Fat Lad At The Back


    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.



  • FLAB Social ride locations 2018

    FLAB cog black


    All social rides are listed on the https://www.letsride.co.uk/social website. Please note these are social rides,  not led rides. All participants must book a place via the website and read the T&C'S of taking part in a ride social available here https://www.letsride.co.uk/terms 

    County Town Names Social Link
    Berkshire Lower Earley, Reading Neil Warwick FLAB Social rides Berkshire
    Cheshire Congleton Wendy Bibby FLAB Social rides Cheshire
    Derbyshire Swadlincote & Ilkleston Will Fisher & Steve Wadey FLAB Social rides Derbyshire
    Greater Manchester Bury Lucia Cronin FLAB Social rides Manchester
    Hampshire Sherfield-on-Loddon James Morrison FLAB Social rides Hampshire
    Lancashire Morecambe Craig Townson FLAB Social rides Lancashire
    Preston Bill & Lou Shaw FLAB Social rides Preston
    Leicestershire Loughborough Emma Dickson FLAB Social rides Loughborough
    London (South East) Forest Hill Dean Nicolson & Charlotte Levitan FLAB Social rides SE London
    Merseyside Crosby, Liverpool Louise Collins FLAB Social rides Liverpool
    Middlesex Hayes David Gable FLAB Social rides Middlesex
    Norfolk Attleborough Dave Bickel FLAB Social rides South Norfolk
    Great Yarmouth Jamie Roberston FLAB Social rides Norfolk
    Nottinghamshire Hucknall & Newark Theresa Peacock & Andrew Saxby FLAB Social rides Newark / Nottingham
    Somerset Pill, Bristol Ian Hall FLAB Social rides Bristol
    Suffolk Levington David Shutt FLAB Social rides Suffolk
    Surrey Horley Adrienne Horne FLAB Social rides Surrey
    West Sussex Chichester Karen Wheeler FLAB Social rides West Sussex
    Wiltshire Swindon & Stevenson Rob Woods & Rafe Aldridge FLAB Social rides Swindon
    Yorkshire Ilkley Bella Duckworth & Emma Booth FLAB Social rides Ilkley
    Harrogate Dave Marson FLAB Social rides Harrogate
    Scotland Angus & Fife Kirsty Billin FLAB Social rides Angus & Fife
  • Why The Sufferfest?

    This month at Fat Lad At The Back we’ve been working in partnership with innovative cycling training app provider The Sufferfest. After all, it’s the start of a new year and we always need some reason and incentive to get on our bikes.

    Why The Sufferfest?  Well, we think there are many similarities between the brands. It’s easy to think that The Sufferfest is just for crazy fit people, and that Fat Lad At The Back only for ‘fat’ people. Both stereotypes are very wrong.

    As the community perfectly demonstrate, it doesn’t matter if you’re a 36” or a 58” chest, we are a people’s brand which anyone can be part of.

    IMG_5097 Liz Johns is a Dame of Sufferlandria and also flies the FLAB flag!  "What does being a Dame of Sufferlandria mean?"  For me, being a Dame - the very first one, too - means I am part of a group of amazing people who have all achieved something incredible. I found The Sufferfest at the start of my cycling journey, and it turned me into "a cyclist". Sufferlandrian Knighthood was the hardest thing I have ever done, physically and psychologically, but it also taught me that I can achieve more than I ever thought possible.

    The Sufferfest isn’t about being an elite cyclist because everyone suffers regardless of your base level of fitness.  The Chief Sufferlandrians want to encourage anyone and everyone to use cycling as a way to achieve their goals and this is exactly what FLAB is about.

    Cycling can be a very intimidating sport for anyone to get into, especially for larger people as there is a certain ‘image’ of being slim that cyclists are supposed to conform to. The Sufferfest gives you the opportunity to get on your bike in the comfort of your own kitchen.

    Some of our own are ‘fair weathered’ cyclists, so turbos are a good way of keeping your fitness going in the darker months and because it’s constant effort, a 45 minute turbo ride could be seen as equivalent to a 90 minute road ride simply because there are no downhills or freewheeling. With this in mind, the deal allows you to get two months’ free access for new subscribers to the motivational The Sufferfest app, if you make any purchase from FLAB before the end of January.

    Within The Sufferfest there are people of all shapes and sizes. It makes sense to provide those Turbo warriors with kit options for optimal performance and comfort.

    David, Chief Sufferlandrian, told us:

    “We at The Sufferfest really like what you all are doing for those who don't fit the traditional cyclist mould. The future of the sport depends upon greater inclusivity and breaking down those barriers to entry.

