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Short and heavy- is there anything out there for me?

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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.

Short and heavy- is there anything out there for me?

Old 03-16-22, 10:23 PM
  #1  
kunoichi
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Short and heavy- is there anything out there for me?

Newbie here. I've really been wanting to get back into cycling. I'm a 5'4 woman and I weigh 320 lbs. I recently bought an adult tricycle that was rated at over 350 pounds only to have the tires go almost to the ground the moment I sat on it. I want to replace it, even if it's with a two-wheeled bike, but now I'm scared to trust the weight limits. I like the look of the Mongoose Dolomite, but I worry that even the 17-inch frame is too big for me. It seems like all the high-capacity bikes I find are men's with bigger frames. I never paid attention to frame size when I road about 22 years ago, I was able to just hop on a bike and go. Now there will be no hopping.
I don't have a lot of money to spend. I probably shouldn't have even bought that first trike but it's really important for me to do this for some reason. I have no problem buying used if there is a brand that people can say could hold up.

ETA: I really appreciate everyone's help and responses. It really gave me a lot of good info. I ended up having to return the trike; the seat clamp was welded into the frame and it was so far apart that it wouldn't tighten even after we exchanged the quick release for the bolt- I was told it was unfixable. That and the brakes were broken. I never even rode it- which is kind of ironic. Anyways, I had been kind of regretting getting it instead of a bike anyways, the more I read about riding a tricycle from people who had done it and not just the articles online. So I looked at a lot of available bikes, and I pretty quickly saw one that looked good and was my size. I did some research on it and I ended up with a used Giant hybrid, steel frame, seven-speed, small size, 36 spoke wheels with good rims and fairly new tires (although upgrading the wheels is still my first priority) and I've watched a LOT of YouTube tutorials about learning to ride as an adult; I'm also going to look into classes around here, although my area has been very slow to recover from COVID.
I'm still nervous about balance, but from what I was reading, between how carefully you have to take the turns and dealing with the camber in the road on a trike and a few other factors, my fall risk was probably decent on the trike as well. Even experienced trike riders were telling me what a big learning curve it is and how you have to be careful of all these things, which kind of made the reason I bought the trike instead from the beginning useless. Right now I've just been practicing mounting and dismounting the bike, and when I get comfortable with that, I'll go out and start really slow.

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Old 03-17-22, 12:13 AM
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You probably could benefit from pumping those tires to a higher pressure, or putting some wider ones on.

An XS mountain bike might be ideal, if you want the bi in bicycle.

Smaller frames tend to be stiffer and more robust, so you could be ok if you aren't intending to get airborne.
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Old 03-17-22, 12:59 AM
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I'll probably try adding air to the tires; it can't hurt at this point. The manufacturer said they'd pay for me to get new tubes, but I don't really see any evidence of a leak.

Originally Posted by Polaris OBark View Post

Smaller frames tend to be stiffer and more robust, so you could be ok if you aren't intending to get airborne.
I really hope to not end up airborne. LOL. I was looking at a ladies Trek 3700 WSD someone has for sale because it's about my size. Could I add wider tires to something like that?
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Old 03-17-22, 06:34 AM
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Hello and welcome! There's an advocacy group I like that offers some tips for choosing bikes (and other gear) for heavy riders. Here's a link to their page on bike selection: https://www.allbodiesonbikes.com/biking-for-big-people

I'll throw my two cents in for Surly. Like all bikes, they can be tough to come by these days, but they offer a wide range of sizes compared to some manufacturers. I personally wouldn't worry about riding any of their bikes at your weight. They can be found used, but they aren't super cheap new or used.

