Sunday, May 19, 2013

You're Not Too Heavy to Ride a Bike!

This Worksman Newsgirl bike is rated for 500 lbs / about 200 Kg capacity
most recent edit 4/14

Some people we know said they used to love to ride their bikes as kids but that since gaining weight as adults they don’t feel confident anymore. One worried that a bike wouldn’t carry the weight or be comfortable to ride. Another thought people would stare at a heavy person on a bike. One didn’t want to have to wear sporty biking clothes made of Spandex or sweat fabric. People worry they aren’t in good enough shape to ride.

This isn’t a site for health advice, but if you ask us, there isn’t much you can do that’s healthier than riding your bike, even if you weigh a lot. (Ask your doctor if you have any doubt, but didn’t they tell you to go out and get some exercise last time you saw them?) Aerobic exercise, like riding a bike while breathing, is supposed to keep you healthy, and pedaling doesn’t wreck your ankles like jogging might. Many people say it doesn't bother their knees either, especially if the seat is high enough and set right. By the way, swimming (without the bike) is also supposed to be really good to protect joints.

OK, it’s healthy, like kale. And you can move fast wherever you want. But most of all,

biking is fun!

And it’s just as much fun whatever you weigh. And practical. So there.

Nobody is expecting you to ride like Lance Armstrong on steroids and this whole blog is about not wearing Spandex unless you want to.  No matter how heavy you are, if you feel like you’re up for it, you can start using a bike to get around and even carry your kids around, instead of whatever you are doing now. Will people stare? They might, if they see how much happier you look on your bike. Probably they won’t notice. Get a cargo bike, then they’ll notice.

Don’t have a bike right now that you like? I spoke to lots of people and looked into the options for you a bit. Most normal bikes are rated to carry 220-300 lbs total but maybe your old bike is strong enough. Check the builder’s website or ask your local bike shop. Some old ones are really strong. But there are plenty of bikes available up to over 500 lb / 250 kg carrying capacity. Even heavier duty is possible with some thought.

I’m thinking in this post mostly about riders over 250 lbs up to 500 lbs (about 120-225 kg).