    “Sufferlandria has always been a place that welcomes everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are, we just want you to Suffer and push yourself to new achievements… and we also have lots of Sufferlandrians who are big, powerful units!”

    There are big, powerful “units” in both communities. Of course, FLAB wearers already benefit from the comfort, fit and performance of the FLAB clothing and we wanted to help spread that word across Sufferlandria!

    We’re always so thrilled and motivated when we hear stories of our own members of The Bulge whose lives have been transformed by discovering cycling and improving their physical and mental health and wellbeing, not to mention making new friends and tackling new challenges.

    Perhaps The Sufferfest is another new challenge that might interest you. Richard’s got his own The Sufferfest plans, between the 4th and the 12th of February he will be taking part in the 2017 Tour of Sufferlandria, this is about doing 9 days of Sufferfest videos in a row. There’s still time to join him if you want to suffer together.

    We’ll leave the last word to Dylan Robbins, Head of Marketing for The Sufferfest:

    “One of the things that makes The Sufferfest special is the sense of community it creates. We’re constantly amazed by the stories of personal transformation and overcoming obstacles we hear from the community of Sufferlandrians, and are excited to share those stories with a wider audience.”

    As we are, FLAB followers. As we are.


  • Still stuck for Christmas inspiration? Here are some last minute gift suggestions! - For the Lad in your life.

    Cycling Inspired Christmas Shopping for the Lad in your life.

    No Excuse All Weather Jacket:

    Want to keep your lad in the saddle whatever the weather?  Lads Gaffer Cycling jacket is packed full of features and provides an Insulated, wind and waterproof layer yet it’s fully breathable, lightweight and has stretch to ensure a comfortable ride.


    How about a personalised memento of a special cycling achievement? These bespoke replica miniature mile markers and mug by Summit Finish are perfect and they’re made in Yorkshire!

     Sitting Comfortably:

    Good trousers are arguably the most important bit of cycling kit for a Lad and a top quality pad is essential. Stealth anatomical reflective cycling bibs are made from super soft fabric and have a high density ENERDRY foam pad so they are outstandingly comfortable.

     Keep It Together:

    The Cycling kit bag from KITBRIX is great for a Lad that travels to events and likes to keep all his FLAB kit together

    Hi Vis:

    A new take on high vis this innovative graduated jersey will make him stand out without looking like a giant Orange! High vis Beacon Jacksey

     For The Lad Who Has Everything:

    Every pair of these fine silver Fat Lad Logo cufflinks is unique as they are individually handmade by a local Ilkley Silversmith

     Get A Head-Set:

    How about designing a custom headset cap with a motivational quote to keep those legs pedalling when the going gets tough KAPZ custom headset cap

     Cold Feet:

    Winterproof his feet with these Northwave Winter cycling boots. Not only will they keep his tootsies cosy, they remove all the faff of trying to get your overshoes on top of your cycling shoes


    Not sure what size to get? Always get it right with a FLAB Gift Voucher

     Join the RIDE:

    A years British cycling “RIDE” Membership provides many benefits including Liability insurance for commuter, sportive and leisure cyclists British Cycling Membership

    Clock Watching:

    Help him count down the hours until his next bike ride with this Bicycle wheel clock

    Say It How It Is:

    Just in case anyone needs reminding this fab Bicycle print get’s right to the point.


    Making household objects out of bits of bike is all the rage and this ? bike wheel ceiling light creates an interesting ceiling effect.

    Money Money Money:

    Is your lad dreaming of a trip to France to watch a stage of the Tour? Or cycling through vineyards in the South of France? This adventure French trip money pot is a great way to start saving for a Tour de France adventure.

     Join Us And Be Proud:

    This is not just a T-shirt…it’s a FLAB T-shirt

     Close Shave:

    A nice little travel set for the French trip! Le Bicycle shaving kit

     Keep His Cockles Warm:

    Fill this Bicycle hip flask hip flask with your Lads favourite tipple to help warm the cockles…

     The Dogs ….

    Certainly a gift for a Lad with a sense of humour, this bright red light will bob along as he cycles and might even make a motorist smile  Bike balls lights

     It’s a Doo Dah/whatd’y’m’callit/thingy’m’bob:

    Keep those chills away with this practical Camo neck doo dah

     To The Shed:

    Does your Lad like to tinker with his bike? or maybe he’s thinking of doing his own bike maintenance?  Road bike maintenance book

    Get Dapper:

    Keep your Lad looking dapper even when he’s not on his bike with this Pure Silk Cycle Print Tie

    Fancy A Challenge?

