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Can Fat People Ride Bikes

I often talk about the different physical activities that have helped me get attuned to my body, but riding a bike is what truly helped me embrace this side of me.

But I want to be honest and tell you that this journey wasn’t easy. The last time I rode a bike or properly exercised was when I was a chubby little girl, and here I was a grown plus size woman craving that careless feeling of cycling.

But can fat people ride bikes?

While some bikes have a weight limit, there are bikes that can support people of all shapes and sizes. Cycling is also a great cardio exercise for heavy people because it’s gentler on the joints and bones, and it can protect you from serious diseases. 

There are many benefits to cycling but being overweight can feel like an obstacle.

That’s why I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be and the first thing I’m going to do is take you through the process of what to look for in a bike and how to start riding it!

Can Fat People Ride Bikes?

I’m not going to lie, there are certain challenges that fat cyclists can face, but this doesn’t mean we can’t ride bikes.

The main issue with most activities, not just cycling, is the simple fact that even though everyone wants us to lose weight in reality the world of exercise is actually catered towards small sized people more so than fat people.

This can be truly disheartening for us big folks, and the challenge that you will most likely face here is finding the bike that is catered to your weight and size. Additionally, finding cycling gear in larger sizes can be a struggle.

However, I do want to reassure you that there are bikes out there for heavy people. Even though mainstream manufacturers mainly design bikes for people that weigh less than 220 pounds, with some extra research you can find a bike that will work for your body.

I also want to make it clear that plus-size people are a diverse group, and your weight is also determined by both your height and muscle mass.

You could be obese, and simultaneously a muscular person, like a bodybuilder, or you could be very tall and come with a certain bulk that could limit your bike choices.

You could also be short like me and still feel like your body weight goes over the bike weight limit even if that’s not entirely true.

If you feel like your weight is keeping you from trying out cycling then you should know that even severely obese people can ride a bike, in fact, it might be the best type of exercise for most larger folks!

Can A 300 Pound Person Ride A Bike?

Cycling is a fun way to pass the time, get some exercise, and let your body release those happy hormones!

But if you’re worried that you’re too heavy for a regular bike, then you might want to dig deeper and be more careful when going through the bike’s features, most importantly check what each manufacturer has set as a bike weight limit.

The average bike weight limit is somewhere between 265 lbs and 300 lbs, but that’s not a universal number. If you’re a 300 pound or a 400-pound person then you can still find bikes that work for your weight.

What you need to remember when browsing for a bike is to check the exact measurements and see if it will also fit your body size, especially if you’re a very tall or short individual.

You also need to take into consideration the extra weight of the cargo that you’ll be carrying while riding the bike.

Depending on the kind of bike trip I’ve planned out for the day, I may take a bag with an extra jacket, some water, my tablet, some snacks, and the list may go on if it’s a picnic or a longer journey.

That’s why it’s best to look for a bike with some extra weight capacity for the things you may be carrying and it’s a helpful tip for those of us who fluctuate in our weight. So, if you’re 300 pounds heavy you can go for a bike that is actually designed for plus-size cyclists and comes with a weight capacity of 350 lbs.

Then again if you’re worried that mainstream bike companies won’t be able to handle your weight despite their claims, and if you have the extra money, then you could look for a bike shop that can custom-build you a bike made of sturdier materials.

What To Look For In A Bike When You’re Overweight?

If you’re thinking of exploring the world of cycling as a workout, for pleasure, or because you simply want to use an eco-friendlier means of transportation and you have a larger than the average body type then there are a few things to consider.

Bike Weight Limits

The weight limit of your future bike is one of the most important things to consider before your final purchase, but it can be difficult to determine. That’s because while some manufacturers do indicate the exact weight limit of their product, others don’t give a specific number.

For obvious reasons I prefer to seek out bikes that showcase the exact number that the bike can hold because I want to make sure that I have some extra weight capacity in case my weight changes, or I decide to load my bike with additional things.

But I also understand that this decision can limit your choices, so if you want to keep an eye on manufacturers that don’t offer a precise number, then you’ll need to pay attention to all the reviews.

Plenty of plus-size folks will make sure to indicate if a bike can hold their weight and may give you more information on how sturdy the design is overall.

Strong Wheels

You also need to look for a bike that has strong enough wheels to hold and carry your weight.

parts of a bicycle as it relates to weight capacity

As you can see in the picture bicycle wheels consist of different parts, and they rely mostly on the spokes for strength, so the more spokes the more weight they can handle.

Tandem wheels for example have more spokes than standard wheels and they can reduce the load each part of the wheel can take.

Another feature you might want to consider is the width of the tire. The wider it is, the more flexibility you’ll have with different speeds, and they can make the whole riding experience comfier.

