“You should buy this kit; it’s called Fat Lad at the Back”
“These shorts would be great for you; they are called Fat Lass at the Back”
“This top would suit you; you can buy it from Fat Lad at the Back”
People of all shapes and sizes often ask me for kit recommendations, but I am not sure if I can say any of those sentences out loud without losing friends, clients or offending someone!
Fat Lad at The Back was the nickname of Richard Bye, the founder of the company, and is a term of endearment. The company admit it is a touchy subject having the marmite effect – either you love it or hate it, but they bravely persevered.
Fat Lad at the Back (FLAB) is a sportswear brand born in Yorkshire, with the clothing manufactured by a family-run company in Italy. The Fat Lad brand was originally created for what their website calls “Mr Averages, MAMIL’s with a 44” chest and a 38” waist”, but it quickly became apparent that there were bigger cyclists so it introduced larger sizes including a Spare Tyre range for the larger build. A women’s range was soon created, which took into consideration women’s curves and comfort.
A Twitter conversation the morning of The London Bike Show suggested I should speak to FLAB at the show after a discussion about the lack of kit for women who are not “a flat chested size 8-12” with one rider asking “how can these new brands be “women’s” when the biggest chest size they do it a 14” and another saying “it is a huge barrier to women coming into the sport”.
I spoke to several designers of women’s cycling clothing at the show and did indeed find the largest size, called XL, was only a UK14-16. One designer I spoke with said unfortunately they just can justify the additional expenses needed to design, produce and hold stock of the larger sizes which are less popular.
Instead of just sizing up the clothing the FLAB garments have been redesigned so they properly fit and flatter different sizes of rider. Some items state the name boldly in large text across the garments, other are more subtle with just a small logo. I have to confess that having ‘Fat Lass at the Back’ across my bottom was a great training inspiration as I pedalled furiously to disprove the label!
I tried the Flabularse Shorts (RRP £49.99) and the short sleeved ladies Lanterne Rouge Jersey (RRP 49.99) both available from size 8 to size 26.
The shorts fitted well and had some nice details including a draw string for the waist and a soft stretchy panel across the tummy allowing you to pull them right up over the belly area. I normally wear bib shorts and think generally bibs are more flattering with smoother lines, but agree shorts certainly make toilet stops easier and mean there is no need to remove a jersey, which some riders may feel self-conscious about, especially if having to go al fresco! Unfortunately as there was no knot tied in the draw string it had been lost in the waistband prior to me wearing, but with a bit of fiddling I retrieved it. The shorts are black with flattering seams, a large logo on the leg and across the lower back. The pad was comfortable on long road rides, the mountain bike and on the turbo.
The jersey is noticeably longer than my other jerseys, this is great for us ladies who like to pull things down over our hips and bottom and there is certainly no chance of any bare flesh when standing upright. The colour changes gradually down the top with the darker, more flattering colours over the lower torso and brighter colours across the bust and shoulders drawing the eye away from the areas we are usually more self conscious about. The sleeves are loose and long with no restrictive bands. A zipped pocket is handy for your valuables and a full length zip is always a plus in jerseys of this price range.
Both items washed well and I would happily recommend them if I could find a polite way of doing so!
Fat Lad at The Back has become a community, not just a brand, with riders involved in the development of new products and social media filled with riders’ photos, comments and inspirational rides. The company encourages everyone to have a go, have fun and enjoy their sport.
When former rugby player Alastair Little was forced to cut his 25-year career short after a life-changing neck injury, he was devastated and soon piled on weight as his life spiralled towards depression. He managed to turn his life around after discovering a love for cycling. Riding with friends at Fat Lad at the Back, Alastair took to the road and after a few months he started to see the results, losing more than five stone and dramatically boosting his confidence.
Alastair said: “It was the motivation and help I received from the guys at FLAB which really inspired me to stick at it and lose the weight and not only that, I enjoyed the social aspect to cycling, and suddenly sport was bringing me back to life again.”
FLAB introduced Alastair to other, likeminded riders who taught him that he wasn’t alone.
FLAB Sportive – 8th May 2016
In a bid to further welcome novice cyclists, FLAB has introduced a new 25-mile event alongside its 50 and 75-mile distance sportives, taking place on the Yorkshire roads in May and in the Chiltern Hills in October. Looking after riders will be experienced FLAMbassadors riding in the sportives to encourage and support riders on the journey.
Fat Lad in Charge Richard Bye, who has 20 years’ experience cycling many of Yorkshire’s most recognised routes, said: “This year we have added a 25 miler as we hope to inspire some new riders who may fancy a sportive, but have never thought they could!”
“The food stops are also legendary and include black pudding scotch eggs and lots of other stuff which our fat Lads and Lasses like, as well as the usual fruit and flapjack based options. We also have a BBQ afterwards which went down really well last year, this means people hang about and chat and share rather than just getting in their cars and leaving.”
Richard went on to say “Since founding FLAB we have been overwhelmed by how many people have come to us saying how much confidence they’ve gained with our support”
You can enter the sportive here and can find FLAB on the web http://fatladattheback.com/ on Facebook and on Twitter
Kreis is a relatively new brand to the UK market and comes at it with the angle of offering limited run Club orders. Their designs are very modern and striking and give an opportunity to have a coordinated wardrobe for not too much money. The clothing is made for them by Kalas, a Czech company that have enabled Kreis to bring their designs to the public.
