A fat dad who weighed a whopping 20 stone has lost almost half his bodyweight by cycling to work every day – because he was fed up with traffic jams.
Darren Cole, 34, switched to pedal power after road works turned his six-mile daily commute into an infuriating hour-long trip in 2011.
Within a year, the dad-of-one had shaved 30 minutes off his journey and he has now dropped from a 42-inch waist to a trim 32 inches.
Today the IT systems engineer, who has clocked up a staggering 25,000 miles and burnt 625,000 calories in the saddle, tips the scales at a healthy 11st 6oz (74kg).
Darren, who lives with fiancé Charlotte Fahey, 44, a IT systems consultant, and their son Alex, seven, in Long Eaton, Nottingham, said: “I’m a cycling nerd now.
“I was just so fed up after they started doing work on the tramline and it doubled my daily commute. I would get to work angry and frustrated every day.
“When I first started it was really tough. I got an old mountain bike out and it would take me about the same time to get in as in the car.
“But I started to shave time off pretty quickly, and immediately started to feel better.
“After about a year I got a proper road bike, and it’s just snowballed from there. Now I’m addicted – I start to feel a bit uneasy if I haven’t exercised in a day or so.”
Darren cycles six days a week, totalling 250 miles on average, and has switched bacon butties, kebabs and chips for bananas, brown toast and pasta salads.
After his office moved early last year his daily ride increased to 11 miles, but he frequently takes a 25-mile scenic route before work instead.
In 2013 he did his first proper cycling event, a 200-mile, two-and-a-half day charity ride from Newcastle-upon-Thyme back to his office in Nottingham.
He said: “It was really tough that first proper ride, as I’d not long had the road bike and it was just so far.
“But the feeling of achievement was incredible and I’ve never looked back.
“Now I race with my local team and will hopefully get into Category Two competitions this year, where I’ll race against pro-riders.”
Last year he completed the gruelling 186-mile Liege-Bastogne-Liege one-day classic, one of the four monuments of world cycling that features 15,000ft (4,600m) of climbing.
He regularly takes parts in sportive events in the UK, timed single- and multi-day challenges that are often over 100 miles a day.
Darren said: “Looking back now I can’t believe how I used to be.
“Before I was on the verge of diabetes and now I’m the slimmest I’ve ever been.
“I used to cycle everywhere as a child because it was my only form of transport.
“But then I learned to drive and discovered beer and going out, and the pounds piled on.”
“I think that fear of slipping back to how I was keeps me going.
“Last year I was knocked off by a taxi and split the tendons in my shoulder, but I was back on within two weeks – I can’t go without it.
“I couldn’t do it without the support of Charlotte and Alex though.
“They both enjoy cycling too, and we go over to watch events like the Tour De France together, but Charlotte does describe herself as a ‘cycling widow’.”
Darren is leading a team of Vision Express volunteers from his workplace ahead of a 200-mile, two-day fundraiser in September.
The Ride4Sight event raises money for charity partner the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT), which helps people affected by eye cancer retinoblastoma.
To donate to the team’s fundraising efforts, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Vision-Express-R4S-2016.
*DARREN’S DIET BEFORE
Breakfast – Extra large bowl of cereal followed by bacon butties
Lunch – Meal deal
Dinner – Kebab and chips
Snacks – Chocolate, crips, fizzy drinks
*DARREN’S DIET AFTER
Breakfast – Brown toast
Lunch – Pasta salad
Dinner – Fish and rice
Snacks – Banana