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  1. #1
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    I'm brand new and need help picking a bike...please help!

    Hello! I'm a 5'4", 30 year old woman who weighs 315 and I'd like any and all advice about buying a bike. I've done some research via google, however, I'd like to hear from people who have experienced this! I'm not looking to ride in the Tour de France but would like to go for rides with my boyfriend and have fun exercising. I'm looking for information about the type of bike to look for, what to avoid, how to know if a shop is good with fitting heavy people, etc. I know bikes specifically built for large people can be expensive but I'm hoping to stay under $700 (I don't know what is realistic). Please, share your bike wisdom with me! Thanks.

    Edit: I'm in Pennsylvania, in Bucks County which is just outside of Philadelphia.
    Last edited by ChubbyNurse; 10-06-13 at 09:24 AM.

  2. #2
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    I'm anything but a bike expert, but I think you should be able to find a Hybrid bike within your price range pretty easily. Post your location and there's likely someone nearby that can tell you about local shops. A local bike club can be a valuable resource as well, look for one that isn't all about racing though. Most importantly, Welcome!!

  3. #3
    Senior Member Zoxe's Avatar
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    You will get a ton of different opinions on this, because the world of bikes is a big, big place.

    Mrs. Zoxe and I started with a pair of hybrid bikes back in 2008. Actually, we started by dusting off our walmart bikes and riding a mile around our subdivision ... after that mile we wanted to lay in the grass and whimper! A few weeks later we got serious and went shopping.

    I started at 283 lb on a Giant Cypress DX. I now weigh ~195 and have done several triathlons. (Not bragging; just telling you that it CAN be done).

    - At your weight, I would not expect you to have to go custom build. The weak part of the bike will be the wheels. Check old threads in this forum for shopping tips. There are plenty of people like you who are interested in riding and lots of dialog here about how to keep wheels happy.

    - If you wanted to be cautious, get a used hardtail (no suspension) mountain bike and have the shop put slicks on it.

    - A Hybrid bike (NOT an electric bike -- a "hybrid" is generically a mountain bike frame w/ road wheels) would probably be a good place to start and you can definitely get something in your price range. Another term for hybrid is "fitness" or "bike path" depending on the manufacturer.

    - My best advice to deal with shops is to do some research online and come in with specific questions. Most WANT to help you (you'll easily tell the ones who don't). Some will try to steer you towards whatever part of their stock isn't selling unless you do your part and guide the conversation. Personally, I recommend going twice -- go once to browse, and then come back with questions and buy only if you're comfortable. If you want to browse w/o getting hassled, go on a busy time (weekend). If you want to go to chat, go when it's quiet (weekday).

    Be sure to stop back and tell us how it goes!
    // Zoxe
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    2008 Giant Cypress DX
    2009 Bianchi Imola
    2013 Surly Cross Check 105

  4. #4
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    Thanks so much for replying! I have a secret wish to do a triathlon someday! From what I've read online I know two issues for heavy riders are bikes that make you lean forward a lot because a bigger stomach gets in the way and also puts a lot of weight on your arms/hands. I know of at least 5 shops in my area so I'll visit each one and see what the say/suggest. Thanks for the encouragement! I need to make some big changes!

  5. #5
    Senior Member SammyJ's Avatar
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    Guess I'll have to say it, Picking the bike is important, but ALSO is getting it FITTED!

  6. #6
    Commuter & cyclotourist brianogilvie's Avatar
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    Welcome! You should be able to find a decent bike at or under your maximum price. At 315 lbs. an off the peg bike will be fine as long as you're not doing any rough riding. For example, Trek claims its FX line of hybrid bikes can support up to 300 lbs. (rider and gear), but that's a conservative figure.

    If you're new to cycling, you probably want a bike with a relatively upright position and a wide range of gears, including a low gear for hills. I'd recommend a hybrid, such as the Jamis Coda Sport (just an example). You could buy that bike new, add some useful accessories, and still come out under your target.

