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I am a fairly large person (140kg). 7 years ago I used to bike quite a lot (I would go everywhere every day on the bike). Back then I weighed much less (I also was much younger, now I am 20 years old). I am looking to buy an entry level bike (is around 250 euros but I can go higher, which is a decent sum in Romania).

My question is: what should I look out for in choosing my bike in order to be sure that I am buying a bike that will last me for some time: what parts that tend to be most affected my the users' weight should I check, what dimension for the tires (I am 1.90 m tall) etc.

I will mainly use it to go on normal, asphalt, roads, so I don't require something that is sturdy from that point of view. I plan on using it almost as much as I used the bike back then.

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    20 is old? That hurts. I would recommend a used steel bike. – paparazzo Jul 27 '17 at 12:29
  • er... older?... – Kiran Kulkarni Jul 27 '17 at 12:56
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    Sturdy wheels with high spoke count: 32 or more. – Argenti Apparatus Jul 27 '17 at 15:16
  • Used bike for your height are much less common than for short people, and learning on an undersized bike isn't great. But shop around and you can get somethign reasonable. Try to go for something that will take tyres of around 35mm, rather than really skinny wheels. – Chris H Jul 27 '17 at 15:17
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    At that price point, consider a used a bike, you will get a much better bike for your money. – mattnz Jul 27 '17 at 20:09
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With cheaper bikes the rear cluster of sprockets may be the old screw-on freewheel type. Avoid this at all costs.

I was about 110kg when I bought my first bike with a freewheel and I kept snapping axles. The layout of the bearings within the hub means your weight and pedaling force exert a strong leverage on one end of the axle.

You want a newer cassette type rear hub.

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  • That is an excellent point. Note this is less of an issue on 5 cog freewheels. 6 gear freewheels were worse, and there are very few 7 speed freewheels. Anything with 8-9 gears in the rear cog block will be a cassette which is better for you. But 10-11 gears will likely be too expensive. – Criggie Jul 28 '17 at 5:41
  • The budget was just a bare minimum that I want to spend on the bike, going any lower won't give me something good. It was also the price most bikes I've found were at. Thank you so much for your advice! I've only had those freewheel type on all 3 bikes that I've owned. Never thought it would be a problem with added weight. It would honestly have been the last thing I would look at, so this advice is the best here in my opinion. – Stefan Roman Jul 28 '17 at 8:55
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    @Criggie Yeah I forgot to mention the number of sprockets matters. The more you have the wider the cluster and the more leverage you get on the end. Mine was 7 speed. I imagine it might not be a problem with a high quality hub but here in the UK only cheap bikes still come with freewheels. – Jambo Jul 28 '17 at 10:30
  • I would say also avoid non-Shimano products even though they may be cassette-type freehubs. I have bent the axle of a 8-speed cassette-type non-Shimano freehub when I weighed only 75kg or so. – juhist Jul 28 '17 at 11:47
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You should buy a touring bike. Whereas a regular road bike can accommodate a person weighting 100kg, a touring bike can accommodate a person weighting 100kg and also 40kg of cargo. So, without cargo, a touring bike will accommodate a 140kg person.

Needless to say, avoid those low spoke count wheels and select 36-spoke wheels. There is absolutely no reason to choose 32 spokes unless you really have to. Less spokes than 32? No way! (Although I have to say you can get away with 32 spokes on the front wheel, but I don't see the reason for making such a strange choice.)

Unfortunately, such quality bikes cost starting from about 1000 EUR, not about 250 EUR. The one I have has been built myself from the Long Haul Trucker frame: http://surlybikes.com/bikes/long_haul_trucker but I wouldn't recommend building a bike yourself unless you really want to learn how bikes work.

I don't believe you can find a decent touring bike as new costing only 250 EUR, so your only options are to increase your budget or to look for used touring bikes.

