Monthly Archives: May 2018


    Dominic Irvine - Ultra-distance cyclist and FLAB rider

    “You shouldn’t be wearing that kit - you’re not fat enough.” If I had a pound for everytime that comment is made to me. More often than not I hear it from those who’ve sat on my wheel as I’ve pounded out the miles. I wasn’t always a super fit endurance monster. Let me take you back a few years.



    It was the summer of 1999 when I headed out the door and walked to the top of the street I lived in in Ilkley. I was 112kg and about to start my first run in years. I made it to the next lamp post before having to stop and walk. For the next mile I ran between every other lamp post and walked the rest. I repeated the run a few more times before realising I could not lose weight and at the same time get fit. I also felt very self conscious. It was all too much for me. So I decided to focus on weight loss and 4.5 months later I was down to 82.5kg. What no-one ever tells you is losing weight is incredibly hard, often demoralising and requires epic amounts of motivation. You spend your life hungry and being a bit miserable. It’s definitely not as simple as calories in versus energy expended. That’s the sort of nonsense spouted by thin people who’ve never tried to lose a lot of weight. The reward for me came from standing on the scales every day and plotting the overall trend downwards. Once lighter, I started running and it was so much easier. Within a few months I was really starting to enjoy it, I particularly loved off-road running and even entered a few fell races.


    One drunken evening, a neighbour talked me into entering an Ironman triathlon. I hadn’t swum since I was a kid and my bike had a shopping basket on the front for carrying groceries. I rarely rode to the shops a mile or so away, the car was always easier. In the pool, I was out paced by elderly ladies swimming breast stroke and chatting whilst they made their way slowly down the lane. I managed a couple of lengths of thrashing around before being exhausted. My first ‘serious’ bike rides were not much better, I was dropped almost before we’d started the ride. I kept reminding myself that at least I was out having a go and surely that was better than sitting on the couch? What I remember from my first Ironman distance triathlon was the marathon. It was off road. The sun was shining and I was running along eating a packet of crisps listening to a play on Radio 4. I cruised over the finishing line a shade under 11.5 hours and decided if this was sport - I was loving it. 8 Ironman races later my knees called time on running. Incidentally, I got to my lightest weight during my Ironman phase at 79kg and 5% body fat, but at this level I was almost always miserable, ill and cold. I realised I was too light.



    But back to the story. I was always a dreadful swimmer and with running no longer an option I decided to focus on long distance cycling. It was back to being the Fat Lad At The Back - in my first ultra-distance race, I was the last rider to make the cut off taking 30 hours to complete the 525km and 13,500m of ascent. In the final 12 hours of the race I kept vomiting and could only eat an occasional boiled sweet as long as I just sucked on it and didn’t swallow (I had a lot to learn about nutrition and hydration). At about this time, a casual comment in a conversation led to what was become a 5 year obsession with the Lands End to John O’Groats tandem bike record. It had stood for decades at 50 hours 14 minutes and 25 seconds. The record had withstood attempts from Olympians and National cycling champions. It felt as crazy as doing an Ironman as a first triathlon. Once again I was back to novice status this time learning to ride a tandem. It was about this time I came across FLAB. I totally related to the brand. It was about getting up and getting out there - not taking yourself too seriously but at the same time not being afraid to give it a go. It was this spirit that kept me going through the two failed attempts on the record. Finally, at the age of 47, in 2015 along with my riding partner we set a new tandem world record of 45 hours and 11 minutes for the 842 miles that is LEJOG (this stands to this day). Building on the back of this fitness led to a win and a 3rd place in a couple of European Ultra Distance races.


    The learning curve from running between lamp posts to standing on a podium in Italy had been huge and so it made sense to commit these lessons to paper. So I wrote a book co-authored with Professor Simon Jobson, who coached us to break the LEJOG record. These days I’m lucky enough to have one of the best cycling coaches and a world class levels of fitness. I work with a nutritionist, a psychologist and my race bikes are custom made to deliver the riding characteristics I want. But once again I am the Fat Lad At The Back. Now I’ve shifted to ultra distance off-road. My next race is 2750 miles. It’s highly improbable I will win, unlikely I will finish (most riders don’t) but in the true spirit of FLAB, I’m giving it a go. I’m still no weight weenie at 84kg and 9% body fat, and I get my butt kicked on long climbs, but who cares - the important thing is getting out there and enjoying your cycling.


    What I have learnt is that FLAB is an attitude, it’s a mindset, it’s not a specific weight or body mass. It’s a philosophy that recognises ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they set their mind to it. I wear my kit with pride.

    You can read Dom's book on ultra distance cycling here.


  • Cyc-ology - The science behind why cycling enhances mood


    Anybody who regularly spends time in the saddle will know that a few miles on your bike always lifts your mood and makes you feel better (errant drivers aside) – but why?  Well research has shown that not only is cycling freaking awesome but can also improve memory, reasoning and planning as well as providing a huge boost to your mental health.

    A cerebral work out

    Did you know that cycling can grow your brain just like weight lifting can grow your muscles? Cycling increases blood flow to your brain which in turn builds more capillaries and ultimately supplies more nutrients, blood and oxygen to your noggin that can improve its performance.  Sudoku anyone?

    Cycling also makes your body produce more proteins, which you use to create new brain cells.  Regular pedalling can double or even triple new cell production in the brain.  If that wasn’t enough, regular jaunts on your wheels of steel increases neurotransmitter activity which improves cognitive abilities.  The Times crossword will be easy peasy lemon squeezy after a cheeky cycle!