On the other hand, getting custom wheels with good quality rims, and a larger number of strong steel spokes can be pretty costly.

Multiple Gears

Gears can definitely make your cycling experience much smoother, and with a wider range of gears, you’ll be able to find the riding conditions that are perfect for your stamina.

If you’re a novice cyclist that’s carrying a lot of weight, then I would recommend you look for a triple chainset. Three chainrings instead of two can make your cycling experience as a plus-size cyclist easier especially if you have to cycle on a steep hill.

Check The Pedals

It makes sense that metal pedals are much stronger than plastic pedals and they will last much longer under pressure. However, I do want to point out that a high-quality plastic pedal can outlive a cheaply made metal one.

There are two types of pedals you can choose from, platform pedals and clipless pedals.

Platform pedals are a great option for beginner cyclists and you can ride them with almost any shoe.

The clipless option on the other hand needs to be paired with the right shoe so you can lock your feet to the paddle. This is a more professional option and it could help with paddling efficiency, but it can add more stress to your legs since your feet will paddle while pushing down and while pulling up.

At the end of the day, I think metal platform pedals can serve plus-size cyclists more, especially at the beginning of their journey.

A Comfortable Saddle

You also need to make sure you have a comfy bike saddle to sit on, and in some cases, you might have to buy it separately.

While I do have more bulk on the top half of my body, I still carry some weight in my hip area, so I made sure to get a wider bike saddle.

This wide saddle made my cycling experience so much better, especially during longer rides, and I don’t have any saddle sores to stop me from enjoying my ride!

But before you buy an extra saddle, make sure to adjust your current saddle, because you may be feeling uncomfortable because of an initial improper adjustment.

Warranty Policy

While this might be an unexpected topic, it is one that can save you tons of money in case your bike breaks.

You need to make sure that your weight does not exceed the weight limit of the bike that is officially stated by the manufacturer.

It’s quite possible if you do exceed the limit and it so happens that you break the bike or damage it in any way you will void the warranty.

That’s why I think it’s important to go for a bike that can hold more weight, because not only will you get that extra weight capacity in case you need it, but if something happens to the bike then the manufacturer will most likely be at fault, and you’ll get your money back.

How To Start Riding A Bike When You’re Fat?

Every beginning comes with its own struggles and we larger folks can face a few challenges of our own.

However, this doesn’t mean we can’t overcome these issues and with the right knowledge, we can navigate the world of cycling with more ease.

Set Realistic Goals For Yourself

Cycling is supposed to be fun, and in order for it to be a pleasurable activity, you need to be honest with yourself and your goals.

This is a mantra that I try to stick to because I tend to daydream about my end goals and I jump right in the middle of things straight away. But I don’t want you to make the same mistakes.

So, first things first I want you to go easy on yourself, especially if you’ve just started being more active.

When you first start cycling you’ll notice how demanding it can be on your body, so avoid going for long rides and choose short trips that are fun and less tasking. For your first rides remember to choose flat terrains that you can easily cycle on.

As your body and mind become accustomed to the rhythm of cycling, you can start setting long-term goals that are more challenging, like turning your Sunday morning into a bike day, instead of doing something too drastic like taking your bike to work every day.

Not only will you find that your stamina will gradually begin to increase without too much effort, but you’ll also avoid straining your muscles or putting too much pressure on your joints and bones.

Choose The Right Bike

As I’ve already explained getting the right bike is more than half the journey, and that’s because you can’t go on this journey without a bike.

Instead of simply looking at the aesthetics, you need to make sure the bike is designed to hold bigger people and if you plan on carrying cargo, unless it’s just a fanny pack, then add some extra weight capacity to the equation.

Your height will also play a major role in this choice, because if you’re a really tall individual or a very short one like me then you may find certain bikes too uncomfortable to ride because they’ll negatively affect your posture.

For example, while riding a road and race bike you’ll most likely have to push your body forward which can be uncomfortable, while an upright bike can be more comfortable as it follows more or less the natural posture of our body.

The next thing you need to consider is the kind of riding you’re planning on doing. Perhaps you want to start riding your bike to work, or you want to run errands like grocery shopping around your area.

For some large folk, cycling is a great way to ease themselves into exercising once or twice a week. It’s also possible that you see yourself going on outdoor excursions like camping, where some mountain biking is involved.

Depending on the kind of riding you want to do and your goals, you may or may not need to get a purpose-built bike.

Of course, most bikes could do all of the above, but if you have a set goal in mind then a specialized bike would be a better option in the long run.

As a heavy rider myself I’d advise you to do plenty of research before making the final purchase and don’t forget to double-check the materials the bike is made of. Overall steel frames are sturdier, and a safer option for obese cyclists, but don’t neglect the small parts.

