June 3, 2005 2:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm fat and I wouldn't mind getting a bike.

I don't know if I want to go with a standard mountain bike, though. Recumbent bikes look like a nice alternative, but I don't know enough about them or whether I'd actually get any decent exercise out of riding one. Do any of you guys know more about them, or care to suggest other interesting alternative bikes?
posted by jimmy to Health & Fitness (26 answers total)
Worksman makes some nice heavy duty cycles.
posted by Marky at 3:13 AM on June 3, 2005

Cycling is exercise for the soul.

The bike you should get is the Kona Hoss. It's built like a b*st*rd, and, assuming that you're not too fat to get out of your front door, it'll take your weight. I've got a Hoss, although I'm not overweight, and I love it. Rides beautifully, and feels like it'll last forever.

Mountain biking, and trail riding, is awesome. Once you get used to it, you'll be making excuses to yourself to get out and do some more.

From the little that I know about recumbents, they're all about efficient delivery of power, which seems, to me, to be the opposite of exercise. Plus, if you're cycling in a city, or on busy roads, they put your head on a level with a car's front grill. That's a bad thing.

If you want some serious bike advice, check out Bike Forums. There's loads of people there that will help you.
posted by veedubya at 3:29 AM on June 3, 2005

get whatever bike you find most comfortable and fun. the important thing is that you use it, not that it be any particular style.

if you ask bike people what bike you should get you'll be swamped by heated opinions that really don't matter compared to actually getting a bike and using it.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:10 AM on June 3, 2005

andrew cooke, the question was (in part) care to suggest other interesting alternative bikes?

My guess is that the person that asked the question is more interested in listening to suggestions regarding bikes, than being told that they shouldn't be asking the question.
posted by veedubya at 8:22 AM on June 3, 2005

ok, i'll try answering in a way that veedubya will approve of, since it seems they've been appointed thread policeman for the day.

worrying about which kind of bike gives you most exercise is irrelevant for two reasons.

first, if a recumbent is more efficient, you can simply go faster. the limiting factor is how much effort you put in, not what design the bike is.

second, the amount of exercise you get is, in practice, goign to depend more on how often you cycle than on exactly what kind of bike you use. so get a bike you like.

is that acceptable, veedubya, or do i need to submit my replies to you by email for approval in future?
posted by andrew cooke at 8:29 AM on June 3, 2005

I don't know enough about them or whether I'd actually get any decent exercise out of riding one

remember this: bikes are just like people or animals... no one, no matter how long they've been riding, really has them totally figured out... and they're all different... and, despite the fact that they are, after all, mechanical things, they can be quite unpredictable, moody, and occasionally disappointing.

also remember this: riding bicycles is fun... but sometimes it sucks. please don't give up on it too early. when you bust out a sweat like never before, keep at it... when your butt and your taint are worked raw, keep at it. it will get easier and more enjoyable; i swear.
posted by RockyChrysler at 8:30 AM on June 3, 2005

Veedubya approves the above post. Thank you for your cooperation.

Actually, to be fair, I realised after I'd posted that it was snarky of me, and searched in vain for a 'retract' button. The only excuse I can offer, is that I have a haunting fear that this guy could somehow end up with a Specialised, when he should be getting a Kona.

Am I thread policeman for the whole day, or just until home-time?
posted by veedubya at 8:33 AM on June 3, 2005

How about a tricycle? Kind of like a recumbent, but more stable and can probably handle a lot more weight (although it's my understanding that even really light road bikes can handle up to 300 pounds without much of a problem).

Madwagon makes (or more likely, brands) one: the Tri-Metro.
posted by cog_nate at 8:34 AM on June 3, 2005

I'll echo ac's comment that it desn't matter what you ride as long as the bike makes your heart race every time you walk past it and feels so good riding that you don't want to get off. In my experience, people can blow $5k+ on a bike, but if it's not comfortable to ride it just stays hung up on the garage wall.

Get a bike that fits like a glove and makes you feel like riding. It doesn't matter if it's a 'bent, an ATB, a racer, a tourer (but don't get a fixie as your first bike---those guys are all total PRE-verts).

Demand that the bike shop give you the full deal for bike fit, don't get conned into upgrading components too much (the quality of your deraillers really doesn't matter much, more$ is mostly less weight these days). Don't worry about resistance, if you've got less, you'll just go faster.

