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  1. #1
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    newbie questions

    I have read so many of the posts here and have found so very, very many to be so inspirational! I have to ask several questions that come to mind as I am dying to embark on this journey, myself.

    I am 40, 5'10" and 400# give or take 10#'s. I have spoken to many LBS about a bike that will hold my weight and everyone tells me something different. I cannot afford much to begin with, around 300.00USD, as I also just want to become more fit and healthy and will definitely upgrade as my health improves. I would like to see if anyone can answer some of the following...
    1. How long did it take for you to notice a reasonable difference in your health after you started riding?
    2. Which is more important starting out, distance or time riding?
    3. Can anyone tell me a reasonable expectation of potential weight loss in a year through only diet and cycling?
    4. Can any past or current 400 pounders give me their opinion on what bike my work best for my weight, or the bike that worked for them?

    I am so anxious to get started, full of questions and desire, but, get so many contradictory opinions, any help you guys could lend would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    I think you will get quite a few different opinions here. Good luck with your goals! I started out at 5'7", 280. I started riding on an old mountain bike. First ride, I barely made it two miles, felt unbalanced and took a nap when I got home. I kept at it, and ride as often as I can now. My weight has stabilized at about 180-185, and I can ride 50-60 miles when I have time. I've been at it for about 2 1/2 years now. I went on Weight Watchers for Men, online, and still follow that plan. One thing that happened to me was that after I got comfortable riding the old mountain bike around, I had a need to get myself a better bike, and then another one, then another one, etc. Be warned, you might get addicted to riding and rewarding yourself with bikes as you make progress! Good luck.

  3. #3
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    I can't help much with medical advice as I am not at all qualified in that area. I might be able to help you out with bikes though. Go find a used one on craigslist. Get something inexpensive and if you dont see what you want...post and add that asks for someone to sell you something out of their garage. I might suggest a womens cruiser bike. You will not have to kick your leg over to mount the bike. If you can find one with a few gears that would help you. And...your butt is going to be sore for a couple of months no matter what kind of seat/saddle you have. This saddle pain will go away but you have have to fight through it!

  4. #4
    Senior Member JerrySTL's Avatar
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    I have a buddy who weighed very near 500 lbs and he is about 6'6". Got down to under 250 lbs in about 2 and a half years.

    He did it all through Weight Watchers, diet, and exercise. No surgeries.

    For the most part he was a runner. He started by walking both outside and on treadmills. Then he picked up the pace to running. He did a lot of half marathons (faster than me) and was getting ready for a full marathon, but his knee needed surgery. Actually his knee was hurting him before losing weight. Putting 500 lbs on a knee designed for 250 lbs strains things.

    He does ride some also. He waited until he got under 300 lbs to get a bike. He bought a Fuji hybrid bike. The only issue was the suspension seat post which failed in under 500 miles. If you can get the LBS to swap out such a seat post for a solid post, that might be a good idea. Actually if you can get a bike with no suspension at all, that might be best. I've never understood the need for suspension for bikes unless going off-road on a mountain bike.

  5. #5
    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amadbullfrog View Post
    1. How long did it take for you to notice a reasonable difference in your health after you started riding?
    2. Which is more important starting out, distance or time riding?
    3. Can anyone tell me a reasonable expectation of potential weight loss in a year through only diet and cycling?
    4. Can any past or current 400 pounders give me their opinion on what bike my work best for my weight, or the bike that worked for them?
    Thanks.
    All based on my personal experience starting at about 300#

    1. Don't expect to slog along for a couple of weeks then all of a sudden it gets easier. Spend an hour on the bike and you should get stronger, but not enough to notice. In six months of riding three to four times a week, you should feel noticeably stronger than when you started, but not noticeably stronger that your previous days ride. In other words, be patient.

    I see you live in Florida. Hills are not a big issue for you, but at 400 lb, even little rises can be difficult at first. Get something with gears and learn to use them properly.

    2. Your choice. If you want to get somewhere, then used distance as your measure. I do.

    3. This is up to you too. You could easily drop ten lb/week as in that Biggest Loser TV show, though this isn't generally recommended. The problems with it stem from the "on a diet" mindset required to achieve this. I have adopted a "lifestyle change" approach. I have lost over 90 lb, and it has taken nearly five years. I am in this for the long haul and really don't want to put it back on. I try to follow the Mediterranean diet.

    I don't agree with those who totally trash rapid weight loss entirely. I feel it is appropriate to "go on a diet" within the lifestyle change mode if there is a specific goal in mind, and going off the diet is returning to healthy eating. I am doing so right now in order to drop 20 more pounds in time for a hilly century ride in March. This is not some fad diet, just the same balanced diet I have been eating with about 200 fewer calories per day.

