I have received lots of inquiries about weight limits on bicycles, and through this process of finding out about the different limits between various bike brands, I also wanted to give you some in depth information on bike wheels. They are the part of a bike that take the blunt of the weight and need to be able to carry the weight of a rider.
So, I interviewed local wheel builder, Tommy Collins of Phoenix Sweetwheels. It is a little technical, but we larger sized athletes need to know, and I have summed it up with the “Bottom Line”.
Bike Weight Limits
First, let’s talk about bike weight limits. The bike weight limit of a bike is determined by the type of bike and it’s intended and not-intended purpose. So it varies greatly from mountain bike to road etc. Most brands publish this information online within the Owner’s Bike Manual or FAQ Support section. I’ve provided links and answers / instructions to some of the more popular brands for you to look up, before you visit your local bike store. The range is diverse and the highest rider limit I found is 300 lbs. Each brand uses their own terminology to describe the different sub-categories, but below is a summary that I feel is universal across all brands:
1) Structural Weight Limit: the maximum weight (rider and cargo /luggage) a bike can physically support. This limit is different from the Max Weight Per Cen Braking Standards
2) Rider Weight: the weight of the rider in riding gear (e.g., jacket, helmet cam, hydration pack, helmet, etc.).
3) Cargo /Luggage Weight: the weight of any additional accessories (e.g., panniers, rear racks, saddle bags, handlebar bags, baskets, etc.) not accounted for in Rider Weight.
4) Total Weight: the sum of Rider Weight and Cargo/Luggage Weight.
5) Recommended Max Weight Per Cen Braking Standards: the maximum amount of weight (combined weight of Rider and Cargo/Luggage) that can be applied to a bike and the capability to stop the bike within a prescribed distance.
Specialized - click “Appendix” then filter by ‘Category” and “Model Year”
Cannondale - choose your bike type and model
Trek Bikes - provides a description for each type of bike
Giant Bikes - click the ‘Order Online’ button, then scroll down to the sizing guide which explains the suitability of the product and any applicable weight limits.
Now on to bike wheels, and advice from local wheel builder, Tommy Collins.
The best advice you can give to any larger riders is for them to be sure that their wheels are built for their size. Many times folks don’t lose a lot of body weight, but they replace it with muscle and actually become much stronger, thus the need for the stronger wheel set, even though their body weight may be somewhat lighter.
Since I am mostly a mountain biker I will address mountain bike wheels, especially since they take much more abuse than a road wheel commonly will.
An entry level bicycle from a large box discount chain, such as Wal*Mart, will have marginal wheels, built by a machine for the ‘average’ weight rider for that bike. If not abused by taking them ‘off trail’ they often work fine for path riding.
In intermediate level bike will often have a better set of wheels that will be lighter and stronger, as you know. This bike can actually be taken off trail and used for a beginner mountain biker.
The upper level bike, commonly ridden by accomplished cyclists, may come with a really good set of aluminum rims, laced to good hubs with good spokes. This type of wheel can and will last most riders for years.
The top end bikes (normally carbon frame and the lightest and strongest components) will come with very light aluminum or carbon rims, sometimes laced to carbon hubs. Those wheel sets normally retail for around $2,500 for a set.
Kappius happens to be my personal favorite, as a wheel builder and rider.
ENVE is also a great product, but is more expensive and harder to build and tune.
So, with regard to larger riders, my advice would be to concentrate on strong rims (Stan’s ZTR ArchEX) laced with 32 spokes (3 cross) to a Kappius KH-1.5 or DT Swiss 240s hub. Chris King is also a great hub and my experience with them is that they are pretty much bomb proof, although they have only 72 points of engagement as opposed to 240 points of engagement for the Kappius hubs.
Spokes are incredibly important with regard to rider weight and riding style. “Light and sexy” (think Sapim CX-Ray bladed, here) are really cool spokes and rather costly, as are their brethren at DT Swiss. But, they really are not the good choice for large riders, as opposed to a strong stainless steel spoke that is double butted (2.0 to 1.8 to 2.0) and laced 3 cross with 32 hole rims and hubs.
Now, as to the original question of weight limits. Every rim manufacturer will post maximum weight limits for their rims. For instance, the Stan’s ZTR Crest is not warranted for riders over 170 pounds. Thus, they are meant for the average 140 pound racer who beats the heck out of them on Arizona rocky trails such as the Black Canyon Trail.
Mavic, however, builds rims and wheel sets that are hard to break and very hard to beat. They are not normally considered “light and sexy”, however.
As a wheel builder, it’s really important for me to stress to the larger riders that they need to engage a wheel builder who knows about the needs of the rider and how that person rides.
I hope this helps. I know it’s a lot of information to digest, especially for a newer rider who doesn’t understand half of what I’ve written. Please tell your readers they can feel free to call me or send a FaceBook message to me at Phoenix Sweetwheels and I will try to help them with any questions they might have.
Ok. Cost is important. A basic wheel set for a larger rider probably will be around $600 depending on rims and hubs chosen. But, spokes won’t break and they will feel really good about slamming through the twisties on Granite Mountain.
Thank you Tommy for that explanation and the offer for people to call or connect with you via Facebook. If you’re buying a bike, I hope this information has helped prepared you for asking some questions at you local bike store (LBS) to ensure you get a bike that meets your weight. Don’t feel embarrassed or shy about sharing your weight with your LBS. It doesn’t define your worthiness as an amazing human being. It just is what it is and for safety purposes, you may need to share it if you have any concerns being on the edge of a limit. You owe no explanations to anyone why you are that weight. I say own it and ask with confidence. For example:
“I want a mountain bike that can handle all the power this 300lb body is about to unleash as I’m embracing my inner athlete.
- Find out about bike weight limits
- Know the different between rider vs cargo vs total weight limit, including that for braking distances
- Wheel components make a big difference. Don’t go for the “light & sexy”, safety and security is key. Stainless steel rims, spoke patterns and high engagement hubs.
You don’t need to be a bike geek and know the inner mechanics to get a great bike, just the questions to ask.
About the Author
Peggy Hughes is an Ambassador for LIV Cycling (Giant Bicycles Women’s Division) and Grandmother who loves to get other women on bicycles, even if they are just weekend warriors pedalling with their families. Peggy has been riding for 7 years, starting at the age of 48, and does a little mountain bike racing when time permits. Sharing her passion for riding with other women brings her great joy and if she can inspire just one woman to break out of her day, and find her inner athlete, life is good.