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The Search for Plus Sized Cycling Clothing for Women

"I just want nice cycling tops that can fit the women with boobs" - says Staffordshire ride leader

The provision of cycling kit cut specifically to suit female riders is on the increase but women looking for plus sized cycling clothing are still finding gear hard to locate.

Whilst there’s a wide range of high street clothing retailers catering for the plus sized market, the world on wheels hasn’t really responded yet – says Tanya Newman.

Tanya’s request to cycling clothing manufacturers: “I just want nice cycling tops that can fit the women with boobs.”

Having been a cyclist all her life, the 42-year-old from Penkridge said she got more serious about her riding last year to “challenge herself”. Signing herself and a friend up for a Macmillan sportive, she ticked that one off the list and says “it all escalated from there”.

It certainly did. Next, Tanya became a ride leader for the South Staffordshire Cycling Scheme, and completed a Coast to Coast ride. Upcoming goals on her list are riding London to Paris, and completing her first 100 mile ride in a day.

An Office Manager, Tanya commutes to work occasionally and rides her road bike on the weekend. Describing her approach to cycling and fitness, she says: “I have an under active thyroid – that has been a struggle the last 6 years of my life. Trying to lose weight has been such an obstacle anyway because of that. I used to go to the gym, but I didn’t enjoy that – so I thought ‘oh let me go on the bike, I’d rather be outside in fresh air than be stuck in the gym’.”

She added: “I cycle because it’s something I enjoy. I wouldn’t say I did it just for trying to lose weight. If I lost weight that’s a bonus.”

Tanya owns a Trek Lexa road bike and a Cube hybrid – but not as much cycling clothing as she’d like. Though sizes vary between brands, she says she’d usually wear a size 20 top and 18 bottoms. As the market is, she just can’t find cycling clothing that fits at an affordable price.

search for plus sized cycling clothing for women
Tanya is a ride leader for the South Staffordshire Cycling Scheme - an organisation that helps new riders get into cycling

Shopping online only, and not finding much plus sized cycling clothing

Tanya told me: “When it comes to cycling brands, X-Large is usually a size 16 to 18. I always look on Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles – and rarely do you find a women’s XX-Large.

“On the highstreet, there are plenty of shops that cater for larger people. You probably don’t have the same amount of choice as a thin person but a lot of brands are adapting their ranges. In the cycling world, it’s definitely a tough call to find anything. Even my friends who are smaller than me – a 16 of 18 – struggle too.”

Tanya does most of her shopping online, telling me: “We have a couple of local bike shops. When you go in there, all the clothing is for smaller framed people. So as a plus sized person it’s very hard to find anything off the rack.”

“Going in to a shop is a hard thing”

I ask if that shopping experience makes her feel unwelcome, and she says: “I wouldn’t say it makes me uncomfortable, but it’s a struggle finding stuff. You look at other people, all wearing nice cycling kit, and you know you’re not going to be able to wear what they’re wearing. You’re not going to be able to fit in to it. You’re not going to be able to wear the proper cycling stuff other people are wearing. You can’t just pick something up and buy it. Going in to a shop is a hard thing.”

search for plus sized cycling clothing for women
Tanya often opts for sports tops, over jerseys

Fat Lad/Lass at the Back the only option in plus sized cycling clothing?

At the moment, the only brand Tanya can see doing a really good job of creating cycling kit for plus sized people is Fat Lad/Lass at the Back (FLAB) – but most of their jerseys retail at £50 to £60. Though of course cycling kit can be a lot more expensive than that, in Small and Medium sizes you can certainly find it much cheaper too. And of course, as good a job as FLAB are doing – it’s nice to have some choice.

Review: Fat Lass at the Back Stealth Short Sleeved Jersey and Bib Shorts

As Tanya says: “We’re all on different budgets. I tend to buy Fat Lass/Lad at the Back – but only when I want to treat myself, because their tops are quite expensive. They do fit well, the only thing is they do tend to be a bit long in the arms and the body. So if you’re of short stature they tend to run a bit long on you. I’ve even bought their cycling tights, and even they run a bit long. I’ve got short arms and legs though, I’ve struggled with that all my life – I just get around it.”

She adds: “The other brand I tend to buy is Altura… their 18s run a bit big, so I tend to fit into their stuff. But that is basically it really. Otherwise, I usually tend to buy the sports t-shirts from fitness ranges.”

Fitness t-shirts generally have good wicking properties – but they don’t have the cycling specific touches such as rear pockets, a close fit and reflective details that cycling jerseys do. Tanya has tried men’s kit, but says: “You find they fit you round the chest, but because they’re cut to be narrow at the bottom, they just cling to you and sometimes you can’t even zip them up.”

To finish off our conversation, I ask Tanya what she’d say if she could give a message to the clothing manufacturers in cycling. Her message is clear and blunt: “I just want nice cycling tops that can fit the women with boobs. There’s a lot of women out there… and when you get to a certain age you do get a little bit of middle age spread as well. So anything that can fit women who have actually got boobs.”

Is it that hard? It shouldn’t be.

We’d love to hear from readers – have you experienced similar problems finding cycling kit that fits? Or have you found a goldmine brand that none of us have heard of? Let us know in the comments!

Looking for advice? Check out our article ‘Plus Size Cycling Clothing: Where and What to Buy’.

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