    4. Never your size, but am pretty well versed in material science. A non suspension MTB with reasonably well built, moderate spoke count (32 min) wheels should be OK.
    Last edited by CommuteCommando; 01-14-14 at 01:59 PM.
    As much as you paid for that Beemer [Mercedies, Audi, Escalade], I'm surprised it didn't come equipped with turn signals.

  6. #6
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    No suspension bikes unless you get a mountain bike with a GOOD high end front fork, as in very expensive. My mountain bike is a generic Specialized Hardrock that I put a 700 dollar front fork on (dual air chambers, etc etc). Got the fork super cheap at my bike coop.

    Dont' be afraid to ride road/cyclocross bikes even carbon forks at your weight provided you treat them with respect (no bunny hopping, no curb bashing, etc, ride light and cautious and you will be fine). I ride mainly alloy road bikes with carbon forks including my Specialized Sequoia which has carbon fork and carbon rear stays and I'm not far from your weight (350+).

    I have one nice steel bike that has a very light race frame, KHS Aero Comp. Very short wheelbase with S shaped seat tube and I can only stuff a 700x23c tire under it. With a tire that skinny, I have to keep the tires inflated to their max and a bit more so it rides a bit rough.

    The BIG catch at our weights are the wheels and tires. You will want high spoke count wheels, 32spoke or more. Even if you get a bike that says "max weight, 275 pounds", the manufacturer is probably more concerned with the wheels not breaking down.

    And your wheels need to be properly tensioned to a strong HIGH tension. Highly tensioned spokes are more important with heavyweight clydes like us.

    I really don't like riding mountain bikes much. Too heavy and clunky. I just enjoy riding my road bikes more.
    "When dealing with stuff like this consider that this is a bicycle, not a spaceship." -- FBinNY

  7. #7
    Senior Member jc650's Avatar
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    I started serious biking when I was 300lbs I was in good health and could ride 40 miles on my road bike with no trouble. I weigh 220 now and it had little to do with cycling. I've always lifted weights and done cardio but ate like crap. This past June I decided to change my eating habits forever, NOT go on a diet. In my experience a "diet" leads you right back to starting over whenever you go off of it. Its good that you want to ride a bike to lose weight but in my experience changing the diet is probably far more important.

    As far as a bike goes a cheap one with lots of spokes is a good start until you see if its something you really will enjoy. I would bottom out the suspension all the time on my Specialized Hardrock and that was at a lot less weight so I would stay away from suspension bikes. Nobody will be able to predict how much you can lose in a year, with hard work and changed eating habits I lost 80 lbs in 6 months. Good luck!

  8. #8
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    I track miles and time, but I feel like time is key, especially at first. Cycling will help with weight loss, but diet is really the key. I say this not from the point of view of one who has lost a lot, but rather one who has been riding more and more and has gained weight while increasing Miles/time, and lost weight when riding very little. I believe this is because of diet.

  9. #9
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    I thank you all so very much for your responses. I have already started my eating habits change. I quit smoking April 16 2013 and figure, if I can whoop smoking.... I can certainly stick with the eating lifestyle change. I am so looking forward to getting started and getting my new me on the road!

  10. #10
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    I would buy a used rigid (no suspension) mountain bike. Like and old Trek or Specialized. If it has knobby tires put cheap slick tires on it. Don't pay much, because as you become more fit you may want to buy a new bike that will fit your style of riding.

    Something like this one, if it fit: http://tampa.craigslist.org/pnl/bik/4287334766.html

    When I started back in 2011 I noticed a difference within a month. There was this little hill that I had to pedal in my easiest gear and it was hard to get up. One day I noticed that I didn't have to shift down so far. There was another short but steep hill I had to walk up. One day I made it slowly up that hill. Notice the little things. They are rewarding.
    Last edited by goldfinch; 01-15-14 at 08:03 AM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobotech View Post
    No suspension bikes unless you get a mountain bike with a GOOD high end front fork, as in very expensive.
    A marketing tactic used by WalMart and other big box sellers is to push really inexpensive full suspension bikes in the expectation that unknowledgeable consumers will equate complexity with value. Those are super cheep shocks they put on those, especially on the front. Like boboteck said, spend big, or skip the shocks.

    Quote Originally Posted by goldfinch View Post

    Something like this one, if it fit: http://tampa.craigslist.org/pnl/bik/4287334766.html
    I agree with this choice, but just by looking it may be a bit small for someone 5'10". Ask the frame size. You will probably want 55-57cm. After getting it don't be afraid to take it to a LBS to get checked out. Most will charge you $20 or so for a "Tune up", and will likely not care (too much) that you didn't buy it there. Many do a lot of business re-assembling improperly assembled big box bikes. Then you can go on You Tube and learn to do a lot of the maintenance yourself.
    Last edited by CommuteCommando; 01-15-14 at 09:26 AM.
    As much as you paid for that Beemer [Mercedies, Audi, Escalade], I'm surprised it didn't come equipped with turn signals.