On the budget end, I think Polaris OBark gave really good advice. Smaller mountain frames should be plenty strong (a 175 pound rider going off jumps is stressing a bike more than a 320lb rider on the road), and they're readily available. That might be a good entry point to cycling. Save your money to make a bigger purchase if/when you really fall in love with cycling and know what you want. Unless you're planning to ride off-road (not pavement or dirt paths), I'd avoid suspension.
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Old 03-17-22, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Velogoth View Post
On the budget end, I think Polaris OBark gave really good advice. Smaller mountain frames should be plenty strong (a 175 pound rider going off jumps is stressing a bike more than a 320lb rider on the road), and they're readily available. That might be a good entry point to cycling. Save your money to make a bigger purchase if/when you really fall in love with cycling and know what you want. Unless you're planning to ride off-road (not pavement or dirt paths), I'd avoid suspension.
While your advice is good as far as it goes, I’d like to stress that “smaller mountain frames” doesn’t mean what a lot of people imply it to mean. kunoichi is right that a 17” is too big for her. Lots of people make the mistake of thinking that mountain bikes and road bikes are the same “size”. They aren’t. A 17” mountain bike may be 43cm in seat tube length but because of the increased standover height of mountain bikes, it’s meant to fit someone who would ride a 52 cm road bike. A 15” mountain bike is for someone who rides a 49 cm road bike. At 5’4”, she is on the ragged edge of a 15” but a 13” would probably fit better in a mountain bike.

On the plus side, bike manufacturers use the same thickness of metal on all of their frames so a smaller bike with a smaller triangle is a significantly stronger bike. The “weight limits” of most frames is a legal fiction anyway but a small frame would handle more weight proportionally.
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Old 03-17-22, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
.

On the plus side, bike manufacturers use the same thickness of metal on all of their frames so a smaller bike with a smaller triangle is a significantly stronger bike. The “weight limits” of most frames is a legal fiction anyway but a small frame would handle more weight proportionally.
So is it really important that I stick with a steel frame?
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Old 03-17-22, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by kunoichi View Post
So is it really important that I stick with a steel frame?
No. Don't get too hung up on frame material. For a reasonably priced hybrid or mountain bike, aluminum and steel should both be fine. The link I posted earlier to allbodiesonbikes.com gives a low durability rating to aluminum, but I think that might be due to consideration of lighter aluminum road bikes, rather than aluminum mountain/hybrid bikes. Otherwise, I think that's a good resource and I encourage you to read through it.

Your point of failure is likely to be wheels more than frame anyway. Higher spoke counts will be better. Less than 32 is a no-no for heavy riders.

Remember that even if you make the "wrong choice" in a bike you're unlikely to have a catastrophic failure the first time you go for a ride. The more likely problems are things like broken spokes, bent axles, or a frame that cracks after hundreds of miles.
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Old 03-17-22, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Velogoth View Post
No. Don't get too hung up on frame material. For a reasonably priced hybrid or mountain bike, aluminum and steel should both be fine. The link I posted earlier to allbodiesonbikes.com gives a low durability rating to aluminum, but I think that might be due to consideration of lighter aluminum road bikes, rather than aluminum mountain/hybrid bikes.
I saw that when I read the link, it was one of the reasons I was wondering.
It's nice to know the bike is unlikely to collapse underneath me the first time I ride it. I'm wondering why this trike did so just from me sitting on it. The frame is very heavy and solid. It's got 34 spokes- I realize not the ideal, but I can't see why it just didn't work at all.
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Old 03-17-22, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by kunoichi View Post
I saw that when I read the link, it was one of the reasons I was wondering.
It's nice to know the bike is unlikely to collapse underneath me the first time I ride it. I'm wondering why this trike did so just from me sitting on it. The frame is very heavy and solid. It's got 34 spokes- I realize not the ideal, but I can't see why it just didn't work at all.
The issue was that the tires squished too much? That seems like an issue with tire pressure rather than some issue with the design of your trike.
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Old 03-17-22, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Velogoth View Post
The issue was that the tires squished too much? That seems like an issue with tire pressure rather than some issue with the design of your trike.
Yes, that was the issue. The front tire in particular. The back tires seemed to take the weight a lot better. It was inflated to where it's hard pressing down from on top of it, but if you grab it by the sides and squeeze it has some give.
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Old 03-17-22, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by kunoichi View Post
So is it really important that I stick with a steel frame?
Nope. I’ve broken steel and aluminum in equal number. My longest lasting bike (not one of the ones that broke) is an aluminum frame. The aluminum frame that broke is known for breaking due to a miscalculation in metallurgy by the manufacturer but still lasted almost 7000 hard mountain bike miles. One of the steel framed bike I broke lasted around 3000 miles but broke 4 times…steer tube at the fork, bottom bracket bridge (twice) and rear dropout. I’ve owned more aluminum bikes than steel and will probably not own another steel bike.
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Old 03-17-22, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by kunoichi View Post
Yes, that was the issue. The front tire in particular. The back tires seemed to take the weight a lot better. It was inflated to where it's hard pressing down from on top of it, but if you grab it by the sides and squeeze it has some give.
Yeah the ones in the back sound about right. I'd recommend doing some googling for tutorials on checking and setting your tire pressure. That's a skill every rider needs to learn.

