Apr 24, 2013

Bicycle recommendation for very overweight people (over 300 pounds)

A "29er" on the left with a regular mountain bike on the right w/ 26" wheels
Winter is lingering badly where I live. It might be the worst spring ever! Naturally, with skiing done for the year, I'm tending to my unhealthy obsession with bikes by upgrading and maintaining my two bicycles.

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
Secondly, you need to put "slick" or "pavement" tires on your 29er. These hold more pressure (they're harder and therefore more efficient) and they don't have unnecessary knobbies on them that are used for traction in dirt. They roll smoother, more easily and they make less noise. The end result is a faster, more enjoyable ride that will keep you coming back for more. And that's really important for obese people.

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.

2 comments:

  1. Shoot, just lost my whole comment.....will try again. It was interesting to read your post, I would also love to return to being able to ride my bike! But I also have become quite "fluffy" over the years! So I am wondering - for my wedding present from my hubby, 35 years ago, I had a Nishiki bike, that seems very wobbly and scary to me right now! But might I be able to just put heavier duty tires on here? Would love any advice!!!

    Thanks - Diane Vruwink Carlson

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  2. Yes! less hard (lower pressure) larger tires would make the wheels less likely to break. That should work for up to 250-275 pounds if you avoid potholes! Nishiki were good bikes, I had one for a while. The tires you'll want are 700 X 35c or 700 x38c. The last number is the pliumpness of the tire. Best wishes!

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