Light bikes ARE a real attraction though. There's something about a sub 25lb/10kg bike that just wispers "ride me!" every time I walk past.
posted by bonehead at 8:47 AM on June 3, 2005

Go to your local shop(s) and try out some different bikes. While you might like a recumbent, they have their own flaws, as pointed out above they're not the best for hill climbing. Is your interest in the recumbent based upon the apparent comfort of the seating? Traditional bike seating isn't that bad, but there's a way to make sure the seat's adjusted right - get with your shop on this. Remember as a human-powered machine there considerations that have to be made in seating position that aren't apparent when you're first getting into bikes.

There's "cross" or "hybrid" bikes which have the upright seating of mountain bikes, but have more street-oriented designs otherwise. From the sounds you're making I'd suggest looking hard at one of those. Go ahead and get something with gears. Modern bikes are pretty easy to shift and reliable and being able to change gears makes riding so much easier.

I'm assuming for starters you're going to ride around the neighborhood and that sort of thing, yes? Your local shop has sold to lots of people like you and will have some good choices available. That's why I don't recommend a brand this or that. Get the brand your local shop can help you get comfortable with. In the end one bike's about like any other (until you get to where you can appreciate the nuanced points between models).

When you buy it, get a spare tube, and a tire pump. The biggest mistake newbies make is not keeping their tires aired up (air up at least once a week). Don't try to take over the world your first few rides. Just go out and cruise around, keep it fun. As long as you're having fun you'll keep going back to it, and as long as you keep going back to it your fitness level will improve. Wear a helmet, and gloves are a good idea. Hydrate, avoid cars, enjoy.
posted by Elvis at 8:50 AM on June 3, 2005

By the way, with regard to weight, the only thing to be concerned about with bike build is the wheels. The vast majority of frames, pedals and components can take just whatever weight of a huma rider. Make sure that you get 36-spoke jobbies. Won't (shouldn't) cost more. Don't get talked into a "stupid-light" low-spoke-count wheel. I'm a husky guy, and I always go for 36-spoke wheels.

The other thing to look for is decent tires. Get bigger rather than smaller (38mm or 1.5 inch +). Smooth tires are also much more comforatble on the road.
posted by bonehead at 8:52 AM on June 3, 2005

I'll echo ac's comment that it desn't matter what you ride as long as the bike makes your heart race every time you walk past it

Woo! Find me one of those - if it'll keep my heart racing for 20 minutes every time I walk past it I can avoid having to get on the damned thing.

As Elvis says, look at hybrids if it's going to be partially/mostly street riding. You'll find a standard mountain bike unpleasant on city streets. I'd also suggest avoiding gear overload - personally I find I end up just using 3.

As far as all the accessories people mention, don't fail to get a good pressure gauge. Those stick things are garbage. The cheapie digitals, amazingly, often work well.
posted by phearlez at 10:17 AM on June 3, 2005

I've been in this boat (or on this bike) and as a non gearhead, I would second the hybrid choice. You want to be pretty fit before doing actual trail riding, but riding a knobbly mountain bike on the roads is something like 20% extra drag. That can be discouraging. I got a hybrid cannondale with street tires and I love it. You can jump the occasional curb if needed, but as a commuter bike it is great. If you are overweight, you will sweat more. Get a well vented helmet and a couple of water bottles. Wear some chafe-resistant cycling shorts under some regular shorts or sweat pants. The weight of the frame is neglibible compared to your extra weight, so dont worry about that so much, but weight on the wheel rims is correlated with extra effort. Get a bike that lets you sit quite upright (at the uprioght end of the mountain bike scale), as bending over can compress your lungs and being overweight could be more uncomfortable than necessary. As noted, start off with some nice, even grade cycles - hills can be very discouraging. There is no shame in walking your bike up a hill, better that than not riding at all. In summary, get a good, smooth, well made bike designed for the street that is a pleasure to ride and you will want to ride it. If biking makes you lose weight, get fit, and you love it, then treat yourself to a second bike for trails or for roadwork, or whatever. It would be the best present to yourself ever.

