Fat Lad At The Back: because not every cyclist is built like a whippet

October 29, 2013

By Peter Walker, Imogen Fox

Clothing company aims to make quality cycle wear that won’t leave you looking like a shrink-wrapped chicken

A rider models some of the Fat Lad At The Back range. Photograph: Fat Lad At The Back

I’m 5ft 10in (1.78m) and the last time I weighed myself – a while back – I was somewhere slightly under 70kg. By most modern standards that makes me on the slight side. By most modern standards, that is, outside cycling.

At his Tour de France peak Bradley Wiggins was at most a kilo heavier than me. But also a full five inches taller. He is by no means at the skinniest end of professional riding. The now-disgraced Danish climber Michael Rasmussen – so careful about his weight he reportedly counted each individual piece of pasta he ate and declined a Livestrong wristband because of the extra grammes – was a few cm shorter than me but just 59kg.

Some riders are bigger, of course, but it’s relative. Even the vastly powerful time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara, at 81kg, is lighter than the average UK man. Only track sprinters verge on the chunky, like the 91kg Chris Hoy.

Such statistics are, of course, reflected in the clothing on offer even to us recreational cyclists. Take me to a high street clothing store and I’m generally a small. For posh bike gear we’re talking a medium, at least.

So what does this mean for riders somewhere near, let alone above, the UK average UK waist size, currently 38in for men, and 33.5in for women?

For Richard Bye, who runs a technology business in Yorkshire, it meant 15 years riding in ill-fitting bike gear. A trip to the Alps with friends brought an epiphany – why not create his own brand of high-end cycling clothing for the larger rider?

The result is the newly created Fat Lad At The Back, offering items in a deliberately flattering black with the jerseys fitting those with chest sizes of up to 53in and shorts to a maximum waist size of 50in. The inch-based sizing system is deliberate, he says:

Lycra is designed to stretch, to become a second skin. So if you buy an XL in a shop, and the XL sizing in 42-44in, if it’s a cycling top it will measure between 37in and 39in. It’s designed to stretch around you, which is why you look like a shrink-wrapped chicken if you’re anything other than a skinny whippet.

From us, when you order a 44in size, what you get is a 44in garment. What we’ve done is that the fabric and the technical element of the garment still works even if it fits you, rather than having to stretch around you.

If Bye and his co-founders had any doubts about the potential demand this was dispelled when the first consignment of goods sold out in four days (new stock is due this week). The company already has plans to expand to the US, with a women’s range – Fat Lass At The Back, inevitably – due next year.

Bye stresses that while larger sizes are available for cheaper bike clothing, when it comes to the best fabric and stitching the larger rider suffers. He has a point – Rapha men’s clothes go up to a stated XXL, but this is in fact a 38in waist and 45in chest.

While his company’s name is deliberately self-mocking, Bye stresses that there is also an element of genuine pride:

It is a recognition of what you are, and the fact you’re on the bike, going out and doing something about it, as opposed to sitting in a Subway eating a triple-decker sandwich.

On a note of personal observation I’d add, too, that those of a less skeletal build can also be very quick. Setting aside the muscular likes of Hoy et al, I’ve had plenty of bigger lads breeze last me in a blur of chunky thigh and buttock.

You don’t have the wirey body of Bradley Wiggins, honed from a zillion hours on the bike, do you? Nope. Who does? But that shouldn’t stop you looking good in the saddle. Here are some basic rules for looking good in cycling gear (or indeed sportswear in general).

Pedalling in tracksuit bottoms is for drug dealers not cyclists. So it’s more than OK to wear Lycra. Wearing stuff that is for purpose is chic. But be sensible, for most Mamils (middle-aged men in Lycra) it’s better to go for black cycling shorts that an all-in-one time-trial skinsuit in white. That’s tricky to pull off.

Dark clothes that fit well will make you look like a sports ninja. Bold colour clashing is only for the sartorially confident (or those whose wardrobe is dictated by sponsors).

Man tights work under shorts and hide bright red muscle patches and sweaty hairy legs. They also circumvent the sock issue.

Never ever wear office socks with cycling shoes.

There’s nothing wrong with a sports logo. Self-deprecating logos like Fat Lad At The Back are entirely permissible but equally there is nothing wrong with an actual sports-specific brand. It shows commitment and love of the sport and that’s a good look. Plus the Rapha stuff is lovely.

Via theguardian.com

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