Features to Consider
see also the Bike Forums about this topic if you can stand the title.
A comfortable but not overstuffed saddle is a must.
This one is rather wide but many kinds will work.
  • A seat that’s comfortable and sturdy enough to make it fun to ride is vital. It’s usually more comfortable to have a stiff seat that lets you shift around to keep your bottom from falling asleep. Gel seats and other overstuffed options tend to press constantly everywhere and make you numb or, you know, worse. On the other hand, lots of people like them, especially for short rides, and they are cheap and easily available.
Does it need to be wide? Maybe not. It should be wide enough for your sit bones (ischia) to fit on well. These bones are like coins at an angle to one another like a V with the point in front, so the more upright your seating position the wider a comfortable seat tends to be.  Women’s bones are farther apart than men’s, so saddles are different.
So Dutch upright city bikes have a wide saddle, while narrow wheeled racing bikes where the rider leans far forward have titanium dental floss. A saddle that is narrow and short in the front won’t be in the way of your legs but a longer saddle offers more stability with something to hold onto. Some have cutouts in the middle that are supposed to keep pressure off, um, things. Weird noseless seats that look like benches or two sponges get either rave reviews or hate mail. Maybe try one?
Many long-term riders choose a stiff leather saddle — it molds to your shape after some time but lets you take the pressure off when you want. The biggest manufacturer, Brooks, makes some classic saddles 20-25 cm (8-10 in) across for upright bikes that might work. They come at a relatively high cost but may be worth it if you ride often. The manufacturer's recommendation for these bikes is a B190. In Chicago, JC Lind, Blue City and Heritage have had the big ones in stock from time to time but any dealer can order them. Reinforcement with leather or shoelaces across the bottom of the saddle - you can pop lacing holes or have it done - can keep it from splaying wider with weight on it. You need to keep rain off leather saddles with a cover or they stretch.
The wide firm plastic mattress seat in the picture is another option, not sure of the manufacturer. Selle Royal makes good wide ones like on our cargo bikes. Look online for more suggestions.
Electroforged Schwinns
have these smooth frame
  • When choosing a frame design, remember your geometry and engineering. A standard men’s diamond frame is nearly all triangles and therefore the strongest common option. Some add a second top bar for added capacity. Unless the materials are specially chosen to maximize capacity, a step-through style isn’t as strong, so check it out carefully and don’t try to push its limits. We have a 1960s Raleigh ladies Sports with a frame bend from overloading. Exceptions include cargo bikes and industrial bikes, often made with very large heavy steel frames and reinforcement, and probably old mountain bikes and Chicago made Schwinn electroforged step through styles (since they were so overbuilt in the first place, though check it first if you have doubts). A suspended frame or fork will just give you trouble if you are over its design capacity. And who needs a suspended bike anyway in the city?
  • You can argue about the frame materials many ways, but in general, all things being equal, steel is probably the best for a heavy duty bike. Other materials are more prone to fatigue and sudden breakage. The carrying capacity is more important than the material, but if you don’t know the specs, go for steel. 
Assuming the frame was designed and built right, cheap high-tension steel tubing is just as capable as fancier alloys, but heavier. Lightweight alloy steel tubing (often branded — Reynolds, Ishiwata, Tange, Columbus, True Temper, Valite, etc...) is lighter for the weight it carries and therefore more expensive. But seriously, how light do you need your bike to be? A heavy bike weighs 40 lbs and a light one is 25? Big deal. Our cargobikes need 2 people to lift them and we roll just fine with up to 400-500 lbs aboard.  Once you are going it just doesn’t matter. In flat Chicago anyway. The other stuff is more important than the weight of the bike.
  • Wheels, chosen wisely, can save you trouble. This, especially the back wheel, may be the best place to invest in quality parts if you need an especially durable bike. When a tire hits a bump, the air inside absorbs the shock and prevents the metal wheel rim from hitting the road or curb. So put a lot of air between the street and your wheel. Get wide rims with wide tires and keep them filled to the right pressure to prevent pinch flats. Common wide bike wheels should be fine up to about 350 lbs, if they have double walled rims and good quality. Like good wide mountain bike wheels, for example. Above that weight, spokes can ping and break a lot. If it happens it means that you should look into new, stronger wheels (properly tensioned, maybe with a bigger number of spokes) or at least stronger spokes. Rims can also bend, though less often. Tandem components, made for high end bicycles built for two, are good options here.
Some people suggest making tires puncture proof with either a better than usual tube, or tire, or both. We like Schwalbe (eg Marathon, Fat Frank or Big Apple) but we’ve seen good wide options with nice street tread from Michelin, Conti, and Kenda too. The first thing we do on a used bike is take off bumpy mountain bikey tires and put on something that rolls well. Get the sidewall reflectors if you can. Many tires come in brown or cream too if you need that look. 
  • If you are choosing/building your own wheels, talk to a good wheelbuilder about your needs. (Ask at your local bike shop or read Peter White’s site about wheels, tandem components and more high end products) Sun Rhyno Lite and Velocity Dyad and DT Swiss TK540 rims are double walled, strong, and available and keep getting mentioned by people I ask, though there are many other options. Our cargo bikes use double wall heavy duty aluminum Rigida rims. Smaller wheel sizes are somewhat stronger. Remember to choose a rim that will hold wide tires well. Consider building your wheel up with as many spokes as sensible. Wheels can be made with 40 or even 48 spokes instead of the usual 36 or racing bike 32, and you can choose thick gauge ones if necessary. You need more spokes in back than in front, like Raleigh used to use, but most bikes these days have 36 front and back. Go for stainless spokes if you can so the wheel stays shiny and new. Use tandem hub components if you need both particularly high weight bearing capacity and high performance: not cheap but extra heavy duty and often top quality, and you only want to do this once. And how about a dynamo or internal hub gear? Used on cargo bikes, these should hold up. You can’t break a pricey Rohloff hub, but a cheap Sturmey Archer AW 3-speed is nearly indestructible too. Even if you are planning a touring or racing bike, think about wider than usual rims and tires. Bicycle Quarterly, the magazine for touring bike obsessive-compulsives, has had a bunch of articles about the superiority of wide relatively low pressure tires that might add to your decision making. The BQ founder, Jan Heine, notes on his blog that "on real roads, wider tires are faster, period".
  • Brakes need to stop you in wet or dry, and they have got much better in recent years. This (and maybe badly tensioned thin spokes) is the main disadvantage of a vintage Schwinn or Raleigh. While any properly adjusted brake should be able to manage almost anything, if you have the option, think about hub braking (discs, drums, roller brakes, coasters) or even hydraulic brakes instead of the usual cantilever or V rim brakes. Coaster brakes are pretty strong and not affected by wet. They are used on many cargo bikes but can overheat on a long downhill stretch for example. The better roller brakes (like IM81 not IM41) are probably fine especially for the back wheel (due to the power modulator on the front ones). Tandem components like other drum brakes may be another option. We strongly recommend Kool Stop or Mathauser salmon pads for regular old rim brakes, especially for old steel rims or junky components. Test any brakes out before buying them if possible.
  • Some other sites have pointed out that handlebars and stems break with very heavy riders.  I think they are talking about those mountain bike racing "80 grams" aluminum components being used for something like mountain bike racing, and if you get normal ones I doubt it will be an issue, especially since you shouldn't be putting that much of your weight on the bars anyway. But, if you are concerned about the weight you plan to carry on the bars and stem, get (European-style stainless) steel or heavier duty good quality aluminum ones. Ask at your local bike shop if you are not sure.
  • Gears are helpful but you really don’t need as many as they sell. A 3 speed, maybe with a slightly lower-geared (more teeth and a new longer chain) replacement back sprocket, is fine in Chicago and most places.  Up to 7 or 8 still make sense, like the Nexus 8 on our cargo bikes. The NuVinci hub is like a dimmer switch instead of gears and they use it on many cargo bikes too though it is reputed to be inefficient. The fanciest and most expensive and probably most durable is the 14-speed Rohloff with a huge wide gear range. Basically anything will work, but you might want a slightly lower gearing than usual to get up hills or fight the wind slightly more easily. Most people do.
  • Lighting - everybody forgets lighting (our post here). Spend the money, get the generator hub (or tire dynamo) with LED lights, whatever your weight, and use them day and night so traffic can see you well. Really. 
  • Accessories - Metal pedals you can put your weight on are worth the extra money since many common plastic pedals won’t hold up to the rare need to stand and pump hard. Fenders, chain guards, a strong rack and pannier bags if you are the kind of rider we are. A strong U lock or 9-12 mm hardened chain with big padlock (our post here). Don’t waste your money on a cable lock. All of them are as secure as a piece of string.

