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« Stop handing them the stick | Main | Just as long as it doesn't have pedals »

Bike to work, lose weight

Here is an inspirational story about Englishman Gary Brennan, who at the beginning of 2008 weighed 546 lbs.

He started riding a bike 7 miles each way to work, five days a week and in less that a year lost 224 lbs.

The top picture shows Gary as he was, and the picture on the left is as he is now.

Doctors had previously told him the only way he could lose the weight was to have gastric bipass surgury.

When he started riding to work the seven mile ride took him two hours. I cannot imagine the effort it must have taken to haul over 500 lbs on a bike, up even the slightest incline. Today the daily commute takes Gary about twenty minutes each way.

Read more about Gary Brennan here, and he also has some great cycling promo videos here.

Cycling is a great way to burn calories. It can be as gentle or intense as you wish to make it. I can imagine when Gary started out just the amount of weight he had to propel forward burned a lot of calories even at a slow speed.

The great thing about cycling is, the faster you ride the more calories you burn per mile traveled because of the increase in wind resistance.  As Gary lost weight and gained fitness, he rode faster and burned more calories.

Like all exercise, it is a chore at first, but when you reach a certain fitness level cycling becomes a joy and a pleasure.

Regular readers already know the health benefits of cycling, but here is dramatic proof of what can be achieved in extreme circumstances.

Share it with someone you know who could benifit from an inspirational story like this one


Footnote: For US readers, Gary talks about weighing 39 stone. A Stone = 14 lbs. (39 x 14 = 546 lbs.)


Reader Comments (35)

What a great story about the power of exercise!

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVera

I was 16 and a half stone (231lbs for the American) before I cycle everyday, it took me half a year to lose 3 stone (42lbs) simply by cycling 5 time a week 11 miles each way between Wimbledon and Clerkenwell.

You're spot on how exercising become a lots more enjoyable after you lose a couple stones, althought cycling is enjoyable in the first place, if you feel tired, just take it easy yet still burn some calories.

regarding the last sentence on your post; US reader know what stones is?

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEdward Scoble

I'm all for cycling, but there must be more to this story. It just doesn't add up if all that person did was cycle to work 7 miles. Cycling may burn calories while you're doing it, but most of these are quickly replaced by the ravenous appetite it creates. To lose weight in such a scenario, you would have to also do some serious, almost impossible dieting, because while it takes a lot of cycling to burn a few hundred calories, it only takes a few cookies or even fruit to negate that entirely.

The internet is full of incomplete, partial stories.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPierre


Off the subject but Gary looks about as thrilled as I do when wearing the crown that came inside a popper. He looks admittedly better, healthier, and happier in the latter picture (minus the crown) ;) And for Pierre, I would agree that there is more to the story but remember the first step was the hardest. To take control of the situation through an action plan and to stay the course was the heart of the matter. My hat is off to Gary.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJim

I don't find it impossible that simply adding cycling (14 miles round trip?) to what was obviously a completely sedentary lifestyle could cause such dramatic weight loss.
Kudos to Gary!

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterskylab

By his own admission, Gary was a binge eater and drinker, I'm sure he dropped that habit when he got serious about losing weight.
Exercising gives an incentive not to overeat and undo all the hard work you've put in.

November 20, 2009 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

When I think of my cycling heroes, I don't think of Contador and Armstrong. I think of guys like Gary, and my mate Gene. These are real people doing the hard yards to lose weight. I took up cycling to lose weight, and 28Kg later, I'm feeling just great. I can't imagine what it must be like to put in the effort required to lose hundreds of kilos. Gary, Gene, and others like them are an inspiration. These guys are true champions.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMax

Hi Dave (and everyone else)

I noticed a lot of traffic hitting my blog from here so thought I would pop over and see why, thanks very much for the story, I appreciate my story reaching as many people as it can, My blog is all about helping others now, getting my story out there to show it CAN be done. No its not easy but its worth every seingle second of effort.

Pierre, Im sorry that you dont believe, there is nothing more to my story, I went from sitting there doing NOTHING to riding 14 miles a day (now almost 18) and from over 6000 cals a day to around 1250cals a day, I have not had an operation, I dont take slimming pills, I have gotten my life back though sheer hard work and im loving every second of it, No incomplete, partial story here but feel free to quiz me if your not sure.

Max Your way too kind and well done man !

Thanks to everyone else too for your kind comments

Gaz (The Amazing Shrinking One)

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGary

Congratulations!! This story really meant a lot to me because at the age of 19 (about 5 years ago), I was 300 lbs. Then I decided to start bike riding. While I did change my diet at first, I simply started eating better carbs but caloric intake probably went up because of the massive riding I was doing. I lost over 100 lbs and started racing as a semi-pro cyclist. Keep it up!

I am also a living example that this CAN happen. In a day in age of fad diets and surgeries, it is nice to see others do it the old fashion way. Cycling is an amazing sport and a work out CANNOT be eliminated by "a few cookies and some fruit".

I completely believe this story and encouraged!

Tim Pitzer

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Pitzer


I don't see why you don't believe what Gaz has achieved. There is no incomplete or partial story here - regardless of your opinion.

