Over a year ago I was diagnosed with a collapsed arch in my left foot and despite trying many times I have not been able to get back on the treadmill. I have been thinking of getting a bicycle to start losing the weight that I have put on. I currently weight 240 lbs. I have a couple of questions:

  1. Should I get a hybrid bike or a mountain bike or a road bike? I have read conflicting views on what is better for weight loss and general fitness.
  2. Should I buy a geared or a non-geared bicycle?

I am not looking to become an expert rider and would probably only ride 3-5 times a week. I just need something that will get me a bit of fresh air and help me loose a bit of fat.

  • Duplicate of bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/20730/…
    – mattnz
    Mar 15 '14 at 21:50
  • 4
    Get a Geared bike - it's 2014, not 1914. Single speeds work for modern day hippies and experienced riders wanting the specific challenges and are far from good for a novice.
    – mattnz
    Mar 15 '14 at 21:54
  • 1
    The best bike to loose weight and stay fit on is the one you ride a lot.
    – Benzo
    Mar 17 '14 at 14:01
  1. You want a geared bike -- not necessarily 50 speeds, but at least 3, preferably 15 or so. If derailleur-style bikes scare you, there are geared hub bikes available (though they tend to be a bit more expensive). (But, honestly, there's nothing to be afraid of with a modern derailleur-style bike, if properly maintained.)
  2. If you're only going to be riding on roads and paved trails (which is most likely the case, at least first year or so), the type of bike makes little difference, so long as it fits you appropriately and is comfortable to handle. (Though at your weight a "full suspension" bike is probably not a good idea, and, in general, even front suspension is not of much use on roads).
  3. Mainly you should pick a bike that fits you well and is comfortable. You need a 10-20 minute ride to really check this out, and any bike shop that won't let you do that (within reason) you should avoid.
  4. Be wary of the handlebar. Most bikes are delivered with the handlebar too low, and modern "threadless" front bearing setups require adapters to raise the handlebar to an appropriate height. Make sure you get the handlebar height set appropriately before you leave the shop, and go back if it seems to need changing.
  5. Be wary of the seat. Many "comfort" bikes (which are worth considering) will come with an enormously wide seat, which may seem wise at the beginning but quickly chafes the inner thighs. You don't want super-narrow, but likely not super-wide either. (Of course the seat can be changed fairly easily.) And, while purists sneer at gell-filled seats, they can be more comfortable for rides of intermediate length (over an hour, say), so long as they're not too "squishy". Stay away from the pillow-like foam seats, however.

And do get a comfortable helmet (be wary of those with a large visor in front, they often obscure the vision), and whatever lock seems appropriate for your area/needs. And be sure to get a light set if you ever ride at night -- nice LED light sets are now available quite cheaply.

As for shoes, usually a pair of athletic shoes is good for starters -- just avoid anything that's too wide due to lots of extra rubber on the sides of the soles. Or an old pair of leather shoes will work for starters. With your arch problem it's probably best to avoid anything with a too-thin, too-flexible sole, but hard-soled bike shoes are probably unnecessary, and could be counter-productive. (I have polio-weakened ankles and arches and I biked for decades (including several multi-day tours) in plain old "tennis shoes".)

The shop where you buy the bike should give you a free tuneup after the first month or two. Discuss this when you buy the bike. If you buy a used bike from a private party most shops will do tuneups for a very nominal fee, often free, just to encourage your business.

  • 1
    Good answer. Specifically on the second point, I know road bikes are rated for a maximum weight, and I think 240lbs could be borderline or over for some bikes. Most likely the same for other types of bike too, so definitely something to take into account.
    – PeteH
    Mar 15 '14 at 13:37
  • Polio? Wow, you're old. I think the super wide seats are fine to start out with - they're comfortable for rides up to around 10 miles (I've found that they chafe at around 15). Once at the point of chafing, switching to something more narrow (which probably means he's a bit fitter and overall more comfortable with the bike) will probably be a good idea.
    – Batman
    Mar 15 '14 at 15:07
  • Thanks Daniel, great advice about the handlebar and the seats, I hadn't given that any thought.
    – Gaurav
    Mar 15 '14 at 17:04
  • 1
    @PeteH - I weight north of 225 (we won't say how far north), and I can assure you that a well-constructed adult bike of any variety (other than hoity-toity racing bikes) can hand 240 with no trouble. The only real issue is the wheels and tires -- the wheels need to be good quality to prevent broken spokes, and the tires need to be at least modestly wide (>28mm or so) and properly inflated (meaning pressure of 80 psi or greater). Mar 15 '14 at 18:20
  1. Ask a doctor first if bicycling is appropriate - there is load on your feet on a bicycle. If they say its okay, proceed. Else, don't go cycling (swimming might be a better option, but again, ask a doctor).