    Getting something in the diary to motivate/scare you into is cycling throughout the Winter months is always a good idea and what better reason than the FLAB Up North Yorkshire Sportive entry Not only is it a great route through Yorkshire with epic feed stops but it’s also ‘the friendliest Sportive around’.

  • Still stuck for Christmas inspiration? Here are some last minute gift suggestions! - For the Lass in your life.

    Cycling Inspired Christmas Shopping for the Lass in your life.

    Stand Out From The Crowd:

    Our best selling In The Pink long sleeve reflective jersey offers high visibility, without looking like a high vis waistcoat. The outstandingly flattering jersey design and graduated body attracts the eye upwards, away from the lower torso and towards the head, neck and shoulders. It works equally well on all shapes and sizes.

    Important Places:

    This lovely chamois cream  is formulated just for Lasses and helps prevent skin irritation in the ahem..delicate area. It also comes recommended by one of our Flambassadors who has ridden thousands of miles with it and swears by it.

    Flower Power:

    Pretty and practical the Na' then Flower neck warmer helps to keep out the chill in style.

     Stay In Touch:

    This handy portable charger fits easily into a pocket and will recharge her smartphone when She’s on the go especially if your lass uses a power draining phone app to record her ride Pebble smartstick Charger

     Sitting Comfortably:

    Good trousers are arguably the most important bit of Cycling kit and a Female specific garment pad is essential for a comfy ride. Made from super soft lightweight  fabric that’s breathable and thermal they are outstandingly comfortable because of their high waist construction  Lasses reflective  Thermal Cycling tights


    Not sure what size to get? Always get it right with a FLAB Gift Voucher

    No Excuse All Weather Jacket:

    Want to keep your lass in the saddle whatever the weather? Our classic jacket has been debranded, it’s a lightweight thermal Winter Jacket made from the latest innovative fabric that provides an insulated, wind and waterproof layer yet is fully breathable. Lasses purple blue gaffer cycling Jacket

    All That Glitters:

    For the lass who’s cycling mad, what about some cycling themed jewellery

    Sweet Dreams:

    This Bicycle duvet cover is sure to induce lovely cycling dreams.

     Light me up:

    This funky metal bicycle lamp adds a quirky touch to a side table and we are reliably informed that the photos doesn’t do it justice!

    Walk All Over it:

    Where else would she be? This gone riding door mat says it all.

    Sup Up:

    Perfect for a post ride drink and she’ll be well happy if you promise to do the washing up? Bicycle mug and tea towel set

    Wet Wet Wet:

    Perfect for watching the kids play football, the FLAB Umbrella

    Fancy A Challenge?

    Getting something in the diary to motivate/scare you into is cycling throughout the Winter months is always a good idea and what better reason than the FLAB Up North Yorkshire Sportive entry Not only is it a great route through Yorkshire with epic feed stops but it’s also ‘the friendliest Sportive around’.

    Hankie Panky:

    Even nose blowing can be cycling themed with this  bicycle hankie

    Post Ride Pamper:

    http://www.purpleharry.co.uk/shop/muscle-cooling-gel/ This lovely cooling gel contains peppermint and menthol with the moisturising and soothing properties of Aloe Vera. Massage into tired muscles post exercise and relax!

  • There Is Always A Hill To Be Climbed!

