Off to the Races with Plus-Size Pro Cyclist and Cascade Board Member Marley Blonsky
  • With her recent sponsorship by PEARL iZUMi, Marley Blonsky is shattering perceptions of what a professional bicyclist looks like.
  • Next up: Cyclocross National Championships, a feature on Oregon Public Broadcasting, Seattle to Portland 2022, lots of gear testing and gravel rides.

Marley Blonsky is totally fine finishing last in most of the cyclocross races in which she competes. For her, winning is being out on the muddy race courses, having fun with spectators, negotiating the obstacles and hills, and representing people with large bodies.

“I love the community aspect of cyclocross racing,” says Blonsky, a Cascade Bicycle Club Board member and self-described fat bicyclist who has become a national spokesperson for inclusivity in bicycling.

On Dec. 11, Blonsky will race in the women’s singlespeed category at the 2021 Cyclocross National Championships in Chicago. While there she will also lead an inclusive ride with All Bodies on Bikes, a group she co-founded.

The Chicago trip will be the latest high point in a wild career ride for Blonsky, 35, who has progressed from novice bike commuter to sponsored athlete and bike brand ambassador over the past decade. Her goal: smash perceptions of what a professional bicyclist looks like, and make bicycling more welcoming to people of all body types. 

“Cycling historically has been very mono-cultural,” Blonsky told us in a 2020 blog post. “We are not all that svelte, featherweight rider. I want to show that biking can be fun regardless of what kind of body you are in.”

A Media Star for Body Positivity

Blonsky, who has been featured in publications ranging from Bicycling to the Washington Post, recently made bike media headlines when she signed a deal with cycling apparel brand PEARL iZUMi to become a paid athlete and consultant. Blonsky advises PEARL iZUMi on everything from the design and fit of its products, to the brand’s marketing language, to the company’s internal culture and inclusivity initiatives.

“This partnership is the beginning of an exciting shift within the broader cycling and outdoor industry,” says Blonsky. Adds Andrew Hammond, PEARL iZUMi brand director: “She is helping more people see themselves as cyclists and we’re very excited to sign a multi-year deal with her.” 

PEARL iZUMi sends Blonsky prototypes to test, and she helps the brand find other people with large bodies to do further testing. Her two favorite products are the company’s Women’s PRO Bib Shorts and the Women’s Monsoon rain jacket, “the first rain jacket I’ve ever owned that actually fits me,” Blonsky says.

In addition to PEARL iZUMi, two other brands support Blonsky financially: Chamois Butter and Competitive Cyclist. Shimano, Lazer, and The Pro’s Closet provide her with bikes and gear, and Breezer Bikes is her official gravel bike sponsor.

Riding STP in 2022

In addition to her brand ambassadorships, Blonsky coaches, leads group rides and bike packing trips, creates content for her Instagram and social media accounts, and more. On her website, Life on Two Wheels, she profiles “Movers and Shakers” such as 75-year-old Merlin Rainwater, a Seattle bike advocate who leads the SLOW (Senior Ladies on Wheels) group ride. Blonsky also reviews cycling gear with posts including “The Best Bike Seat for Heavy Riders.” 

In 2020, Blonsky was a featured speaker at the Washington Bike, Walk, Roll Summit. Earlier this year, Cascade members elected Blonsky to the Board. As a Board member, Blonsky is working to help the 51-year-old organization become more welcoming to people of all abilities, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

“Marley brings tremendous enthusiasm to her work with Cascade, and we are thankful to have her talents as we advance our efforts to welcome more people into the bicycling community,” says Board President Tamara Schmautz.

For 2022, Blonsky hopes to complete Cascade’s Seattle to Portland ride, 206 miles over two days in July. She also plans to do other Cascade rides including Chilly Hilly, “one of my favorites because Bainbridge Island is so beautiful,” and the Emerald City ride, when thousands of people on bikes cruise Seattle’s streets. Cascade will announce dates and registration information for STP and other major rides in mid-December. 

Blonsky plans to ride STP on her fast and new Stinner Frameworks road bike. 
From Texas to Pro Bicyclist

Blonsky rode bikes as a kid growing up in Texas. She moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, then worked as a sustainability manager for a logistics company. In her mid-20s she moved to a Seattle neighborhood where it no longer made sense to have a car. 

“I wanted to get into cycling, so I started by bike commuting and wanted to get back into camping, so I started talking to some people who were into bike camping and learned how to do that and it all just kind of grew from there and became sort of an obsession,” Blonsky says in an interview with Breezer Bikes. Blonsky is an ambassador for Breezer and rides their Inversion gravel bike.

Road trip with her Breezer gravel bike. Gravel riding is one of Marley's favorite pastimes.

This year, Blonsky made a huge career leap--quitting her corporate job and becoming a full-time professional bicyclist. While not lucrative, it’s highly rewarding work. And it means Blonsky always has a reason to ride. “It’s soooo nice to wake up and be excited about the work I’m doing.” 

Blonsky has five bikes in her crowded apartment that she shares with two rescue dogs. In addition to the Breezer, she owns a Stinner Frameworks road bike that she wants to ride in STP, a Bullitt electric cargo bike for shopping and carrying her dogs, a Pivot mountain bike, and a Surly singlespeed that she uses for cyclocross racing. She also has an indoor trainer from Saris that she uses for keeping fit during foul weather.

Gravel Riding

Other upcoming highlights for Blonsky include a feature on the Oregon Public Broadcasting show “Oregon Field Guide,” about All Bodies on Bikes, and a trip next summer to Steamboat Springs, Colo. For the Colorado trip, All Bodies on Bikes partnered with gravel racing promoter SBT GRVL to select 15 non-traditional athletes to participate in and receive free registration and lodging for a “supportive, body-inclusive gravel weekend of adventure,” Aug. 12-14, 2022.

“I started as a bike commuter, then got into longer rides and bike packing and touring,” Blonsky says. “I never thought of myself as unique or special, but over time I realized that I can use my platform to make a difference.”

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Paul Tolmé