Guest Post by Gary Brennan: Losing 364 Pounds By Riding a Bike

04.19.2011 | 7:02 am

A Note for Womanly Austinites: Janeen “Noodle” McCrae may be the most awesome Friend of Fatty in the entire universe — last year she rode 4400 miles across America to raise money for the Austin LiveStrong Challenge. On April 26, from 6:30 – 8:00pm, Janeen will be talking about her incredible trip at the Mellow Johnny’s monthly “Ladies Bike Maintenance Class.” Click here for details and then be sure to attend.

A Note from Fatty About Today’s Post: I’m headed into a very intense workweek — lotsa early mornings and late nights — and I know from experience that it’s going to take pretty much every thing I’ve got. So, for the next few days, plan on guest posts. I think you’re going to like the batch I’ve got lined up, starting with this one from Gary Brennan, aka: The Amazing Shrinking Gaz, The 39-Stone Cyclist, or just “the fat lad on a bike.”

In January 2008 I weighed in at a mind- (and waist-) busting 39 stone and 13 pounds, (That’s 559 Pounds for our American readers). A few months before my Doctor had suggested to me that I consider a gastric by-pass.

I was shocked – I thought to myself “but they are for really fat people”.


I was visiting my Doctor that day for many health-related, obesity-caused issues and realising my dire situation, he thought he would make the suggestion to help me. I left and thought nothing of his words. It was around three days later that, while struggling to walk from my living room to my kitchen that I decided “Actually I am really fat” and with that, my ‘light-bulb moment’, my life would never be the same again.


I was approved for the surgery in April 2008 , however as I had a Holiday booked at the end of September they told me that it would not be done until at least October 2008, I decided that I needed to change and attempt to get a little stronger for the operation. I purchased a Giant Yukon 2008 MTB, I decided that I wanted to cycle to work, it was 6.5 miles away from where I live, and there is also a nasty hill that I had to ride on both journeys, there was no way I would be able to do that, it was something I was going to have to build up to.

From January to April I had lost around four-and-a-half stone (65 Pounds) and while I was impressed with my efforts it did mean that I was going to attempt to cycle weighing-in at over 34 stone (476 Pounds).

It was June 2008, 6pm; I had finished work, the sun was shining, my time was now, I got my bike and headed outside. I looked and felt like a total idiot, but nothing was going to stop me.

I had been watching NBC’s The Biggest Loser just a few days before, seeing people weighing up to 400 pounds doing punishing exercise. I was inspired by Mark Kruger and Roger Schultz who were both finalists, and who’d shown me in each episode how you not only need to change physically but also mentally.

The reality, however, was that both Mark and Roger were 200 pounds lighter than me – shouldn’t it have been me that was on the show?

The Biggest Loser is something I will always credit for helping save my life. If I hadn’t seen with my own eyes what could be done, then I’m not sure I would have even attempted it.

I cycled the half-mile to my local train station. I was wheezing, my arms hurt holding up my weight, my legs hurt pushing my weight along. I was soaking in sweat, like someone who had just run over 30 miles – but I had done it! I had made it to the half-way point.

I took in an energy gel, about 500ml of water and had a ten-minute sit-down. I was then ready to set off again and get home. Boy was it hard. By the time I was home I thought to myself “I can’t do this” – I couldn’t breathe, I was coughing and wheezing, tired and sore but I had cycled one mile. This was a real wake-up call for me; I had done well in losing over four stone but the reality that it was just a fraction of what I needed to do to survive this. With that I had a much needed half-hour sleep on the sofa.

Ramping It Up

I woke up the next day and I wanted to do it all over again, despite being sore, tired and embarrassed, I wanted to get out there and really go for it, so I did.

Over the coming days I forced myself to up my mileage and I was at the stage after a week that I could cycle to the train station, and then cycle from the train station near work to my office, every day.

I was doing two-and-a-half miles a day and starting to gain confidence. Within six weeks I was getting on and off the train two stops before I needed to, and then on August Bank Holiday 2008 I decided I was going to cycle to work, the whole way. It was a Bank Holiday, I was off work that day. I didn’t need to cycle to my office, but I was ready…

I made the 6.5 miles in 43 minutes, I felt fresh, strong and ready to do more, I decided to take the train home and save myself for the “Real” Commute the next day.

Over the next 3 weeks I cycled to work every day, but took the train home, the homeward leg was harder as it’s a gradual uphill with a kicker of a hill at the very end.

