Cycling has a body image problem: what’s causing it and what you can do about it?

Looking sleek, stylish and fast is an integral part of cycling, but brings with it a pressure to conform. Chris Marshall-Bell breaks the taboo on the sport’s body-image troubles

A male cyclist looking at his body in a mirror
(Image credit: Future)

This article was originally published in Cycling Weekly's print edition as part of the WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT series tackling taboos and raising awareness of cycling-related health issues.  

When Jacob Ward took up cycling during the Covid-19 lockdown of 2020, inspired by watching the Tour de France, he was instantly hooked. “I was so impressed by their feats of endurance that I wanted to be like them,” he remembers. But there was one hitch: as a former rugby player and keen bodybuilder since his teenage years, Ward was bulkier than the average road cyclist. “My physique was abnormal for a cyclist and I had quite a lot of pushback, negative comments, people assuming I wasn’t good enough for cycling because of how I looked.” 

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Chris Marshall-Bell

A freelance sports journalist and podcaster, you'll mostly find Chris's byline attached to news scoops, profile interviews and feature writing across a variety of different publications. He has been writing regularly for Cycling Weekly since 2013.

Previously a ski, hiking and cycling guide in a number of places, but mostly in the Canadian Rockies and Spanish Pyrenees, he almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.

He lives in Valencia, Spain.