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  1. #1
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    Help a big guy find the right bike for under $1500

    Hi everyone,

    First post here.

    I'll start out with a bit of info about myself.
    I'm a big guy, weighing in at about 350lbs and 6'3 tall.
    I've started to diet and exercise; my main physical activity being biking.
    I've always loved it and plan on going further with it which is why I'm planning on investing in a solid bike now.
    I want something that will last me for years to come, even after I've achieved my goal weight (which is around 220lbs).

    I'm looking for "the right bike" and was hoping you lot might be able to help me out.

    I ride both on and off road so would like something that handles both well.

    I'm coming from a 2005 Norco Wolverine (18" frame), which has suited me just fine until now, but am getting the itch to upgrade.

    I realize my budget won't allow for anything extravagant, but am hoping to get into something nice and solid.

    If I could swing a couple hundred more, I'd get the Giant XTC 29er 1, but unfortunately can't.

    The salesmen at the shop I was at today showed me a Specialized Rockhopper Comp and said that might be good for me. There was also a Diamondback around the same price ($1200), but I can't remember the name. It had a rear suspension as well, though I didn't like the overly bouncy feeling that provided.

    Would going with a bike around that price point, $1200, and doing some upgrades be the better option maybe?

    I'm also not completely opposed to buying a lightly used bike, though the chances of the one I need coming up are probably rare.

    Anyways, I sincerely look forward to what you guys have to say and to getting a new bike!

  2. #2
    Climbers Apprentice vesteroid's Avatar
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    explain off road...single track....paved trails....gravel roads...what surface do you ride 80% or more of the time on? (and will that stay the same over the next 130 lbs of weight loss?)
    There's indecision when you aint got nothin left

  3. #3
    Senior Member bassjones's Avatar
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    If you're riding both on and off road, then a cyclocross bike is a great choice - unless you're riding super technical MTB trails. In that case, a pure MTB would be best, but it wouldn't be as useful on road. If your off road adventures are gravel roads and easy trails, then a cyclocross bike. Lots of MTB or cyclocross choices in the $1500 range. Which will you be doing most?

    other option is two bikes in the $700-$800 range, a MTB and a road oriented hybrid, or a used road bike. I would also recommend making sure you're on the right sized bike. 18" seems awfully small for someone 6'3" tall.

  4. #4
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    Sorry, I'm very new to all this stuff.

    I'd say I do about 60/40 road/off road- the off road stuff mainly being on paved trails.

    The thing I didn't like about the salesmen (who was actually the owner, too) of the shop I went to was that he just seemed overly eager to sell me the first bike I asked about ASAP, never actually having recommended one for my size/needs.

  5. #5
    Junior Member brushog65's Avatar
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    I am about 6'1 340 and I ride a 2012 giant talon 1. I ride the greenway around my town so I put more of a street tire on mine mine, it has lock front end and hyd. disc brakes. Its the first bike I ever had with disc brakes and they work really well for me. It is also an XL frame. with computer and tires and all I have between 900-1000$ in it. I just think it is a good all around bike. I ride on the streets and paths but I could just change tires back and unlock the front fork and its ready for trails.

  6. #6
    Watching and waiting. jethro56's Avatar
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    Do a search of all the forums here. Put in Surly Cross Check or just Cross Check a 58 cm size would suit you.

  7. #7
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    Hi,

    Thanks for the recommendations, guys- much appreciated.

    The Talon looks pretty good.

    The Surly looks like a standard road bike- not sure that would even be able to handle my weight? Would be curious to hear more about the Surly for someone my size and with my needs.

  8. #8
    Senior Member c_m_shooter's Avatar
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    The Surly is built like a tank. Mine has been used for trails, commuting, racing and loaded touring.

    JRY_1850.jpgLoaded Cross Check.jpg
    May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.
    May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. -Edward Abbey

  9. #9
    Senior Member cyclist2000's Avatar
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    I recommend a touring bike. Touring bikes are designed to handle lots of weight. There are plenty of clydes touring with a 50+ loads on these bikes.
    I don't do vintage, I bought them new, rode them, kept them. Now they are just old bikes
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bustercrb/sets/72157623483647522/

  10. #10
    Senior Member skilsaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrkm View Post
    the salesmen (who was actually the owner, too) of the shop I went to was that he just seemed overly eager to sell me the first bike I asked about ASAP, never actually having recommended one for my size/needs.
    This is unfortunately the classic approach to sales... See if you can find a bike shop that has cyclists as sales staff. They should be interested in bike fit and matching the bike to the style of riding you do.