But every single day from then, to today, I have upped my mileage, going longer, harder and faster than before.

No Operation!

After my holiday I received the news I was expecting and yet dreading at the same time: I no longer qualified for the gastric by-pass, due to losing so much weight. I was thrilled, yet at the same time scared.

I had lost 115 Pounds from April to October – I had shown that I could do it.

The next day was a freezing cold and wet morning, one I am never going to forget. I thought to myself “I am on my own now, it’s all me.” Then from nowhere a good friend drove past. It was Christy, the one was pushed me to cycle in the first place. He waved and encouraged me on, and with that, the rain, the wind and the freezing temperature no longer mattered.

Two weeks later and I was cycling to and from work, doing 13 miles each day. Before long it was January again, and I decided to think about doing the Manchester to Blackpool ride. My target was 2010, but I had already come so far – and while I was training some new starters at work one of them said “Gaz, you can do it mate, I’ll do it with you” – and with that the seed was planted. I started increasing my mileage, getting to as much as 17 miles per day, and before I knew it, it was July. I was still weighing-in at over 350 Pounds.

I wasn’t ready for this, but I was going to do it anyway.

Gaz In The Media

Before the Blackpool ride I made a conscious effort to make my story public. I was interviewed by Granada Reports, BBC Radio, BBC Online and a host of local papers.

You might ask why someone who was still classed as morbidly obese would want to seek such publicity. Well, in my mind it was simple, to pile the pressure on me.

I had been cycling for around a year, yet I was still only around a quarter of the way though my journey. I had lost more weight than an average woman weighs, cycled more miles than 80% of the cyclists in my building at work and yet, I was still fatter than the majority of people who realise they need to lose weight. In fact, I was 12 months away from where most people START – shocking!

So I knew I needed to do something to keep me focused. The first year had been enjoyable, but I was nearing the point where cycling wasn’t as hard, but wasn’t easy, and I knew I was in for a rough ride.

So I started to write my blog, went public and signed up to a few cycling forums, all providing me with the motivation, drive and support I would need in the coming months.

Manchester To Blackpool

The night before the ride I couldn’t sleep – not to put too fine a point on it, I was on the toilet most of the night. When I got on the start line I was already knackered and my tummy would still not settle down. In the blink of an eye we were off – two colleagues and I were rolling.

I had to hold myself back from sprinting, I was so full of adrenalin. The first 15 miles flew by – our pace was good, and while not being record-setting, we were all in our stride and them boom – disaster. My colleague and I had a ‘coming together’; I held it together, he didn’t. The ensuing wait for medical help and then a stop for paramedics 10 miles later put us all off our stride. I struggled to get going again after being stopped for around 90 minutes in total.

In the end we made it to Blackpool. We were around four to five miles away and my cycle computer showed four hours and 50 minutes. I got a second wind and cycled harder than ever before – there was a nasty head-wind but I was going to push as hard as I could to get there in under five hours. The miles flew by, and before long we were on the sea front.

Around half-a-mile from the finish line, I said to Paul “Sorry mate, the adrenalin has kicked in, I’m going to sprint this,” and with that I watched my speed go from 14 mph to 18 mph, to 22 mph. Paul was still with me at this point, I then kicked into the big ring and stood up – I gave it hell, crossing the line, still sprinting at 29 mph. I was going a little too fast – the announcer told me to slow down, and my supporters said that they weren’t able to get any pictures due to my speed. What a result! I had finished, a year early, managed a sprint AND been told off for going too fast!


Blackpool 2011

This will be the third year I have done this ride, I ride in memory and honour of some amazing people that touched my life who are no longer with us, but I also ride for the future, I have saved my future by losing 26 stone but so many out there, who are touched by cancer might not be as lucky as I am, for that reason, to give something back to those less fortunate than I am, I ride to help beat cancer once and for all.

If Gary’s story has inspired you, you can sponsor him via his ‘Just Giving’ page.


  1. Comment by Justin L | 04.19.2011 | 7:12 am

    Way to go gary, an inspiration for all. Great story and glad to see how healthy you are now. You are great motivation for alot of people.

  2. Comment by SoTyred | 04.19.2011 | 7:31 am

    What an amazing story. Yes you really are an inspiration

  3. Comment by Bryan | 04.19.2011 | 7:34 am

    Great story and inspiration. Well done.