Types of Bikes to Consider

Department Store Bikes
Most bikes are legally supposed (in Europe, but it's an international supply chain) to hold about 220 lbs/100 kg without any modification. Target lists capacities between 250 and 300 lbs on most, Wal-Mart doesn’t list them. You do see some big people on these bikes. But did the manufacturer skimp on materials or quality control to meet the price point? Be careful. The weight limit includes the entire load, the weight of the bike itself, rider, cargo, everything. And the bike itself can be heavy to start with, cutting a lot into your cargo capacity. So a basic department store / big box store bike probably isn’t ideal for heavier people. Or for anybody who likes riding for that matter.

Regular City Bikes and Cruisers

A 7-speed Chicago Bicycles city cruiser at Working Bikes

Used ones
The 7 speed Chicago Bicycles cruiser in the photo was built for a heavy rider, with wide rims and tires, drum brakes, and a firm very wide seat (detail in the picture above). These frames were made in Chicago from higher than usual quality steel. Look: 40 spoke wheels. Capacity? Probably more than just good, but no guarantee.

An easily available old Schwinn Suburban or similar might also be perfect. Though you have to guess at weight capacity again, they were awfully sturdy welded bikes. Raleigh Sports men's roadsters, especially those older ones with 40 spoke rear wheels, might also be a good used choice. The limiting factor is the quality of the wheels with both these bikes. They will have poor braking with their steel rims and the spokes can tend to break. You can improve braking by getting a coaster brake model or new salmon color pads. It might be worth getting new (aluminum) wheels for the indestructible old frame - choose hub components and gears you like and get the wheels done right or find a prebuilt double wall 40 spoke wheel that will fit. If you stick with the usual old 3-speed hub, lower the gears by changing the rear sprocket out if 3rd is too high. Sheldon Brown has instructions.

New ones
Photos from

Model MG-R, also rated to 500lb

Most commonly available bikes in this class, like let's say the Surly Long Haul Trucker, are rated to about 300 lbs again. This is probably conservative but maybe not. There are higher capacity options, though. Nearly all Worksman bikes are made in New York City and with a few options they can support up to 500 lbs starting at about $400 new, maybe doubling that price with options. They have a lot of options.  Anyone dealing with bikes for big and tall people seems to recommend this brand. Cruisers, step through cruisers and step through industrial bikes are all there. They are practical in the city, often very basic but durable and strong. Classic US delivery bikes are often from this company. Call them for bikes that will handle more than 500 lb, and get a model with a front drum brake option. We like that these are made in the US by grown ups in a factory with environmental laws. They mail them to you or a local bike store to adjust and set up. We have ridden some Worksman bikes and the ones we found are simple, heavy, but sturdy and reliable seeming.

There are some more up-to-date multi-gear options that your local bike shop can put together.  One very heavy duty model that Rapid Transit can build has powerful disc brakes and a custom rear wheel made with tandem components and can be built with derailers or even a Rohloff hub.

Torker for medium duty at
Ciclo Urbano for about $500
You could contact Alex at West Town Bikes, Owen at Blue City Cycles, or Jesse at Comrade Cycles in Chicago about special frame building locally.  Rapid Transit has assembled heavy duty bikes like these in many varieties; you might talk to Nick.

There are online retailers we don’t personally know whose sites offer other options. Do a web search and you’ll find many. Generally we strongly recommend that anyone who is in the market for a bike better than the cheapest Wal-Mart one-speed should go to a local dealer or two and see what their options are. One online dealer/manufacturer we just found in Vermont called Zize Bikes has several interesting looking options for tall or heavy riders up to 550 lbs, with prices starting in the $1000 range. They offer city bikes and a mountain type 29er (the new name for 700c) and they carry their own Super Sized Cycles,  Worksman and other brands as well. But as with most online suppliers, there are positive and negative reviews of the bikes and the customer service online that are worth reading. We haven't ridden one of their bikes yet.

Worksman M2600 here, men’s cruiser at left,
photos from Worksman's web site.

