Help me find a bike for poor giants
August 19, 2019 7:27 AM   Subscribe

I want a really big, strong bike that does not cost several thousand dollars. I don't care about weight. I weigh 200 pounds and usually have a 30 pound backpack on. I am over six feet tall, with long legs. I bike every day, in rain and in snow, on poorly maintained roads and over curbs. I want a bike that is not constantly snapping spokes and that does not cost thousands of dollars.

I found sites like "dirty sixer" but they cost as much as a small car.
posted by Nothing to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have no specific advice, but check out the Clydesdale forum on Bikeforums. They were very helpful to me in similar circumstances.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:30 AM on August 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

I weigh more than you, but am shorter, and I have a Giant (appropriately) Sedona DX which I love. It's the most comfortable bike I've owned, has front shocks and a seatpost shock, yet is still pretty nimble. I ride a medium, but you'd probably want a large or extra large, depending on how much over six feet you are.
posted by The Deej at 7:36 AM on August 19, 2019

Sounds like you need stronger wheels more than anything else. Go to a decent bike shop and ask them to run you up some bombproof wheels.

Alternatively, learn to build your own! It’s surprisingly satisfying! It’s also admittedly somewhat fiddly, so only do this if you like a) learning new skills for the hell of it & b) endless tweaking.

Some useful information on wheels in general is contained in the relevant section of Sheldon Brown’s archived site.
posted by pharm at 7:38 AM on August 19, 2019

Also, have you learnt how to curb / bunny hop properly?
posted by pharm at 7:43 AM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I weigh considerably more than you (even when you have your backpack on; speaking of which, consider panniers), and I have never had a particular problem with breaking spokes on my city bike. My city bike is a Specialized Crossroads, but it's also over twenty years old; the current model seems quite a bit different. I've looked covetously at the Marin Muirwoods lately. As already said, ask your bike shop about getting beefier spokes, and maybe even consider a mountain bike with slick/reverse tread tires; also, learn to bunny hop or just use the accessibility curb cutouts if they have them where you are.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:00 AM on August 19, 2019

If you're really sure you don't care about weight, maybe a Swiss Army Bike?
posted by slenderloris at 8:01 AM on August 19, 2019

I've got a weight-weeny bike, but I'm a similar weight, and was regularly breaking spokes and untruing the wheels-- moved to a set of wheels catering for the cyclocross discipline (Mavic in my case) and since then (2 years) I've never had to touch the wheel, it's been rock solid. The Mavic wheels assume the wheels are carrying (in total) up to 120kg.

I think mine are ATSM Category 2 (built to handle 15cm jumps) but for full bomb-proof you could go for a category 3 wheel (60cm jumps)
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:03 AM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I appreciate the tips, but I do know how to bunnyhop, and I really do want a big bike, as well as a sturdy one. I ride a lot, and hard. I ride over packed snow and ice that cannot be hopped. I ride fast, in traffic, where it is not always possible to dodge potholes safely. I know there is no magic bike that can handlea anything, but I would like a big bike built for durability.
posted by Nothing at 8:13 AM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Rivendell's lower-end Clem Smith Jr goes for $1650 and is built like a tank. I've test ridden one and it's got a very nice ride quality; and you can certainly swap out their tires for something more performant. It won't be the fasted ride out there, but it will make a very serviceable commuter, as it's built for racks and fenders.

I have two Rivs myself (an Atlantis and an A Homer Hilsen), weigh 225lbs and am 6'2", and they have never had any issues for me.
posted by kdar at 8:32 AM on August 19, 2019

I was shocked when I bought my Specialized "Rock Hopper" (air quotes which will be apparent shortly) for road riding and broke two spokes within two months. I weigh about what you do with the pack, commuting, occasionally riding off a curb or over a pothole, and the idea that the stock bike was not built for that was dismaying, to put it mildly. However my bike shop replaced the rear wheel with a different model, one with spokes that don't look any more durable to me, but that was 10 years ago now. I have put at least five thousand miles on that bike without (knock on wood) any more broken spokes. The pedals have worn down to the point where they don't grip like they used to, some parts are starting to rust despite 100% garaging, the saddle has a few cracks in the cover, but dammit, the wheel is fine!

I don't know what the deal is with the wimpy stock spokes, I guess they save a few bucks by speccing the bike for 150-pound people, but it is a solvable problem.
posted by wnissen at 8:39 AM on August 19, 2019

Breaking spokes is the big problem? What kind of bike do you have now, and what kind of tires are on it?

If I were you, the first thing I would do is fit a set of the fattest, balloon-iest Schwalbe touring tires that fit in the frame of my current bike and see if that improved the situation.