    I think Fatty can attest to the pre-ride toilet visit.

  4. Comment by Christian Bjork | 04.19.2011 | 7:37 am

    Fantastic post! Great inspiration, for sure. I will be passing this on to other friends who are attempting to lose weight and be healthier. thanks, and congratulatiosn!

  5. Comment by Neill Harmer | 04.19.2011 | 7:43 am

    As a former heavy weight, and a contestant on the biggest loser (season 5: couples, US) and current cyclist/triathlete, I applaud you. I personally think that anyone that can do this outside the cameras is way better than me! You rock!


  6. Comment by James | 04.19.2011 | 7:45 am

    WOW, AMAZING well done.

    Fatty- I assume as he was THE FAT Cyclist that you will add him to your blog roll, will help others that come here looking for some serious weight loss solutions (Serious as in the amount , not your amazing humor)

  7. Comment by yann | 04.19.2011 | 7:47 am

    Great job Gary. You just inspired me to go for a ride this morning before work.
    Just one thing, please wear a helmet. It saved my girlfriend’s life 3 years ago. She wouldn’t be around today if she hadn’t been wearing one.

  8. Comment by stuckinmypedals | 04.19.2011 | 7:54 am

    What an inspirational story on taking charge of your life. Thanks for sharing. I think I’ll walk to work instead of drive today.

  9. Comment by TheEpicRide Ryan | 04.19.2011 | 7:54 am

    Well done! There is no substitute for good old fashioned hard work. Remember, pain is weakness leaving the body, something I know you are well aware of. Keep up the hard work, you are a true inspiration.


  10. Comment by katie | 04.19.2011 | 8:03 am

    what an amazing story! congratulations, gary, on your tough journey and hard work. you are an inspiration.

  11. Comment by daddystyle | 04.19.2011 | 8:33 am

    Stand proud Gary, Cycling didn’t change my life but rather saved it 22 years ago. 350 lbs and had to rest on the 1 flight of stairs to my office. 10 years later I attended 24 hour solo worlds. I still coach and race for fun while preaching the 2 wheeled love.

    Ride on my friend

  12. Comment by MOCougFan | 04.19.2011 | 9:05 am

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Comment by NYCCarlos | 04.19.2011 | 9:06 am

    Amazing. that’s all… just amazing. Congratulations dude.

  14. Comment by rich | 04.19.2011 | 9:16 am

    Amazing and inspirational story Gary!
    Thank you for sharing. I’ve passed it on to several friends.
    I’m always impressed to hear stories of people taking charge of their lives and overcoming major obstacles…you are to be commended…

  15. Comment by The Banter | 04.19.2011 | 9:20 am

    I’m gonna bookmark this story and Gary’s blog, so that whenever I’m feeling like not working out, I can re-read it as a source for encouragement in the knowledge that this guy could do it and so can I.

  16. Comment by Debi | 04.19.2011 | 9:44 am

    Congratulations Gary. I’m a chunkette who got on a bike to lose weight and participate in a fundraiser. I’m losing, but have a ways to go. And, oops I lost conditioning and gained about 10 lbs back after being off my bike during the winter rains in Northern CA.

    I have no plans to gain weight again, or lose my conditioning next year. I have a new Spinner Fit Bike and I’ll ride nowhere throughout the year to train for fundraising rides including “100 miles of Nowhere.” This year I’m riding 100 miles of Nowhere, but Alameda to help Fatty and Team Fatty “Fight Like Susan.” Thanks Gary for riding to help others fight cancer.

    My goal is to lose 55 lbs before I turn 55 next May. Your story is inspiring and will help me stay motivated and focused.

  17. Comment by Beth B | 04.19.2011 | 9:57 am

    Wow – just… wow! What an amazing story, Gary. Congrats to you; you are a real inspiration!

  18. Comment by Nick | 04.19.2011 | 10:04 am

    You kick ass Gary

  19. Comment by wing-nut | 04.19.2011 | 10:11 am

    One tough dude. And now he rides a single speed!

  20. Comment by Scott R | 04.19.2011 | 10:15 am

    That is the most insane set of before/after pics I’ve ever seen – congrats on your accomplishments!

  21. Comment by Up North | 04.19.2011 | 10:21 am

    That’s very impressive. Way to go!!