Dutch Style Bikes
Workcycles Fr8 cross frame, one of many options
Many, many Dutch bikes will hold hundreds of pounds without complaining. We have heard in particular about Workcycles Fr-8 (carried by JC Lind in Chicago) which is apparently designed for 250 kg = 550 lbs but there are many more. They already have most of the features above. They are also available in very tall sizes for those who are heavy and tall. (lots of other so called XL bikes or XXL bikes have the same weight capacity as the smallest ones - check!) There isn’t a lot to add about these bikes — you should definitely look at some. Pricing can be high but not all are.
Again, the diamond or double top tube steel frames would be strongest. A strong rear wheel is good to look for. The EU capacity rating should be easily available from manufacturer websites or the dealer.  All that stainless steel will hold up.

Old Mountain Bikes
old Hard Rock mountain bikes at Working Bikes, about $200
These could be a suprisingly good option for people on the lower end of heavy. Though impractical in the city with no fenders or chain guard, the real ones (all cr/mo tool steel, preferably no suspension, Deore level components if possible) have frames built for abuse, wide tires and good brakes. A reader comment below notes that the spokes are possibly the weak link, so you may want to look into the cost of a new set of wheels, or a new tandem level rear wheel at least, or just spoke replacement. Fake mountain bikes (mountain style bikes) are less ideal but still can be OK. Don’t get a suspension frame, and swap out the handlebars, stem and seat post if needed for something stronger. Did you see our post about turning one into a city bike? Totcycle apparently did one before us too.

Cargo Bikes and More
Our cargo bikes hold the grownup rider, 3 kids, backpacks, groceries, locks, and the weight of the bike itself. It all adds up to 400 pounds often enough and sometimes 500. A rider in this range plus kids and stuff might exceed the official rating on our Bakfiets but I doubt there would be much problem. The Onderwater can probably take even more than that. Ask the dealer about it - JC Lind has lots of options for you and there are others linked on our cargobike post.

These things are incredibly practical and you can use them for errands and shopping really easily in addition to carrying kids. Most on the market, with a good seat, will be fine. The manufacturers do list the weight capacities and the dealer will be able to find out.

Depending on your needs, you may prefer a two wheeled bike like our Bakfiets Cargobike, which feels like riding a normal bike, or you might choose a trike instead, which is odd to ride over anything but perfectly level ground but holds itself up better while stopped. Look at our About Cargobikes page and our Cargo Trike post for most of the information we can offer about these bikes.

Worksman's idea of a cargo bike
isn't our favorite but it’d work maybe
Yuba Mundo longtail, similar
to Surly Big Dummy, rated at 440 lbs.
Carry your kids with you!
A longtail like a Yuba Mundo or Surly Big Dummy (which has large frame sizes) might work well for many since it is like a regular bike but rated for 400-440 lbs, used for more than that, and you can carry kids or stuff.

Main Street classic pedicab, $3600, probably more than you need but it’s another option.
Worksman low gravity
A ‘low gravity’ baker’s bike may also manage your needs well. Many builders make them; see our About Cargobikes post.

Other cargo bikes are still available from many, many dealers, including JC Lind in Chicago, Clever Cycles in Portland, and Rolling Orange in New York. Again, the About Cargobikes post has information about many options including trikes.

Worksman is hard to avoid in this market as well. Their bikes are a little clunkier than the Dutch ones and they have fewer comfort options like hub dynamos or wide gearing, but they are less expensive and very durable. Look at their industrial and recumbent trikes and cargo hauler trikes with quarter ton capacities. They even have a pedicab like option if you want to carry 2 other people around with you. Their website is awful though — use the navigation at the top or search.

This solution keeps being suggested to us. They have the advantage of not needing to throw your leg way up over the bar and they have a big plush seat with a backrest. Hard to carry in or on your car anywhere. Worksman has a semirecumbent trike that is rated for weight, but many recumbents are rated only for a few hundred pounds. Rapid Transit Cycleshop is the best place in Chicago for recumbents, or used to be, and there are specialty recumbent shops about one per state that can help you. A good option for comfort. Are they as safe in traffic? Probably yes, but they always make me a little nervous.

Look at our trike page and the trike pages above. Regular trikes like the ones you imagine rolling around Florida are OK but many are rated only to 250 lbs and they are clunky. Cargo trikes or industrial trikes are a better choice here, I think.

Here is a German made recumbent cargo trike that is certified to 300 kg/650 lbs and configurable in many ways: trimobil concept page. The more well-known Greenspeed recumbent trikes can also build versions up to about 200kg /440 lbs but they don't carry cargo well. We have a Sun EZ-3 recumbent trike that is OK for getting around; not much room for luggage on this one either.

Adaptive Bikes 
If you can’t find something that meets your needs there are plenty of options and custom builders. Ding Ding has a source page which concentrates mostly on therapeutic bikes but the same companies can put together many customized options, JC Lind still can get adaptive bikes from Holland, and Worksman (again) builds custom jobs.

More Info
We searched online again for 'heavy rider bicycle' and 'xxl bike' and similar terms. One blog post that popped up is this one from isolate cyclist. Another blog is all about this, Big Boned Biker. And the Bike Forums noted above are still active. Add more suggestions below - we will try to let real links (not ads) get through the filter.


