They all used to call him “Big Chris.” But Chris Quick, now 33, hated Big Chris.
Sure, it seemed like a fun nickname for someone with his frame. By the time Big Chris hit the sixth grade, he was six feet tall and 200 pounds. When the high school football coach in his Montana town took one look at him, he saw someone who could push around other massive young men in the trenches of the gridiron. The coach was stunned he’d have to wait three years to add Big Chris to the team.
Eventually, Quick fulfilled his nickname, as a wide-shouldered, thick-necked, big-bellied lineman, even though he didn’t care much for football. When he started college at North Dakota State University, he hung up his cleats and fell victim to the affliction that affects so many freshmen: college weight gain.
In his case, however, he packed on 50 extra pounds instead of the traditional 15. No matter; that was Big Chris.
“It’s funny how your brain plays tricks on you,” Quick told Bicycling over the phone. “I assumed since so many people knew me as the big guy, my weight wasn’t really a big deal. In my mind, I was just always going to be that guy. So I got used to it.”
As Quick continued growing after college, he blew up. First to 300 pounds, then to 400. He took A/V sales jobs after graduation and worked concert security on the side. Any time a popular rapper rolled through town, Big Chris was the beefy ringer called in to guard him. No other human barricade was better suited for the job.
Once Quick reached his late 20s, he had settled into a life he knew was unhealthy. He’d chug three Mountain Dews in the morning, down a few Burger King Whoppers for lunch, and polish off an entire pizza for dinner. In between meals were endless bags of corn chips and bottles of pop.
Turns out a 4,000-calorie daily diet takes its toll. For Quick, even the simplest physical tasks were a struggle: Walking up stairs left him winded, bending down to tie his shoes was a burden.
Air travel proved tricky, too. “When I’d fly somewhere for work, I’d have to request one of those seatbelt extenders,” he said. “That broke my heart.”
To avoid embarrassment, he stayed at home and retreated inward. “I was depressed,” he said. “I found myself not doing anything, period. I didn’t want to go outside and deal with being that giant sweaty guy. It was much easier to withdraw and pig out.”
Eventually, Quick stopped weighing himself altogether. It wasn’t so much out of fear of the number on the scale, but mostly because he couldn’t actually find one strong enough for his size.
It was only at the doctor’s office when he was 31 that he finally heard the verdict: He had topped out at 475 pounds.
The doctor put it more bluntly: “Chris, you’re too f—— fat.”
Something had to give, his foul-mouthed physician reasoned, or Quick’s body would ultimately give out. Soon after hearing the doctor’s orders, he found himself on the couch in the summer of 2016, staring at the beautiful Bismarck, North Dakota sun waiting outside his window. “I just realized how much I was missing,” he said. “I knew I needed to get outside. So I thought about riding a bike.”
The only problem? He didn’t have one. He hadn’t even sat on one since he was a kid. So he ventured to his local sporting goods store, gave his pitch to the salesman—I’m almost 500 pounds; got anything that will support me?—and walked out with a Trek Shift 3. “The bike is meant to get people moving and ‘shift’ their lifestyle,” he said. “That concept really spoke to me.”
The first ride was short: a few miles, maybe 5, along his neighborhood bike path. It was so painful that he could barely sit down the next day. “But I felt a kind of enjoyment that I hadn’t felt in such a long time,” he said. “I wanted to go for another ride right away.”