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Need some advice about bikes for a heavy rider newbie

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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

Need some advice about bikes for a heavy rider newbie

Old 01-10-22, 01:21 AM
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irrationalpoet
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Need some advice about bikes for a heavy rider newbie

Hello everyone! Just joined this site. I've been doing research for awhile on purchasing a bike and was hoping to get some advice. So, first thing out of the way, I weigh about 440 lbs and my primary goal is to lose weight. My secondary goal is to have fun and lots of it. When I was younger and lighter, I used to ride a bike all the time, just exploring everything. Then I moved to VA, which is unfortunately fairly hilly with very steep slopes. I've bought a bike three different times since I've been here, and had issues each time. First bike I bought, the rim actually bent under me attempting to ride it, the second bike got stolen (freaking meth-heads), and the third bike was a Worksman cycle I spent a bunch of money on. The Worksman wasn't too shabby, but it was a) very heavy, b) was single-speed, c) brakes were not the best (although from research, I realize I may have needed to adjust them), d) pedaling uphill was almost impossible. In the end, it got abandoned, rusted and disappeared.

So, it's been a few years, but some stuff has changed. One is that I am at my heaviest ever, I never hit above 400 in the past and now its getting hard to move around. Partly, this is because I broke my ankle really badly last year and I was bed ridden for months, followed by the fact that I can't run anymore (my ankle won't let me now, at least not at this weight). I've gotten a gym membership and have been working my weight down, but I really want to start exercising outdoors again (I very much miss it). Not to mention, that all I do at the gym is sit on the recumbent bike and cycle anyways (my ankle hurts too bad to hit the treadmill), so why not actually be outside? A couple of months ago, my dad and I rented ebikes and went on a local bike trail (mostly flat one) and it was absolutely magical. I had so much fun, I didn't even care that I was getting soaked head to toe in mud (it was pouring). Since then I've been doing quite a bit of research and have resolved to start biking again.

Sorry, for all that long windedness, but I wanted to try to give some context before I asked some questions/advice.

So, first things first, do I actually need an ebike? It seems kinda counter-intuitive to have an electric motor assisting me, if I'm trying to lose weight, but I won't lose any if I don't actually bike. The biggest problem for me (besides my weight of course) are hills. My previous bikes were single-speeds and I've realized that's been a mistake with previous bikes, because I probably need that mechanical advantage to help me up hills. I've been researching a lot about the BBSHD Bafang motor and it seems like with really low gearing 30T front/50T back, I should be able to climb the more steep gradients here (I literally live in the mountains). I want to work as much as possible, but I might need some help.

Second question, what kind of bike would be best? I've looked at a lot of fat bikes, and some touring/cargo bikes. Obviously, I need a bike that can hold me up. Unfortunately, I don't have a boatload of disposable income, so my budget is rather limited. Bikes made specifically for very heavy riders, are obscenely expensive (looking at you Zise). There does seem to be some consensus that I've seen that fat bikes work fairly well. I have looked at some cargo bikes like the Yuba Kombi for $1200, but I'm not sure if it has low enough gearing to help me out, not to mention that it is at the very top of budget I can afford (and I'm probably going to need make upgrades). The two fat bikes that have been really catching my eye are the Framed Minnesota and the Mongoose Argus Sport. Originally, I was looking at the Mongoose Dolomite/Malus/Hitch, but I've come to realize you get what you pay for and those will severely limit my upgrade potential (I'd rather have a freehub), not to mention the parts seem to be somewhat substandard according to a few sources. Any advice on a good bike for really heavy rider for around $1000 or less, would be much appreciated. I know it isn't much but it's all I've got to work with atm. I think fat bikes appeal to me the most, just for the fact that I can take them everywhere, but I can also see why they might be pain (increased surface contact means more rolling resistance, so even harder to pedal), so I'm open to other types as well.