  1. I am a heavy bike commuter (350 pounds, plus about 30-40 pounds of camera/computer equipment in my backpack) living in Sitka, Alaska. I ride about five days a week all year round, even during the icy winter. I use a Specialized Hard Rock mountain bike, and the only concession I made for my weight is getting stronger spokes for my wheels (the standard ones frequently work loose). During the winter I use studded mountain bike tires. Since Sitka is in a rain forest (about 80-120 inches of rain a year), you do have to do a little extra maintenance, such as regular lubrication of the chain. But Sitka has the highest rate of bike commuting in the state of Alaska and is 10 times the national average, and five times the state average. Sitka became a Bicycle Friendly Community in 2008 and was renewed in 2012 (I wrote the application).

  2. Thanks for the comment! There are 2 Hard Rocks in the mountain bike picture above. Interesting that the spokes are the weak link, but the rest holds up so well year round. Maybe with new wheels people could put together an awesome bike for little money.
    What kind of seat have you found useful? You wouldn't want a leather one in a temperate rainforest.
    It sounds like if Sitka can be so bike-oriented in 100 inches of rain we should all be doing as well down here.

  3. Hydraulic rim brakes are one of the least common types. These brakes are mounted either on the same pivot points used for cantilever and linear-pull brakes or they can be mounted on four-bolt brake mounts found on many trials frames .

    Henry Jordan

    Hydraulic Seal Kits

  4. Thanks for this article. As a big guy looking for a bike this has been quite comprehensive on what I should look for.

    1. Glad you found it helpful. If you learn any new tips from riding for awhile please come back and leave a comment again. See you on the street!

  5. Awesome article. I'm a big guy (6'5" and 350 lbs or so), and am going back to college in my 30s. I'm looking for a bike for commuting to and around campus (an urban campus), to get back in shape, and to have a little fun with after I'm in a shape other than round.

    I've worked in public safety for a long time, and my compatriots on the bike team keep telling me that their Fuji public safety bikes are rock-solid, even for a guy my size. They've recommended a Fuji Police Patrol 29er... Thoughts? Will it hold up to my large (but hopefully shrinking) size?

    1. Gee, not sure. Looks like a solid frame, 36 spokes (unclear what gauge) with disc brakes, good tires. Probably fine. But I can't find the specification for weight bearing on Fuji's website for this bike or a similar European one (the Nevada 29 1.5). If you get one and it gives you trouble maybe a new set of rear spokes will help?
      Ride one of your colleagues' bikes and see if the spokes sing and ping as you ride - if so, find another setup. Maybe the dealer can find the rating for you too.
      It doesn't look like a bad bike, but I'm guessing as much as you are.

  6. I am about 400 lbs. and I have Workmans Cruiser but the bike too heavy and I have hard time getting my leg over top bar. I want to buy with new comfort frame,and I would like get little speed out it,so I enjoy riding. can you help me, Workmans cycles are bit too heavy,

    1. Sorry for the delay answering. Many suggestions above. If you get a good strong back wheel maybe an old step through mountain bike would work? The Worksman bikes are heavy but with bike plus rider it's not a big percentage difference. How about a Dutch Omafiets? Let us know what you decide on.

  7. Another option that just occurred to us is to try a bike sharing service at first. In Chicago, it's called 'Divvy' and a call to their tech service revealed that the bikes are guaranteed up to 300 lbs, but the representative I spoke with said 'a whole lot'. Might be worth a try.

  8. Workman's website IS horrible! Glad I wasn't the only one who thought that. I finally gave up. I won't buy from a company who can't be bothered to have a decent site. Sadly, Walmart, Target and even Sears' websites are all easier to navigate.

  9. Paraphrasing,You're Too Heavy to Drive a Car!

  10. I am looking for a bike im 61 years old 350 pound male 6 foot and cant afford much on disability can you sugest something

    1. I am in the same situation. I just bought a used Worksman trike and I am very happy with it.

  11. Hi, Anonymous. I guess the best advice is to keep your eyes open for a good old steel framed used bike like a mountain bike or the others we listed above. You might want a larger size that will fit your height well. At 350 lbs you are on the upper end of the OK range for most common bikes, but if you choose well you can carry things with you too. If the spokes make a ping noise when you ride it choose a different bike or be ready to get a strong set of wheels. This is the season for cheap bikes! Good luck.

  12. Hello, I am looking for a bike for my 22 year old daughter. She really wants one for Christmas to get fit and get around. We are located in Maryland. My daughter is 5'5 about 370 lbs. My problem is I don't have a lot to spend. I have about $250. Any suggestions?

    1. As above, probably the cheapest good approach is to seek out a sturdy steel used bike. We'd recommend one that started in a bike shop rather than a department store. Several ideas are listed in the article and comments. If you find a good frame and have some budget left over, add the comfy seat and heavy duty spoked rear wheel, maybe new brake pads and a bike shop service. Other things like lights, tires and fenders can maybe happen later. In your area we don't know any used bike shops but in DC, District Hardware helped us once, carries some used repaired bikes, and they might know other places near you. Good luck and let us know what you find!