If you find your seat post slips due to your high weight, buy a big honking seat post clamp: http://surlybikes.com/parts/small_parts/constrictor

If you find the spokes don't stay tight, first have a competent mechanic adjust spoke tension and true the wheel, and if that doesn't help, buy some good quality rims and have new wheels built. The wheels I built myself use these rims: https://www.rosebikes.de/artikel/xtreme-sari-t-19-r-28-atb-felge/aid:46903 ...that absolutely can withstand a 140kg person, provided that the spokes are tight. Unfortunately, they don't seem to offer a 36-hole variant anymore (I bought them when 36-hole variant was offered), so that may necessitate making the strange choice of 32 spokes. Use DT Swiss Alpine triple-butted spokes in the 2.0mm variety if you need to have a new wheel built.

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I would suggest a quality older Chrome-moly steel framed rigid fork mountain bike. The older Bridgestone (MB-2,3,4,or 5), Trek 820 or 850 or Specialized RockHopper. The older mountain bikes were built for what was then considered abusive conditions. They are more than strong enough for bike paths or grassy trails. Don't even consider taking them on any kind of technical terrain. If you mount street slicks or mild knobbie they can be quite streetable. The cranks tended to be in the 48t-36t-26t range. This gearing lends itself to touring and hilly road riding.

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  • Why not use them on technical terrain? – mattnz Jul 27 '17 at 23:42
  • Older mountain bike were basically heavy-duty street bike designs. So in theory if they designed the bike for an 80kg rider to clear a six inch obstacle a 140kg rider clearing the same obstacle is likely to cause some damage or failure. – mikes Jul 28 '17 at 0:33
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I'd suggest a used steel rigid commuter bike or mountain bike.

  1. Used is cheaper, and you'll get more value for your money. However look out for stolen bikes, and have no fear of walking away if anything feels bad.

How do I tell if a used bike (craigslist) is worth it? and
What should I look for when buying a used bicycle? are good reads.

  1. Steel because its relatively strong, and more forgiving when you stress it.

  2. Rigid because suspension breaks down over time, and at your mass you'll be stressing it pretty hard. Also, suspension adds weight making the riding slower and harder. You don't need suspension on the road, and not even on many off-road trails.

  3. Commuter or hybrid or MTB style with a flat bar gives you a more upright position, and helps avoid the belly/thigh collisions that come about if you try and ride a road bike. There's a fair chance that when you've lost a bit of weight, you might want to try something road-ish, but to get started, just be riding.

Finally - one of the great quotes of cycling is that "it never gets easier, you just go faster" So it can feel like you're not making any progress at all. Instead, get a phone app like Strava and track all your rides. Once you've been down some segments a couple of times, you'll notice your times steadily improving, and that's exactly what you need to see to maintain motivation.

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  • Thank you so much for your suggestion! I won't lack motivation for sure since I'm not necessarily buying it for weight loss (although I would love if it would help) but more to ease my commute. As I said I used to ride a lot and even back then I wasn't in that great of a shape. Much of the advice I've been given is prone to localisation problems, since I don't know how many people are that knowledgeable about bikes in stores. Bikes here in Romania are much cheaper for greater quality as well, so I hope I can find a decent fit. – Stefan Roman Jul 28 '17 at 8:51
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    Also, the budget isn't really a problem, it's just what I've seen the most bikes to be priced at that looked pretty sturdy. I can always pump out enough money if it's a worthwhile investment. Thank you for your advice! – Stefan Roman Jul 28 '17 at 8:52
  • In what way is steel "more forgiving" when you stress it compared to, say, aluminium? Not that I have anything against steel (I currently have a chrome-moly steel frame), but parts can and do fail no matter whether they are made from steel or aluminium. For low cycle fatigue, the most relevant failure mode here, steel doesn't offer any advantages versus aluminium, as the fatigue limit only kicks in at over million fatigue cycles. I wouldn't trust steel any more than I trust aluminium, but I trust both more than carbon fiber (but carbon fiber is out of OP's price range). – juhist Jul 28 '17 at 16:36
  • @juhist thats a separate question - nothing is failure-proof, but in brief, steel tends to give warning of failure by bending, or cracking slower. Aluminium tends to be stiffer and "buzzier" because it has less flex than steel, and when aluminium breaks, it tends to happen quickly, with little warning. Steel will cope with excess loading better than aluminium, more from hitting a sudden pothole while heavily loaded rather than the mass of the rider alone. – Criggie Jul 28 '17 at 21:43

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