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  1. #1
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    Mountain bike for longer distance riding with an overweight rider?

    I am a fat man(300lb ballpark) looking to train, lose weight, and start commuting to work, which will be a 24 mile round trip. Other long distance riding may be a possibility as well. As a larger person, I see full suspension and disc brakes as an absolute necessity, and I can only find these features in a mountain bike. I would also assume a bike meant for rough terrain and possible jumps must be more sturdy in the same price range(of course varying on a case by case basis.)

    How much of a disadvantage for a long commute will I be at with a mountain bike?
    Am I thinking incorrectly that full suspension would be better for myself and the bike going over bumps with so much weight involved? Considering the weight involved disc brakes just seem like they would be so much safer in a panic braking situation, is that all in my head?

    Suggestions on bike styles or even specific bikes welcome. I'm trying to keep my shopping to amazon because of amazon prime, and financing options. Trying to stay to a reasonable budget(around 500-700), no 5000 professional racing bike in my near future.
    Last edited by hzuiel; 02-27-14 at 10:40 PM.

  2. #2
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    Full suspension and disc brakes are far from a necessity for a commuter/fitness bike. A rigid frame (no suspension) MTB outfitted with urban tires would be a fine commuter. You do not need suspension for most roadways. Suspension actually wastes power and adds unnecessary weight to the bike unless you are riding rough terrain, jumping, etc. If you get a hardtail (no rear suspension) make sure you get a fork that you can lockout when you don't need the front suspension.

    There are plenty of other bikes you could consider as well including cyclocross, touring, and hybrids. All are designed for durability. Most of us big guys tend to worry about frame strength when that is very unlikely to be your problem, unless you go to lightweight road bikes. More likely to fail are low spoke count, entry level wheels with single wall rims. Catastrophic failure is rare, but broken spokes, and wheels coming out of true frequently can be a problem with entry level wheels and a heavy rider. One of the best investments you can make is to assure that you have 36 or more spokes on a mid-level MTB or touring hub and double-wall, preferably eyeletted, rims. Most people don't think about it, but running somewhat larger tires 28-40mm in width, helps decrease stress on the rim and helps protect the rim in the case of a hard edged pothole or road debris. They are also more comfortable than 23mm road tires for commuting.

    The only other components that might be subject to weight related failure are the crankset and pedals on very low end bikes. Pedals with an alloy or steel cage and a chrome-moly spindle will hold up great and can be had at very reasonable prices. Better entry level and higher bikes will have quality cranksets and you usually have to purchase the pedals separately, or sometimes the shop will throw in decent basic pedals as part of a package deal.

    Disc brakes are great, if you get quality ones, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with good cantilever or v-brakes (the common rim brakes for MTB and cyclocross bikes) either. I've never had disc brakes and only once had poor braking, and that was due to some obsolete hard anodized rims on a vintage road bike, not the dual pivot RX 100 (old school) road brakes. I swapped to modern machined sidewall rims and dang near went over the bars the first time I grabbed a handful of brake lever for a sudden stop.

    Give us some idea of your budget, height, the roads you will be riding, other cycling interests, etc. and we can better help you.

    Here is an example of a 1990s rigid steel 700c hybrid/MTB that would make a great commuter. Since this photo was taken, I have added full fenders and a rear rack to make it my all weather bike.

    IMG_0058.jpg
    Last edited by Myosmith; 02-27-14 at 11:44 PM.
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  3. #3
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    Budget is $700 and under. Like i said i'm trying to do my shopping on amazon.

    5'10.5" Around 300lbs(will be over with biking clothes and a small pack with work clothes and shoes in it.) 30-32" inseam. Minimum distance I need to go is 12 miles one way, 24 miles round trip.

  4. #4
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    Check in the Clydesdale forum and the Commuting forum also, lots of good information there.

    For average roads, you don't need suspension. You may not be doing yourself any favors getting it in a cheaper bike, for that matter. Heavier people on bicycles tends to lead to wheel problems more than any other problem. On wheels, you can get light wheels, strong wheels and cheap wheels, pick any two. It helps if you don't go jumping off curbs and stuff.