  2. Buy a bike that you use - this means going out and trying some bikes for a decent amount. Different people are suited for different riding styles. Hybrids tend to typically have some mountain bike geometry with some road-ness (e.g. slim 700c wheels) - they're a good choice for people who ride on the road for short distances (like around town). Old rigid mountain bikes also make a good choice on the road. You don't need suspension on the road unless you have back problems and avoid anything thats full suspension. Front is OK but not necessary. Some hybrids have front suspension as well. For a road bike, note that race bikes are intended for racing. Touring bikes, some cyclocross bikes, and commuters make excellent fitness bikes. Most road bikes have drop bars, which are more useful for riding longer distances. Hybrids and mountain bikes will have more upright position than most road bikes, which will help if you have back problems.

Examples of the types of bikes discussed: - Hybrid: Trek 7.2fx, Specialized Sirrus (no suspension). Trek 8.3ds , Specialized Crosstrail (light suspension, useful if you have back problems). - Old mountain bike: 80s Specialized Hardrock or similar (these are very cheap, and work great on the road with some slicks). - Road bike: Trek Crossrip, Specialized Tricross (commuter cyclocross). Trek 520, Surly Long Haul Trucker, Novara Randonee (Touring). Charge Plug, Kona Dew Drop (commuter).

1'.You'll ride a bike thats comfortable a lot more than one that isn't, so go for a bike fit at the bike shop. You may need a wider saddle than what comes with most bikes if you weigh 240 pounds and due to possibly other factors you may need some different riding positions.

  1. Single speeds are nice, but if you're not fit, you're going to be putting in a lot more effort to get up to speed than a geared bike with lower gearing (you have to compromise with a higher starting gear so you have decent cruising). I'd go geared.

  2. Make sure to budget for accessories, like helmet, lock, lights.

  3. At 240 pounds, you're close to the limit on some bikes (though they're likely bikes you should avoid - all the bikes I mentioned are designed to take at least 300 lbs AFAIK, but check this out), so make sure to check the manufacturer recommended weights. Avoid fancy racing frames which are designed to be super light, and get some decent sized tires (maybe 700c x 38 or so) to decrease the likelihood of road hazards causing problems and increase comfort.

  • Thanks for your input Batman. My doctor was the one who advised I take on cycling rather than work on he treadmill because of my feet. The arch is my right foot is very close to collapsing as well. But I was just being adamant all this time that I can still get on a treadmill. :)
    – Gaurav
    Mar 15 '14 at 14:52
  • I forgot to ask, I do have back problems (between 4th & 5th vertebrae) so I was thinking of going full suspension. Do you think it will slow down my weight loss?
    – Gaurav
    Mar 15 '14 at 14:53
  • 1
    You don't need full suspension unless you're doing mountain biking - its more for control and more efficiently transmitting power on rough terrain, which doesn't happen on roads. Also, for heavier people, full suspension (especially cheaper full suspension) makes for uncomfortable bobbing. Get something with front suspension and no rear suspension, like a hybrid or a cheaper major brand hardtail (no rear suspension) mountain bike with slick tires put on. As for weight loss rate, it won't be a significant rate difference.
    – Batman
    Mar 15 '14 at 15:02
  • In regards to another post - getting started on a road bike might be a bit harder, but a bike fit should alleviate a lot of the difficulty. Also, most of these bikes will go for around 500-600 new, and you can find some older stock cheaper bikes in a lot of bike shops these days for pretty cheap (one of my LBS's has a ton of ~2012 Giant Boulder's on the showroom floor still, going for around 250, which is fantastic for a casual rider).
    – Batman
    Mar 15 '14 at 15:20
  • This is the bike I have chosen based on your advice - firefoxbikes.com/BikeDetails.aspx?BikeId=52 It costs around $300 in my currency so its not too costly.
    – Gaurav
    Mar 15 '14 at 16:58

Well guess I'm a bit too late since the original poster already picked out a bike but for future visitors:

My advice would be to get a Hybrid bike of medium quality. Starting out you're probably not going to feel comfortable on the road, so having a bit of suspension will make for much nicer sidewalk riding. The tires will also be able to handle your weight and the curbs and such better.

After that though spend what you have to for the bike and helmet, then get yourself a good Heart Rate Monitor watch. Also get a cheap food scale and signup for MyFitnessPal on your computer / smart phone. Even if you only use the food scale and app for two solid weeks you'll learn a ton! If your goal is weight loss this is far more important then what the frame is. You can get your heart rate up on any bike, and you can crawl along slowly on any bike.

