8 Bike Facts You Need to Know For Choosing a Plus Size Friendly Bike

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.

Bike Wheels

Photo credit: www.hbrcustom.wordpress.com

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.

Bottom Line:

  • 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 HughesPeggy Born to Reign Athlete 2 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.

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33 Responses to 8 Bike Facts You Need to Know For Choosing a Plus Size Friendly Bike

  1. Elvis August 25, 2019 at 1:54 pm #

    Nice article surely did explain a lot that I been researching.

    Currently I’m at 290/300 pounds and I’m looking at a Triathlon Bike I would like to start practicing long rides and then eventually start doing Sprints then advance to Half and eventually to a Full Ironman. Can you may be advise what a right bike would be because of my weight class. I’m 6”2

    • Krista H. September 14, 2019 at 3:42 pm #

      It’s best to talk to your local bike store as there are other factors beyond height and weight such as torso length vs leg length. The right top tube measurement will be dependent on these factors. Sorry for the late reply.

  2. Henry October 29, 2018 at 7:38 am #

    I’m a master wheelbuilder and qualified mechanical engineer.
    I’d always recommend 36 apokes over 32 for a robust long lasting wheel

  3. Seth June 27, 2018 at 12:15 pm #

    What if you’re also dirt poor and trying to get a bike because they’re cheaper than a wheelchair (not to mention would open up my options, not cut them off like being in a wheelchair!)? I’m 340lbs but I sure as heck can’t spend $200+ on a bike. You’d think a mountain bike with thick tires and a steel frame would support my weight for paved concrete, city street riding?

    • Krista H. June 27, 2018 at 1:27 pm #

      Possibly. It’s not so much the tire / tube but the wheel frame that often heavier folks have trouble with. I’m a big advocate of looking at 2nd hand bikes (sold on Craigslist or Kijiji) to get a better built bike than a cheap new one.

  4. John S. June 23, 2018 at 9:46 pm #

    Hi! Im wondering if it is alright to go over the suggested total weight limit for a bike. Im looking at the SCOTT 950 it says about 285lbs im 300 then the lock and backpack etc call it 315. Do you think I can pull it off? Is it ok to go over the limit by a little?

    • Krista H. June 24, 2018 at 12:47 pm #

      Hi John, thanks for your question. I personally don’t have any experience riding a bike over it’s weight limit, so I’m not really a good person to answer this. I’d give a call to the manufacturer. They may say that it’s o.k. but it’s at your risk or parts will wear down faster or god for bid you were in an accident, insurance isn’t covered since you were over the limit. Who knows, but the fact that they put a limit in there, must cover them from a certain legal perspective. This is a cross country mountain bike, so it’s designed for off-roading and taking more abuse. But a 30lb difference can produce a lot of force if you’re coming down hard from jumps etc. For peace of mind, I’d choose a bike that covers my limits, rather than always wonder or worry. Local bike stores should be able to help with identifying which bike companies offer higher limits and/or the components that may need change to accommodate the weight better.

  5. Annie May 24, 2018 at 4:33 pm #

    What are the weight limits on a CCM aspens hardtrail mountain womens bike ?
    Would that be good for 230LBS ?? Or what other types of bikes that arent too expensive ?! around 500

    • Krista H. May 25, 2018 at 12:17 pm #

      Hi Annie, thanks for your comment. Bike models change every year, so ensure that the bike store, checks the manual of the bike for the weight limits. The type of bike you get is driven by the the type of riding you want. I prefer working with a bike store as they are specialized in their offering, have deeper knowledge and a bigger range of bikes to offer. Departments stores in general carry lower quality items. Depending upon the frequency of your riding, you may want to consider a higher quality, second hand bike, for the same price as a low quality, highest price bike. Hope that helps.

      • Daniel terry June 13, 2018 at 10:38 pm #

        Hey I bought a cheap bike from Walmart it’s a 29 inch mongoose hybrid bike and the tire pressure for the bike is only set for 50 psi and I’m bigger man I weigh about 266, anyways in the last week I have had to get the tubing replaced 3 times now, do you have any suggestions at all for me what I need to do thanks.

        • Krista H. June 24, 2018 at 12:51 pm #

          Hi Daniel, talk to you local bike store. Not sure of the root cause, could be rims related, spoke tension, a different tubing may be required, just not sure.

  6. Brian Williams October 23, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

    I’m 430 lbs. I’d like a trike. I have no idea what to get, but I’m not willing to go over $700.

    • will December 5, 2017 at 10:41 am #

      Look at the husky industrial trike I got mine for about 550 delivered, and it is rated to 700lbs

  7. Rebecca May 17, 2017 at 11:21 pm #

    Hi Peggy!

    I’m 318 pounds and looking for. Bike but I’m so confused. I don’t have a ton of money, but can spend a couple hundred to buy something and I don’t understand some of the things you are talking about. Mostly though can you just give me specific bike brands and models? Just like 1 or 2 so I can see an actual bike I might need? I’ve look at schwinn but they are $1000? And huffy I couldn’t find where it said the weight limit! I’m if that is even what I need that I see! So lost…. please help!

    • Krista H. May 18, 2017 at 12:45 am #

      Hey Rebecca, it’s Krista, wanted to share my thoughts with you. First off, brands change their models every year, so it’s not feasible to recommend a specific model. Easiest is to talk with your local bike store (LBS) on some good entry level bikes. Some top questions they’ll want to know are what kind of riding you want to do - road (sleek and fast), mountain bike (for trails) or maybe get a hybrid bike for more recreational riding that sits between the road/mtb and how often you will be riding (mileage per week). My personal philosophy is to buy the most you can afford. A LBS can confirm, but I think your priorities will be to ensure you have a frame that supports your weight (user manuals also display weight limits). If you will be riding a lot, you may want to look at better wheels down the road. LBS are very connected to the cycling community and know who is selling / trading up to new bikes. So I would definitely consider buying a really good 2nd hand bike (Cerevelo, Giant, Cannondale, Trek, Specialized) instead of a box store, as it could cost the same, but you would get a better structure. LBS and department stores will let you test ride bikes, and I encourage you to do that, to get a sense of what feels better. I know you will be able to find a bike that you like, is safe and fits your budget. Hope this has helped.