Do you have a bike pump? You'll definitely want to have one if you're planning to ride and don't live next door to a bike shop.

Once you have reached 10 posts, you could also post a picture of the trike tires here and we may be able to offer other insights.
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Old 03-18-22, 03:43 AM
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I just ordered a bike pump that should be here tomorrow. I borrowed my son's, but the PSI gauge lettering is just too small for me to read. I'm so squeamish about over-inflating and blowing up the tires.
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Old 03-18-22, 04:28 AM
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Welcome back to biking!

You definitely want to check the pressure with a gauge. Also, having a little squish in the tires will make the ride more comfortable. In your case it sounds like there wasn't quite enough air in the front, but rock hard tires ride...well, like rocks.
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Old 03-23-22, 05:52 PM
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Quick question,
Originally Posted by Velogoth View Post
Unless you're planning to ride off-road (not pavement or dirt paths), I'd avoid suspension.
Is suspension a potential weakpoint? I'm looking at two used bikes in particular. The one that looks like it has a more solid frame has suspension.
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Old 03-23-22, 09:15 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Nope. I’ve broken steel and aluminum in equal number. My longest lasting bike (not one of the ones that broke) is an aluminum frame. The aluminum frame that broke is known for breaking due to a miscalculation in metallurgy by the manufacturer but still lasted almost 7000 hard mountain bike miles. One of the steel framed bike I broke lasted around 3000 miles but broke 4 times…steer tube at the fork, bottom bracket bridge (twice) and rear dropout. I’ve owned more aluminum bikes than steel and will probably not own another steel bike.
Sacrilege
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Old 03-24-22, 05:26 AM
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Originally Posted by kunoichi View Post
Quick question, Is suspension a potential weakpoint? I'm looking at two used bikes in particular. The one that looks like it has a more solid frame has suspension.
I'll let others answer, since I know nearly nothing about suspensions. The only reason I said that is that some (all?) suspensions need to be tuned to rider weight (if they can). A heavier rider might almost bottom out a suspension that's tuned for a lighter rider, and therefore not really get much benefit from it.

So my suggestion was merely intended to spare you the hassle of wondering/thinking about that and potentially having to get something tuned up at a bike shop.

It's my personal opinion that a lot of bikes are sold with suspensions more because customers expect them/want them "just in case" than because they're needed for the riding that's actually happening.

Last edited by Velogoth; 03-24-22 at 05:27 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 03-24-22, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by kunoichi View Post
Quick question,


