Can you be too heavy to ride a bike?


Some bike manufacturers will give you the exact bike weight limit and others won’t, assuming that you are of average weight, somewhere around 200 lbs. But even if the bike can hold me the question can still arise “Will I be able to ride the bike?” So you might be scratching your head, asking yourself:

Can I be too heavy to ride a bike? Even heavy riders can benefit from cycling if they have the right type of bike. Certain bikes and ebikes can hold up to 550 lbs. They offer plenty of room for the rider providing a comfortable upright sitting position, a wide gear ratio (and some even electric assistance) to support the rider.

The proper mindset and bike can help a great deal to overcome difficulties such as feeling out of shape or the weight capacity doubts. In this article we’re going to take a deep dive into the best bikes and bike types, equipment and even the proper mindset if you’re a heavy rider.

Will I be able to pedal?

Wil I make it?!?

One can feel heavy for multiple reasons: extraordinary height comes with extraordinary weight, one can also be obese, but a muscular person, such as a bodybuilder is heavier than most people too. A short person can feel heavy even if he is well within the bike weight limits.

Answering just in terms of stones and pounds or kilograms would be oversimplifying a complicated question. 

Let’s put things into perspective.

Feeling heavy is something most people associate with being overweight, unhealthy or unfit. Although health and fitness are closely linked, they are not the same and should not be confused.

Some of the characteristics of fitness are mental acuity, cardiorespiratory and muscular endurance, muscular strength, body composition, and flexibility. Even and unhealthy or ill person may still have these characteristics. 

Being overweight is definitely unhealthy, yet an overweight person can be fit. In fact I know quite a few fit and overweight people, who by leading an active life, exercising and cycling keep themselves fit. 

An overweight person isn’t completely healthy, he is exposed to greater risk of heart diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure and even certain cancers, (not to mention the risks so acute nowadays in relation to Covid-19).

However even an overweight person can reduce those risks a great deal through physical exercise and in our case by cycling.

If you are trying to overcome your weight concerns keep in mind that even severely obese people can ride a bike. It is healthy and it reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure.

Even severely obese and overweight people can ride a bike. It might not be easy initially, but here are some tips.

Weight loss

What about weight loss? Does cycling help me to lose weight?

Yes, it can! Cycling can tip the balance and help you get down to a healthy weight if you are only slightly overweight. 

However, for a severely overweight person with a bad diet cycling will not help lose weight. As the saying goes ‘You can’t outpedal your fork”. 

Losing weight is 70% nutrition and 30% physical activity. Or more 80-20… The point is that proper nutrition is key.

If your goal with cycling is to lose weight and you have a bad diet you need to change your eating habits and diet. Here is an article I wrote about this (Is bike commuting enough exercise)

Cycling is Fun

Cycling is useful for multiple reasons, but in addition to the utility factor cycling is also fun. Even an overweight person can enjoy a good ride.

One of the main reasons overweight people shy away from cycling is that they are ashamed of their appearance and ‘What will they say’, etc. 

What I can say from my experience and having talked to others about this is that instead of despising overweight riders we rather appreciate them as they strive to live a healthier and more active life. 

So don’t let a minority take away from you a fun hobby!

Get on the bike and enjoy the ride!

How am I supposed to start?

Set realistic goals

Choosing the right bike or ebike and making short rides on flat terrains can be a good start.

All you need to make sure is that you don’t jump into the middle of it right away!

If you feel unfit and you’re planning to start cycling, you should be careful because the first rides can be demanding on your body. 

I definitely don’t recommend starting with long rides or tours. You should start gradually and set realistic goals that you can achieve. Most importantly goals that you enjoy achieving. 

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have challenging long-term goals, something like: ‘I want to cycle to work everyday’ or ‘I want to ride my bike on the weekends for 40 miles’. That’s fine, but don’t start with that. If you do, you set yourself up for failure.

Try to look for achievable short term goals that you enjoy achieving!

To set those goals and help you start and persevere in achieving those, this article I wrote can help you.

Flat terrain

Another key factor is the terrain. Especially at the beginning try to avoid hilly terrain, look for flat routes where you don’t have to make extra effort to climb up hills. Even a few degree uphill climb can take a lot of extra energy. 

Consider using an Ebike

If you have doubts about your physical fitness or you live in a hilly area and you don’t think you can manage the ride you could use and ebike. Ebikes are great because they can provide extra support along the way.

You don’t have to have electric support during the entire ride, you can turn it on if you get to a hill or you feel tired or whenever you feel it.

Enjoy the ride

This is the most important step. 

Whatever your long-term goal may be, you should enjoy riding your bike. That will be a source of motivation for the next time. 

This is something you can learn: try to appreciate every aspect of the ride: nature, moving a bit, nice weather, whatever you find enjoyable about it. 

One of the many benefits of cycling is being less stressed and letting the steam out, so you shouldn’t ruin it stressing yourself by setting impossible goals or delving into negative feelings about your health and weight. On the contrary, make sure that you enjoy every ride! 

Now let’s see what are the best bikes to achieve all that!

Bike weight limits

It’s not always easy to determine the exact weight limit because different manufacturers have different approaches. I could group them into 2:

  • indicates the exact weight limit.
  • gives no specifics but suggests to have common sense

When they give no specific information you have to rely to some extent on other riders’ reviews and experiences. In this category there are quite a few brands that manufacture durable bicycles that based on other riders’ experience can hold even 400 lbs. Such brands are: 

  • Mongoose
  • Salsa
  • Kona
  • Schwinn

Quite a few heavy riders give their account of having ridden one of those bikes without any problem with a total weigh of 400 lbs.

Why are many people reluctant to opt for these bikes? 

