I’m Clive Chapman, a married 45-year-old bloke with two kids, who stopped riding around 10 years ago. The reason escapes me; it kind of just happened. The upshot is that, as of June 2009, I weighed 22 stone 4Ib. That’s 356Ib to our American cousins, and at 5ft 8in meant I was morbidly obese.
I’d been to the doctor for help as I seemed incapable of doing something about it myself. But apart from recommending WeightWatchers, the NHS didn’t seem equipped to deal with obesity.
I did try WeightWatchers but it was all middle-aged ladies talking about their menopause and fatless chips. With all due respect to those fine ladies, it wasn’t for me. So I continued to promise myself to do something about it, and, as usual over the past 10 years, did precisely nothing.
Just to complete the horror story, I went to the doctor for a Heavy Goods Vehicle medical, just to keep my licence current, and he discovered that my blood pressure was dangerously high, so he prescribed me Perindropol to be taken daily. High blood pressure, sleep apnea, severe snoring (don’t laugh), aching joints, lethargy, a good chance of diabetes and it was not beyond the bounds of probability that I was eating and letharging (is there such a word?) myself into an early grave.
Then, quite by chance, I discovered Frank Kinlan’s blog. This was the story of a bloke roughly my age, my weight and in the same condition health-wise, who had used cycling as a tool to get back his life and his health. To give you an idea of what’s possible, he's just completed the 2009 Etape de Tour – a mountain stage of the Tour De France.
I’d always loved cycling, first as a lad in the '70s with my first bike, a Raleigh Pavemaster, then graduating to a 'racer' and even building my own early version of a mountain bike with an old racer frame, knobbly tyres and cowhorn handlebars, and chucking myself down various hills in Sutton Park and Cannock Chase. So, cycling seemed to be the answer after Frank’s blog had 'flicked my switch', as I like to call it, to motivate me to do something about it.
Clive in 2008, before he rediscovered cycling
June 30th 2009 was the first day of the rest of my life. I dusted down my old Ridgeback mountain bike, fitted some 1.75in slicks and did the first pedal. My commute is a 24-mile round trip, so I started with a 'park and ride', which involves driving to the canal, parking and then pedalling six miles along the cut to work.
I did that every other day for a couple of months, then progressed to every day. 'Bull by the horns' time, then: a full 12 miles' pedal from home to Smethwick. That was every other day at first, and I’m now, at time of writing in December, completing this every day and I can actually speak when I get home!
As it stands I’m now 19 stone 4Ib, with 1,118 commuting miles completed, and I started mountain biking again a few weekends ago. That's my first love, as much as I enjoy my towpath commute.
The online 'fat bikers' blog' community is a massive support tool and now forms a part of my day. I have no doubt that without them I wouldn’t have started this path and I'd still be coming up with all kinds of excuses why I can’t get fit again. You can read my day-to-day story at my blog, 'The massive MTBer'. Have a read, and if it motivates one person to get up off their arse and get their life back, then job done. Frank's blog did just that for me.
Now, please don’t get the wrong idea about this. I’m not after sympathy. I have no-one to blame but myself for being fat. It wasn’t a food industry conspiracy or a testament to modern living that I ended up like this. It happened because I ate too much and stopped pedalling, playing rugby and doing the other stuff that kept me active.
I've now found something that appears to work for me and a support network of likeminded people who keep me honest. It is hard. Some days at 5.30am when it’s raining, windy and dark, I really want to reach for the car keys. But I don’t. This is me now for the duration, and pretty soon I’ll be back to Snowdonia, charging around Cannock Chase and trying to reel my mates in at Sutton Park, as well as saving a shedload on fuel and food bills!