    I use disk brakes on both bikes. However, from what I can tell, disk brakes vs rim brakes is very much a Ford vs Chevy argument. There's advantages both ways and disadvantages both ways. If a bike you like has disk brakes, I wouldn't avoid it, but I wouldn't really pick a bike on that basis. Either kind of brake requires proper adjustment.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  5. #5
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    Suggestion: If you're not bike-commuting ALL the time, then leave clothing and shoes at your workplace if possible, and swap it out when you drive- hauling extra clothing on a bike is a hassle, and if you can avoid it, it makes the cycling more fun.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
    Check in the Clydesdale forum and the Commuting forum also, lots of good information there.

    For average roads, you don't need suspension. You may not be doing yourself any favors getting it in a cheaper bike, for that matter. Heavier people on bicycles tends to lead to wheel problems more than any other problem. On wheels, you can get light wheels, strong wheels and cheap wheels, pick any two. It helps if you don't go jumping off curbs and stuff.

    I use disk brakes on both bikes. However, from what I can tell, disk brakes vs rim brakes is very much a Ford vs Chevy argument. There's advantages both ways and disadvantages both ways. If a bike you like has disk brakes, I wouldn't avoid it, but I wouldn't really pick a bike on that basis. Either kind of brake requires proper adjustment.
    If wheels are the problem would it make more sense to spend less on a bike intending to upgrade the wheels?

  7. #7
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    It kinda depends on your budget. I'd probably just go for the best-bike-for-the-buck now, and worry about the wheels if and when they have problems. That may be soon, may be later, may be never, who knows?.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  8. #8
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    Well...I'm looking at buyer's guides around my price range.

    http://www.amazon.com/Giordano-Liber...iordano+libero
    http://www.amazon.com/Schwinn-Phocus...iordano+libero

    and http://www.amazon.com/Tommaso-Imola-...ywords=tommaso
    Though this last one does not qualify for amazon prime, has $50 shipping, and doesn't come with pedals.

  9. #9
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    On Amazon:

    Diamondback Overdrive 29er - hardtail, 36-spoke wheel with double-wall rims, 100mm travel fork of unknown quality. $421

    Nashbar CX1 Cyclocross - 6061 aluminum frame with chrome-moly fork, appears to be 36-spoke wheels, not familiar with spec hubs and rims, Sora groupo (quality Shimano entry level components). $599

    Nashbar Steel Cyclocross - Double butted 4130 chrome moly frame and fork (dang good for this price), Shimano 105 derailleurs, shifters, and cassette (mid-level quality two steps up from Sora), FSA crankset and Tektro brakes. 36-spoke wheels. $799

    Nashbar TR1 Touring Bike - Chrome-moly frame and fork, Deore/Tiagra components, FSA crankset, 36-spoke wheels with Alex DC19 rims (double wall, no eyelets). $749

    Any of the above would fit the bill of a reliable recreational/fitness bike that could double as a commuter. My personal choice would be the Nashbar Steel Cyclocross which looks about as bombproof as any bike in that price range.
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  10. #10
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    Be wary of the pitfalls of shopping online:

    -You can't take it for a test ride.
    -You have to determine what size you need and then hope for the best.
    -Unless you have the aptitude and tools already, you will be paying to have the bike assembled and given the once over. Whether that is at LBS rate or beer and wings for one of your bike savvy buddies. Machine built wheels are going to give you fits unless you have them trued right out of the box.
    -If there are any missing parts, you gotta play phone tag/email to try and get it resolved.
    -If there is concealed damage during shipment, more phone tag/email for the RMA and you are out the cost of the freight back to the vendor.

    I strongly urge you to go visit any and all LBSs in your town. Explain your needs. Go for test rides*. You might find a NOS (New Old Stock) deal.

    *You are under no obligation to buy, but the test rides will help you figure out what size you need and give you a better idea of what style of bike you'd like- CX or Touring w/drop bars or a hybrid or mtb with flat or riser bars.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    I'd say Stephen is on the right track here, you're heading towards excess unnecessary $$ with disk brakes. They are kind of nice but you should have no problem stopping with standard rim brakes and good pads. Just about any frame (with the exception of really light weight ones) will easily handle your weight. Get the bike/frame you want, not what you think your weight dictates. Wheels and drive train will be your issues. As far as wheels go, hand built wheels rule. You can get well built wheels at reasonable prices but don't worry about it until/unless you have issues with the stock wheels. Anything with 32or 36 spokes should be fine. You can make the stock wheels last longer if you take the wheels to a good wheelsmith and have them trued and tensioned properly. Drive train parts, you'll just wear out faster than for smaller folks.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

  12. #12
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    I commute daily and I weigh 320. I have had no issue from v, cantilever, or caliper brakes. I have never used or needed front or rear suspension. I have had spoke breakage issues on older 700c wheels. With a quality wheel that is no longer an issue. My current commute has a lot of cobblestone which really hurt my hands, back, and butt at times. I got a cheap, rigid, steel 90's mountain bike with 26 inch rims, and put 2.0 inch schwalbe kojak slicks on it. Great ride, and really smooths out the bumps, and much lighter than having a suspension fork. They feel almost as fast as narrower road tires. I also have an older touring road bike that I use for longer distance rides.