  22. Comment by Lisa | 04.19.2011 | 10:24 am

    Way to go! This is awesome. I love reading about people losing weight through healthy ways. I lost my 100+ pounds by swimming. I chose an activity I knew I’d love and stick with. Now I’m a cyclist but swimming was my #1 love.

  23. Comment by Sansauto | 04.19.2011 | 10:42 am


  24. Comment by Angie | 04.19.2011 | 11:14 am

    Cycling is a gift from God and your story is proof of the miracle! I’m so happy you shared it!

  25. Comment by Kim | 04.19.2011 | 11:14 am

    Just… wow. What an inspiration you are!

  26. Comment by Mark J. | 04.19.2011 | 11:21 am

    Great story and very well written. I have only a few pounds left to lose and often lose motivation (like the last few weeks) so reading stories like this is exactly what I need. Thanks for sharing your story Gary. Very impressive. And thanks Fatty for using your forum to share this. Keep it coming…love it!

  27. Comment by skippy | 04.19.2011 | 11:25 am

    Been following this story for some time now . Truly inspirational , worth your time to add yourselves to his following ! !

  28. Comment by drew | 04.19.2011 | 11:26 am

    mmm so inspiring, at 240 lbs I am now gonna follow you and fatty and do a blog to keep me motivated..I guess I am the “fatter cyclist” lol

  29. Comment by bashzilla | 04.19.2011 | 12:43 pm

    That is a great story.

  30. Comment by KanyonKris | 04.19.2011 | 1:20 pm

    Fantastic story, Gary. I can’t imagine the determination needed to loose that much weight. Well done!

  31. Comment by Gaz (The 39 Stone Cyclist) | 04.19.2011 | 1:30 pm

    WOW, What an amazing response everyone, thanks.

    I hope that , in the way the Biggest Loser inspired me to save my life, my story will inspire someone else to save their life .

    and as for Neill commenting on me !!! WOW dude, I am in Awe of every single contestant on that show, yourself included for putting yourself out there, without people like you, i’d be dead, pure and simple

    THANK YOU Neill and The Biggest Loser….!


    The FORMER 550 Pound Cyclist !

  32. Comment by Mike | 04.19.2011 | 1:46 pm

    Way to Gary! Amazing!

  33. Comment by buckythedonkey | 04.19.2011 | 1:53 pm

    Gaz, I think I may have followed your early outings on BikeRadar. You are amazing, mate. Absolutely bloody amazing!

  34. Comment by Haven-KT | 04.19.2011 | 2:05 pm

    That’s so awesome, Gary.

    And yeah– That’s most insane set of before and after pics I’ve ever seen! Also the best.

    Very inspiring.

  35. Comment by Elizabeth | 04.19.2011 | 2:43 pm

    Such an engaging story. I admit at one point I had to fast forward to the “after” photo I knew would be at the end of the story. Goodness. Wow. I love the human spirit. You rock, Gaz!

  36. Comment by Carla Ungerecht | 04.19.2011 | 3:25 pm

    What a great story. Congrats on your success – very inspiring to me. Our weather isn’t great at this time of year and I have yet to be outside riding. When I finally get outside and I feel like giving up – you will come to mind and I know I won’t quit.

  37. Comment by Ferd Berfle | 04.19.2011 | 3:30 pm

    Man, what a great story! This website never ceases to amaze me. Between Fatty’s stories and those of the guest writers, I get a steady dose of inspiration to set and achieve my own goals. Way to go, Gaz!

  38. Comment by CBJ | 04.19.2011 | 4:22 pm

    I will bookmark this one for my patients that say they “can’t” lose weight. Wow! What an inspirational story. There is no substitute for good old fashioned hard work!!!

  39. Comment by Donovan Warren | 04.19.2011 | 6:29 pm

    Wow. Just wow.

    I have no excuse for not getting this 90 pounds off now. Thanks for the inspiration, and congratulations for all your effort!

  40. Comment by Joshua Duggan | 04.19.2011 | 7:17 pm

    Amazing story! Congratulations, Gary.

    Fitting that I’m reading this while watching the Biggest Loser. Love the inspirational stories on this show and watching people literally change their lives.

  41. Comment by L'Hippo | 04.19.2011 | 7:24 pm

    Makes any excuse I use not to ride seem trivial. Way to go!

  42. Comment by Jesse | 04.19.2011 | 9:39 pm

    Wow. I seriously teared up.

    I’ll second the helmet suggestion though – saved my life as well.