    As for a recommendation, I like the Trek 520 touring bike for roads and hard packed or paved trails. It will have beefy wheels with more spokes than a cyclecross bike.

    Don't be in a rush. Make the hunt for the right bike part of the experience.
    The one who has the most bikes wins.

  11. #11
    Watching and waiting. jethro56's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrkm View Post
    Hi,

    Thanks for the recommendations, guys- much appreciated.

    The Talon looks pretty good.

    The Surly looks like a standard road bike- not sure that would even be able to handle my weight? Would be curious to hear more about the Surly for someone my size and with my needs.
    Look a little closer and you'll see that the Cross Check and the Surly Long Haul Trucker can handle tires up to 42mm wide. Most Road Bikes max out at 25-28 mm wide. So at your weight you're looking at 70-80 psi for the rear tire on the Surlys versus 150+ on a Road Bike. Another thing to look at is the weight difference. A Road Bike in your price range will weigh around 17 pounds and a Cross Check will be 26 pounds. Roughly 50% heavier.

  12. #12
    Senior Member bassjones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrkm View Post
    Hi,

    Thanks for the recommendations, guys- much appreciated.

    The Talon looks pretty good.

    The Surly looks like a standard road bike- not sure that would even be able to handle my weight? Would be curious to hear more about the Surly for someone my size and with my needs.
    I ride an aluminum road bike (Cannondale CAAD9), albeit with custom built 36 spoke wheels, and I'm heavier than you. If your off road riding is paved trails, get a touring bike or cyclocross bike. Jamis Aurora Elite, Surly Cross Check, Salsa Vaya or Fargo, Surly Long Haul Trucker, Kona Rove or Jake, etc... Lots of choices for $1500. Ride a bunch and get the one that begs you to ride it more.

    for the riding you've described though, a MTB with suspension (even just a suspension fork) is probably the absolute worst choice you could make.
    Last edited by bassjones; 06-08-13 at 10:06 PM.

  13. #13
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    You guys have provided me with some really eye-opening info.
    For someone who had literally no idea about any of this stuff, you've all been a wealth of information.
    I've always been under the impression (mainly 'cause I was lead to believe it by others) that big people should only ride mountainbikes since they're the strongest, blah blah...
    I'm now no longer even considering a mountainbike as it seems completely pointless for my type of riding.
    Seriously, thanks so much for leading me to that eye opening revelation.

    I'm now looking at pretty much exclusively touring bikes and both the Surly CC & LHT, along with the Trek 520 seem like fantastic options.
    A couple things I'm now wondering:

    What's the main difference between the Surly CC & LHT?
    Are there any upgrades that you'd suggest be done right away to the bike once I get it? (be it different wheels, seat, brakes, handles, etc.)
    Do you think buying a bike online is a stupid idea given that the experts aren't there to set it up how you need it when it arrives? I could save a good deal buying online, my only worry is that I won't be able to ride it "out of the box"- and I don't know any bike techs near my area.
    Are there any other touring bikes in this price range you recommend checking out?

    Thanks again, everyone!

    EDIT: After researching a bit, it seems people stress the importance of the wheels and tires quite a bit. Would the stock ones on the LHT, for example, not be sufficient for me? How much does a good set of wheels + tires run roughly? Sorry for the completely noob questions- again, I know nothing about any of this and am just getting into it all!
    Last edited by mrkm; 06-09-13 at 01:46 AM.

  14. #14
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    The LHT has a triple crankset (26/36/48)(3 different gears up front), while the cross check has a double crankset (36x48).

    If you will be riding a hilly route, a triple is the way to go when overweight. On a flat route it is not important. Once you get in shape, a double crankset is fine on hilly routes as well. When talking about cranksets, the lower the number, the easier it is to pedal up steep hills. So a 28 tooth crankset can tackle a steeper hill than a 36 tooth crankset.

    The Surley LHT also has 36 spoke rims while the cross check has 32 spoke rims, so I would think the LHT would be a bit stronger.

    I would test them both, as well us other cyclecross and touring bikes, and get what ever fits you best. A good bike shop is just as important as a good bike. They should also hopefully be experts at fitting you for the bike. They can make adjustments that are very small, but help you ride more comfortably that you wouldn't spot on your own.