  13. #13
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    +1 for the rigid steel bikes from the late 1980s early 90s. Most of them came with decent 36-spoke wheels though many had single-walled rims but still held up well. You can pick them up in good ridable condition for <$200. Most bike shops have "used" new entry level seats in the bargain bins from people who have upgraded. I have a Bontrager SSR on the bike in the picture. It cost me $5 and looked as if it had never been sat on. I've picked up similar seats for flip bikes for $10-20. If you swap out knobby tires, you can get decent commuters like the Bontrager H2s for around $25-30 each. Of course you can spend more on higher level tires if you want.

    When/if you need to upgrade wheels, you can get a machine built set with 36 straight-gauge spokes, Shimano entry level hubs, and basic double walled rims for around $250-300. I have a set of handbuilt wheels with Salsa Delgado (double-walled, eyeletted) rims laced to Shimano Deore LX hubs with DT double butted spokes that cost me less than $400 and have performed perfectly needing only very minor truing on an annual basis. I consider these a mid-level, Clyde ready wheelset.

    As mentioned, well built 32-spoke wheels would likely be fine, but if you need/want to get a wheelset and want them a bit more bombproof, the weight penalty for 36-spokes is minor and the strength increase is significant (not huge, but significant).
    Last edited by Myosmith; 02-28-14 at 08:25 AM.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Concur with the majority here. You don't need full suspension or disc brakes at 300 lbs, especially for commuting. You don't even really need a front suspension. Quality frame, components, tires, and especially wheels are more important. Suspensions just add weight and rob you of efficiency. As for soaking up bumps, you need to work on riding light, and going around, rather than right over debris, bumps, and potholes.

    Now, 12 mile commute each way is a big time commitment, but my hat is off to you for committing to health, fitness, and sustainability.

  15. #15
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
    +1 for the rigid steel bikes from the late 1980s early 90s. Most of them came with decent 36-spoke wheels though many had single-walled rims but still held up well. You can pick them up in good ridable condition for <$200. Most bike shops have "used" new entry level seats in the bargain bins from people who have upgraded. I have a Bontrager SSR on the bike in the picture. It cost me $5 and looked as if it had never been sat on. I've picked up similar seats for flip bikes for $10-20. If you swap out knobby tires, you can get decent commuters like the Bontrager H2s for around $25-30 each. Of course you can spend more on higher level tires if you want.

    When/if you need to upgrade wheels, you can get a machine built set with 36 straight-gauge spokes, Shimano entry level hubs, and basic double walled rims for around $250-300. I have a set of handbuilt wheels with Salsa Delgado (double-walled, eyeletted) rims laced to Shimano Deore LX hubs with DT double butted spokes that cost me less than $400 and have performed perfectly needing only very minor truing on an annual basis. I consider these a mid-level, Clyde ready wheelset.

    As mentioned, well built 32-spoke wheels would likely be fine, but if you need/want to get a wheelset and want them a bit more bombproof, the weight penalty for 36-spokes is minor and the strength increase is significant (not huge, but significant).
    Indeed. Rather than buy some POC bike shaped object with suspension, that is the way to go. Quality frame, components and wheels is the name of the game for a heavy commuter.
    Sometimes those old mountain bikes and hybrids go for even less. I saw a nice mid 90s vintage Trek mountain bike locally for $100 the other day. These bikes haven't held their value, though I don't really understand why. Sturdy cro moly or aluminum frames, 36 spoke wheels. Other than perhaps going from 7 to 8 or 9 speed shifters, and V or disc brakes, not much has changed. People see an old paint job, canti brakes, steel fork and I guess just don't want them. I must say I am tempted, though I don't really need any more bikes in my garage. I checked bikepedia and the bike sold originally for $700 in the 1990s!
    Last edited by MRT2; 02-28-14 at 09:05 AM.