    After seeing Keith's before and after pictures on our Facebook page, we were intrigued to know more about his journey from a 24 stone lad to a 15 stone Fat Lad!
    "I have to say I have been a bit overwhelmed by the positive response i've had on Facebook.
    I only wanted really to say thank you to Fat Lad Richard and the Team for creating a brand that the fat lads stuck at the back on a club ride, had an identity, had a voice, and had something they could wear with pride, and like me are proud to be part of the team!
    My story started when I turned 40, (I work as an Artworker, and so was stuck in front of a mac all day.  I worked too much, and never exercised at all, i had gradually got bigger, and bigger, i never really saw it though, until Christmas 2011, when i went to get Jeans and i was a 44 waist.
    I was depressed, looking in the mirror in the changing room... i was round, my shirt was tight and it was XXXL.
    I Decided that this wasn't the life I wanted.
    A work mate (who is ultra fit) suggested that him and i go swimming (i always loved swimming as i had canoed in my youth, and loved water)we would go twice a week before work (tuesday's and thursday's).
    I can remember that first time at the pool, i was very self conscious about how i looked, but Dave was brilliant, and told me just to get on with it, I swam 20 lengths, breaststroke, I was knackered! But once in the pool, no one even noticed how i looked, by the end of January 2012, I joined the Penicuik centre, I had increased my swimming from 20 lengths to 40, and was also swimming after work on a monday and Friday.
    Our publishing Manager Fiona suggested that i did the swimathon ad it would give me a purpose and something to aim for. It was 2.5km, (100 lengths) and was in March 2012, I had to push myself, and increased my distance 10 lengths a week. I got sponsored by everyone at work, so there was no backing out! I swam the 100 in 1hr 30mins.
    As a reward I decided to learn front crawl, and got lessons (yes I was forty, and was learning to swim again!). I swam regularly for 12 months... I met other like minded people at the pool, who suggested that I go to the gym, my membership covered access and an induction to the gym.
    I was back at square one, I was out of my comfort zone. I googled gyms and saw on youtube, men and women with beautifully defined bodies... in reality, Penicuik centre wasn't like that, it was full of people like me!
    The Personal Trainers worked out a program for me, to help me build strength and loose weight! I added going to the gym 3 times a week as well as my regular swimming, and continued for another year.
    Some of my swimming friends, suggested that I cross train and try spin classes, as it would be a great way to loose lots of weight. I could burn 800 calories a session! I had no idea about spin, I thought it was to do with wool!!
    I went along anyway... wow that was hard there were hills, sprints and jumps on a stationary bike, all meshed together with pumping music, and an instructor shouting instructions, it was intense, but even though I was melting, it was great fun, so went back increasing it to 3 times a week!
    The only problem was, sore feet using my trainers, so I bought some cycling shoes, and spd cleats and the spin bikes took spd's, wow sore feet were gone. By Christmas I was still exercising 6 days a week. (I got my first cycling top: Fat Lad at The Back in Navy Blue) I also bought bib shorts as my shorts kept falling down! I was a cyclist! Lol although i never actually cycled.
    One of the spin class mates suggested, that I should try cycling, and gave me some advice on a bike and what to look for, and how much to spend, so on May 2014, I ordered my first bike (Specialized Allez Sport) I also bought SPD pedals, I had been using them in Spin, so I thought it will be no problem!
    How wrong I was: 2 things happened first on the day the bike arrived. I was over keen to get set up, and so failed to tighten the cleats on the shoes properly, so while I was in the house I clipped in, but couldn't clip out, couldn't reach my phone, so effectively was stuck... luckily I hadn't tightened the pedals to crankshaft so just bent down and un did the pedals!
    Then I went out, on my first ride, having never clipped in on a bike that wasnt bolted to the floor... and ended up in a wall!
    I stuck with it, though and after a couple of months I was cycling 25km on a quiet single track road, with my partner as team support in the car following me!
    My friends at spin suggested I join them for a group ride, so I met up with them one Thursday night and did 30km! Not on quiet roads though but on main roads.. that was me, on normal roads, I gradually increased the distance over the coming months, 40, 60, 80, 100km!
    This year I joined Peebles Cycling Club, and took part in a time trial. I'm not the fastest, but what I love about TT, is its a race against myself! So here I am pushing further, climbing higher, always pushing!
    This is my life now, I cant ever go back, I need to climb the next hill! There is always a hill to be climbed!"
  • Shine A Light - FLambassador Ade has some useful tips on lighting

    ade bio

    Now the clocks have gone back and the evenings are drawing in you may have thought about getting some lights to keep you riding throughout the winter months. There is a huge amount on offer and if you're new to cycling it can be a bit overwhelming knowing where to start.

    Without going into huge technical detail there are basically two types of lights, those that help you to be seen and be more visible to other road users and those that will light up the road ahead ensuring you can see any obstacles like the dreaded potholes. Lights have "lumens" which means how bright it is to the human eye the higher the lumen the brighter the light. Lights are usually powered by batteries or are rechargeable via a USB port which is great if you're commuting as you can charge them via your computer while you're at work.

    So for urban well lit areas a lower end lumen light that makes sure you are visible to other road users but doesn't need to light up the road in front of you is perfect. These usually have several flashing modes and several can be put on the bike to ensure that you are seen from all angles and at junctions etc I personally like to have a couple of lights on the front and rear especially when commuting early on dark winter mornings prices range from £10 upwards this is a great little budget set from http://www.cateye.com/en/products/detail/HL-EL135/


    If you like to do some serious off roading or need a strong light for a fast road night ride in the lanes then you will need a serious set of lights with high lumens, these lights aren't cheap and the higher the lumen the higher the price tag this is a great 1100 lumen http://www.lezyne.com/product-led-perf-power1100xl.php#.WBthxldOVHg Product-led-powerxl-y10-1

    but if you need something more powerful and want to invest in a great light this 3400 lumen would be perfect for those night MTB rides http://www.exposurelights.com/cycle-lights/front-lights/exposure-six-pack-mk7




  • Get Pickled!

