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I am a 44 year old man that is very heavy (250–260lbs(113-118kg)) and I am looking to buy my first mountain bike to do some riding on the weekend to burn off some of this fat I have.

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Question: Do you know you want a "mountain bike" -- a bike designed to go offroad -- or do you simply want a "mountain style" bike -- upright posture, flat handlebars, etc? If the latter, then you should probably look for a "hybrid", and there are good options available starting around $400 new. –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 20 '12 at 20:21
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BTW, a decent quality hybrid bike should easily be able to handle your weight. You might find the standard saddle a hair uncomfortable and swap if for a wider one, but otherwise it should work for you. Just keep the tires well inflated. (I weight 230+ and commonly ride with another 10-20 pounds of junk in my panniers -- this on a "touring" bike that is a bit more lightly built than a good hybrid.) –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 23 '12 at 11:37
    
I weigh 275, and I have used a Trek 3900 for a few years with no problems –  Nate Koppenhaver Apr 23 '12 at 18:28
    
Steel frame and extra large frame to reduce seat post height? –  Carson Reinke Dec 3 '13 at 17:24
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9 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

250-260 pounds isn't that heavy.

You may not need to worry about weight at all.

See if you can find the information from the manufacturer about weight limits for their bikes. For a mountain bike that you intend to use for what it was made for, you're probably within the weight limit the bike is designed for.

You may want to avoid the lightest weight stuff (carbon) unless you check the weight specs. But that's mostly stuff on the more expensive bikes.

Some of the parts that normally wear out will likely wear out faster for you than for somebody lighter, but that's no big deal.

If you plan to do tougher things with the bike than it was made for (jump a trail bike, for instance) you could run into problems. Stick with getting a bike that's intended for what you plan to do with the bike.

For instance:

1. Trek Bikes Weight Limits:

Rider weight limit of 275lb: Road bikes with drop type handlebar Triathlon, time trial or Speed Concept bicycle Cruisers with large 26" tires and swept-back handlebar, Bicycles that fold.

Rider weight limit of 300lbs: Hybrid bicycles with 700c wheels, tires larger than 28c, and flat handlebars City bicycles: hybrids with special equipment, cyclocross bicycles: with drop type handlebars, knobby 700c tires, and cantilever or disc brakes Mountain bikes of all types including: standard, race, cross-country, heavy-duty, trail, all-mountain, freeride, and jumping bikes of both the hardtail and full suspension variety.

2. Specialized Bike Warranty Policy (PDF) (weight info near the bottom):

Also, some bicycles and components are built to be lightweight, which means they may not be appropriate for riders who are approaching 250 pounds in weight (over 240 pounds, for example). Riders approaching 250 pounds in weight should not ride any bicycle equipped with Specialized-branded composite seat posts, handlebar stems, or handlebars.

In other words: avoid the carbon/composite seat posts, handlebar stems and handlebars and you'll be fine with this brand.

3. Cannondale 2010 User's manual (PDF) (Starting at page 52)

  • High-performance road: 275 pound rider
  • General Purpose Riding, Cross-country MTB, Marathon MTB, Hardtail MTB, All mountain, Gravity, Freeride, Downhill, Dirt Jump, Cyclocross, basically everything they make except high-performance road bikes: 300 pound rider, as long as you stick to the intended use. Limit on cargo goes from 5 pounds to 55 pounds
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FYI, I do speak from some experience. I rode a cheap hardtrail Trek mountain bike for years when my weight was 250-260. Now I'm 240-245 and ride a Trek CX bike and a Surly touring bike. Really no weight-related problems with any of those, except the rear wheel on the old MTB starting to break spokes after probably 5000+ miles... –  freiheit Apr 23 '12 at 22:44
    