    I would probably avoid buying a bike online. There is a bit of assembly, which you don't have experience with, and you loose the support of a bike shop. As you ride your bike, cables need to be adjusted, a lot of shops offer lifetime tune ups (or at least one year), just take it there, and let them adjust it for free. Its not difficult to do, but its nice to have that support.

    I have a friend who is 310-320, and he has a cross check and hasn't had any problems (although he only has about 150 miles on it so far. If you bought a cross check (or any cyclecross bike), I would recommend swapping the off road tires with smooth on road tires. If you do this when the bike is new, you might get a good deal. My friend had the shop do an even exchange on tires, since they wanted to sell a 1500 bike, and could still sell the brand new tires off his bike. If you wait a month, you will be shelling out 80 or so bucks for two tires.

    Your other question was about how much to spend on new rims. You could probably get some velocity deep V 36 spoke rims for 150-175 each. You might need to upgrade the rear rim, but I would think the front rim would be fine.

    That said, when you get a new bike, I wouldn't change a thing at first (with the exception of off road tires to on road tires if buying a cyclecross bike). Just ride it and see what works and doesn't work. You may have to upgrade the saddle soon, but I wouldn't replace it until you find out you don't like the stock saddle.

    Also, don't forget that there are a lot of accessories you have to buy with a new bike. Bike shorts are a must on long rides for a clyde (you can get mountain bike shorts if you don't want the tight fit). You need a bag to store stuff on your bike. A bike pump, or CO2. A floor pump, since you should add air before every ride. Maybe a helmet. All this cost money too, although with a 1500 budget, you shouldn't have any issues finding a bike and the accessories in this budget.

    Hopefully that was all coherent. I was rambling on, while in a rush at 530 AM. Not a recipe for success.
    Last edited by Tel0004; 06-09-13 at 09:59 AM.

  15. #15
    Watching and waiting. jethro56's Avatar
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    Tel004 has made some really good points. To get geeky on you lets look at the the road bike spectrum. At one end you have the skinny tired "racing" bike and at the other end a touring bike. As you move towards the touring bike the chainstay (length between the pedal bearings and the rear wheel bearings) gets longer. This moves the weight of the rider further forward. On a touring bike they do that to offset the weight of all the stuff people carry on a rear rack. Also it gives a touring bike more room to carry larger paniers without your heel hitting the packs. Cyclocross bikes are in-between the two. The chainstay is longer for a different reason. In cyclocross racing they get in the dirt and mud so the bikes want more weight on the front tire to get better traction for turning on these loose surfaces.

    There is also a slight difference on cyclocross bikes in that the botton bracket (BB... which is what holds the pedal bearings) is higher on a cyclocross bike. They do this because they want more clearance in rough or soft conditions to keep you from having the pedal strike the ground. I call a cyclocross bike a light touring bike.

  16. #16
    Senior Member bassjones's Avatar
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    The main thing I'd be worried about for you is sizing. You stated you're currently riding an 18" bicycle. At 6'3" that thing is way undersized for you. I would think a 58 or 60 cm frame, but possibly a 62 would be closer. You really won't know until you get sized properly. Once you have that info and can set a bike up and assemble it, then on-line isn't a bad option.

  17. #17
    Member soloexceptional's Avatar
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    When i first started to ride again i started out with a 18" frame and i am 6'4 but now i have a 23" frame hybrid and man, it is like a whole new(comfortable) world..

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by jethro56 View Post
    Do a search of all the forums here. Put in Surly Cross Check or just Cross Check a 58 cm size would suit you.
    plus 1

  19. #19
    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    I would definitely suggest going with a triple or something like SRAM Apex gearing that puts a huge cluster in the rear with a reasonably small chainring up front so you have low enough gears to get up hills. Unpaved roads will commonly have much steeper hills than a paved road will so you will want very low gearing. The Surly LHT is a decent bike at a very good price. It's a heavy bike. If you want to pay more you can find bikes that will do just as well but will weigh less (and yeah, even though you weight a lot, a lighter bike will feel better), but in your price range it would be hard to beat the Surly LHT. The Cross Check is not even close to being as good for you. The big issue with the LHT might be that it may not be quite upright enough for you out of the box, but you can put an angled stem on it and move the handle bars up with that...Once you have a good sense of the right size and sizing yourself on a bike you could look on Craigslist or even ebay or local bulletin boards. Good used LHT aren't too hard to find and are often sold at pretty decent prices. Keep in mind you can/should replace the stem to taylor the basic fit best for yourself if needed. And don't suffer for endless months if the saddle doesn't work. Good lbs will let you use a saddle for a day or two or more to test them. As you lose weight your saddle type and shape will change. You may need more padding today and less tomorrow.