    When it comes to being healthy, the hardest part is eating healthy and making something that actually tastes nice!

    Not only can healthy eating be boring but it’s also expensive and you always find that the vegetables and salads you buy end up getting thrown away because they’ve gone out of date by the time you’ve come to using them, but there is a solution!

    Pickled veggies are simple to make, delicious to eat, will liven up all sorts of dishes, are fat free and pickling makes food that usually lasts only 3 or 4 days, last –up to a few months!. It brings a whole new level of scrumptiousness to a boring vegetable, and you can add extra flavours too such as garlic, chilli flakes, coriander seeds etc. You can buy frozen bags of vegetables, which are picked in their prime, for around £1.00 from most supermakerts and get enough to fill a few containters. To make a simple but effective pickling liquor just

    • 500ml water
    • 250ml white wine vinegarImage-1
    • 125ml sugar

    Into a sauce pan and bring to the boil.

    Grab a sealable container and but your frozen vegetables inside, then pour over the hot pickling liquor and close the container. That’s it! That’s all the hard work done!

    All you need to do is leave it overnight and it’s ready.

    They’re really great to have in a salad with steak, chicken or prawns, even better if you replace the
    salad for noodles. You can even cut the vegetables into little matchstick like shapes and have them on their own as a snack!

    Here’s a recipe a idea that you can try out at home!



    • 250g lean flank steak or chicken
    • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds (optional)
    • 250g medium noodles
    • 3 teaspoons of olive oil
    • 1 red or white onion
    • 2 cloves of garlic
    • small piece of fresh ginger
    • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 1 lime
    • 1 fresh red chilli

    For this recipe we're going to use Steak. Slice the steaks into finger-sized strips and season with salt and pepper. With the coriander seeds pound them in a pestle and mortar, or bash with the bottom of a sauce pan, until fine. Sprinkle over the steak so they stick to it and give it a lovely, fragrant flavour (remember this is optional).

    Drop the noodles into a pan of boiling salted water and cook until just tender. Drain and return to the pan. Cover to keep warm. Peel and finely slice the onion, garlic and ginger. Heat up and large frying pan, or a wok, and pour in the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and cook until the onions have softened slightly. Add the seasoned steaks to the pan and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Chuck in the pickled vegetable and cook for a further 2 mminutes. Pour in the soy sauce and toss in the pan until everything is well coated, then serve with the noodles. Cut the lime and squeeze over, and finely slice the chilli and sprinkle over the top.

    Nutritional guidelines Per 340grams of pickled vegetable.

    Calories 42
    Fat 0.26
    Carbs 9.27
    Protien 1.68

  • The Down South Sportive by Fat Lad In Charge Richard Bye

    Down South Sportive Fat Lad At The Back 18

    I had a great day in Leighton Buzzard on Saturday 3rd September, putting the finish touches to our October event, the Down South Sportive. The day started well in our B&B with a smashing breakfast of Eggs Benedict Fat Lad Style - with an extra sausage!IMG_8545 2

    Although I’d never cycled in the area before, I had heard lots of good things about it from our Flambassador Big Al Little, who used to live down there, so I was looking forward to it.

    The routes have been planned by our event organisers Event Cycling and 3 of their team accompanied me on the ride.

    FullSizeRender 10

    Compared to what I am used to, the terrain is fairly gentle but the countryside is none the less beautiful and as we climbed out of the flat lowlands and up the gradual ascents towards the top of the Beacon, the scenery below expanded like a giant mosaic basin, with multi shades of gold and green.

    Bison Hill is renown in the local area and it’s certainly a hill, but nothing much to worry about as it rises upwards, quite steep in places but over in a relatively short distance. Not long after Bison Hill we arrived at Flamsted, which as well as having 3 great looking pubs, also has it's own high street defibrillator.

    FullSizeRender 12

    A fair amount of the route is on single track, traffic free roads, which wind through ancient woodlands and in many places the trees have grown up and over both sides of the road and form a canopy of green over your head.

    Down South Fat Lad At The Back Sportive 9

    There are numerous quaint little villages on the way with their quirky brick houses and ancient white washed cottages, country pubs, village shops, greens and cricket grounds and of course tea rooms. My companions had their favourite and we stopped off at the Hub for an orange drizzle deliciousness!


