Clyde that Rides
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Long Island, NY
Bikes: 2008 Jamis Aurora,1988 Specialized Hardrock, 1980? Kuwahara Carrera
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I have two bikes I ride regularly. I have a mid 90 Specialized Hardrock that I have converted to a commuter and a 2007 Jamis Aurora that I use for longer and faster rides and some light touring. At my weight (320 lbs, 355 last year), I've found that I really like steel bikes as they offer a bit more flex than aluminum. Now the rear wheel on the Aurora keep popping spokes, or rather, I keep popping spokes on the Aurora, so one day I'll rebuild the wheel (or have it rebuilt.) The Hardrock has given my no spoke popping problems, but I don't ride it as hard. This is my opinion though. When I came back to cycling I bought a Trek 7300 FX aluminum frame that I wanted to like, but it ended up hurting to ride, so I sold it and upgraded.
Recommended weight limits are just recommended limits. The biggest things are to find a bike that fits you and make sure there are at least 36 spokes on the rear wheel (40 may be better), then ride it! Working with a bike shop that has dealt with large riders before is important as fitting can be complicated. Touring and hybrid bikes tend to be preferred because hand positions tend to be higher and thus your not as scrunched over with your belly interfering with your pedaling motion (it happens!) Roadie racing style bikes may be too fragile for our uber-clydness, but not having the income disposable in this way I cannot make this statement with any first hand experience. Your bike store should ask you to bring the bike back after you've ridden 100 miles or so, at this time, make sure they go over the spoke tensions of the rear wheel, particularly on the non-drive side.
Looking back, if I were going to get a single bike, I'd probably get either a Surly Cross Check or a Long Haul Trucker. Either can be set up like a hybrid with upright positioning and wide enough tires or converted to a speedier roadie type bike with drop bars. If you live in an area with a LBS that can order the frame and components, they certainly can get you a good wheelset and appropriate components.