  20. #20
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    Amazingly useful info you guys are sharing with me here. Thanks again so much!

    I'll look into the cost of swapping the tires right away from the shop. There's a shop about an hours drive away from me that's pretty well renowned for their custom wheel sets so I'll ask around there, too.

    Another thing I wanted to ask about was disc brakes. At this weight, wouldn't they greatly benefit me? My bike now has a front one and while I haven't got anything to compare it to, it's a very strong brake- I can feel the stopping power instantly when applying it.

    digibud, you address a point that's very important that I completely forgot to ask about... ride position... I'm used to a fairly upright position so it's good to know some adjustments can be made to accomodate someone coming more from such a background.
    Also, which bikes do you speak of that cost more, offer the same support, but weigh less? I've read a bit about the Salsa Vaya (actually, a comparison between the Vaya and the LHT)- could that fit the bill?

    Would it maybe be better to have a LBS build me up a bike using, for example, the LHT frame + fork with some good solid custom wheels and all other parts according to my needs? Would the cost be much higher?

    People seem to be recommended both the Cross Check and the LHT, but apparently the CC isn't enough to handle me?

    Sorry again for all the amateur questions! I'm learning a lot from you guys!

    EDIT: I should also mention that I don't plan on hauling anything other than myself and a bottle or two of water on the bike (and a pump)- does that make any difference in what I should be looking at?
    Last edited by mrkm; 06-09-13 at 02:47 PM.

  21. #21
    Watching and waiting. jethro56's Avatar
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    Another method to get a higher handlebar height is to add spacers. You have to have an uncut forktube like the bike is shipped from the distributor.


  22. #22
    Senior Member c_m_shooter's Avatar
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    both the cross check and lht could suit you. The cross check is a little longer in the top tube and shorter in the headtube, so more aggressive. The Salsa Vaya looks good too, it has a little taller headtube, so would be easier to get the handlebars up higher if that suits you.
    May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.
    May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. -Edward Abbey

  23. #23
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    I'll be going to my LBS either today or tomorrow. They carry Surly so I'll be able to try out both the CC and LHT- hopefully they have them in my size (58-60cm).
    I realize it's completely individual, but how tough did you folks find the move from flat bars to drop bars (assuming you used them before)?
    I'm upping the budget a bit to include a pair of custom wheels/tires. Aside from number of spokes and tired width, should I be seeking out anything else?
    Lastly, is it maybe worth it to upgrade the brake pads if I go the non-trucker disc route?
    I'm still open to other options (read: companies), just happen to have done most research on Surly's and checking them out today.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by jethro56 View Post
    Do a search of all the forums here. Put in Surly Cross Check or just Cross Check a 58 cm size would suit you.

    +1 on the Cross Check, but a 58 might be a too small depending on your preference and personal geometry.

    FYI...The Cross Check can be converted to a triple. The crank is triple compatible, but IIRC when I emailed Surly they told me you would need a new FD.

    The LHT might be too "slow" for you. It's designed to carry heavy loads. I commute and do loaded touring on one. It's not the sort of bike you want to take on long road rides. And when you try to stand up and climb it tells you to sit back down. The CC is "zippier" but can also be used for lighter touring.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrkm View Post
    I'm upping the budget a bit to include a pair of custom wheels/tires. Aside from number of spokes and tired width, should I be seeking out anything else?
    Lastly, is it maybe worth it to upgrade the brake pads if I go the non-trucker disc route?
    I'm still open to other options (read: companies), just happen to have done most research on Surly's and checking them out today.
    If you go with an LHT I don't see any need to get separate wheels. Tensioned properly, you should have no trouble. My current LHT is two years old. It's been ridden fully loaded for some 1,000 miles. Some of those miles were on unpaved roads in Montana that were very rough in places. It also regularly tackles the bumpy streets of Philly. I have never had the wheels trued or otherwise worked on aside from the initial set up.

    I had a previous LHT that was stolen. It, too, saw hundreds of miles of fully loaded action. One day I accidentally bent the RD hanger a bit. I neglected to get it fixed in short order. One day I was training for a mountainous trip and decided to see what the lowest gear felt like going up hill. The bent hanger sent the RD into the spokes. The force was so great that the RD cage exploaded into many small pieces and the hanger twisted. The wheel, however, was only slightly tweeked.

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