    The locals were a friendly bunch with lots of interest and conversation when we stopped for photos and some lovely fellow cyclists along the way. I have to admit to feeling a little bit of satisfaction as I overtook this fellow in his Sky gear - even if he was on a cross bike. FullSizeRender 11

    Ivanhoe beacon makes a spectacular location for our lunch stop with great views, before the pleasant undulating decent back home for the 25 and 50 milers and for the 75 milers, onwards to the gorgeous village of Aldbury and beyond for a little more!

    Down South Fat Lad At The Back Sportive 1

    This is a very different ride to our Up North Sportive in May, which makes for a great contrast in my opinion, particularly as I think it should appeal to the more novice rider who might have been a bit daunted by our Yorkshire hills. Rather conveniently coinciding with our 3rd birthday this is a nice gentle ride which promises to be a very different but nonetheless cracking event.



    Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_22


    I could have been kinder when selecting Andy's tour name. But you know me now. I was never going to pass up the opportunity to allow my imagination to run riot to name a 6 foot tall and skinny pallid ginger haired freckled Irish man in Italy. I could have added big nosed but in Italy his hooter is de rigueur and the sign of Man.
    Allow me to introduce Carlo Papini the owner of our bicycle shop. What a top bloke. When we arrived at lunchtime to drop off our bikes, he had his wife, children and mother there to greet and thank us for our business. Along with his cleaned out beige Lancia City Car to give us a lift to the airport lest we missed our flight, even though he repeatedly emphasised how I had had his kecks off with the hire price of the bikes and that he was loosing money on the deal (€70 each for 4 days).

    His tourist chart of prices supported his argument: Carbon Road Bike - €50 per day.

    Another reason why G man should buy an iphone, I was able to remind Carlo of the price we agreed in writing only 4 weeks ago. Even then he made a last ditch effort and punched 3 x €80 in to the card machine.
    “Oh No Carlo. Don't let us fall out now, after all we have been through together! You want to see us next year don't you?!”
    He agreed and punched in €210 and we remained friends.



    Tbf we had been through a lot together in the 4 days. As soon as my Cervelo steed hit the mountains coming in to Castelnuovo de Garfagnana a spoke snapped. G Man’s Parkpre's handlebar tape had come away and we managed to put it back together with the beige surgical tape from the first aid bag we brought. Although this served a purpose it didn't do much for the aesthetics of his bike.
    Lest any readers are disappointed by the fact that we had a first aid kit and that maybe we were actually adult enough to be responsible, don't get too giddy. True to form it was crap and may just have coped if one of us got stung by a nettle, or a wasp.
    Andy had had a wasp in his helmet on our training run the Saturday before we came and it had stung him twice, so we were alive to that particular risk. Gotta say, seeing him flap around frantically slapping his helmet like Rob on an Amsterdam's putana's culo is not the most unfunny sight I have beheld. Yelping in pain. Go back to aforesaid Putana for analogy. So the spoke broke and I emailed Carlo, who drove up the following evening to drop us a new wheel and a roll of bar tape off. A cynic would say he was scared of losing our business on that particular bike. I say he was God.
    We left the broken wheel by the front door of our house. Next to the drying gussets of our cycle shorts from the ride the day before from Pisa. He exclaimed repeatedly how beautiful my father's village is and how it was a pleasure to have driven around the area for an evening. It gives you readers a better picture in your mind's eye of just how beautiful it is, if a Tuscana cyclist compliments your stomping ground. It also reminds Rob and I how lucky we are to have our Martino and his ancestors.


    4. MR LONG:
    When we walked into Carlo’s shop on Wednesday morning he looked at Rob and I and scrunched his nose up and was clearly thinking ‘why have you two shortarses asked for a 56 frame bike!’ Then he saw the traffic cone of G Man's head come into view behind us. Ahhhhh! Mr Long! He exclaimed. Nodding his head at us and understanding everything. MR LONG? GHINGER?


    Since I last checked, somebody must have sneaked in to my bed and shaved an inch off my feet. I would have sworn on everything I hold dear I was 5’ 9” (except my children's health as that is too precious to ever gamble with. You don't believe me then I ain't that bothered to put their lives on the table to persuade you). Last week I had Sylvia in the office measure me for Carlo's bike fitting service. No matter how many times I changed my stance or how many times I told her to change her technique I was definitely 5’8”. For days my confidence took a kick in the goolies. My self esteem recovered however when Rob pointed out a very silver silver lining. My **** to Height ratio was now a less embarassing stat than before. I will take that spoonful of sugar to make that medicine of hard life go down easier.