I know Gaz. Gaz was big. Immensley big. Dangerously big. He realised it was an issue that only he had created, and decided to do something about it, rather than have others do something about it for him.

Its easy to shift weight whilst cycling without changing any habits if you know what you want and how to go about it. I for one did the same thing, although not to the same extent (I was nearly 16.5 stone and now I am near 12 stone in a year) and haven't changed the way I have done anything (infact, I tucked into a 3,000+ calorie tea not so long ago - Chicken Tikka Phaal, Rice, Garlic Naan and 6 Onion Bhaji's).

Stop looking for holes that don't exist. Its all true - a little diet modification (ie: stopping eating crap and drinking in excess) and exercise are THE only way to a healthy lifestyle!

I'm sure he'd be happy to take you on a bike ride sometime and show you just what he has achieved so far - believe me mate - you'll struggle to keep up and he's still 21 stone!


Nice blog mate - added to my RSS feeds

Everybody else,

Stay positive, be healthy!

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoby

I'm glad you found my post, I meant to contact you but got lazy too busy. You and others like you are an inspiration, and demonstrate what can be done. Keep pedaling.

November 20, 2009 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton


Actually, Joby is spot on, if you are in the UK then lets roll, I have arranged a bike ride next weekend, to help other overweight cyclists, its only 26 miles, you would be welcome to join us.


Wow Congrats mate, Semi Pro, thats amazing from where you were, I dont think I could do that but it would be a dream for me to land a job where I get to cycle all day, I watched a documentory on Lance Armstrong and to see him just ride for 6 hours a day was amazing, I so wish I could too :)


November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGary


No problems with not contacting me, you have a great blog and its an honor for you to feature me, so Thank You and there is no question at all that im gonna keep those cranks a turning.


November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGary

Thanks for posting this great story Dave, and then for tweeting it. Amazing what Gaz has accomplished.

Thanks Again
Pastor Clint

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPastor Clint

Don't get me wrong, I greatly applaud the weight loss and fitness efforts.

I'm not in the U.K., so I'll pass on the invitation to a ride. But I do ride my road bike for some significant, reasonably fast mileage almost every day. After decades of this, I do have some idea of how much calorie burning corresponds to how much riding. I still suspect there must be some additional, perhaps unknown, additional medical factor here.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPierre


There is no additional medical factor here, I am not sure I know what you mean either TBH, I was told I needed a gastric bypass, I didnt have it, nor any other operations, I have been on slimming pills around 6 years ago, they didnt work (as I didnt do anything to make them work) and have not taken any since, So again im not sure what you are saying here but please eloberate on what you think the additional medical factor here is.


November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGary

Yes Pierre - perhaps the prospect of the doctor telling him he could be dead in the not too distant future made him sit up and take notice, as he didn't want to leave a wife and 2 kids with no father figure.

If he consumes less calories than he is supposed to (he consumes 1,250 calories a day) and your body burns 2,500 calories a day (his probably more due to his size) he's bound to lose weigh - adding cycling to that and his weight will drop off quicker.

1lb of body fat is approx 3,500 calories. Take him 3 days in laymans turn to lose 1lb - 120lbs over the year (about 8 stone)... Add to that cycling every day - around 500 calories a day - thats an extra 2,500 calories a week burned through cycling. Over the year thats 130,000 extra calories burned through cycling - another 37lbs - total 157lbs (11 stone).

Obviously its not as simple as the above - but looks scientifically possible to me.
Pretty much possible by following the above?

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoby

My word, Joby you do like numbers dont you :D

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGary

Did you cut out the binge eating? That would be a factor that I think Pierre is looking for.

You have to realize when Gary stared out he was hauling over 500 lbs on his bike. That alone would cause him to burn more calories than you or I.

November 20, 2009 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

My RBR (resting Metabolic Rate) is well over 3000 cals a day, My Garmin, altho well out, tells me im buring a little under 2000 cals a day, by eating 1250 cals gives me a MINUS of 3750 cals per day !

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGary


Yes I did, I cut out, drinking, smoking and eating rubbish, went from eating WELL over 6000 cals a day to eating 1250 cals a day now.


November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGary

Thank you for that post Dave, As always your stuff is very thoughtful and inspirational.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBluenoser

Well, there you go:

"Yes I did, I cut out, drinking, smoking and eating rubbish, went from eating WELL over 6000 cals a day to eating 1250 cals a day now."

That's what did it, not the fact that cycling to work was the exercise. Other more medical type of factors might be something like losing weight that is really extra fluid weight rather than fat, perhaps due to some degree of heart or renal failure that improved as some of the real weight went down.

Whatever, what you did is admirable, no doubt about that. Losing weight via exercise alone is almost impossible, because you can't just burn calories while exercising, and then not eat at all. Even if you could do it, you would get as much muscle breakdown as you would fat loss. This is why it's always such a slow and gradual process.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPierre

It is that simple and that complex at the same time. To think that someone COULD lose that much weight by eating different and cycling used to be a foreign concept to me UNTIL I got the threat of an early death from my doctor. I too picked up my bike ate different and lost weight....a lot of weight. GREAT JOB GARY!!!!!!!!