Okay, last question. Can an aluminum bike hold my weight? The bike that catches my eye more than any other is the Framed Minnesota. It seems like a really good bike for the price point. The Mongoose Argus Sport doesn't seem quite as good as the Framed Minnesota, but its about $200 cheaper (if I can ever find it in stock) and it comes with hydraulic disc brakes. Point is, they're both 6061 aluminum alloy frames, and I'm not entirely sure if they have the tensile strength to hold my weight without significant deformation over time.

Anyways, sorry for the long-winded post, but if anyone has any answers or just some general advice/tips for a newbie, I'm all ears. Thanks! Cheers!
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Old 01-10-22, 02:15 AM
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The unfortunate truth is most times you get what you pay for.

The major brands (Trek, Specialized, Giant, Gazelle, & others) tend to have reasonably good warranty & support. They also tend to be well constructed. This does come at a price premium, but it virtually guarantees that amateur cost cutting things like soldering leads directly from the motor to controller sans connector doesn't happen.

As a shop mechanic, I have nothing positive to say about internet sourced e-bikes...much less fat e-bikes. They are not a "good deal" in any sense of the word. But they do work for a little while & if you know your way around a bicycle you can do ok until something major presents itself.

If you are budget conscious & in to hobby projects, I've seen/heard good things about the TS-DZ2 motor & kits. The cool thing is they can be installed in any standard BSA bottom bracket bike & be uninstalled just as easily.

Just because you have power doesn't mean you have to use it. Scores of people don't have the ability to carry-on at a reasonable (fun) speed at first. E-bikes are great at getting people "out there," experiencing cycling & before they know it the motor is used only for hills, then later on, hardly at all.

On a related note: You can't exercise your way out of an eating problem. That is an issue I'll leave you to address. We all make our choices. I, too have had to make different choices so that I can ride what I want to ride. You are not alone in that regard.

At 440 pounds, you may have a hard time finding a rear wheel that will be strong enough to last very long. Velocity Cliffhanger & Sapim double-butted spokes, or Alpine III's are the usual go-to rim/spoke combination around here at Bike Forums. The reason is the wide/flat spoke bed resists cracking & the butted spokes tend to act as a smooth system better than heavy, thick, non-stretchy straight gauge spokes. I would look in to at the very least a rear wheel & preferably 36 spokes.

You could put this $400 Uber-strong hand built wheel on any comfort/hybrid in the $500-600 range, add in the $500-600 dollar TS-DZ2 kit & be reasonably close to a cheap e-bike but with way better components that you know have a reputable company behind it. (In my minds eye, I'm seeing a Giant Cypress or Specialized Roll fitting the bill.)

Understandably, this post doesn't address exactly what you asked (bike X vs bike Y) but there is more than one way to do almost anything. I hope I at least added something useful to your thought process in some way.

Last edited by base2; 01-10-22 at 02:27 AM.
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Old 01-10-22, 02:15 AM
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I would suggest a steel frame with 36 spoked wheels and a great groupset. Surly makes great bikes and building a custom for the size of your budget could be an option if you take your time and buy a few used components. Their frames are well made and you could get anything from a road type to a touring to a fat tire. I suggest that you decide on a frame/style, flat bar, road bar, etc,,, and then look for a great set of used wheels, definitely buy a great set of 36 spoked wheels and ensure they match your frame, groupset and brake selection. Consider talking with November Wheels before buying a frame and get their help, great wheels make a great bike. Used groupsets are easy to find and inexpensive. Having your LBS help is an added bonus as they can put it ał together for you if your not comfortable wrenching. Also consider buying a used complete bike, thereís a ton of them for sale right now, just dont get in a hurry and do the research. Consider Surlys Long Haul Trucker, fun bike Have fun! BTW No experience with ebikes.