On preview: what a bunch of other people said.
posted by Rumple at 10:19 AM on June 3, 2005

I _used_ to be fat and then I got a bike. I started off with a MTB and then picked up a road bike. The MTB is awesome, but the road bike changed my life. As much as I love mountain biking, its more of a time commitment because you have to pack up and get(drive) to the trail head.

A road bike will enable you to just go. I now pretty much bike everywhere, and my body thanks me. I haven't lost too many pounds, but my body fat % has changed drastically, and I'll take it.

And oh yeah, what bonehead said about the tires :)
posted by neilkod at 11:05 AM on June 3, 2005

I laughed when I read the last part of this question, because when I'm out on my recumbent, people ALWAYS ask me if I "get any exercise on that thing." Well, yeah, I mean, it's still a bicycle.

What fools people is that it is so comfortable. You can ride for hours and not get a sore (neck, arms, wrists, back, bottom). Personally I find bents more fun than wedgies too, especially at high speed. First time riders almost always get the "recumbent grin." It does take a few minutes to get the hang of it though -- it's like learning to ride a bicycle.

In terms of safety, many recumbents are as high as cars, and if you fall, you're going feet first, not head first. A friend testifies (from experience) that getting doored on a bent is way less traumatic than getting doored on a wedgie. I (and several acquaintances) commute regularly on recumbents without incident.

Recumbents are heavier and you can't stand up on the pedals, but I find I still climb hills faster than on my old wedgie. It depends mostly on the engine, I guess :-)

If you're interested in recumbents, I suggest you go to a bicycle store that carries several models and try out a bunch. You can choose between above-seat steering vs under-seat steering, between long wheelbase (LWB) vs short wheelbase (SWB), and between upright mesh seats and reclined hardshell seats. You should try all these options -- I know was surprised by what I ended up preferring. The Bent Guide has lots of pictures of what these configurations look like. (Some Burley bikes let you switch between some of these choices.)

There are lots of solid choices for US$1000-1500. I wouldn't go much lower though, unless buying used. Lots of people change their minds after a year, so there is a fairly liquid used market (google for recumbent classifieds). But if your local bike shop doesn't have any experience assembling recumbents, you might want to avoid this route for buying your first recumbent.

There are lots of online recumbent resources with reviews, such as BentRider Online. Feel free to email me (or post here :-) if you have questions.

If you want a non-recumbent, try a beach cruiser style bike or one of these RANS uprights. They have high handlebars so you don't have to bend over. Bending over is the cause of most bicycle pain, imho.
posted by blue grama at 11:23 AM on June 3, 2005 [1 favorite]

Blue Grama's advice is good. Recumbents are fun, you can stay in the saddle for a long time without pain, and descending a hill on one feels like you're in a jet fighter.

on climbing with a bent

I don't have anything against road bikes or mountain bikes, and you can get some amazing deals in the $300 range. Oh, your butt will hurt for a week or so. Don't be put off, it will go away.
posted by craniac at 11:35 AM on June 3, 2005

Hee! I didn't know about recumbant trikes until now, nor about the groovy go-karty bike vehicles. Now I want one!
posted by dejah420 at 12:55 PM on June 3, 2005

Jimmy: it doesn't sound like you're too into biking, so I don't honestly think you're going to last too long in the cycling world. So if you do get a bike, look into a getting a trainer/ resistance roller too: that way when you inevitably get bored of exercising, you can just set the bike up in front of the TV and do a 30 minute ride watching your favorite show. That's what I do every night - and I'm slim!
posted by forallmankind at 1:01 PM on June 3, 2005

In their deepest hearts, even the most dedicated track rider lusts after the sublime artifact that is a Greenspeed recumbent tadpole tricycle.
posted by bonehead at 1:14 PM on June 3, 2005

if veedbuya had an email in its profile it would get a friendly email - no worries.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:24 PM on June 3, 2005

Check out the Electra Townie (I'm too lazy to link and you can just Google it yourself) for an interesting compromise between 'keeps my pocket protector in place 'cause I don't have to bend over" recumbent and truly upright road/hybrid/MTB position. "Flat Foot Technology" allows you to plant both feet on the ground when stopped, something that seems vexing for many new or newly starting over cyclists. Yes, road cycling changed my life, too. Now I can ride 100 miles without coating once, big deal.
posted by fixedgear at 3:00 PM on June 3, 2005

btw: look who rides a recumbent.
posted by RockyChrysler at 3:12 PM on June 3, 2005

bonehead: check out the Greenspeed convertible tandem recumbent suitcase tadpole tricycle -- with bonus canoe rack (scroll down). That particular trike owner also built a half-ton trailer to haul around a hammond organ (and organist), and later a pedal powered pub. So you see recumbents are also practical.