Because they are heavy and they feel uncertain whether one of those will hold.

You’ll need strong wheels

The weakest points of the bike are the wheels. If you decide to choose a bike from the above list (Salsa, Kona, Mongoose and Schwinn) you have to make sure that the wheels are strong enough to carry the weight.

The wheels are made of 3 components: hub, spokes and rim. All of these should be strong enough to support the heavy weight.

28 spoke wheels will likely not be durable enough to carry much weight, try to pick one at least with 32, 36 or even 40 spokes.

Tandem or unicycle wheels are usually durable and have special designs. They are made to carry greater weights or take a lot of beating. 

Some of the brands you can check to get the perfect wheels or the right components for the wheels: 

  • Velocity USA
  • DT Swiss
  • Chriss Holm Unicycle

Just keep in mind that this will likely be costly to do, even the cheapest option will cost a couple of hundred bucks.

If you rather decide buying a bike with the proper weight limit you can find your options below.

Insert a table here with weight limits, brand names and price range

Warranty issues

Make sure that you do not exceed the official weight limit of the bike. Why is that important?

Because if you do exceed the weight limit you automatically void the warranty just by sitting on the saddle

Although the risk of breaking your bike might be low because most of these manufacturers are very reliable and design their bikes with caution, if it does happen, you have to bear the consequences even if the manufacturer is at fault. 

275 lbs (125 kgs) weight limit bikes

You might feel heavy or obese, but if you don’t weigh more than 230 lbs you shouldn’t really worry because almost every adult bike can hold 275 lbs. 

Something to keep in mind though is that the manufacturer sometimes indicates the combined weight limit i.e. the rider and all his stuff, some manufacturers even include the bike’s weight.

So just make sure you do the math right!

Up to 300 (136 kgs) lbs

If you’re 240 lbs or a bit heavier and want to carry a lot of stuff, you might exceed the weight limit. You need to look for a bike in the 300 lbs weight capacity.

All major brands manufacture such bikes. You also have quite a few types of bikes you can choose from: cross-country, hardtail and marathon.

Some examples

Fuji Traverse, Co-Op CITY 1.1, Raleigh Redux 2 and Trek Fx 3.

Fuji Traverse

Up to 330 lbs (147 kgs)

As we move up this scale there are fewer options, but still they can be found relatively easily. 

If you check any brands owners’ manual you will find that to each bike a condition is assigned. That refers to the riding conditions, which may vary from 1 to 5 based on the roughness of the terrain, 1 being the smoothest ride on pavement and 5 being rough and extreme.

Typically some models of major brands, that are of condition 2 and 3, have a higher weight limit than their other models.

Such bikes are for example the cyclocross bikes of Cannondale Quick 3, Diamondback Haanjo 2, Marin Gestalt, Surly Bridge Club.

Up to 400-450 lbs (181- 204 kgs)

This is where your options start to significantly decrease. Bikes that fall in this category differ greatly in price. 

Actually I found only one manufacturer making bikes of 400 lbs weight limit: Day6bikes.

If you are looking for a nice comfortable bike, Day6 Bikes’ Samson model is the right bike! It comes with a wide comfortable saddle that even supports your lower back and thus offers a comfortable upright riding position. 

It is available for $1.500. Its ebike version is identical except for the electric components and costs $2,000 more.

On the other end of this range is Clydesdale Bicycles. Their Big Friendly Giant model can hold weights up to 450 lbs.

This bike is quite costly (c. $5,000) so if you are on a tight budget this might not be your best choice. But if you keep on reading you can find more affordable ones.

Up to 500 lbs (226 kgs)

Big Bones Deluxe 3

Some Worksman Cycles bikes can hold 500 lbs weight. 

They suggest getting a bike with special tires and tubes in addition to the drum brake to safely carry the extra weight. 

Worksman Urban Commuter(TM) Cruiser 3 speed is equipped with drum brake, resistant tires and tubes and it costs $850. 

If you want to further customize the bike they will assist you.

Up to 550 lbs (250 kgs)

If you are looking for a bike that holds 550 lbs weight then you should check Zize Bikes. Zize Bikes offers plenty of options for overweight riders; in fact, their primary customers are heavy riders.

The Younder

Zize Bike offers bikes that can hold from 300 lbs to 550 lbs weight. They even have the electric version of their bikes too.

I contacted Co-Motion Cycles and inquired whether some of their models could carry 550 lbs.

Co-motion Didvide

They confirmed their models of Pangea, Siskiyou and Divide could carry this much weight. In addition to the reinforced frame the bikes have special 40 spoke wheels.

A completely equipped Co-Motion bike costs c. $3,600. 

What if I’m overweight and above the average height

If you are looking for bikes that are not only able to hold a lot of weight but are also comfortable to ride for exceptionally tall people you should check first Clydesdale Bicycles as they manufacture even 4XL size bikes, fit for 7ft 4in (225 cm) tall persons. 

You can also check Day 6 Bikes, Worksman Cycles and Zize Bikes, they also manufacture bikes for exceptionally high persons. All three of these manufacturers make XL size bikes and in some cases you can even further customize the way if fits you the best.

Be careful with the sizing of the bikes. Bike sizing is not universal for every manufacturer.

Some manufacturers indicate that a certain model is size XL. What is size XL for one manufacturer, might be size L for another. 

Check the exact measurement of the bike in inches or centimeters and make sure that it will indeed fit you.

Conclusion

As you can see you have plenty of options to get out there and enjoy a good ride, it doesn’t matter if you feel to heavy or unfit or you might be very tall. You will certainly find on the market what you need for a good ride and with the right mindset you will certainly find motivation and joy in cycling.

Enjoy the ride!

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