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGene (100poundsago)

"That's what did it, not the fact that cycling to work was the exercise."

Pierre, by the same token, reducing caloric intake without exercise doesn't necessarily lead to weight reduction. I worked in an extended care hospital with some massively overweight patients. People who couldn't even walk. They were on 1250 - 1900 calorie diets, under constant supervision, never out of the facility, and none of them lost weight at all. The lack of exercise was critical.

Not everyone is exactly the same, either. Some people have a much harder time burning calories than others. The main thing is that Gary has shucked a lot of weight and feels better for it. Cycling is one of the best ways folks can achieve that goal.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDiana

Great post and great story. I love reading stuff like this - it shows the true power of bikes and by just commuting to work - it can change your life.

I'm lucky and I've always been thin - too skinny as a kid and now it has paid off some as an adult. Even so, now that I'm heading towards 50 years old (!!!), if it wasn't for my 100 - 150 miles a week (almost all commute miles), I'd gain weight for sure and of course, would be nowhere as fit.

I've personally seen real life examples, similar to Gary's story - though not as extreme - where people have lost 20 - 60 pounds by bike commuting. At times I played a part in this, with bike advice, sharing rides, etc. Incredibly cool to see people get hooked on bikes and change their lives. Plus, as we all know - it's all pretty damn fun.

Ride on Gary !!

November 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDan O

Beautiful story. Doctors tell you one thing when it comes to options but you make the ultimate decision.

2 hours is a commitment. This guy wanted to live a full life more than anything so he made the sacrifice.

I've been walking for about an hour a day. Usually a runner but I've had sciatic for the past month and a half. I love biking but haven't done so in years.

November 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

It's been working for me. Last year I went down a size by eating salad for supper, then I got laid off and got serious. I decided that because I was 54 I needed to do two hours of exercise a day to lose the rest, so I started walking and hour a day, an riding for an hour. That was my goal anyway, but it took a while to even get there. Given my age and horrible shape, I was careful... as I had some cardiac symptoms like tachycardia from time to time. And you are right, I started craving carbs in no time, so that was the end of the salads. But, I have dropped another size, and am still losing at a good rate. Presently I have gotten back to where I was at 40, which is all I originally was shooting for. In some ways I never expected to see a size 12 again. All that in 4 and a 1/2 months. My heart symptoms are gone, as are my various aches and pains, and what's more, my hands look 40 again.... my skin looks much better, it's soft and supple again. My memory is better and I feel 15 years younger.... Don't knock biking, climbing on one can begin an amazing journey. Of course, I did get the bug bad, I am up to an hour and 40 minutes inside on a trainer. I live in New Hampshire, so you have to go inside eventually. I have modified my diet too, I learned with salads to work with what I like. So, I eat my potatoes, but eat less meat..... the old fashioned way.

But, biking is the bomb!

November 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPLS

All that remains to be said to people who plan to cycle to lose weight is, good luck with that. If you have an hour to exercise, you will probably burn more calories by walking at a brisk pace during that hour than by cycling, or playing an aggressive game of squash.

Unless you're constantly climbing or battling headwinds, cycling is too easy. By that I mean that on a bike, you get to go farther for less expenditure of energy. It's great for cardiovascular fitness, but it's not a panacea when it comes to serious weight loss, unless it's part of a whole lifestyle change which involves both what you eat and a variety of ways to get calorie-burning exercise every day.

Not that I get my information from the wasteland of internet forums, but if you want to read about failed weight loss attempts by disappointed newbie cyclists, check out some of the many posts on cycling or bike forums about this very subject.

What is important for someone like Gary is to lose the weight in a way that is safe from a medical point of view (faster is not necessarily better), and perhaps more importantly, in a manner which is *sustainable*. If you get too comfortable with the idea that commuting to work on a bicycle will maintain that for you, this may not be enough to maintain the success that you have had so far.

November 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPierre


A hero for us all.

November 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRider

very nice post and show great positive reaction between cycling and weight losing.well done keep it up.

November 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMotorcycle Parts

that's wonderful! amazing! bless you!
my BF lost 35 lbs [2.5 stones i think] in 3 months by increasing the time and intensity of his riding. at one point in my life, i lost 10 lbs by riding 7 miles a day, 5 days a week [my roundtrip commute] 10 lbs doesn't impress you? i went from 112 to 102 lbs. then my doctor insisted i learn to eat to compensate. so no matter where you start, cycling is a great low impact workout.

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrobyn

I also have the website that relate to Heart attack. Anyway, visit me for sometime!!
Thanks!! for the good articles.^_^

May 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAttinlyVelt

You are amazing! I am your before right now and just started riding to work. It made me cry to read your story. I will read your blog everyday for that extra push I need. I was told the same a few months ago, the only way to lose that much weight is a gastric bypass, and I've just seen it ruin so many people. My journey just started, and you are my inspiration!

May 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPlumpPedalPusher

Im glad that, in some smal way, I have helped you out, its never easy starting on this road, and once your on it its easy to get off but having the mindset that you want to get to the end is, sometimes, all you need, very good luck

June 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGaz
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