  16. #16
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    I'm not very sure of myself trying to differentiate a department store bike from a former upper tier bike. Where would be the best place to look, craigslist? Anyone mind taking a look for me? I am in the Louisville kentucky area. If i go for a used bike it is going to have to be much cheaper than my original stated budget. $200 or less probably, and need no work right away.

  17. #17
    Just Plain Slow PhotoJoe's Avatar
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    The Clyde/Athena forum is full of people North of 300 lbs. riding road bikes. If you WANT a mountain bike, great. Buy the bike that speaks to you. But if you really want a road bike, it can be done. Stop by the C/A forum and say hi. It's a friendly, supportive place.

    BTW, generally speaking, where are you from? We were posting at the same time!

    How tall are you?

    And for efficient CL searches, I HIGHLY recommend www.searchtempest.com. Saves a ton of time.
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  18. #18
    Administrator CbadRider's Avatar
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    Thanks to the Long Distance regulars for their advice. Thread moved to Clydes/Athenas since the regulars here are great about helping new riders find bikes that will work for them.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member trailmix's Avatar
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    I am right down the road in Lexington. I took a look at Craigslist (Louisville and Lexington) and didn't see anything that jumped out as a good commuter. I will keep checking CL and if you find something, post it and we can try and help you. Don't give up, something will turn up and if it doesn't I have a couple of 90s mountain bikes that I might let go to a good home.

  20. #20
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hzuiel View Post
    I'm not very sure of myself trying to differentiate a department store bike from a former upper tier bike. Where would be the best place to look, craigslist? Anyone mind taking a look for me? I am in the Louisville kentucky area. If i go for a used bike it is going to have to be much cheaper than my original stated budget. $200 or less probably, and need no work right away.
    Test Ride it:
    http://louisville.craigslist.org/bid/4350893646.html
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  21. #21
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hzuiel View Post
    I'm not very sure of myself trying to differentiate a department store bike from a former upper tier bike. Where would be the best place to look, craigslist? Anyone mind taking a look for me? I am in the Louisville kentucky area. If i go for a used bike it is going to have to be much cheaper than my original stated budget. $200 or less probably, and need no work right away.
    If you buy used, you should have a more budget for repairs, improvements, and accessories. Unless you have some wrenching skills, you should plan on at least getting a used bike checked out by a local bike shop. As for differentiating a quality bike from a department store bike, spend a little time here and you will figure it out. Trek, Specialized, Giant, Raleigh, Cannondale, Bianchi, Jamis, Marin, Kona, GT, for example, are or were quality brands worth seeking out, though certainly not an exhaustive list. Other brands like Schwinn and Diamondback used to make quality bikes, but have also sold their share of department store junk. So if you find one of those on the used market, it might or might not be a quality bike. Magna is a Wal Mart brand and should be avoided.

    When buying used, condition is as important as brand pedigree. Rusty chains, frozen seatposts, broken shifters or derailleurs, wheels that wobble badly are all indications of a bike that has had a hard life. It isn't that they can't be brought back to life, but it might cost a few bucks. It shouldn't be that hard to spot a bike in clean condition.
    Last edited by MRT2; 02-28-14 at 10:22 AM.

  22. #22
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
    That looks decent. If it fits, worth checking out.

  23. #23
    Senior Member ill.clyde's Avatar
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    I'll concur with most of the advice here so far ... would encourage you to definitely consider the two Nashbar CX bikes as well as anything you may find on Craigslist.

    When the weather is better I commute, generally three days a week, and it's a 24 mile round trip for me too.

    Avoid full suspension. At your weight it won't do you any good and makes the bike "flexy." Disc brakes are a nice to have, but really far from a necessity.

    The reason I suggest the Nashbar bikes is that CX bikes usually have a geometry closer to a road bike, and they have skinnier tires than a MTB. There's definitely something to be said for considering a 90s MTB because with some slight alterations you can mimic a CX bike. My general commuter is a CX bike (Kona Jake) and aside from the front fork being Aluminum (I prefer Carbon Fiber) I'm very pleased with it as a commuter.

  24. #24
    Senior Member ill.clyde's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
    That looks decent. If it fits, worth checking out.
    Definitely on its way toward being a good commuter bike

  25. #25
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    I called them to ask a bit about it. He said it sat in a garage until the tires dryrotted, then it was sold to them and they replaced the tires and everything else was fine. Bicycle bluebook says it's worth $140. I asked them if they were firm on that $250 dollar price and he said anything they post to craigslist has some wiggle room. What do you think would be the most I should pay for it?

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