For example, if you can have a say in what kind of brakes your bike can have then I’d go for the disc brakes or mechanical disc brakes that have more braking power.

Consider Getting An Electric bike

Among the plethora of bike choices, a great option for plus-size people is an electric bike. And if anyone is going to say that e-bikes are the lazy option then you can simply present them with this study that states that “e-bike use leads to substantial increases in physical activity.”

What I love about electric bikes is that they’re body inclusive and even if you’re a novice cyclists the e-bike will help you with the pedaling process, especially if you’re tired of traveling long distances.

Furthermore, with the pedal assist, you can still burn calories, and the fact that the ride less tasking on your muscles can motivate you to bike more regularly.

My hubby and I live in a hilly area, so we often switch to our electric bikes, especially on the days we don’t feel like being too active, but the truth is we still are.

You can also check out this lovely lady and her husband going on a Glenwood Springs Canyon Ride, and her experience riding an E-bike!

Get Plus-Size Cyclist Gear

I do understand that not all of us have the luxury to get a new bike, as well as a brand new cyclist’s wardrobe.

Fortunately, in most cases, you’ll be fine wearing your regular workout clothing while cycling, but if you decide that cycling is your thing and you want to do more of it then I’d suggest investing in proper cyclist gear, specifically padded shorts.

First of all padded cycling shorts will make your bike riding experience much more comfortable. They minimize chaffing, so even after a couple of hours of riding you won’t experience friction and rubbing.

Padded shorts are essential for dedicated riders, especially if you have big thighs. But I do want to point out that you need to look for shorts that fit you properly. If the biking shorts are too big then the extra material can result in extra rubbing, similarly, tight shorts can affect proper blood circulation and obstruct your movements.

Depending on the type of cycling you’re getting into, remember to wear a bike helmet, weather-dependent cycling layers, like a windbreaker and a rain jacket.

Since I tend to sweat quite a lot when I exercise, and as the summertime also affects my sweating in my own unique ways, I make sure to have a sweat cap on and bike gloves when I’m riding to minimize the discomfort!

Choose Flat Terrain

It’s important to make your cycling journey as comfortable as possible especially when you’re just starting and that includes choosing the right terrain.

When I decided to ride my bike for the first time I made sure to avoid hills and steep slopes. Instead, I looked for paths that were mostly flat so I didn’t have to strain my body more than I could and had to.

Riding uphill for a heavy person who hasn’t been active for a while can be truly demoralizing. Personally, for the longest time even when I was faced with an uphill climb, I chose to get off my bike and walk up instead.

I know it can be embarrassing, and I was also scared that people could have thoughts like I wasn’t trying hard enough, but I pushed through because I knew that there’s nothing more magical than riding your bike downhill!

Make Bike Upgrades

It’s not easy to get the perfect bike when you’re fat, and even if you get a bike that’s designed for a 300 lbs and 400 lbs heavy person, you may still be faced with a few technical issues.

Once you get your bike, the best thing you can do is to take it to a bike mechanic for a checkup.

They can even improve certain parts of your bike that might be constructed out of poor quality materials like plastic pedals for example.

You might need thicker tires, to help you with stability, or a wider saddle for extra bum comfort.

There are plenty of upgrades and changes you can do to your bike after you buy it, and if you notice anything about your bike that seems off or doesn’t seem to work properly then don’t hesitate to take it for a service.

The last thing you want is to be left stranded somewhere with a bike that doesn’t work.

What Do You Need To Know As A Novice Fat Cyclist?

There are a lot of technical details to consider when getting a bike, but it’s important to find all the little ways that can turn the cycling experience into a positive one, especially when you’re fat.

So, here are a few of my top tips for those of you who are just starting your cycling journey!

Find The Bike That Works For Your Needs

I know it’s not easy to know what kind of a cyclist you want to be until you try it. You might be sure that you want to be a road biker or ride a cool mountain bike.

Whatever your purpose for that bike may be, make sure to buy the one that aligns with your needs.

Don’t buy a mountain bike and use it only to ride to work, because you hoped that one day you might actually go camping.

Similarly don’t buy an e-bike if you want to experience different terrains that are suitable for hard-duty bikes.

You could also be like me, completely unaware of what you want and the type of bikes that exist out there.

In that case, try to create a realistic set of goals, write it all down on a piece of paper, and through that process, you’ll be able to get the bike that you’ll actually get the most use out of.

Choose Clothes That Boost Your Confidence

I’ve already mentioned the importance of buying padded shorts, and those things can truly save your thighs from burning, as well as your bum from the hard saddle.

But other than that, I think you should be free to wear the clothes that make you feel comfortable and beautiful.

You can wear flashy drawstring cotton pants if you’re simply strolling on your bike across the park.