  12. #12
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    Are you in Tampa Bay? I just joined the new bike co-op in St. Petersburg. You can buy a fixer upper for $40 from their stock of donated bikes. That plus a membership (also $40) gives you access to open shop, which is on Thursday nights, and any parts they have that you need to get your bike going. Their open shop always has a trained mechanic to help when you get stuck.

    full disclosure: I'm helping The St. Pete Bike Co-op fund raise.

    Im pretty sure Tampa had a coop too, although I'm not sure how theirs is priced or set up.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by jazzgeek79 View Post
    Are you in Tampa Bay? I just joined the new bike co-op in St. Petersburg. You can buy a fixer upper for $40 from their stock of donated bikes. That plus a membership (also $40) gives you access to open shop, which is on Thursday nights, and any parts they have that you need to get your bike going. Their open shop always has a trained mechanic to help when you get stuck.

    full disclosure: I'm helping The St. Pete Bike Co-op fund raise.

    Im pretty sure Tampa had a coop too, although I'm not sure how theirs is priced or set up.


    How would I get in touch with these folks to check it out? That may actually work for me.

  14. #14
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    https://www.facebook.com/StPeteBikeCoOp?ref=ts&fref=ts

    Just come by tonight. 6-9. Ask for Carrie. She's the co-op president. Tell her Josh told you about the co-op if you'd like to. It's all volunteer so I don't think there is a phone number yet, but if you post on the Facebook page I'd think you'll get a response. Also the address is on this page.

  15. #15
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    Just a few experiences I can share:

    I started out at about 410, and I'm about 6'. When I got started, I rode on my dads cheap-o Target Schwinn Jaguar cruiser. It has 7 speeds, and wide handlebars with an extreme sweep. This style bike was great for me to start with, as it allowed me to ride in a very upright position, which was really important because at 410 lbs, I had a huge gut in front of me to contend with, and riding a regular mountain bike or even worse, a road bike, would have been difficult and hard on my back. Make sure you get something that is comfortable right now because if it isn't, you might give up on it quickly. Basically, find a cheap cruiser with a few gears on it to make the uphill climbs a little easier.

    Once I had lost about 50 lbs, and my birthday came around, I used my b-day money along with some of my other money I had saved and got a really nice used mountainbike on my local craigslist, a Specialized Stumpjumper (front suspension only) for about $500. The fork on it is a nice Fox fork, and it has a lockout on it, so it works well for me right now. Don't bother with any front suspension if it doesn't have lock out on it, because it will be while before you can really start to use it as mine is rated at 250 lbs, though i still use it occasionally when riding off-road trails. I also ended up putting a stem riser on it to get me a little more upright and comfortable for now. Stem risers are great for big guys like us.

    I've been at it now for about 6 months nd have lost about 80 lbs so far. As others have said, look at it as a lifestyle change and not a diet and things will be much easier. Live actively and and eat what you want, but limit your portions. Weight watchers is a great program to follow at first if you arent familiar with it, to give you an idea of what portions are appropriate for you, but I no longer follow the points system as I have a good idea of what is okay and what isn't. When you track points constantly, it gives that dreaded diet mindset.

    I felt a difference after only a few weeks of cycling myself. I had a lot more energy. Keep at it and don't give up. You'll see big results eventually, but you must be patient.

    Good luck to you, and have fun while you're at it.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    Whatever you get, one thing that helps is ride everyday!
    Some days you don't have time, but at least ride around the block. That simple amount goes a long way toward preventing you from "reverting back" and losing ground.

    The first day ride a rather short distance and see how you feel the next day. If you overdo it the first day, it tends to have a far greater negative effect than if you "under do it".
    Keep it FUN!!! After a few days, you'll start to get a good idea of how much to increase your riding.
    You can vary between time or distance as to what ever suits your fancy. As long as you increase it as your fitness increases, you have the same end result.
    In stead of weight loss, pay more attention to INCH loss. You may be gaining muscle as you lose fat, so let the tape measure tell you if things are working.
    A couple years ago, I gained 5 lbs. on my highest mileage month. I did lose a bunch of inches, so at least I knew I was more fit. I'm still a bit chagrined about that though.

  17. #17
    Senior Member JReade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amadbullfrog View Post
    How would I get in touch with these folks to check it out? That may actually work for me.
    Or if you're in Tampa, Check out the bike co-op over there.

    http://tampabikecoop.wordpress.com/
    Jesse

  18. #18
    Senior Member Null66's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amadbullfrog View Post
    I have read so many of the posts here and have found so very, very many to be so inspirational! I have to ask several questions that come to mind as I am dying to embark on this journey, myself.