Once you ride the hybrid for a while then you'll have a better idea of what you enjoy doing and how you like riding. Do you wish to be able to ride on the road and get more aerodynamic? Road bike it is. Do you like stopping for a healthy snack? Maybe stick with Hybrid or get a commuter. Did you find yourself wanting to get off the paved paths entirely then get a mountain bike. For now though just get yourself a hybrid (which it looks like you already did), a helmet, a food log (myfitnesspal), and a heart rate monitor.


You have a choice:

  • Get your tail hung in your chainwheel trying to wrap your brain around all the inexplicably contradicting advice of "serious" cyclists
  • Go out and get yourself a cheap hardtail BSO MTB and actually start cycling some before you blow a bunch of money on something you're not yet sure you like.

This is really cheap and provides the same exercise as any other bike recommendation, but won't run more than $100 or so (or whatever your currency is -- mine was Y12,000). Since your bike is cheap you can do fun stuff without financial risk, like learning how to take it apart, fitting out some cheapish clipless/push pedals (like these: http://www.amazon.co.jp/SHIMANO-%E3%82%B7%E3%83%9E%E3%83%8E-PD-A530-EPDA530-%E7%89%87%E9%9D%A2SPD%E3%83%9A%E3%83%80%E3%83%AB/dp/B001EIEH0G/ my favorite for souping up a city bike, cruiser or BSO), new saddle styles and seatpost lengths, or whatever.

You'll find out about chains wearing out, the difference between a comfortable tire pressure and a fast tire pressure, how hot breaks can get, how strong your legs can get from sprinting up short steep hills, how cramped/comfortable different seat/handlebar configurations can be, and a million other weird things you just can't know about cycling until you've spent a few hundred hours in the saddle. All without blowing a small fortune to satisfy the vanity of the "real" cyclists who seem to constantly forget that the basic feature set on the lowest MTB BSO today blows away the most extravagant features available on professional bikes in the 80's.

MTBs also have good gearing for heavy folks to start on -- until you become no-so-heavy. You don't need shocks and all the cool gizmos on newer MTBs if you're going to be on the road trying to get your heart rate up, though -- so give the shiny new stuff with the $4,000 pricetags a pass.

For those who say a cheap bike won't last long, I'm proof that this is simply not true -- I've got 3 BSOs, two of which are nearing 10,000km, all of which are demonstrating vastly superior drivetrain durability than my (enormously) more expensive road and crossbikes. Most of the price difference is defined in terms of weight, not features (except in extreme cases). Just about everything on a bike is wear-outable anyway, so as bits break either upgrade old components (and learn a huge amount about how bikes work in the process) or buy new bikes if your budget can afford it (and still learn a lot).

  • 2
    There is no reason to get a BSO for around 100 dollars (which seems low given the pricing at Walmart these days) when you can get a decent 5-10 year old basic used major brand MTB for around that much with features such as working shifters and what not (which aren't really available on BSO's). Also, I seriously doubt anyones overheated their brakes on a BSO. As for durability, the peak point is normally stuff in the Shimano Acera to Deore range. Some people get by on BSO's, but in general, they are unpleasant to ride and unreliable compared to a used bike in that price range.
    – Batman
    Mar 15 '14 at 15:14
  • @Batman Go check out a MTB BSO -- they typically come equipped with RevoShifters (yes, indexed shifting is standard today, even on BSOs). And I have overheated my brakes on my BSO -- there are some murderous on-road downhills where I live. First replacements are chains, then rims, typically. And no, BSOs are not so uncomfortable as you think if a decent saddle and seatpost are fitted -- and bar-ends are a must. Bike snobs are totally discounting the effect economy of scale has has on decent feature availability in bicycles. BTW, I've got an 8,000km+ chainwheel on a stock MTB BSO.
    – zxq9
    Mar 15 '14 at 17:29
  • -1: For suggesting a complete novice use clip-less..... I'd give another couple of -1's if I could for other things.
    – mattnz
    Mar 16 '14 at 3:11
  • @mattnz They are flip-flop clipless/platform, and not broad-cleated. But you probably didn't verify anything I wrote and certainly haven't validated any of your own assumptions concerning the state of mass cycle availability -- especially in India (which is where this question apparently relates to anyway...). But attitudes such as yours are precisely why this community is still in beta and probably won't make it off the ground -- anything written here is almost guaranteed to not apply to the average Joe looking for basic/utility cycling advice.
    – zxq9
    Mar 16 '14 at 11:59
  • I admit my experience is Western World, If location is important the OP should have said so. I did look at those pedals and stand by my assertion they are not suitable for novices (I have a set of single sided clipless in the shed, I do have experience with them, which is why they are in my shed and not on a bike.)
    – mattnz
    Mar 16 '14 at 20:42

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