, they use the term “fat” as a non-offensive, neutral descriptor similar to short, tall, or red-haired.
However, in a sport that has long discriminated against bigger bodies, Kornhauser and Blonsky—who write, consult, and present workshops on body size inclusion in the cycling community—are eager to make the activity more welcoming for more riders of all sizes, who may otherwise feel excluded, to get on a bike and ride however and wherever they want.
Resources for riders in bigger bodies can still be hard to come by—people often don’t know that there are weight limits on some equipment or how to find the gear and clothing that will work best for them. So Kornhauser and Blonsky created a website called Life on Two Wheels, where you can find information about classes and events. You can also purchase fun stuff like stickers, tanks, and coffee mugs.
Along with the documentary, the duo also have created an “All Bodies on Bikes Resource and Discussion Guide,” which includes suggested reflection questions, links for additional information, and further reading to accompany the film.
Both acknowledge that discussions around weight and size can be emotional, and that this subject can be challenging to discuss.
“We’ve been called fat as kids. The word has been used as an insult to mean so many things—lazy or ugly—it carries a lot of negative associations that can be really painful for people,” Kornhauser said. “We obviously want people to use the language they’re comfortable with for themselves. But we personally want to take the word back and leave those negative associations behind.”
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