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Old 01-11-22, 01:00 AM
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Thanks for the suggestions! So, I've been looking at wheels/rims/spokes on the Velocity site and also looking frames at Surly's site. I notice the Surly frames are all made out of CroMoly steel, which is considered to be one of the strongest materials for a frame to built from (just a bit on the heavy side). I've actually found some used Surly frames on ebay for not too shabby of a price. Do you guys think a Surly fatbike frame (Pugsley, ICT, Wednesday, etc) would work if I combined it with the Dually rims from velocity and Sapim spokes? I noticed it might be cheaper if I buy the rims, spokes, and hubs separately and laced it myself. Plus, I've been debating using an IGH for the rear hub, I've seen some relatively inexpensive ones on ebay. I know I have no experience, but that's never stopped me before with other DIY projects. I might end up spending a bit on tools, but cool thing about tools is that you always have them for future builds. I was thinking 48h rims front and back for maximum support, might be overkill, but I'd rather be on the safe side. Any thoughts?
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Old 01-11-22, 01:48 AM
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The cool thing about IGH hubs is the drive side tension & non-drive side tend to be much better balanced. IOW: the hub flanges tend to be much more symmetrical distance from center. This does make for a much stronger rim.

I'm a fan of the lowly Nexus 7 with an 18 tooth cog mated to a 52-36 crankset. A 17 tooth cog with a 50-34 crankset works nearly as well with almost as evenly spaced gears. Either is as low of gearing as Shimano engineers recommend (2:1) This gets you around 30 gear inches for just about any hill you are likely to encounter on the road, 12 evenly spaced combinations in the middle, & thanks to the big ring, ~25 mph at a decent cadence so you don't spin out on the slightest descent..

There are, of course, a lot of other options. A Rohloff being (arguably) the Holy Grail...with the price to match.

In my understanding Dually isn't necessarily any stronger than the Cliffhanger, but the Cliffhanger does allow for tubeless if that is a thing you think you may want the freedom to do in the future.

As to 48 spokes: There is a such thing as too much of a good thing. I'd make sure that all your parts are going to match up before you buy. 36 spokes may very well be the limit of easily obtainable. 40 is getting rare, & the only 48 hole hubs I have seen recently were for BMX.

Have you given this a look? At $129 It's a tough deal to beat.

At $149, this may have better spokes.

Last edited by base2; 01-11-22 at 02:33 AM.
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Old 01-11-22, 04:31 AM
  #6  
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One problem you will have with any bike you choose, is that at your weight, you will constantly be suffering saddle soreness and this will prevent you from losing much weight from riding your bike.

If you can work out on the recumbent and tidying up your eating and drop to 360ish pounds, this will open up a new world of possibilities for you.

As things currently stand, you will have to buy the sorts of wheels that base2 has linked for you to consider.

You will quickly taco any standard 29inch wheel with 32 spokes that comes with a new bike purchase.

A 26inch wheel with 36 spokes might be strong enough to handle your current weight, but no guarantees.

Velomine at one point sold a 40 spoke 29' wheel that was very robust and served me well when I was the same weight as you, but that is no longer on their website.

The strongest wheel they have on their website right now(but sadly Out of Stock) would be this 48 spoke 26" wheelset that is compatible with rim and disc brakes.

If you paired this wheelset up with a Surly Troll(if you can find one) or an old 90's cromoly mountainbike, you would have a bike that could handle your weight, leaving only saddlesoreness as the big issue you will face.
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Old 01-11-22, 10:26 PM
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Wheels for tandems would handle 400lb+ but tandem rear hub spacing is sometimes (often) wider than the MTB standard 135mm. It isn't realistic though to be dead set on enjoying cycling much above ~375lb. Electric motors geared for that kind of weight cannot use normal sprockets. A 50T rear sprocket will fold in half if used this way. No mid-drive systems are designed to take much smaller than 42T.

The TSDZ2 does have a 104bcd adapter and can take ~32T but they aren't easily found. Other posters are being understandably kind, but really, while being a lot of fun, there won't actually be any serious weight loss taking place on a bicycle at this kind of weight. A serious and fundamental issue with food, metabolism, or mental health needs to be addressed and if that is done there won't be any need to try and work mechanical miracles or spend outlier amounts of money on specialized equipment.