    We smashed our target cycling stats to pieces, and had nothing more to prove to ourselves, let alone any would be charity giver, hoping we would fail so they didn't have to back up their promise of hard cash. Rob and G Man can always look me straight in the retinas knowing until the last breath leaves my body, that they have my upmost Bro fist-punching-heart-man-hug-respect-love. So to celebrate we went out ‘on the piss’, eating pizza on a rooftop terazza at 2am and drinking Nastro Azurro whilst gossiping about the locals was much more important than what time we had to set off for the plane in the morning.


    It was a particularly stressful morning as we were preparing to return to the UK or at least as much as we could be stressed. Ok. Maybe across the 3 of us it was a bit stressful. We got ready, packed our bags and tidied the house as best 3 blokes can and trundled to the train station. G Man was extremely anxious, preparing his culo for scrutiny at the airport and I realised that the lazy Italians only work half days on Saturdays, so the trains we thought would run, we're not running. We needed to get to the airport and I was becoming a little concerned.
    The train we needed no longer came to our station, so we lost 30 minutes and instead caught the Pullman coach to the nearest train station on the line to Lucca. Another 40 minutes lost. On the train to Lucca the guard confirmed that the next connecting train from Lucca to Pisa arrived after our plane departed.
    G Man experienced a moment of clarity. He suggested I contact Carlo and warn him we may arrive to drop off our bikes after. Being Italian he would have ordinarily closed doors at 12:50 and gone for his siesta. No problem Paolo. I will wait for you. I told him how we must rush to the airport as the gate closed at 130pm. No problem Paolo. I will be your taxi.
    G Man’s anxiety levels were now off the scale, what with his acting classes playing out in his head at passport control.
    Me? As tour leader I was feeling less than responsible and wondering if maybe I should have been stricter.
    Rob? He was totally not arsed.


    When we arrived at Lucca station we needed a cab to be there waiting for us, otherwise Rob, Conno and I would be staying in Italy for another week. But we needed a large people carrier cab coz it had also to accommodate our 3 bikes.
    We came out of the station and saw a mini people carrier. Trumpeting from the heavens. Hallelujah!
    The greatest trick of the devil was convincing Man he does not exist.
    Hi. Pisa airport.
    Great.  We have 3 bikes?
    Oh no, no, no, no.
    It was the only cab in the piazza. Siesta time was right upon us.
    Why not?
    No room. No room. No room.
    But you can fold down one of the back seats.
    No, no, no, no, no.
    Come on? We are late for a plane! We will miss our plane!
    No, no, no, no.
    Can you ring one of your mates.
    Yes. [But made no effort - No, no, no, no.]
    I took hold of the situation by talking the universal language of green.
    We will pay you an extra €50!
    No, no, no, no.
    You're kidding me! I have a booking! Perleaze!
    As if! G Man was at breaking point and needed an outlet for his anxiety and was about to go all Old Trafford on this Italian ass. The poor man, but, believe in the Lord and he shall appear. Alexander sang from heaven. Rob held Conno back from panning in Beelzebub's face and pointed behind us.

    Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the hallelujah

    There, driving towards us was Marco in his Ford Transit minitaxi.
    No problem boys! Come on. You are worried you may miss your flight. I will get you there. No problem. Relax my friends. You have nothing to worry about.

    There may have been times when I have struggled to accept that God exists - On Tuesday 26.7.16 you ask Paolo Martini does God exist and I call you a mug, with all due respect. On Saturday 31.7.16, you ask Paolo Martini and you get a different answer.


    i. Gianluca - Member of Cycling Club Garfagnano.
    Whilst cycling from Lucca to Castelnuovo on Wednesday, Rob was ahead and was unwittingly powering in to a 1 km tunnel that turned in to a dual carriageway inside.
    I was 20 yards behind him on the slip road when I had a sudden sense of dread in my gut. Conno a further 20 yards behind me had picked up a puncture and was shouting STOOOOP. I heard a panicked shout from below me. Stoooop!!!!! I looked down to my left and saw Gianluca frantically waving shouting Stop! No! Danger! I screamed up to Rob STOOOOOP! He could not have heard me. He did. He looked behind and saw me cutting my throat with my finger and Conno now at a stop and 75 yards behind and thank God, he came to a halt 10 yards from the tunnel entrance.
    As the 3 of us walked down tight against the road barriers of the slip road to meet Gianluca and thank him, a juggernaut powered past, not more than a foot away from us and blowing his horn in annoyance at the idiot cyclists on the slip road. It was so loud it made your heart jump out of your body. I know, I know! Had Conno not got his puncture, had Gianluca not been directly below me and not shouted, you would be listening to the tragic story on the National News of the British cyclist who got splattered inside the tunnel by the juggernaut. I know.
    ii. The coach driver who gave us a free ride home when we were lost and nearly broken.
    iii. The transit van driving taxi man at Lucca train station.
    iv. Carlo Papini.
    v. The laughing waitress.
    vi. Paolo. The dad of the son we climbed up to Passo Dello Radici with on Thursday.
    vii. Federico. The son of the dad we climbed up to Passo dello Radici with on Thursday.Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_21

