London

These women have a message. You don't have to be thin to ride a bike

Marley Blonsky of Seattle is a longtime cyclist who self-identifies as a fat woman. As an advocate for cyclists of all shapes, she's hosting a webinar this Friday called "Biking for Big People. Nadia Petrasiunas of London, Ont., is attending and hopes to start a riding group for people who look like her.

London's Nadia Petrasiunas says you don't see a lot of bigger bodies on bikes in the media

Nadia Petrasiunas of London, Ont., and Marley Blonsky of Seattle say they don't seen enough representation of bigger people riding bikes in the media. (Submitted by Nadia Petrasiunas and Marley Blonsky)

London, Ont., mother of two Nadia Petrasiunas, 31, has two e-cargo bikes and an old-school three-speed bicycle.

Although Petrasiunas is a confident cyclist, she's disappointed she doesn't see many people like her in the media. "You don't see a lot of representation of bigger bodies on bikes," she said.

Recently Petrasiunas has been interested in going on longer rides and is looking to buy some new bike touring gear. "I know that as a bigger person, I know I can't just walk into a store and find the right kind of gear, so I'm looking for some...recommendations." 

So Petrasiunas has signed up for a webinar, called Biking for Big People, hosted by Seattle-based self-proclaimed adventure cyclist Marley Blonsky, 35.

London's Nadia Petrasiunas says she doesn't see enough images of bigger people riding bikes in the media. (Submitted by Nadia Petrasiunas)

Blonsky started cycling eight years ago and refers to herself as a fat woman.

"I didn't see anybody who reflected me or what I look like," said Blonsky who has since made it her mission to flood social media feeds with images of bigger people on bikes.

"If you don't see yourself reflected, there can be the feeling that you don't belong," she said. "It can be self-perpetuating. If you don't see yourself represented, you don't do it. And then manufacturers don't make the gear that actually fits you."

For instance, very few companies make plus-sized padded cycling shorts, said Blonsky. Or rain jackets.

"I like to say fat people aren't waterproof, but I think the bike companies think that we are," Blonsky joked.

Plus, there are people who assume because of her weight, Blonsky is new to cycling.

"Like, people are fat for all sorts of reasons," she said. "It doesn't necessarily come down to how much you're exercising, but I think that's slowly starting to change as there's a lot of fat activism happening."

The tide is slowly changing, said Blonsky. "I get calls every day from brands saying, 'How do we do better? Let's fix this.'" 

As for Petrasiunas, in addition to getting advice on gear, she's hoping she'll get some tips from Blonsky's webinar on how to start group rides for people with bigger bodies.

Watch this short film featuring Marley Blonsky:

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rebecca Zandbergen

Host, London Morning

Rebecca Zandbergen is from Ottawa and has worked for CBC Radio across the country for more than 20 years, including stops in Iqaluit, Halifax, Windsor and Kelowna. Contact Rebecca at rebecca.zandbergen@cbc.ca

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