fixedgear: It's funny you should mention how a recumbent "keeps my pocket protector in place." One thing about recumbents is that stuff always falls out of your pants pockets. Kind of like sitting on a couch. So you have to wear a fanny pack or something. Talk about looking doofy.

That Townie you pointed out is pretty sweet.
posted by blue grama at 4:31 PM on June 3, 2005

Fat and think bike will help de-fat ? No no no sir...walking or marching or swimming (the best) will have a better effect WITH a good diet.

But biking is very fun..and during summer it's the best as even in hot air you remain relatively fresh..but hey don't push too hard in summers.

As for the fatness far as I know the important factor is should buy a bike that is ok for your should insist and find out some store that sells bikes by height as the influence on your pedaling style will be great.

Which one, MTB or Normal bike ? It really depends on the streets you're going to use. If a lot of asphalt, Normal bike is A-OK...but I learned on MTB so I got a bias about MTB I love them everywhere. YEt, normal bike will give more performance on asphalt, MTB is a must only on dirt..and if you learn on dirt asphalt will be a nobrainer.

But again...if you're looking JUST to lose isn't the right tool...but if you're doing it ALSO fur isn't the right tool, but it's very fun AND will help you think that ..hell losing that extra weight will pay back thousand when pedaling..increase cool look AND you'll feel hella lot better
posted by elpapacito at 4:51 PM on June 3, 2005

If the Kona in the first comment looks like a winner but is out of your price range, to me it looks like an exact copy of the Specialized HardRock that I'm currently riding - except the Specialized will cost you about $200 less. For $599 you can go with the pro model, with disc brakes. I went with the comp model, a little less cash but the same big beefy frame. Love it. The front shocks take a surprising amount of pain out of my wrists while riding... my old bike (an 11-year old HardRock) had solid forks and it hurt after a while.

You'll probably want a larger seat though, the Body Geometry seat it comes with is great but not built to support a larger derriere. There are a lot of choices out there, Serfas makes some nice ergonomic seats designed to take the pressure off of the critical regions while riding. For darn sure get some bike shorts if you're going to ride an upright, even with a cushier seat. The mountain biking shorts are nice for the non-svelte, they've got the same skin-tight padded liner but feature an integrated baggy pair of shorts as a shell, so no fear that you'll feel as self-conscious as you would with the spandex racing shorts. Extra padding where it counts can really make the difference between wanting to go for a ride vs. not wanting to crush your pelvic nerves again.

Specialized makes some damn good bikes. I was sold on my first one after one ride, my wife was the impetus behind the upgrade to the new model - she took one ride on a rented HardRock and couldn't go back to her old bike after that.

Some components like pedals, etc. will wear out faster under a heavier load (I went through three sets of pedals on my old bike - I wasn't that overweight at the time, either - maybe 20 lbs. more than I should have been). Expect to either upgrade some components or replace them eventually.

Lastly, find a good bike shop and talk to the people who work there. They will likely have dealt with customers in your position before, and will know what to recommend in terms of what bikes will or will not hold up under your use, what parts to be especially careful about, etc.

Biking is a hell of a lot of fun if you get into it. I'm looking forward to hitting some more trails this weekend. Good luck!
posted by caution live frogs at 7:24 PM on June 3, 2005

Tugrik on LiveJournal posts about his thoughts and experiences buying a bike for his 550-lb frame.

He eventually went with the plan he outlines here.

He's a super cool guy and if you used his contact info in his LJ userpage I'm sure he'd be delighted to give you his thoughts.

Just a warning, I found recumbents to be deadly on my hip joints. I can't ride them - I'm crippled for days afterwards. I myself ride a cyclocross bike (Bianchi Axis) designed for hard singletrack, around a city with ill-maintained roads. It's a wonderfully good compromise between performance and survivability.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:50 AM on June 6, 2005 [1 favorite]

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