So, you’re not exactly Lance Armstrong, but you’ve been struck by the appeal of biking—whether as a cheap means of transportation or a way to add some activity into your schedule this spring and summer.
Now you’re in the market for new wheels and we know it can be overwhelming, especially for bigger guys. There are several factors you need to take into consideration when purchasing a new bike and often you may find the level of understanding or knowledge at your local bike shop to be, well… a little lacking. We took a look around and did some research for you to help you get started finding the right bike.
What to look for
Shopping for a bike that will support you and withstand use over time means looking at a few key components.
Type and Function:
There are a wide variety of bike styles and types from mountain bikes to cruisers and road bikes to hybrids. If you’re just beginning it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but the bottom line is that fixed gear bikes and cruisers can make your ride something more akin to work than fun. That doesn’t mean you won’t get a good workout from a geared bike, but with their variety of gears, you’ll get a little assistance on those hard to climb hills or just a chance to rest your legs if start to feel your strength wane.
Look for bikes with frames made of titanium or steel. Titanium is well-regarded for its durability while steel is sturdier. The upside to a steel frame is that it will withstand cracking and breaking, but in the event cracks do appear, the frame can be easily welded and repaired. Stay away from bike frames made from aluminum as this is a much weaker material.
Rims and Spokes:
Because your bike, and you, are mostly supported by the wheels you’ll want to take extra care to find sturdy, reliable rims and spokes. We recommend wheels made with stainless steel spokes and a spoke count of at least 32. The stainless steel spokes won’t rust and are more durable. They’ll hold up best under pressure.
Tire pressure is your main concern with tires on your new bike. You’ll want to get a bike with tires that are rated for a minimum of 120 psi, but you can also go up to 140 or 160. You’ll also want to purchase (if it’s not included) a rack to mount on your frame to carry a small portable tire pump when you ride. As you ride, you’ll want to check the tire pressure and air the tires as needed. You can also purchase wide tires, generally mountain bike tires, that can be pumped up to higher psi’s. If you feel like you need a little more strength than this in your tires, you can purchase thick intertubes to place in the tires to help keep punctures at bay.
Bike seats are notoriously uncomfortable and when you’re bigger, this can be a real problem. We suggest finding a seat with extra padding if you plan to do a lot of biking on a regular basis. In addition to extra padding, you may want to look at wider seats to provide added support and help maximize comfort on your rides.
Where to Buy
Your local bike shop might be a great place to start your bike shopping spree, but with inventory space limited, it may be tough to find just what you need. We’ve compiled a few of our favorite places online that offer a variety of bikes and customization options to meet your needs.
Kona: With a wide variety of styles to choose from, Kona offers bikes built for almost any use. For sturdier frames and durability, check out the Paddy Wagon and Band Wagon models.
Worksman Cycles: The sky is the limit at Worksman where you can customize any of their industrial, recreation or specialty bikes to your needs. They also offer a variety of pre-built options if you don’t feel comfortable going through the customization process. Worksman Cycles are hand-crafted in the U.S. and each model is industrial strength.
Surly: With a wide variety of options including framesets and full bike packages, Surly Bikes have something for everyone. All of their frames are made from steel for extra durability. We recommend taking a look at the Pugsley and Big Dummy models, both of which boast a sturdy frame. The Pugsley is available with larger tires that work well with large volume and low pressure. The Big Dummy is designed for carrying cargo and can haul up to an extra 200 lbs.
Super Sized Cycles: The only brand we’ve come across that is designed specifically for big guy and gals, Super Sized Cycles offers premium bikes with steel frames, wider tires and strong rims and spokes. Super Sized Cycles is also the only brand that carries bike models designed to carry up to 550 lbs.
Living XL: While bikes for bigger guys aren’t the sole focus of Living XL, a subsidiary of Casual Male, they do have an excellent selection of bikes designed to carry up to 550 lbs. Many of their models are Worksman builds, but they do offer a few variations of their own including a 3 speed trike and the StreetStrider indoor/outdoor convertible elliptical cross trainer bicycle.
So there you have it—our brief guide to get you started on your bike-buying and riding journey. Each of the brands we’ve noted here are available in a variety of prices so we suggest taking a look at them all before making a decision. And as with any significant purchase, we recommend doing your research before purchasing.
Depending on your specific needs and wants in a bike, we’ve only scratched the surface here, but with these tips in mind and a couple of brands to get you started, we’re confident you’ll soon be on your way to the Tour De France… or at least on your way to some great outdoor adventures.