Just chipping in as a 350+ lb rider, you may run into minor problems with a Specialized bike. I have a Crosstrail and everything is fine except for one issue. I can't seem to get the derailers adjusted to shift the front gear from lowest gear. –  Dropped.on.Caprica Dec 3 '13 at 15:37
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That shouldn't be a weight issue - more likely a cable tension or misadjustment issue. If you're not reckless (don't ride off curbs on your hybrid for example), pretty much anyone under 300 pounds should be fine on a non road racer bike. Most things have a lawyer margin so they dont get sued if things go wrong. –  Batman Dec 3 '13 at 21:35
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I fit in to that weight category and I ride a Trek superfly 100Al dual suspension bike. I do ride it hard and even being the biggest bloke in the group that I ride with, I can out ride most of the lighter blokes. I ride the bike hard and unfortunately I do regularly break things. I have re-spoked the rear wheel with heavy duty spokes after breaking too many spokes, but recently I broke the rim so I now have a much stronger new wheel. I also wear out the rear suspension bushes approx. every 8-12 months. The running gear (chain, chain rings and cassette) also gets replaced every 6-8months. But having said this I ride about 8-10000km a year and most of that off road and often giving it a hard time (do you see this common point I keep bringing up). So what I am trying to say is, get yourself good equipment but be prepared to do extra maintenance especially if you give it a hard time. But the main thing is get out there and enjoy it and don't give up. About 4years ago I was just over 370lbs and now I am around the 250lbs (I hope to drop a few more as riding has helped heaps)

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I'm a heavier rider (250-260) and the first thing I do when I purchase a new mounain bike is invest a good chunk of change into better front and rear rims. In this day and age, the stock rims are pretty weak and tend to break first in the spokes. It's also not uncommon to have a bent rim when going off a curb. I should also note that I punish my bikes when I'm out doing distance rides (20 miles or greater) or offroad. I went through three rims one time within a month of buying a bike in the past.

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I was a daily bike commuter in the 325lb range for almost two years. I rode both a restored '70s Raleigh Record Ace street bike and an Electra Townie 21D.

Lessons Learned:

  • Bike frames and seatposts are really, really tough. As long as you aren't boulder-hopping or crashing over pot-holes at speed, it's unlikely you'll break one, especially a new aluminum MTB, as they're way over-engineered (well, Electra's is, at any rate.)

  • The stock seatpost clamp on the new MTB was too weak to maintain seat height, and was replaced by a generic yet beefy aluminum component (ebay is a great source for these kind of components - also scored a "brake booster" which I used for mounting the front fender).

  • Suspension forks are useless. You'll be bouncing non-stop as you pedal. Go for fixed forks, or plan to swap out the suspension forks for an aftermarket fixed fork if you can't find a model you like. I did this on the Electra - had the added fun of swapping from a threaded to a threadless headset, as I was unable to find a threaded, suspension-corrected fork in the right size. The difference was night and day, especially on steep hill climbs and fast straightaways.

  • The plastic pedals or skinny "rat-trap" pedals that come stock are pretty weak, and I bent them easily. BMX platform pedals are cheap, indestructible and work well.

  • Vintage bearings are pretty weak - especially the bottom bracket, I went through more than a few re-packs - upgrade to quality modern BB cartridges and wheelsets. Modern MTB bearings are bulletproof for casual riding or commuting.

  • Invest in good wheels - not expensive ultra-light wheels, but quality rims and spokes. Hand-built is nice, but name-brand wheelsets from the factory and tuned by the bike shop proved plenty tough. The generic stock wheels on the vintage bike and the new MTB were both not up to the task, and needed constant truing, often mid-ride.

  • Invest in puncture-proof tires, and keep them inflated, check the pressure often. Heavier riders will pick up more glass shards, sharp rocks, tire wires, lost screws and can fragments, as the rubber presses down harder. Once I switched to Conti Gatorskins on the roadie and CST puncture-proof hybrid tires on the MTB, issues with constant flats pretty much went away so long as the tires were properly inflated.

  • Keep an eye on your crankset. The vintage bike's rings were nigh invulnerable, the MTB one started to warp and kick off chains after a year of heavy use. Go for sturdy rather than light, and from a reputable midrange component family if/when replacing. The freewheels are name-brand, down-market units - an IRD wide-range 5 cog on the roadie and a Shimano 7-speed mega-range on the MTB - and held up without a hiccup.

  • Keep an eye on your chain for stretch and wear, too - beefy guys are wicked strong for short bursts and can apply more torque than they mean to heading up hills or over obstacles. To be honest, cheap, generic chains hold up just as well as name-brand ones.

  • Likewise keep your derailleurs in tune - you can break cheap indexed shifters by trying to force a shift that isn't gonna happen. Big guys sometimes use force rather than finesse, because they can. I broke a trigger-shifter on the MTB this way - it was a flimsy, plastic OEM unit, but it was integrated with the brake lever. I replaced it with sturdy, mid-range name-brand components, separate levers and shifters that could hold up to over-eager mashing. It turned out to be cheaper than replacing the broken unit with an identical one.