  13. I too am about 350 lbs and have found a used Raleigh Retroglide 7. Do you think it will work? I counted maybe 36 spokes? Do they have good steel spokes? I thought I saw on their website 14 gauge spokes but not sure. Thanks

    1. I'm sure the quality is at least average, but you are almost certainly over the recommended weight for that bike. Not sure about the aluminum frame. I'd probably be ready to pop a new rear wheel on it after a while, and I'd go for a few more spokes if that happens, but you could probably keep the same hub. It may be that for the money you can find a steel bike with more going for it. Keep your eyes open and look for a used bike store you can trust! Good luck and tell us what you find out.

  14. I started riding at about 450 on a Raleigh Detour 4.5, the wheels didn't last long but if you are careful the frame will be fine. Remember to stand up on big bumps, and don't curb hop. When I did replace it I bought a nice heavy duty double wall rim with 12ga spokes. Set me back about $100 installed(rear wheel), and has held up great!

    1. Thanks for the good advice. Replacing only the rear wheel is a good way to solve the problem without spending a lot of money. It looks like the Detour 4.5 is an aluminum framed hybrid, which shows that my preference for steel should be taken with a grain of salt. Maybe the Retroglide frame above would be OK with a new rear wheel, too?
      If anybody hasn't looked yet, the bigbonedbiker blog is worth a visit. We have a link in the post above toward the end.

  15. Hi! I've been looking into getting a new bike but was very reluctant because of weight limits, and not knowing what modifications I needed to make. Thank you very much for this article.

  16. I am 450 pounds and just test rode a Miami Sun Crusher. It is a fat tire cruiser. Before I test rode I asked the guy the weight limit and he said 400. I told him I was 450 and he said keep your tires aired to the max (especially the back) and you will be fine. I then looked up for myself online and saw that this bikes weight limit was 250. It rode fine and I didnt hear any pings. Would I be safe to purchase this bike and maybe get a stronger rear wheel just in case? I wont be going crazy with it. Trail riding and street riding at the most.

    1. Well, it's not the guy in the store who has to ride it and he told you incorrect information, so I'd proceed with caution. Anyone else here have experience with this kind of bike?
      Have another look at the article and see how this bike stacks up - will you need a new wheel, or seat, or etc? If you like it and you think it's going to be strong enough despite its rating, go ahead; if you have any doubts look on line or above (or in local used bike stores) for other cruisers that can definitely hold up well. Let us know what worked and we'll be looking for you out on the street soon. Have fun!

  17. Couple things. I am about 360. A few years ago I found an old Schwinn Probe, a hybrid. I weighed over 400 at the time. Rode it a lot. Aside from flat tires, it worked fine. Finally broke down and I bought another hybrid, a Specialized Crosstrail Elite. They showed a weight limit on that bike of 300 lbs. I weighed in the mid 300s at the time and I did have problems. Most notably, the rims they used were cheap and only 32 hole. I replaced the rear rim with a 36 hole rim and it worked fine, that is until the rim cracked. It did last a few years but it wasn't a very good rim. I replaced the old 36 with a new one that cost $110 vs $55 for the old one, and it was great. Unfortunately, someone else thought my setup was great too and ripped it off. I picked up an old trek 800 as a replacement. I am still in the mid 300s. the bike came stock with 36 spoke wheels but the seatpost was a wimpy one and had to be replaced. In the future I am looking at a sort of recumbent, the Day 6 Samson, This bike was specifically made for the heavier rider. It has a 400 lb. weight limit. The seat is 12 or 16" wide. Not cheap, at about $1400 but one hell of a bike.

    1. Thanks - that's a lot of useful information. Would you recommend other people get a cheap bike and replace it or do you think it's worth it to spend more up front? Or go with used?

  18. After reading this article, I'm no longer surprised I blew out a rim! I'm 6', 280 lbs and put just over 2000 miles on a 2011 Kent Avalon "Wal-Mart Special". I knackered the rear bearings about 400 miles ago and replaced the whole wheel assembly with a wheel from an old Mongoose mountain bike. Now, I knew the Mongoose was put up because the previous owner blew out the rear shock so that may have contributed to the rim failure. But, the weight limit on my Avalon is stated to be 200 lbs (it's even labeled a BOYS bike!) but I didn't discover this until I'd wore out the original tires (300 miles? come on!) The over-weight condition wasn't a problem until I hit a deep hole. I'm going to miss that bike. It rode like a cloud on the dirt roads around here with all my mass on the fully-stressed rear shock, shock seat post and spring seat. It's just going to be cheaper to replace the whole thing with another Wal-Mart Special than to buy a new rear wheel assembly and crankset (that was going too).

    One thing I learned from the previous bike to this is to replace the seat post if you're overloading. I bent 2 seat posts before packing it in and that one was clearly labeled "max. weight 175 lbs". And it was fully dual suspension so the seat posts shouldn't've bent!

  19. I got a bike for my birthday and unfortunately got burgled 10 days later , I replaced my bike but have only rode my bike four time and the inner tube has burst twice , I am heavy and weight about 240 pounds . I love biking and want to do it to help lose weight but think everythings against me !! Any advice how to stop the humiliation of popping tyres and long walks home ???