The overall emphasis from Kreis is on creating your own statement and having them help you realise it. Most of the designs are size customisable too, offering a great deal of flexibility for every shape and size of cyclist. Emphasis is placed on the ‘pre-order’ stage of purchase where the details of what you need can be tailored to you.
Kreis Echelon-Gipfel Renntrikot Jersey
The design of this jersey and indeed all the kit we had for review certainly turned heads. This jersey was of simple construction with a lycra front and sleeves, and mesh panel rear. This gave a great amount of breathability from the rear portion and the modern aero design most riders now seek. It fitted very snuggly and was comfortable in the classic cyclist tuck, without any flapping. Importantly the three rear pockets were accessible and deep enough to carry usual cyclist needs. Renntrikot has a full length zip which worked easily and gave flexibility when venting is required in warmer temperatures. In long term testing it washed well, it’s light colours remaining clean.
Our Test model was sized ‘4’. This was in modern terms a ‘race fit’ i.e. tight and was in the realm of a small/medium. As with all brands your own size and fit differ from other manufactures sizes.
The Jersey is listed at £85
Kreis Echelon-Gipfel Tragerhose Shorts
Shorts are in modern terms one of the biggest areas of discussion amongst Cyclists of all persuasions. Each contact point with the bicycle has to be perfect or your ride is going to be very short indeed. Kreis offer gender specific inserts to provide the comfort and they actually are pretty comfy. Quite a few rides gave plenty of confidence in the chamois. Fit is the secondary area of comfort for shorts, any ruffles or bagginess will soon become a problem but the Tragerhose are made of a nice weight of lycra that is soft and solid enough to help their panelled structure to fit well. The only negative for us was that the leg ‘gripper’ arrangements were baggy on our test item. This is probably down to the simple fact that the test shorts were size 5, which equates to an XL on the Kreis sizing chart. The grippers have their silicon band cleverly embedded in the fabric itself, meaning that the old fashioned ‘just above knee elastic line’ is totally eradicated. A smaller size would have given a better fit here.
The shorts are listed also at £85
Kreis Echelon Accessories
We also tested the Echelon Armwarmers which are made of a ‘roubaix’ (brushed lycra on reverse). These proved to be lovely and snug in cooler conditions. They have a silicon top gripper to keep them in place and were longer than most modern styles giving less chance of a chilly gap at the top. At £20 these compliment the rest of the Echelon range nicely without breaking the bank and could be worn with other clothes as they are mostly black with just a few details.
A Radlerkappe was also sent for our enjoyment, that’s a cap to you and I, and although with helmets being solely the order of the day the cap was called into service on a couple of low sun evenings to prevent dappling light affecting the eyes. There is a functional mesh panel within its structure that prevents any overheating allowing a good point of ventilation.
The hat comes in three sizes and we tried the Medium which was perfect for a ‘normal’ head. £15 buys you the perfect piece to finish your pro-rider designer look.
The Armwarmers are listed at £20 and Cap at £15
For someone on a modest budget this range could be ideal and with a bit of input even unique to you. A lot of modern riders wish to have their own identity in a crowd and this could help them get there.
CyclingShorts.cc gives the Kreis Range 93% and a star buy rating.
Range available from:
Okay, I will admit it, I have been eyeing one of these up for quite a while. In fact, ever since I bought the full sleeve (rain cape) version in 2012.
The gilet comes with a small bag that means that it can be folded away into a compact size and put back in your pocket – a great idea for those of you wanting something that you can take on and off without worrying that you haven’t got space in your back pocket to keep it.
Being 5′ 7″ and a size 10, I struggle with a lot of women specific cycling clothing as it tends to be too short and I often end up “borrowing” my husband’s cycling clothes as they tend to fit much better. Not so with this gilet. It is fairly long in the body and has a scooped elasticated bottom on the back of the jacket to ensure a snug fit.
Sometimes, jackets can be quite tight around the neck, which means that you never end up doing the zip right to the top. Again, there is enough room within the design to ensure that this is not a problem.
It is windproof and breathable, and is great for keeping the chill off at the start of a ride. It is small enough to be packed away until you need to put something on to keep you warm on that descent back down into town.
There is one improvement that I’d look to make – there is no back pocket so it can be a bit difficult trying to get food out of your jacket pocket. Not a major issue, I admit, but with gloves on it can be difficult. Also, the RRP is £55 which could be seen to be quite expensive for a gilet and therefore not a “needs must” purchase but a “wish list” purchase instead. However, the best price we’ve found is at ProBikeKit who are selling them for less than £40, at the moment, which makes them a bit more affordable:
- Fit – 89 out of 100 the gilet fits well, and the elasticated bottom means that it stays in place
- Quality – 95 out of 100 – I would expect a market leading brand to be high quality, and I wasn’t disappointed
- Price – 70 out of 100 – £55 for a gilet may prove too expensive for some
- Value for money – 80 out of 100 – ultimately, high quality doesn’t come cheap but I liked the fit, quality and think it looks great.
- Overall that’s an impressive 84 out of 100!
Would I recommend this gilet to my cycling friends? Definitely!