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Being 240 LBs and now being on my third bike I thought I would throw this in.

  1. I destroyed a department store bike in 3 months of commuting on roads. It started failing after a month. Don't touch these unless bike security is a problem.
  2. I replaced this with a $1000 MTB. Within a year the entry level shocks had gone even though I was only commuting. I would suggest if you are a heavy rider and you want shocks, you will want quality shocks. Its hard enough riding hills with a solid fork but its a lot harder with a failed fork.
  3. After 12 months my rear wheel started breaking spokes. Such is life.
  4. After 15 Months the aluminium frame broke at a join (chain stay and crank shell) and I entered the warranty time hole. If you’re a heavy rider and want an aluminium or Carbon bike you need a quality frame, the manufacturing of these materials has very little room for error.

Now I ride a Surly disk trucker, it’s been 7 months and all is well. I don't commute anymore but do 25 mile morning rides with plenty of hills 3 times a week. Fingers crossed the Surly will hold up it’s a nice ride.

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Cheap double suspension bikes are a bad idea overall. –  Vorac Dec 3 '13 at 14:31
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I agree with the others: your weight is not that much of an issue for a decent quality well under $1k bike. I'm 175lbs now, but when I first started riding at 360lbs I rode a Specialized Big Hit Mountain bike. About $1,600 and overkill for the on-road riding I did.

I now use a simple Trek Hybrid, and love it.. no clunky clumsy mountain bike.. (unless of course you are using it off road.. I never did and never intended to).

The bottom line is don't overthink it. Find the weight limits. Some kind person listed Trek's above.. and there are other brands as well.. and go for it.. Just move and watch the carbs and calories and the weight will fall off.

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As someone who weighs in at 375lbs, I can tell you that a good build will hold up just fine. I would stay away from box-store bikes (Walmart, K-Mart, etc) and shady bike shops, as they tend to cut corners in components and overall build quality. Hit up your local bike shop and let them know your worries. A good bike shop will probably have some great suggestions for you.

In my case, I prefer steel bikes (started on a Trek, then went to Surly). I know that From my understanding, aluminum bikes are stronger, but I have a mental block against "lighter", so I stick with steel. The only problem I have run into was wheel quality. Once I went to hand-built wheels with quality components, I stopped having problems. Right now I ride a Surly Ogre with 36 spoke wheels atop Surly New Disc hubs; they are pretty much bullet-proof.

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Don't go full suspension - it at $1000 price point its a gimmick, and at your weight, you would need highend stuff for it to be adjustable enough to be useful. I am sure you can spend less, (I ride off-road with a guy who's 220lbs, hes really fit and all muscle, rides hard and fast. His sub $1000 bike stays in one piece), unless you are looking for serious off road use.

I would strongly recommend buying form your local bike shop rather than Kmart. They should be able to put you oto a bike that will meet you budget, fit you properly and give you advice. They will also be able to maintain it for you. If they can't put you on a bike within your budget look for one that has lots of kids bikes, they will understand the budget, and wont try to tell you that you need the lycra clothing to go with it.

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You might look into something like the Kona Hoss, which I believe is no longer made but can probably be found used. Here are some reviews on MTBR.

The most critical thing to selecting a bike will be getting strong wheels, crankset, seat & post, pedals, and fork. These are the components that bear most of your weight. You can probably start with almost any mid-range mountain bike and just make a few changes:

  1. Install a rigid fork. Unless you want to spend a lot of money, it will be hard to find a good fork that's going to hold up well to your weight.

  2. Upgrade the wheels. Look for something marketed as a free-ride or all-mountain wheelset. This should be significantly stronger than the stock wheels on a lower end (<700) bike.

  3. Buy some BMX style platform pedals. They're not too expensive and will be plenty strong.

  4. Ride the thing and see how everything else holds up. If you bend the seatpost or have trouble with the bottom bracket and crankset, you can upgrade them as you go!

Bottom line: You don't need to spend $1000 plus, unless you want to. You can probably find a decent used bike on Craigslist for $200-300, and then budget another $200 for some simple upgrades. You should also invest in a nice pair of bike shorts. There are lots of non-spandex options that look just like regular street shorts. Once you start riding and losing weight you may find you want a different type of bike or something fancier...

Have fun.

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