  43. Comment by Bryce | 04.19.2011 | 10:54 pm


    That is exactly what I needed to read today! Thank you for the post.

  44. Comment by Dan O | 04.19.2011 | 10:58 pm

    Fantastic story.

  45. Comment by Jenn | 04.20.2011 | 12:31 am

    Awesome, inspirational story! Word to the wise, though, friend…I am able to type this message to you (left-hand only, for now; thank u, busted clavicle) because my head was covered when it hit the pavement this weekend, bounced, then hit again. It CAN happen to you, and if you ride as often as it sounds, eventually it will. Please? Helmet??

    RIDE ON! (in 6-8 weeks!)

  46. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 04.20.2011 | 2:10 am

    Super story. A life lesson for all of us. I am inspired.

    Ditto on the helmet comments. I have replaced two helmets broken in crashes that would have otherwise left me seriously injured. They work, and if you ride without one you are playing Russian roulette.

    Ride on

  47. Comment by Dan | 04.20.2011 | 2:38 am

    Hi Gaz
    have followed your story off and on for a while (bikeradar etc); hats off to you, really so pleased for you and also, being a cycling nut, pleased that pedalling is what did it for you.
    I doubt there are many tour champs that worked harder than you.

  48. Pingback by Need some inspriation? « Bike Bake and Beyond | 04.20.2011 | 7:06 am

    [...] not inspiring enough? The Fat Cyclist is running guest-written posts this week. Tuesday’s post was pretty good. In fact, don’t just go to that one entry, add Fatty’s blog to your [...]

  49. Comment by Uphillbattle | 04.20.2011 | 8:09 am

    Gary, totally awesome! You are an inspiration!

  50. Comment by Jenni | 04.20.2011 | 9:33 am


  51. Comment by Cyclin' Missy | 04.20.2011 | 12:58 pm

    Awesome! Totally inspiring!

  52. Comment by lynn e | 04.20.2011 | 1:57 pm

    You certainly earned that crown you are wearing in the first pick. Ain’t it great!

  53. Comment by Microchip | 04.20.2011 | 4:01 pm

    Amazing story. Well done!!

  54. Comment by Mike Roadie | 04.21.2011 | 5:14 am

    What a great story and inspiration to those who find obstacles to everything. You show they are really opportunities!

  55. Comment by Terri Reynolds | 04.21.2011 | 3:45 pm

    That is just awesome! You are a great inspiration for others!! Continue on my friend!!

  56. Pingback by Liv-in Strong & Riding For Lance. « 39 Stone Cyclist | 04.22.2011 | 1:29 am

    [...] You to Elden for publishing my “About Me” Story over on Fat Cyclist, If you haven’t seen it, then pop over there and don’t forget to thank Fatty for [...]

  57. Comment by Terry | 04.22.2011 | 10:22 am

    What an odyssey, Gary!


  58. Comment by Jacob | 04.28.2011 | 1:48 pm

    I loved your story. I didn’t do the amazing transformation that you have, but I can relate to the idea that by making your goals public, you’ll be more likely to succeed. I made a big deal on my blog and on Facebook last year when I began running and since I started training for my first triathlon this year, I’ve kept up the idea of making my goal public and letting people watch my training progress through Runkeeper. I’ve lost a lot of the weight that I wanted to when I set my first running goal and I’ve since fallen in love with cycling.

    Congratulations at doing something amazing. I seriously doubt many people who have had that much extra weight to lose ever really do it.

  59. Pingback by Why You Should Cycle Today, Reason 1 | There and Back Again ?????? | 05.16.2011 | 5:33 am

    [...] are a couple of examples of people losing loads of weight cycling, this chap lost 26 stone Here and this guy lost 320 pounds [...]

  60. Pingback by Pedal Power to the Rescue | 05.25.2011 | 2:01 am

    [...] getting several miles on the bike a day just as part of your commute will do for you. Read this post from one guy who used the bike to change his health if you need a more concrete example of what I [...]

  61. Pingback by Inspiration Links | Dean of Mac | 05.26.2011 | 12:12 pm

    [...] Gary Brennan lost 364 pounds by riding a bike. Not all by riding a bike, but you get the idea. Gary’s Blog [...]

  62. Comment by Dean | 05.26.2011 | 3:53 pm

    Thanks for the story! I’ve just begun my journey to get into better physical shape and complete a century next year.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.