    • Jasmine Broadhead June 29, 2017 at 4:03 am #

      Try raleigh bikes. They all have a 300 pound weight limit which would be fine for you and there are bikes listed as low as $300.

    • Michael W Glenn July 10, 2017 at 7:20 pm #

      Check out a worksman bicycle. Only one made in the USA rated at 500#

    • Eret January 18, 2018 at 10:23 am #

      I know that this is an old thread, but Kona bicycles advertise support for up to 350 pounds and some of their bikes.

  8. Syawal Roslee May 17, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

    I am 155kg(340lbs+) been using a budget (around 300$) XDS MTB 26″ wheel for 4 years for light cycling. used to do some 30-50km road and off road. I think any decent bike will have no problem for just road riding. only that my crank broke after 500km(around 3 month after i bought), changed to hollow type shimano deore and its perfect untill today.
    Few month ago i change to much smaller road tyre(26×1.25) since i only use it to go to nearest shop etc no problem so far, just need to check the rear tyre bfore start cycling.

    Hope this help 🙂

  9. Linell April 9, 2017 at 6:06 am #

    Hi I’m a beginner bike rider. I want to say I haven’t ridden a bike in 10yrs. I love Beach cruiser!! My wight is 250. What bike would you recommend for me? Thanks for listening Linell

    • Krista H. April 10, 2017 at 7:26 pm #

      Get the bike that you will ride. 🙂 There are lots of Cruiser styles out there, or maybe consider a hybrid that gives you more gears.

  10. Carlo November 24, 2016 at 11:20 am #

    Hi, I’m going to buy my first mountain bike, and I’m thinking of getting a Giant branded mountain bike. Can you please help me with what type of a Giant brand bike is good for my 210 lbs weight? Btw, I’m from the Philippines, maybe you guys know of a place I can go to and ask for weight limit bikes and more info for beginners. Thanks in advance and a great article.

  11. Chelsea May 18, 2016 at 7:49 pm #

    I’d love a cruiser, do you know of any that would support 315bs?

  12. Kate May 15, 2016 at 11:19 pm #

    Hi Peggy, I’m looking at Liv Bicycles, is there one you’d recommend for a 310lb woman who just wants to cycle to the local park with the dog? Thanks!

  13. Simon Windmuller May 6, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

    Hi Peggy, I’ll start with saying that this is a great article. Since you are a LIV ambassador I wanted to ask you something. My wife has a LIV Tempt 3 and when compared to my Rocky Mountain Soul 29er bike, hers feels heavier and more difficult to handle, it feels like it falls to the sides, that its weight pulls the bike to the sides. I tried weighting both and they weight almost the same (~14.8Kg), just for that I’m wondering why a 27.5 size S bike would weight the same of a 29er size M bike. But the main issue is why does it feel heavier and more difficult to handle? Is it the distribution of weight, are the tires profile the problem? (the wheel/tires are heavier also 2.4Kg on the Tempt3 (27.5) vs. 2.2Kg on the Soul (29er). Thanks. Simon.

  14. Kerry March 28, 2016 at 2:27 am #

    Looking for weight limits for Liv bikes. Been to a dealer and on their website, owner’s manual section and haven’t seen anything yet. Anyone have any thoughts?

    • Krista March 28, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

      Hi Kerry, try this http: // www . giant-bicyles dot com /en-us/page/135 (for some reason links are appearing as white on white so it’s not showing up properly, I’ve put spaces in so it shows up)
      I’m not sure which type of bike you are looking for but they seem to list the bikes in groups by year / model. For Example:

      2002 to Present, Multi-Speed Owners Manual, 1mb
      Basic operational information for all multi-speed derailleur bikes with hand brakes. This includes all models of TCR, OCR, NRS, AC, Warp, XTC, Prodigy, Sedona, Cypress, MTX, Rainier, Iguana, Yukon, Rincon and Boulder.

  15. fat loss for idiots June 21, 2015 at 10:15 pm #

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  16. Carrie Uihlein Nilles May 20, 2015 at 12:02 am #

    I am really trying to find a seat that will accommodate me comfortably.

    • Krista H. May 20, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

      It’s definitely a process Carrie. Work with your local bike store to find one that works for you. There are 5 factors that make up a saddle and a small adjustment to one of these factors may make the difference for you: shape, shell and cut out design, padding, rails and covering.

  17. Krista H. April 28, 2015 at 3:21 pm #

    Hi Erin, based on what you’ve shared, I’d recommend visiting your bike store and calling Specialized. We want you to be safe. Your bike store should know what bikes and components are better suited to the heavy rider. Maybe it was just an oversight, regardless they should honour a bike exchange if one is warranted. Would love to know how things turn out. Feel free to drop us a line at [email protected]

  18. Erin April 28, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

    I just bought a 2015 Specialized Ruby Disc — the chart says the weight limit is 240 lbs, which is the weight limit for any Specialized bike with weight-bearing carbon components. I’m 255 lbs (down from 272 peak weight). Should I be concerned?

    I ride on the road only, with no cargo, but do carry 100-200 oz of water in my Camelbak.

  19. Ryan norton April 28, 2015 at 11:34 am #

    Great article Pegasus!

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