    The advantages of a hybrid over an inexpensive road bike are: lower gearing (usually a triple), a more upright ride position (but not as upright as a cruiser - you don't want to be sitting straight up), a lower standover height (making it easier to get on and off the bike), and the ability to take wider tires, which is useful when you're heavy.

    The advantage of a hybrid over a mountain bike is that it doesn't have suspension. Unless you plan to ride on rough trails, I would avoid a bike with suspension. Inexpensive suspension systems are heavy and add complexity. If your riding is on paved roads and well-maintained dirt or gravel roads, you can get adequate suspension by using wide tires and not inflating them too much.

    More generally, look for 32- or 36-spoke wheels. If you're buying a new bike for under $700, the wheels will be machine-built, but you should have the shop check and adjust the tension, which will result in a wheel that's plenty strong. You're not likely to find wheels with a lower spoke count at your price point, but just in case, don't go for them.

    If you get a hybrid, I'd add Ergon grips with bar ends, to give you an alternate hand position, which can make longer rides more comfortable.

    As for where to buy, we don't know your location. One way to size up a shop is to walk in and start looking at bikes; when someone comes to help you, say you're new to cycling and are looking for a bike. If the sales clerk steers you directly toward cruisers - or anything, really - without asking any questions, make polite conversation for a bit, leave, and cross the shop off your list. A good shop has clerks who will ask you what kind of riding you intend to do, where you will ride, how hilly the terrain is, etc.; basically, they will help you find a bike that suits your needs and your budget. If you post your location, some forum members might have specific recommendations.

    A couple useful resources for beginners: the free online version of John S. Allen's Bicycling Street Smarts, which is an essential guide to riding safely and confidently on roads with cars, and the Beginners' section of the late, great Sheldon Brown's website.

    Good luck finding a bike, and have fun with it!
    Public accountability: my Beeminder weight loss graph.

  7. #7
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    Please for the love of god, do not get any bike with any type of suspension. I know its tempting and bike shops will tell you "its for your comfort" but its all bullcrap. Suspensions work fine on mountain bikes that cost 1000 dollars or more and are designed to absorb large jumps and impacts, not make the ride more "comfy".

    Cheaper suspensions are nothing more than pogo sticks. At your weight, you will absorb much of your pedaling effort into the suspension bouncing. And they aren't all that much comfy than a nice rigid bike with properly inflated tires.

    So run from any bike that has a front suspension fork, rear suspension, and/or a suspension seatpost.

    Careful if you end up loooking at mountain bikes, they are heavy and usually have awful knobby tires that make riding on the road super tiring. You can swap out the tires for nicer skinnier street slicks though that will make riding much easier.

    Also, please don't get a huge wide comfort spring saddle. In the long run, they are much more uncomfortable than a skinny ladies saddle properly fitted. Yes even at just over 300 pounds. I am over 350 pounds and ride skinny road bike men's saddles and have never looked back.
    "When dealing with stuff like this consider that this is a bicycle, not a spaceship." -- FBinNY

  8. #8
    Senior Member JackoDandy's Avatar
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    Welcome and I second the Trek FX choice. Great, strong bikes that will also provide you with decent 'growability' as your skills increase. Here is the ladies version that costs around $550 - you can get a more expensive FX that has slightly better components but as a beginner, the 7.2 is fine IMHO:

    http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...x/7_2_fx_wsd/#

    PS - Stay away from suspension bikes as suggested.

  9. #9
    Senior Member moochems's Avatar
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    Hello!

    welcome!

    I got my bike weighing 320 pounds or so. I've almost lost 100pounds! The biggest help to me was riding on a trainer during the winter. I live in West Virginia, the eastern panhandle, wich is approximately the same climate you have. I can't highly enough reccomend a trainer for the winter. Whatever bike you get, consider saving some budget for a trainer, even a second hand one from craigslist. Also, make sure your bike has quick release skewers on the wheels so you can use it on the trainer.