Is suspension a potential weakpoint? I'm looking at two used bikes in particular. The one that looks like it has a more solid frame has suspension.
That’s not really a simple answer question. There are lots of suspensions that are fine for your weight even doing big jumps, but they’re $$$ and most likely not on any bike that will be on your radar. Lower end suspensions can be fine for just riding along. They will work to a certain degree, even at your weight, but not properly. If you get out of the saddle to pedal, the lower end suspensions are just poo. Bobbing while pedalling is a power suck. For the riding you will do, guessing pavement and maybe gravel, you don’t need any suspension at all. It will just be a cost you don’t need, plus any 2nd hand suspended bikes need to be viewed by an experienced rider/mech. Something like blown seals due to use/age could really ruin the experience
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Old 03-25-22, 11:24 PM
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I've read through every painful, although well meant post. This is NOT an issue of the o.p. having an inadequate machine. We simply can't know that yet. Nor is this format of post/counterpost productive when the o.p. is at a very junior level in their understanding of bicycle mechanics. The best thing, I think, is for the o.p. to find a local bike co-op that can provide hands on instruction in basic operation and maintenance of a bike or trike. They can also provide buying advice as well. I don't imagine there would be any cost for this level of service.
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Old 03-26-22, 05:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
I've read through every painful, although well meant post. This is NOT an issue of the o.p. having an inadequate machine. We simply can't know that yet. Nor is this format of post/counterpost productive when the o.p. is at a very junior level in their understanding of bicycle mechanics. The best thing, I think, is for the o.p. to find a local bike co-op that can provide hands on instruction in basic operation and maintenance of a bike or trike. They can also provide buying advice as well. I don't imagine there would be any cost for this level of service.
This is the best advice that has been posted in this thread.
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Old 03-26-22, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
I've read through every painful, although well meant post. This is NOT an issue of the o.p. having an inadequate machine. We simply can't know that yet. Nor is this format of post/counterpost productive when the o.p. is at a very junior level in their understanding of bicycle mechanics. The best thing, I think, is for the o.p. to find a local bike co-op that can provide hands on instruction in basic operation and maintenance of a bike or trike. They can also provide buying advice as well. I don't imagine there would be any cost for this level of service.
The LBS was really great about both advising me on what to do with my trike, and also on helping me with the purchase of a used one. They don't, however, give biking lessons. So far, the only place in my town I've been able to find that does charges 90 a lesson. That seems a little steep to me.
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Old 03-29-22, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by kunoichi View Post
The LBS was really great about both advising me on what to do with my trike, and also on helping me with the purchase of a used one. They don't, however, give biking lessons. So far, the only place in my town I've been able to find that does charges 90 a lesson. That seems a little steep to me.
Bike co-ops are different from bike shops. Many are volunteer based organizations dedicated to getting/keeping people on bikes. It might be worth seeing if there are any in the area, and what kind of services they offer.
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Old 03-30-22, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Velogoth View Post
Bike co-ops are different from bike shops. Many are volunteer-based organizations dedicated to getting/keeping people on bikes. It might be worth seeing if there are any in the area, and what kind of services they offer.
I haven't been able to find one in my area. I can't believe there isn't one. I live in a state that is #2 or #3 (I don't remember which) in the nation for being bicycle-friendly, and I'm in one of the biggest cities in that state. I can't believe there isn't something. But so far, no luck.

I have found a list of instructors linked with this website, but I think I'm going to go out there and at least try some of the stuff I've been watching. I've spent so much money on the bike and gear that I don't really have surplus right now.
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Old 04-01-22, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by kunoichi View Post
I haven't been able to find one in my area. I can't believe there isn't one. I live in a state that is #2 or #3 (I don't remember which) in the nation for being bicycle-friendly, and I'm in one of the biggest cities in that state. I can't believe there isn't something. But so far, no luck.

I have found a list of instructors linked with this website, but I think I'm going to go out there and at least try some of the stuff I've been watching. I've spent so much money on the bike and gear that I don't really have surplus right now.
it may help to have your city and state added to your profile, others may know or be able to look up a co-op in your area
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Old 04-02-22, 03:24 PM
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I think a used non-suspension mountain bike would be a good start. One from a name brand manufacturer .
Most had heavy duty frames and heavy duty wheels. Could be a good start.
That will give you time to look around and find what is best for you, before you spend a ton of money.
Now five-four is not that short, so a frame size shouldn't be hard to come by. In a road bike about a size 50 would be close.
Probably a small or like a 16 or 17 in inches for a mountain bike. But some heavy duty street tires on it.
Might have to change the stem and seat.
But the most important thing is that you have come here. Everybody has different opinions but I'm sure 100% of the people here are on you
side and will give you all they help they can.
Welcome to the club.
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