    Fighting aging

    The plethora of benefits you get from cycling are even more profound for those of us who are no longer spring chickens.  The science stuff we’ve talked about can counteract the natural decline of brain function as we age.  We can’t promise you’ll no longer walk into a room and have no idea why you’re there but scientists did compare the brains of adults in their 60’s and 70’s and found that the brains of those who exercise regularly appeared younger than those who don’t. 


    You must have been living under a rock if you’ve not heard of this ‘mindfullness’ malarkey – but what does it actually mean?  Well it’s about taking time out and focussing on the here and now – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you.  Well cycling is the ultimate ‘mindfulness’ activity, concentrating on the here and now (and that lorry that just passed by too closely) and appreciating the scenery. 

    The pressures of modern life

    Here at Fat Lad at the Back, we’re more than aware that the pressures of modern life can build up to a point where you hit a wall, our very own ‘Fat Lad’ Richard Bye has struggled with exhaustion and anxiety and has found that cycling has helped him more than anything else. He said:“I hit the wall back in 2009  after years of working 16 hour days and international travel.  Cycling has definitely helped me recover and continues to be a vital contribution to my physical and mental well being.”
    We also have hundreds of people in our community of who testified to the effectiveness of cycling in helping them fight depression and other mental health difficulties.

    Picture by Simon Wilkinson/ - 20/042016 - Cycling. Richard Bye Ilkley West Yorkshire - founder of closing brand Fat Lad at the Back copyright picture - Simon Wilkinson - Picture by Simon Wilkinson/ - 20/042016 - Cycling. Richard Bye Ilkley West Yorkshire - co founder of clothing brand Fat Lad at the Back
    copyright picture - Simon Wilkinson -




  • Sportive and Group riding etiquette


    We’ve ordered the weather but things change around here from one hour to the next, our advice is, pack everything!


    Faffing about is an essential part of cycling, but please build in enough time to ensure that you can faff to your hearts content and still be on the start line ten minutes before set off time.

    Picture by Allan McKenzie/ - 07/05/2017 - Commercial - Cycling - Cycling - Fat Lad at The Back Yorkshire Sportive - Ilkley, England - Cycling, Leisure.


    We’re looking forward to lots of you riding with our Ride Marshalls. Some of you will be less experienced at group riding and we wanted to offer some guidance to ensure the safety of you and your fellow riders.


    Your Ride Marshall will also repeat this on the day, but there’s a lot to remember:


    SPEAK UP!:

    Communication is vital in a group and especially on these roads which are often busy with other cyclists and vehicles.

    Your view is restricted by other bikes and you must communicate to ensure everyone remains safe and there are no pile ups!

    Here are some common commands which we regularly use on ur rides. PLEASE listen out for these and shout out and pass onto your group:

    STOPPING– vital to call when coming to a stop. If you don’t there’ll be a pile up and split tyres

    SLOWING– If you’re breaking heavily, tell people!

    Picture by Allan McKenzie/ - 07/05/2017 - Commercial - Cycling - Cycling - Fat Lad at The Back Yorkshire Sportive - Ilkley, England - Cycling, Leisure.



    CLEAR– it is OK to pull out at a junction

    CAR UP (This is subject to regional variations but what we use in Yorkshire)

    – a car is coming from the front towards the pack

    CAR BACK- a car coming from behind

    LINE OUT– some riders prefer to stay 2 abreast when a car is trying to pass – on these roads we don’t think that works – lining out at least lets drivers know that you are trying to make room and perception makes a big difference to the way drivers will respond to you

    Picture by Allan McKenzie/ - 07/05/2017 - Commercial - Cycling - Cycling - Fat Lad at The Back Yorkshire Sportive - Ilkley, England - Cycling, Leisure.

    HOLE LEFT– hole/obstruction on the left hand side of the carriageway. If riding 2 abreast, outside riders are aware the inside riders will be moving out and to give room if safe to do so
    HOLE RIGHT– as above but on the right

    HOLE MIDDLE– bet you already guessed this one?! Riders will split around the hole

    GRAVEL– there are LOTS of gravel spots on the routes, shout to warn your fellow riders with an indication of where the gravel is (middle, all over, left etc)


    When you stand up out of the saddle, your bike immediately loses speed – this will cause people immediately behind you to either crash or swerve. Think about who’s around you as you cycle!

    When you need to raise out of the saddle, do so on your full downward pedal stroke and push hard as you do – this should maintain your speed whilst rising you out of the saddle.


    Never ride more than 2 abreast


    We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, when a car is behind you please LINE OUT – you might not normally, but please do on this sportive and create space where needed so cars can get through


    Groups will generally ride at the pace of the slowest. If you are struggling and feel that you are too slow, then let your Ride Marshall know that you will be dropping off the back and you will be picked up by the group behind, and ultimately by the sweeper if needed. (It’s not a real sweeper, it’s a man or woman on a bike!)

    If you feel that you are stronger and could go faster than the group, then just let your Ride Marshall know that you’ll be going off on your own!

    Try to have a turn on the front as well as sitting in the pack


    Our Ride Marshall's have a small yellow hi viz badge on their helmets identifying them by name or by the word Ride Marshall's  so they are easy to find. Whether you are in a group or not, if you have any problems at all, then just let one of them or one of our Marshals know.


    Helmets must be worn


    Bring spare inner tubes, water, basic repair kit and snacks just in case you get peckish between feed stops.

    Wear appropriate footwear and clothing for our glorious UK weather conditions.


    It’s going to be a fun day and a great way to meet other FLAB’s and having a nice social ride at a pace that suits you. Enjoy!

    We’re used to daft questions so ask away

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