    As for a bike, go for something comfortable. Make sure the frame size is right for your body size (height mainly). Also, it would be a good idea to get something with 36 spoke wheels, 32 spoke wheels would probably work, but 36 would be better. I started on 32 spoke wheels but I started breaking spokes on almost every ride by 2000 miles.

    I like bikesdirectDOTcom bikes, but that's just me. Plenty of people don't like them, but if you are able and willing to do your own mechanic work they are excellent bikes. If I can suggest:

    http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/..._dutch_xii.htm


    I don't like the suspension fork and seat post, but I bet if you turn the preload all the way up on both you would not be bottoming them out, and still might get some of the comfort offered by them. There might be a better choice for you, but perhaps that would be a good choice. It is up to you!

  10. #10
    Senior Member JackoDandy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by moochems View Post
    Hello!

    welcome!

    I got my bike weighing 320 pounds or so. I've almost lost 100pounds! The biggest help to me was riding on a trainer during the winter. I live in West Virginia, the eastern panhandle, wich is approximately the same climate you have. I can't highly enough reccomend a trainer for the winter. Whatever bike you get, consider saving some budget for a trainer, even a second hand one from craigslist. Also, make sure your bike has quick release skewers on the wheels so you can use it on the trainer.

    As for a bike, go for something comfortable. Make sure the frame size is right for your body size (height mainly). Also, it would be a good idea to get something with 36 spoke wheels, 32 spoke wheels would probably work, but 36 would be better. I started on 32 spoke wheels but I started breaking spokes on almost every ride by 2000 miles.

    I like bikesdirectDOTcom bikes, but that's just me. Plenty of people don't like them, but if you are able and willing to do your own mechanic work they are excellent bikes. If I can suggest:

    http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/..._dutch_xii.htm


    I don't like the suspension fork and seat post, but I bet if you turn the preload all the way up on both you would not be bottoming them out, and still might get some of the comfort offered by them. There might be a better choice for you, but perhaps that would be a good choice. It is up to you!
    I like Bikes Direct too. However, Ive been around bikes a long time and can fix pretty much all mechanical issues. If I were a newbie to bikes, Id buy from my local shop for ease of tune-ups, repairs etc.

  11. #11
    Junior Member WesternFlyer18's Avatar
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    Chubby - I am a big man, well over 200 lb, and I feel very secure on a decent mountain bike with a good steel frame and good wheels, which is almost found on any name brand. There were millions of these made by different companies, find a nice one in your size for around a hundred. Then get it serviced and put on street tires that are around 2 inch width, these bikes make excellent city riders. You may want to change the handlebars too, try to find a bike that has a "riser" bar as opposed to a straight bar. Lastly, get yourself a quality seat ! I just got a new Brooks B67(about $100), which is for upright riding and has big coil springs in the back. There is a reason why Brooks seats have been around for over a hundred years, they are great and will last for several bikes that you may own, just swap it over.
    I would stay away from skinny tire bikes for a while, you will be surprised at how well a "mountain bike" rides in the city.
    Best of luck -
    Garlatti, Marin, Peugeot, Raleigh, Univega

  12. #12
    Senior Member JackoDandy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WesternFlyer18 View Post
    Lastly, get yourself a quality seat ! I just got a new Brooks B67(about $100), which is for upright riding and has big coil springs in the back. There is a reason why Brooks seats have been around for over a hundred years, they are great and will last for several bikes that you may own, just swap it over.
    Good advice - as your butt is the main contact with the bike an investment into a Brooks is worthwhile. I rode for months on a thin, race-type saddle and figured my butt-pain was due to my weight (at 300lbs). I purchased a Brooks B17 and the relief was instant. Quality seats as are the Selle Anatomica Titanico X saddles. Both are great clyde/athena saddles.

    http://www.amazon.com/Selle-Anatomic.../dp/B00D2JMTQ4
    http://www.amazon.com/Brooks-Saddles...ef=pd_sim_sg_5

  13. #13
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    How do you think the bike you linked me to would compare to this Trek bike?
    http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...pure_lowstep/#

  14. #14
    Senior Member bassjones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JackoDandy View Post
    I like Bikes Direct too. However, Ive been around bikes a long time and can fix pretty much all mechanical issues. If I were a newbie to bikes, Id buy from my local shop for ease of tune-ups, repairs etc.
    And sizing. New riders usually have no idea what size frame they need AND different manufacturers may run big (Cannondale especially) for the stated size, while others may be slightly small for the stated size. It's important for a new rider to be properly fitted and get the right sized bike, plus have it adjusted for them.