    The exact same faces looking back at you. How could Federico do that climb on a full suspension mountain bike with flat pedals? Not possible. And 5 miles after Casone, when the gradient had increased to a sphincter tightening average of 13% he rode beside me wanting to know about us and our exploits. A young boy of 22, having the breath and more impressively the self confidence and social graces to enter a dialogue with a pigeon speaking 2nd generation Italian. I was broken, my legs gone and Conno and Rob were 10 yards ahead, then 15, then 20, then 30. But as I concentrated on his questions and thought even harder on my replies I stopped thinking about the ferocious burn in my legs. As we joined them he rode off to join his dad ahead of us and they waved us goodbye.
    viii. Hans from Germany. Who joined us for those few miles after Casone before we met Paolo and Federico. Hans was pot bellied and celebrating his 62nd birthday. His present? His wife waiting at the top of Passo dello Radici in their motorhome so he could ride the classic and bucket list giro to Passo Dello Radici. Seeing Hans churning out the revolutions up the ever increasing gradients empowered us 3 jokers for cyclists.
    ix. Franco. Cycling club member of Club Alpi Apuani. At 55 years old, handsome and rugged, with less than 15% bodyfat, bronzato and gleaming white team kit completto, and a wonderfully warm smile, he rode with us for 20 kms or so, showing us the way to Massa train station on our last night of cycling. I forgot to add this route to my Stava stats. When he asked where we had ridden from that day he pushed out his bottom lip, nodded his head and pronounced “Che Bello Giro! Bravo! Siete Forte!”. He knew the road well. No doubt having ridden it all his life. I told him we were hungover on beer, Grappa, Limoncello and Sambucca and a 2am finish. He was impressed. As proud as punch I told him how that day we rode the giro to Passo Dello Radicci. “Porca Miseria!!!” he exclaimed Which loosely translates as **** ME!!! He looked us up and down “Una BELLA vacanza!” His respect for us was palpable. By the way, I told him, we carried on and climbed the next mountain to Abetone. Roughly translated he replied **** OFF, YOU ARE KIDDING! GET! NO WAY! YOU 3 ARE **** LUNATICS.


    When Rob had come to fix Andy's inner tube on Thursday, he looked puzzled. He could not find the puncture.



    Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_23
    The Italian passport control guard was conscientiously checking the passport of the 5th person before Andy. He took the passport offered by the 4th person, studied it, TWICE, and passed it back. He took hold of the 3rd persons passport, read it for 5 seconds, passed it back. He took the 2nd persons passport, checked his computer screen. The 26 year old Italian in the queue before Andy dropped his papers, the guard scorned. Andy looked like he was about to faint, or vault the barrier and make a dash for the plane. The guard took the young mans passport, tapped his computer, looked at the lad, nodded and let him through. Andy moved to the front with tiny baby steps, so clenched were his buttock cheeks. The guard looked at his face, smiled warmly and waved him through declining to take from Andy's quavering hand his passport. As I came to the guard, he checked my passport, chuckled and returned it.Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_24

    Blighty. Here we come.


    Cherish those close to you. Cherish your family. Cherish your friends. Propagate and cultivate those relationships that mean something to you.


    12    : 3 TOOLS:
    I bid my farewells, gave and received man hugs of love and went to find left luggage in the hope of finding my biking tools. I asked the affable chap at the desk if he could find my left luggage and he responded that he would try. He asked me what it was? And then my jaw dropped. I pointed at his hands. He had my three cool tools in his hands. I asked if I could take his photograph because the tale I had to tell must be heard. He laughed and agreed.Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_25




    Well maybe there's a God above
    But all I've ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot somebody who'd out drew ya
    And it's not a cry that you hear at night
    It's not someone who's seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

    Paolo, Rob and Conno are raising money for the Alzheimers Society.IMG_1317

    If you've
    enjoying Paolo's bog you can donate a couple of quid here:

1-10 of 17

  1. 1
  2. 2