TL;DR: A bike or e-bike will still need for the o.p. to address their weight issues long term. So IMO the bike is optional. Weight can be lost without one.
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Old 01-12-22, 06:28 AM
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It's going to be difficult to find a bike within your budget that will hold your weight. Cycling is fun but it's definitely not the best exercise for losing weight. Put your $ into a gym membership, ride their stationary bikes (no coasting) if you like as part of your workout. When you've dropped 100# you'll have a much easier time finding a bike and a much better chance of cycling being fun for you.
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Old 01-17-22, 04:53 AM
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My advice: Wait a while till you're down to 300 or something, but for right now buy a recumbent style gym quality exercise bike that'll allow you to burn significant calories and improve fitness while not putting all that weight on a saddle and a bike frame. Or join a gym with one.

You mention hills. Going up is one thing, but coming down and being able to stop at 440lb would be as big a worry for me.
Walking up those same hills if you have some woodland & trails nearby would be a good alternative and get you outside - the exercise bike will get dull, but it's much safer.

When you do look to buy a bike for sure stick to steel frame and forks, hydraulic disc brakes, chunkier touring or mtb wheels (some touring wheels are built for tandems).
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Old 01-29-22, 03:43 PM
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I can understand the desire to ride but Iíve never been as heavy as you. I topped out at 260.

Not giving you a hard time but the consumer market just isnít built around bikes that can support you. I saw you had a Worksman and was wondering if a 7 spd base Worksman would be the bike you need to start with until you get down a little but you would know that more than others.

I do have a Mongoose Dolomite (ALX aluminum frame) and can attest to some of the lower grade equipment. You get what you pay for and I felt I paid for a good base with some meh components. I think the other mongoose bikes Argus or the Framed would have better equipment but the frame and wheels are your issue.

in my case I replace the touch points seat, stem grips and pedals to get the bike to fit better and ended up with a nicer bike for it.

after riding it a bit for 8 months nothing has failed but I want a few other things because I just want nicer. The brake levers are cheesy and I picked up some Shimano levers. And while I had no issues with the shifters I didnít like shifting up and down with my thumb and just got some Shimano Rapid Fires. Again the stock stuff worked just I wanted a little better.

All that said I donít think these bikes will support your weight. Maybe at 300 lbs but currently I think you will just be setting yourself up.

Another thought is a Trike, either a Worksman or a Sun. Hope that helps.
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Old 01-29-22, 05:07 PM
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Last first, Alu is prob going to be the best choice for you. It's not that you couldn't find a good steel bike, but it will cost more or not be rugged enough. That's not carved in stone, it depends.

I have an ebike. This is basically outside your budget, but I love mine. The question is do you need the help. If I didn't need it now, I'd be riding one of my old bikes.

So here is my 2 cents. Open a bank account, and put at least a little money into it every payday. Go try some bikes at bike shops. Expect that this may not be a straightforward process. Let me give you an example, the Surly Wednesday looks like it might be a good choice. But if you are going to spend your time mostly on roads, you will want smoother tires. You will also want a rear wheel with more spokes There are relatively cheap machine made wheels with 36 spokes, you might want to look at 40, ask the bike shop, I am not sure. Tell them you want the wheels (and maybe the tires) swapped out at the time of sale.

When I was younger, I didn't realise how important a good bicycle was to me. Once I did figure that out, what I was willing to spend got a lot bigger. It changed my life.
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Old 02-02-22, 02:14 PM
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Just my 2 cents on subject. I know that I'm late to responding. BUT as I had lost weight from my worst at 537lbs, and was in the mid 400's, I used getting a bike as motivation for losing further weight.

I did other things, mainly walking a lot and counting my calories to get myself enough under the 400lb range. At around 360lbs, 7 years ago I had bought a hybrid Specialized Crosstrail.

I'm not saying you should do this yourself, I'm just giving an idea, that being motivated for something might be helpful with losing the weight, saving extra money during this time period and being satisfied with what your doing.

I too like others when I was in my mid 300lb range had to buy new wheels, 36 spoke wheels, but was able to purchase the following and they held up very well for a mid 300lb man.

https://www.amazon.com/Wheel-Master-...ps%2C70&sr=8-8

Good luck and don't give up on your journey to lose weight!
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