  15. #15
    Senior Member bassjones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChubbyNurse View Post
    How do you think the bike you linked me to would compare to this Trek bike?
    http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...pure_lowstep/#
    I would stay away from that bike if you think you'll get serious about riding. It's fine for short bike-path rides, but anything longer than 10 miles it's going to get really uncomfortable.

  16. #16
    Commuter & cyclotourist brianogilvie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChubbyNurse View Post
    How do you think the bike you linked me to would compare to this Trek bike?
    http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...pure_lowstep/#
    If you're not planning on tackling any serious hills, that Trek Pure Lowstep might be OK. However, there are a few things to note about it:

    It has a feet-forward, "semi-recumbent" riding position. That's going to put your back more or less straight up, or at least you won't have much forward lean.
    * Pros: if your core strength isn't very good, it can be less tiring to have your back support your upper body weight. Plus you can put your feet on the ground when stopped, without getting off the saddle. (With regular bikes, you either get off the saddle at stops or use one toe to maintain your balance.)
    * Cons: you can't use your bodyweight as effectively on the pedals, and road shocks will be transmitted to your spine.

    Its has a 1x7 drivetrain: that means there's only one gear (chainring) in the front, and 7 gears (sprockets) in the back.
    * Pros: easier to figure out shifting, since there are only 7 choices. (On a typical hybrid, with a 3x7 drivetrain, it helps to think of the small ring in front as your uphill gear, the middle ring as your flat gear, and your big ring as your down gear, then use the gears in back to adjust.)
    * Cons: at your weight, you will find the lowest gear is too high to easily climb steep hills. Maybe not a problem if you live in flat country, but my impression is that you have some hills in Pennsylvania. :-) Edited to add: I should add that I'm a 175-lb. cyclist with lots of experience climbing hills, and I would find that low gear too high for a serious hill.

    It has a big, padded "comfort" saddle.
    * Pros: it will feel really good for your first 5 minutes on the bike.
    * Cons: it will feel really, really bad after you've been cycling for a while. Read this page from Sheldon's site to see why.

    Basically, it might be an OK starter bike (except for the hills thing, and you'd need to change the saddle), but I think you'd be frustrated with its limitations after you've been cycling for a while.

    What kind of bike does your boyfriend ride?
    Last edited by brianogilvie; 10-06-13 at 03:21 PM. Reason: added comment about low gear
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  17. #17
    Come here often? <wink> exile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChubbyNurse View Post
    How do you think the bike you linked me to would compare to this Trek bike?
    http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...pure_lowstep/#
    The Trek that JackoDandy linked is more along the lines of a flat bar road bike. The Trek you posted ChubbyNurse is along the lines of a cruiser. Based on what you described in your original post I think the FX would work fine with some room to grow. But with any bike purchase it is best to ride as many as you can.

    The short of it is to purchase something that fits and makes you want to get out and ride.
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  18. #18
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    I want to make a wise purchase and one that I can grow into! I don't know how to describe the bike my boyfriend uses because my working knowledge of bikes is minimal at best! It's not a comfort bike but not a Lance Armstrong bike either.

    I plan on starting out on as flat of ground as possible, just to get used to riding and used to how a bike works. Ideally I'd like to become proficient and will tackle hills as I increase my stamina.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Catlikeone's Avatar
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    For the love of god please don't skimp on gearing in Bucks at your weight. Riding the river might be fine but elsewhere? ...Good luck..