    1. Sorry; just noticed your question. I think that if the inner tube keeps bursting there must be something set up wrong. Either the rim tape isn't protecting the tube from a sharp spoke end, the tire isn't seating properly on the rim and pops off under stress, or maybe the tire just isn't full enough and you're getting pinch flats. I don't think it's your weight that is causing the problem. Good luck and if you find out what it was please come back and let us know.

  20. Im 375 lbs and just purchased a Giant Escape 2 with double wall rims and 700c 32 wheels. The guys at the bike shop I bought zit from said it'll zeroed my weight. What's your opinion? Thanks!

    1. It's hard to say. See what everyone above had to say. I think it's wise to take care with curbs, keep tires full, etc. Look at the big boned biker blog as well. Probably you will need a new back wheel sooner or later. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

  21. My issue is not necessarily my size (though I am overweight), it's that I can't seem to stay on a bike. I bought a basic women's bike at Target, put it together, took it outside, got on it (which was weirdly difficult, and should have been my first clue), took off and promptly fell off. Tried again, fell off. I believe this is a balance issue and/or peripheral neuropathy (which I do have, but still the doctor told me to try bike riding). When getting off the bike, sometimes my leg will not lift high enough and I will then trip over the tube and fall, entangling the bike with me. I thought the tube would be low enough but apparently it's not.

    It's horribly embarrassing and I can't afford to just buy a new bike - although I will save up for another one if it's the only way. Any suggestions??

    1. Hi. Lost this post- sorry. If money grew on trees I would consider a trike first since it takes care of the balancing and all you have to do is pedal. They can be a little unstable going too fast around curves or on very uneven ground, like riding in a little boat through the wake of a ship, but you can get used to it quickly. Recumbents, cargo trikes, those shopping trikes that look like Florida--- many options. But you said no new bike.
      So practice balancing? Stand on one foot? Ride a lot? If people can learn as adults how to ride a unicycle (and they do) I'm sure your balance can get trained. Don't go too slow or you can't balance.
      Maybe ask your doctor to send you to an ear doctor or a neurologist if the simple stuff doesn't help. Oh, and set your seat lowish to begin with. Tires sometimes make a big difference but also cost money.

    2. Thank you for your reply! I have seen "training wheels" for adult bikes on Amazon, and thought maybe I would try those (I get gift cards from my kids). I have taken up walking for now, in the hope that it will strengthen my legs and reduce the fat so I can swing my leg over the middle bar (which is still a huge issue). I won't give up, as I really loved riding as a young woman and it irks me to no end that I can't just hop on and go. Much more fun than walking.

      Regarding practicing - I have a large yard but it's not large enough to get me up to a decent speed without crashing into a tree. If I try to stop by sort of sliding off the seat, I fall. There are parking lots around here but I am deathly afraid of falling on concrete. The way I learnt as a child was with training wheels, which is why I am seriously considering those again.

      Like I said, frustrating but I am not a quitter.

    3. You could try making your bike into a balance bike by lowering the seat, removing the pedals and possibly the cranks (if they are in the way) - see our Make your Own Balance Bike post. It works as well for adults as for kids, we have been told. Give it a try - with both feet on the ground a fall is a lot less likely. Good luck!

    4. And as for the idea of training wheels, they are made for adults, as are other kinds of bike stability attachments. There are lots under adult training wheels online. Also, you might want to look for adaptive bikes; many of these products facilitate use of a bike by a person who otherwise wouldn't be able to ride one, like double rear wheel adaptations. All of these things might be just what you want.

    5. Thank you so much for these suggestions!! I will look at the Make Your Own Balance Bike post.

  22. Awesome article. I am 6'5" and 400 lbs and looking for a 7 speed cruiser. It seems my only option is a Worksman but their 7 speed upgrade is nearly $300 by itself!

    1. Yeah. I love old used parts from a bike recycling shop like Chicago's Working Bikes or Evanston's Recyclery but you have to be lucky. Most bike shops can build you a pretty fancy wheel for $300 and you get to choose what gear system to use. Maybe you could do better with the 'get a good frame and upgrade it' approach. An old solid cruiser frame can be free and then you invest in the wheels and seat and so on. You get to specify the number of spokes, gears, chromed or stainless... Talk to the local bike store where everyone has grease on their hands and see what it might run you. Let us know what you do.

    2. Thank you. I have been looking online for bikes for a few weeks now. I contacted the owner of 3G bikes and he said this bike can support a 400lb rider. They have a lifetime warranty on the frame and fork as well. You can get this bike for $379 online at various local bike shops and they will ship it for about $30.

  23. If I were to get a ladies bike with a backseat, what is the maximum weight the backseat can maintain? My old mountain bike's back wheel used to inflate slowly over time whenever someone stood on the bike's back stand. I still don't know to this day whether it's because of the poor durability of the back wheel or because there is a limit on the weight for the stand. So please, I would love to know if there is a maximum weight. I love your blog. Thank you very much from New York City!