    I am 40, 5'10" and 400# give or take 10#'s. I have spoken to many LBS about a bike that will hold my weight and everyone tells me something different. I cannot afford much to begin with, around 300.00USD, as I also just want to become more fit and healthy and will definitely upgrade as my health improves. I would like to see if anyone can answer some of the following...
    1. How long did it take for you to notice a reasonable difference in your health after you started riding?
    2. Which is more important starting out, distance or time riding?
    3. Can anyone tell me a reasonable expectation of potential weight loss in a year through only diet and cycling?
    4. Can any past or current 400 pounders give me their opinion on what bike my work best for my weight, or the bike that worked for them?

    I am so anxious to get started, full of questions and desire, but, get so many contradictory opinions, any help you guys could lend would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks.
    Co-worker was about 350 and 6'. Doc's told him he was not long for this world. He works 2 full time jobs... He's now down to 170-ish in about 10 months. Probably not healthy to go that drastic, but he was a dead man walking, well wheezing. Couldn't get out of chair without catching his breath. So for him, it was healthy... He rides every where, even to gym for resistance workout.

    It can be done, I saw it.

    He regretted doing the treadmill as he almost ruined it all by getting hurt. He says he wished he'd gone a bit slower. As the work load he put himself under when lifting also came close to wrecking by hurting himself just short of enough to stop his progress.. He's having trouble stopping the weight loss.
    Last edited by Null66; 01-18-14 at 02:15 PM.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Zoxe's Avatar
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    I am 6'2" and started at 283 in 2008. Mrs. Zoxe and I started riding very short distances -- one lap around our subdivision was 1mi, and our first ride was just that single lap!

    1. I noticed differences within the first couple of months. We biked, but didn't diet, but I knew I was getting stronger and faster almost immediately. Mowing the lawn became less of a chore, for example.

    2. I tracked mileage as we went, partially because we wanted to do a charity ride that fall and I needed to know we could make the shortest distance offered (17mi).

    3. You'll get varying answers here. Most people lose a big slug of weight when they start ("water weight"). After that most diets are structured to have you lose weight 1-2 lbs a week. You won't lose weight every week, either. At first I was dismayed by the slowness, but I realized that it took me 10 years to get big, it'll take more than a few weeks to become not-big.

    4. Some good advice in this thread already. Weak link in bikes for larger riders tends to be the wheels. A good, used mtn bike with slicks mounted is a good, affordable, starting point for many.


    Everyone loses weight differently. You are going to have to figure out what works for you and what kinds of restrictions work for you. For me, I never wanted to be "on a diet" but by slowly increasing my activity by riding (and later, triathlons), I got healthier over 5-6 years.
    -----
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    2009 Bianchi Imola
    2013 Surly Cross Check 105

  20. #20
    Commuter & cyclotourist brianogilvie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amadbullfrog View Post
    2. Which is more important starting out, distance or time riding?
    3. Can anyone tell me a reasonable expectation of potential weight loss in a year through only diet and cycling?
    I'm really only qualified to comment on #2 and #3 .

    On #2 , I'd say that time is easier to measure, and allows for more variation in terrain (though that may not be an issue in Florida). Where I live, 10 miles north or south is a lot easier than 10 miles east or west, because I live in a river valley that runs north-south. But you go slower uphill, so time is a better measure of effort (presuming you are feeling the same effort).

    On #3 , there's a wise saying: "You lose weight in the kitchen, and you get fit in the gym (or on the bike)." In 2012, I biked 2500 miles or so--not very much for hardcore cyclists, but respectable. I gained 10 lbs. that year. In 2013, I biked 3600 miles and lost 45 lbs., but the loss was entirely due to careful calorie counting (I used, and still use, MyFitnessPal.com), not to the cycling. Cycling alone makes you hungry (and once you start riding more than 30-40 miles at a time, you probably will need to eat during the ride to avoid bonking), so it doesn't necessarily lead to weight loss. It does great things for your stamina, legs, and self esteem, though, so I highly recommend it.

    One more suggestion: if you're on a serious calorie deficit to lose fat, you'll also lose some muscle. You'll lose a lot less if you do resistance training. Serious cycling will keep you from losing much, if anything, in your legs (though squats can help), but I'd advise doing some core, back, chest, and arm exercises to help preserve muscle mass in your upper body.

    Good luck, and I hope you find a good bike in your price range. As others have suggested, a used rigid mountain bike, or something from the bike co-op, would probably be best.
    Public accountability: my Beeminder weight loss graph.

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