November - Claire Craig
Recently, we’ve been talking about barriers into cycling and your thoughts on how to make it a truly inclusive sport. And while some of you cited ‘fences and gates’ as the biggest obstacles for riders (touché), others came up with a whole host of tangible issues. These included:
- A lack of well-fitting, affordable gear
- Fear of being judged by so-called ‘elite’ riders
- A shortage of groups/clubs aimed at genuine beginners
- Abuse from drivers and fellow riders
- A general lack of confidence, often stemming from fear of traffic
For our rider of the month, Claire Craig, the principal barriers into cycling were a lack of motivation to get fit and poorly fitting cycle wear.
Despite her boyfriend Martin being an avid, competitive cyclist, Claire admits that she was never keen to join him on his regular rides:
“I had never considered going out for a ‘proper’ ride with him, especially as I’m overweight, unfit and can be a tad lazy - not to mention I couldn’t find any women’s kit in my size!”
After receiving a bike from Martin for her birthday, Claire joined Martin and her children for the odd Sunday pedal. Uncomfortable on the saddle even for short periods, Claire was forced to purchase a pair of mens 3XL cycling shorts, which she wore for a while under a knee length skirt.
However, since spotting an advert for Fat Lad At The Back in a magazine, Claire has gone from reluctant pootler-round-town to fit and FLABulous cyclist, now making it out 2-3 times a week.
“Once I discovered that FLAB jerseys really do fit - I didn't have an excuse any more!”
Feeling confident in her new FLAB gear, Claire decided to purchase a road bike and attempt a longer ride with Martin, who initially pushed her up the hills. Despite feeling, in Claire’s words, “like some sort of dying, asthmatic animal”, she has since become hooked and continues to cycle 2-3 times a week for rides lasting between 20 mins and 1¼ hours.
“Now I keep my bike by my bed - a daily reminder that I need to ride it.”
Since starting to cycle, Claire has noticed a difference in both her physical and mental wellbeing: “My overall physical and mental health have improved hugely. Of course, hills are still a challenge, but I’m no longer on my knees and Martin can keep both hands on his handlebars!”
She also notes that while her reasons for cycling have never been specifically weight-related, she now feels much trimmer - “a pretty satisfying side effect”.
At the moment, Claire is enjoying the winter nights and the comfort of knowing approaching vehicles can definitely see her - “I’m hard to miss in my hi-vis getup!” She also explains that she finds inclines and descents far less daunting when she can’t actually see them!
While Claire assures us she won’t be entering the Tour de France anytime soon, she does have plans to attend FLAB’s BIG FAT BIKE RIDE 2019. Claire told us, “Your sportive happens to coincide with a rather important birthday, so I’d like to tick it off my 40 before 40 list…”
As a proud member of The Bulge, Claire loves visiting the FLAB Facebook page “to ask for advice and read about other people’s challenges.” She exclaims, “This supportive community reminds me that we don’t all need the fitness and energy of an elite rider, that every kilometre is an achievement, and that cake is as beneficial to cyclists as water!"
Claire states that principally, she is cycling for herself: “After a ride, I get a kick out of knowing that I went a bit further, a bit faster, or that it’s not taking as long to catch my breath. I still ache the morning after, but I am happy.”
If you know someone who deserves to be our Rider of the Month, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org