    1. Hi! Thanks for reading the blog. Whether it's a step through or diamond frame is not that important for what I think you are talking about, carrying someone sitting on the rear cargo rack. The rack is the important factor. Most racks only hold 20 or 30 pounds, so they won't hold a rider. Some, especially cargo bike or Dutch racks, will hold more, even the weight of an adult, but they are not common. Yuba makes a nice nylon covered pad for these racks that really improves the comfort, and you can easily make your own.
      Another factor you mention is the rear wheel. If your bike can hold say 300 lbs, and you and your rider each weigh 150 lbs, and the bike weighs 40 lbs, you are 40 lbs too heavy officially. But with lots of air in big tires and a well maintained strong back wheel you can improve this. Look for a strong bike with many, strong spokes and look at the other suggestions above. We carry adults on our rack sometimes and it makes it less fun to ride but it works in a pinch. It might be easier to get a nice used tandem!

    2. If you are thinking of seats to carry kids write back and I'll tell you what we have found out about them. Briefly, there are a few (including Bobike Junior) that will hold a preteenager.

    3. I'll definitely check out dutch bikes/racks. Nah it's definitely not for kids haha I'm underage. It's for me and my friend to cruise around the city on one bike :D thank you so much for replying back! You have no idea how much it means to me. I really appreciate it! Getting a new bike on my birthday next month so I'm looking at everything.

    4. Working bikes almost always has a box of BMX axle extensions your friend can stand on if your new bike uses bolts and not quick release levers. They possibly also have a perfect bike- go have a look! 24 pl and Western, wed- sat

    5. Oops- you did say New York. I'm sure there's a bike recycling place there somewhere but even if not those BMX axle things are not that big an investment.

  24. I'm around 300 or so, just moved to Chicago, and am looking for a bike. Thinking about a folding bike. Any thoughts? The Citizens bikes are super inexpensive, but not sure if they can hold me.

    1. Hi! Not sure either, but with a folding bike a stable strong frame becomes more important. The small wheels all these bikes use are a little stiffer than bigger wheels but it's harder to find big puffy tires for them. The hinges on most frames are the limiting factors.
      So which bikes don't have a hinge but still fold? Birdy did, but it's aluminum and expensive. Swift, later bought by Xootr, had a steel frame at first and no hinge. It might be a good option. There's one on kickstarter from Toronto called helix made of titanium- interesting but not clear how much it carries. Bike Friday makes anything you want custom and even their off the rack frames are strong, but they don't fold very fast for say train travel and they can be costly. You should call them or at least look at their website to see what is possible.
      Then there are famously strong folding frames, like the Raleigh 20. Probably the Brompton would also do it, though it's likely close to the limit. And it's easy to fold small, unlike the 20. Try one in town at rapid transit cycle shop, which also carries several other brands.
      Dahon, Tern, Citizen and similar generally don't strike me as strong enough, though there must be a model or two that could manage. Tern had a recall due to hinge failures and this was a weak point on old Dahons also. I'd be careful but wouldn't rule these brands out completely. I doubt the cheap but interesting folding bikes from Taiwan that you see now and then in Chicago are strong enough
      Remember also that once you have a strong frame it's possible to build very strong wheels if needed, with thicker spokes or stronger rims.
      With 300 lbs I'm sure you have at least a few good options. Let us know what you find out. We have another post comparing many folding bikes if you check the search box.

    that is my bike,ideal strobe and i am about 300 lbs,1.85 m.Can i ride it?

  26. It looks like a better than usual choice, with 36 spoke wheels and double rims. Most such bikes should hold your weight on the flat, as the Big Boned Biker noted in a comment above. I'd be careful though since the frame is aluminum which won't bend as safely as steel, and since there is a long seat tube you might need to replace. I wouldn't jump or mountain bike with it without talking to the manufacturer first -- try writing or calling them: . It might be perfect but I'd check first. Let us know what you find.

    1. correction-this is my bike...

    2. Still largely the same comments. 300 pounds is within or near the design range for many bikes. I'd contact the manufacturer on this one too.
      You may need to replace a few parts as in the post above. But if buying it new why not choose a more clearly durable bike, or alternatively seek a used classic steel mountain bike for less money and fix that up instead?
      Looking forward to hearing about your next ride! Good luck.

  27. hi i just bought a brooklyn bike, one of those vintage looking ones with the basket on the front , im a chunkie monkey and the wheels are very thing and no use for my weight as they are practically flat when im seated on it. what would you suggest that will take my weight,im thinking of replacing the inner tubes with ultra heavy duty ones, but dont want to waste my money, what do you suggest , or do i need to buy new wheels entirely ?

    1. Well Brooklyn bike should be able to help you. But the tubes don't support the weight; the tires do. I think you may need high pressure strong (and wide) tires. Doubt the wheel is going to need replacing unless it pings and crunches as you ride. I'm surprised Brooklyn bikes sold you a bike that isn't better suited. Let us know what happens.


We encourage anybody to comment on Chicargobike. But please don't put advertising (or a link to it) in your comment or name or it will be removed. Too much spam has led to us having to moderate your comment before it's posted. It might take a day or two. Sorry.