Bicycle clothes/gear for big bodies?
October 14, 2010 9:39 AM   Subscribe

I like riding my bicycle, but I'm having trouble finding clothes that fit. I'm 6'1", 305 lbs. I've researched other askme's, and there was some good stuff-- including the only company I can find so far that even comes close to fitting me-- 3XL the Minus 33 merino shirt, and even that is pretty small and tight on me. But I'm looking for more information and pointers than I can find on my own. I know there is a passionate bicycling clique here at Metafilter, and I'm hoping they can offer me some advice and sources for clothes to fit my odd-shaped body. Details below the jump.

It took me 20 years to learn to love a bicycle again. After my riding experiences as a Mormon missionary in the 1980s US south, I didn't want to see one of the things ever again. But now here I am, age 42, finally with a little bit of free time and one year left on my assignment in one of the world's great cities-- Washington DC. So over the summer I've been loving riding my mountain bike on the many public trails in the region. I wish now I had a road or touring/expedition bike, but that will have to wait for another day. I've basically been wearing my regular gym clothes with a helmet and reflective vest, but the weather here is turning colder. I hope the hive can help locate some bicycle approprate chill weather gear. There have been some great questions here on gear and commuting in general, but I have an odd shaped body. I'm not quite 6'1" (185 cm) and 305 pounds (138 kg). My chest and shoulders are very wide (54"/137 cm) and my legs are proportionally quite short. For most clothes labels, I usually take something in the range of XXXL and if a "Tall" size is offered, I always take it because my torso is so long. Even though I ride about 70-100 miles/week, I'm still pretty ignorant about bicycle culture and equipment. Those pant thingies with the pads? Jacket (jerseys?) with pockets on the lower back? It's all unexplored territory for me. What should I be looking for? What is best? I've heard about special seats that can protect my man-parts. Is that a scam? One thing I won't be looking for are shoes or toe-clips since previous research has made me quite happy with power straps and my regular gym shoes. I'm mostly riding 50-70% on trails (walking trails, not for mountain bikes, just for regular city hikers), the rest is street riding. I read something about solid tires, but they have to special build them for you if you weigh as much as I do. Obviously my goal with biking is to lose weight as well as have fun. Finally, does anyone have any recommendations for GPS/heart rate tracking? Something like this? Thank you for any pointers you have. I love this web place!
posted by seasparrow to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak to the quality of the merchandise, but my Google-fu located this company.
posted by purlgurly at 9:49 AM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, finding a good tailor could be a great help.
posted by purlgurly at 9:51 AM on October 14, 2010

Best answer: Big guys often prefer to year "bibs" to shorts. Bibs don't ride down the way shorts can, and they're more comfortable for longer periods. Here's one on huge markdown with a few XXL's left. These work well as undergarments too, you can wear regular shorts over them quite comfortably. Important if you want to have pockets, for example. This gives you more flexibility than bike-specific padded mountain-bike shorts.

For shirts, you don't need a cycle-specific jersey, particularly if you're not doing higher-speed road cycling. An "athletic" t-shirt will work just fine in most situations. Wallmart sells Coolmax shirts for reasonable prices.

I've tried a few of those cut-out saddles and used Selle Italia Flite Trans Am Max's for a few years. Honestly, I can't say that I ever noticed much difference in my boy parts, but that seems to be a very personal thing. I just like the Flite's shape, 'cause I've got a wide butt, and the TAM was on sale. I've got a Brooks B17 now and that's even more comfortable. No numbness on it either.
posted by bonehead at 10:06 AM on October 14, 2010

Big guys often prefer to year "bibs" to shorts.

Well, yes and no.

The great thing about bibs is that everything stays in place. The difficult thing about bibs is that it can be very difficult to find a pair that fits you, because you are trying to match both waist size and torso length rather than just torso length. It's really annoying if the shoulder straps are too short or too long for your proportions.

Never buy them sight unseen -- always try them on first.
posted by randomstriker at 10:43 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

...rather than just torso length...

er...I should've said "rather than just waist size".
posted by randomstriker at 10:44 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

What type of wheels do you run? My brother isn't quite as heavy as you (he's probably in the 260 range and 6'4") but he breaks spokes/"de-trues" wheels all the time and he's always looking for opinions on strong wheels.
posted by speedgraphic at 11:01 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In racing, at least, larger cyclists are known as the Clydesdale category which might help you when searching. I found a list of clothing links as well as this forum which might be of some use.
posted by tallus at 11:44 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @speedgraphic: I've had luck so far with the stock 26" wheels. But I've only been riding heavily since the early spring, and always on streets or well maintained trails. Sorry I don't have a good answer for you.
posted by seasparrow at 11:48 AM on October 14, 2010

Best answer: Westport Big & Tall has moisture wicking t-shirts and a place called Cycle Tall has bike shorts that go to XXXL.
posted by jenny76 at 3:23 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My boyfriend recommends looking at Louis Garneau's Clydesdale offerings.

In addition to this, Giordana's Silverline long sleeved jersey comes in XXXL.
posted by sciencegeek at 6:43 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, Performance makes stuff.
posted by sciencegeek at 6:45 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I realize you said you had no interest in a shoe/pedal system, but you may want to reconsider that. Cycling shoes add a great deal of efficiency to your pedaling, since they are far stiffer than a gym shoe, and being clipped into a pedal gives you much more control over the bike. Not to mention that you can still get out lightning fast when situations dictate.

I highly recommend shorts or bibs with a chamois that suits your special-snowflake bottom. Why anybody would wear anything other than bibs is beyond me, but that's my view on it. Bibs keep the cold air out of your jersey and nether regions, and are far more comfortable.

Also, warm gloves, a wool cap to fit under your helmet, a windproof jacket, and a clip-on rear fender are all necessary items for cold weather riding.

For wheel recommendations (among other things), go looking through Sheldon Brown's site.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:27 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I realize you said you had no interest in a shoe/pedal system, but you may want to reconsider that.

Put me in the "eh, whatever floats your boat" camp here. I used to have Power Grips and loved them. But I had the odd problem with the lugs on my sole catching on the pedal when I was trying to get out of them. So I ended up having to always take care to wear shoes with a fairly flat sole (generally, not the same as what I would normally wear). I then reasoned that if I was going to wear special shoes anyway, I should just go ahead and go clipless, and I did. But, of course Power Grips can and do work well for many.

Second: you may want to consider smooth road tires if you are doing much on the road. It'll feel (and actually be) much faster for less effort without all the knobs. You can get such tires for your 26" wheels. You could also get a second pair of wheels to make switching between road/offroad easier, if you were so inclined.

I'm a bicycle commuter, and tons of us commute in clothes that are not typical bicycle wear. Now, you may want to do the spandex thing for a variety of reasons (it may be more comfortable for you, or to fit in), and that's fine, but you should know that spandex isn't the only answer here.

As far as the cold, I find that windbreaker-type clothes keep me really toasty, but it only gets down to the mid to low 30s here for a few weeks out of the year. Tights are nice, too. I end up with a lot of runner's gear since bicycle gear is generally really expensive and the needs of runners are similar to those of bicyclists.

I wouldn't consider solid tires; they're not necessary and will have a big disadvantage for you in that the tires wouldn't absorb any of the shock to anything like the wheels, bike, or you. They also don't handle as well. You will of course have to keep things well inflated, but you knew that.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:36 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

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