If that wasn't enough, I'd look for a used steel-framed mountain bike with 29-inch wheels and no suspension that can be set up either geared or singlespeed. Surly had one called the Karate Monkey, Salsa has the El Mariachi, and there are/were lots of others, so it shouldn't be too hard to find a used L or XL model.
posted by box at 8:40 AM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh, and the Rockhopper is about $500.
posted by wnissen at 8:57 AM on August 19, 2019

If you've already got a bike you like, maybe you just need better wheels. It's not like the whole bike needs to be treated as an indivisible unit. Although "factory wheels" have kind of taken over cycling, any good bike shop can hand-build you a set of high-quality wheels that can take all the abuse you can dish out. There are a some custom wheel builders online, too, for example, Peter White Cycles. You'll note that he charges by the spoke. 32 spokes or 28 spokes (or even fewer) are pretty common on quality bikes these days, but you want 36 spokes or possibly even 40 (40 is usually reserved for tandems). The wheel builder will be able to build something that meets your needs.

The build process is important. You could have two wheels built of identical rims, hubs, and spokes, with one being poorly built and the other being well-built, and the difference in durability would quickly become obvious.

Once you pay enough to get beyond department-store bikes, bikes are pretty damn good in general. It would be understandable that you'd be having troubles with wheels specifically, but I wouldn't worry much about the frame or most other components (possible exceptions being handlebars). You can usually get a better deal used, and I've found a number of dealers on Craigslist and Ebay who seem to specialize in new-old stock--unused bikes that are a year or two old. These are maybe 50% of original list price, so you can get a lot for your money.
posted by adamrice at 10:44 AM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'd honestly wait a few months until the end of year sales hit and then check out some of the larger sites like Jenson USA and Chain Reaction Cycles for their end of year deals.

You sound like you're looking for something between a Cyclocross/Gravel bike or even a hard tail mountain bike.

This Kona Jake the Snake is a good example of a really nice bike gravel for a great price. That being said this Diamondback Carbon mountain bike is a ridiculously good deal for a great bike.

Hard to point you in the right direction without narrowing down more what you want. The two bikes I've linked to cost the same and are both really solid bikes - but are going to ride very differently.

And again around November there's some ridiculous deals to be had.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:16 PM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

What else would be good to know? I ride a lot, but I am not a bike person if you know what I mean. I think my dream bike would be a 3 or 7 speed bike, because though I have always owned 18 and 21 speeds, I realistically rarely use more than 3. I don't need the very low end, I can hill climb in the middle just fine. I do want the higher end to be high enough to keep up with traffic - 30-40kph. A hub gear would seem to be ideal because the cost (weight) is something I don't care about, and I ride through winter with salted roads, so keeping the gears sealed up seems like a good bet. But maybe I don't know what I am talking about.

I prefer a more upright posture, but not fully upright because there is a lot of wind where I live and I need the possibility to hunker down.

I often carry heavy loads such as groceries or construction materials.

I like to tinker and am happy to learn to repair my bike, but I also don't have a lot of time - it will not be my hobby.
posted by Nothing at 2:43 PM on August 19, 2019

I think the bike my ex had was a Surly Ogre? That thing was a solid beast, and he rode it all over, roads and gravel. He ended up getting different handlebars to fit his particular riding style but otherwise it seemed to work pretty well. (It sounds like you're about his size, too.)
posted by epersonae at 4:32 PM on August 19, 2019

I also weigh more than you and my vintage not heavyweight frame Benotto with random gear from the 90s (as is from when I bought it: Mavic wheels is all I can think of off the top) has held up fine. I also use messenger bags, pull 2 kids in a Burly Bee bike trailer, and have/had panniers for my massive textbook load.

I'd break a spoke every now and then when I was using it daily but I figured that was a symptom of my 'neglect maintenance until something isn't working right' mentality.

I wonder if your route or riding style is particularly rough as I sounds like it is, or if you had a particularly shitty bike to begin with. A steel frame vintage bike, of any non extreme race style, from the past should do you well. Your local bike shop (or co op if you have one!) Should be your first stop.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:03 PM on August 19, 2019

Since you mentioned sealed hub gears, I have an Uptown Breezer 8, which has hub gears (I have the previous model with 7 speeds but otherwise it's basically the same). It's been a reliable daily driver for five years, and I've had virtually no problems with it. The sprung seatpost crapped out soon after I bought it, so the shop swapped in a normal one for free, and something came adrift on the back wheel that meant the chain kept jumping - a $20 fix.

I find the hub gears super practical. They need zero maintenance (nothing, not even lubricating), you can change gears while stopped, and like you I find 7 gears to be enough.

I'm a bit smaller than you (5'10'', 140 lb) but I regularly carry a 50 lb child on a seat on the rear rack. I ride it on atrocious potholed roads and am yet to have a flat. Around $800 new with all the stuff you need for commuting already on there (rack, fenders, lights). It is definitely not a cool bike but has that car-like practicality.
posted by ogorki at 9:57 PM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

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