|A "29er" on the left with a regular mountain bike on the right w/ 26" wheels|
Two years ago, I started bicycling at about 350 pounds. I spent a few months walking for about 20-30 minutes first. I lost thirty or forty pounds, gained some muscle and was ready to try my long-loved activity of cycling.
Most obese people who take up cycling to improve their health have little interest of going off-road (like dirt trails with lots of hills and sharp turns.) However, it only took me one year of fitness to get interested in that particular kind of bicycling as an addition to my repertoire of fitness activities, so never say never!
I've always found cycling to be great for weight-loss and health improvement. It's easy on your joints and it's fun, so you keep going back for more. But what if you weigh so much you're afraid a bike won't hold you?
I think most mountain bikes--which are designed to take a beating bouncing off tree limbs, rocks and dips in trails with a normal-weighted rider--will hold someone well over 300 pounds (if not 400 pounds or more) if you're riding on a smooth, flat paved road or bike path (get a cushy seat too!)
There are heavy duty bikes for people as heavy as five hundred pounds but they're very expensive, about $2000.00. When I started out, I thought I needed one of these. I was wrong.
But I didn't like mountain bikes much. Their wheels have a smaller diameter than bikes made for the road and as such, they're not very efficient. You have to put more work into them to ride on pavement than you should. Road bikes typically have wheels that are 700 mm, or around 29 inches, but the rims are thin, often very thin, the higher the level you go.
My solution, if you have lots of money, say $5-600.00, is to buy a relatively new style of bike called a "29er." The name comes from the size of wheel. It's 3 inches larger in diameter than a regular 26 inch mountain bike but still has wide rims that can take a beating. I think I even saw a 29er at Wal-Mart but I'm not sure a Wal-Mart bike would hold up to someone weighing over 350 pounds. The wheels are more flimsy.
Local bike shops always have much better quality bikes. You get what you pay for. Anyone of any weight should consider wheels that have "double-wall" rims. They're sturdier, and any decent bike has them. But you won't find them at your local big box store.
|Mountain bike tire for riding on pavement|
If you can't find a 29er, or already have a mountain bike lined up, put slick road tires on it. It'll cost you $40 to do that, but it'll be worth it for your health. If you can't afford a bike-shop quality bike, you can buy used or buy a cheap bike and have your local bike shop put on decent quality (sturdy) wheels for about $100.