    Second, it's common on here for the end all be all suggestion to be a hybrid or mountain bike. You CAN ride a road bike. In fact you'll be able to grow into instead of out of it like a hybrid, which ppl here fail to mention come in mtb oriented or "performance" i.e more like a roadbike. I speak from experience, bought the hybrid on suggestion and kicked myself not soon after when I outgrew it instead of spending that $ on nicer components for a road bike. Luckily it's now my errand bike. Look into used road bikes, I know several ladies have found gems that I ride with.

    Anyway, good luck!
    There are no hard women, only weak men. - Raquel Welch

  20. #20
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    You might want to visit the REI store in Montgomery Cty (200 West Ridge Pike #115 Conshohocken, PA 19428 Get directions
    Plymouth Square Shopping Center (610) 940-0809)

    They have a large selection of middle of the road models. They MIGHT let you take one down to the Schuylkill River Trail - OR - Cross County Trail for a test ride. Selection at this time of year could be limited.

    Advantage? Reasonably priced, Selection of different styles, EASY RETURNS if you need to.

  21. #21
    Senior Member bassjones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catlikeone View Post
    For the love of god please don't skimp on gearing in Bucks at your weight. Riding the river might be fine but elsewhere? ...Good luck..

    Second, it's common on here for the end all be all suggestion to be a hybrid or mountain bike. You CAN ride a road bike. In fact you'll be able to grow into instead of out of it like a hybrid, which ppl here fail to mention come in mtb oriented or "performance" i.e more like a roadbike. I speak from experience, bought the hybrid on suggestion and kicked myself not soon after when I outgrew it instead of spending that $ on nicer components for a road bike. Luckily it's now my errand bike. Look into used road bikes, I know several ladies have found gems that I ride with.

    Anyway, good luck!
    agree. Road bikes are great, but in her price range, they're non-existent new, and she doesn't sound knowledgeable enough to not get screwed buying a used bike right now...

  22. #22
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    You're right! I'd get screwed trying to buy something off Craig's List!! My plan is to systematically visit my local bike shops, I'll take notes, try out different bikes, listen to their suggestions, and the compile everything I learned and present the info to this community and see what we all decide!

  23. #23
    Come here often? <wink> exile's Avatar
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    Re-reading your posts I think it's best not to over think it. Your 1st bike is rarely the perfect bike but rather your learning bike. Meaning you will learn very quickly what type of riding you do based on the riding you actually do (or try to). For instance the first bike I had was a $300 (hybrid/mtb) bike that my grandmother bought me.

    For years that bike got me everywhere (basically because I didn't have a car). Since I rode on city streets I changed the semi knobby tires to slicks. Since some of my commutes were 10 miles or more one way I bought some bar ends for more hand positions. I also changed saddles to something that was more comfortable. Fast forward a few years (okay decades ), and my bikes now are set up based on my needs.

    At this point get something relatively inexpensive that fits and makes you want to go out and ride. Once you have a few miles under your belt & will continue to ride; invest in something better.
    lil brown bat wrote:
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  24. #24
    Senior Member Solare's Avatar
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    One more thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is that bikes go by the model year (just like cars). So, when you are looking ask about last years models, they are usually cheaper. Good hunting. I would also like to echo that I should have gotten a road bike instead of a hybrid so don't discount them and you could look for a used 10 speed.

    Here is a link to the Berks County bike club. http://www.berksbicycle.com/index.php Check out the links page for a club that is closer to your location.

  25. #25
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    I question the wisdom of getting a bike that you grow into, one that may be too much for a beginner. You want a bike that you will ride now and feel confident on as you develop your skills. One type of bike to consider is a bike with a step through frame but not as much of a tank as some of the comfort bikes. For example, the well liked Trek FX hybrid has a step through version called the Stagger. Some others:


    Specialized Vita step through
    Specialized Crossroads
    Raleigh Detour
    Giant Escape 2w or 3W

    As others have mentioned, skip the ones with suspension forks and seatposts.

    These are just possibilities and there are many other similar bikes. Or, you might find you feel OK on a regular hybrid that is not a step through. But get what you will ride now, not what you think you might possibly ride in the future.

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