Colorful tops with skirts or long dresses with some anti-chafe shorts, are also great spring and summer options when you’re cycling. I usually have a couple of these Just My Size bike shorts that you can check out on Amazon. These shorts are made of soft cotton material with a bit of spandex, so they do have some stretch to them, and most importantly they’re not see-through!

As a novice cyclist, you might feel more comfortable relying on more “professional” garments, but as your body gets more comfortable riding a bike you’ll find that there are other garments that you can wear, that don’t cost as much.

Being a fat cyclist you should choose garments that will make you feel both confident and comfortable, just make sure you have a rain cape no matter the season!

Discover Other Fat Cyclists

The way the world sees large bodies can be damaging in so many ways, but what saddens me the most is how it takes away our motivation to enjoy our bodies no matter what they look like.

Especially for fat people that have never worked out in their life, or that have been discouraged by ill-mannered individuals, it’s very difficult to start being active and continue being active long-term.

The good news is that we’re not alone, and there are plenty of plus-size people picking up all sorts of activities. So, if you lack the confidence to start riding by yourself, look for a plus-size cycling group in your local area.

If you can’t find a group you could start one yourself, and you will most likely acquire a bunch of fat and like-minded people as your friends!

You can at least start following fat cyclists on social media. I promise you that keeping your media plus-size oriented can give you a huge boost of confidence and it can open your eyes to different exercises and hobbies you thought fat people couldn’t do.

I myself never thought I could be fat and flexible!

Exercise Over Scale Numbers

If you want to start riding a bike because you want to lose weight then I’m happy for you, but I want to make it clear that losing weight doesn’t have to be your end goal with cycling.

And let’s be honest our society wants us to exercise in order to become slim not necessarily healthy, but that’s not how it works.

Most importantly cycling for the sake of losing weight is not as motivating as actually enjoying the process and having fun.

So, if you’re fat and you want to ride a bike then get out and cycle, without focusing on the scales.

Simply by being consistent with cycling your body will eventually grow stronger, and according to Betterhealth the health benefits of regular cycling include:

  • increased cardiovascular fitness
  • increased muscle strength and flexibility
  • improved joint mobility
  • decreased stress levels
  • improved posture and coordination
  • strengthened bones
  • decreased body fat levels
  • prevention or management of disease
  • reduced anxiety and depression.

Exercise can improve your health, and strengthen your body and mind without making you smaller.

Remember To Enjoy The Ride

No matter what type of activity a fellow fat person wants to get into my favorite tip for them is to have fun.

Sure cycling can be useful for multiple reasons, but as an overweight person, you deserve to cycle not because you want to exercise, but because you want to enjoy a good ride!

There might be some people that will stare, or talk, with the intention of making you feel ashamed of your body, but when you’re on that bike all you have to do is speed up, and leave them behind while enjoying the wind in your hair!

FAQ For Fat Cyclists

Is There A Weight Limit To Riding A Bike?

While bicycles do have weight limits, the market is filled with many different types of bikes, from the materials they use to the overall construction.

This means that there is no standard weight limit for all bikes on the market, but the typical bike range is somewhere in-between 250 lbs and 300 lbs.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that there are no bikes that go over that limit. Heavyweight bikes for example are designed for people over 400 lbs, thanks to their harder steel frames.

Bikes that are built for heavier people are also reinforced, and you can always look for a company that can provide you with a customized bike to fit your needs and size.

Can You Ride A Fat Bike If You’re Overweight?

While most mainstream bikes usually have a 250-300 lbs weight limit, fat bikes are suitable for overweight bike riders. You’ll find that most fat bikes have a 300 lbs weight limit, but if you do thorough research you can find high-quality bike brands that design fat bikes with a 400 lbs limit.

Fat bikes were initially invented to be used in snow and sand, however, you can still travel across diverse terrain types, including pavement, and traditional mountain biking trails.

The reason why a fat bike can be a great option for lots of overweight people that want to try cycling on off-road terrains is that the wide tires provide extra grip and traction, along with low tire pressure. This means that the tires on a fat bike won’t sink in when traveling on various terrains.

I do want to mention that fat bikes can be harder to ride on roads, but if you want that extra workout then this could fit your needs perfectly. These bikes are also not meant to be super-fast, instead, they can give you a more stable ride on difficult terrains.

It’s true that you’ll need to have more muscle mass or patience in order to ride a fat bike, but its main advantage is that you can do it all year round, on pretty much any landscape, even mud, and bog-filled terrain.

Can Fat People Ride Mountain Bikes?

As long as you ride a mountain bike that is designed for plus-size people, and that can support your weight, whether that’s 300 or 400 lbs then, of course, you can!

Mountain bikes also have large tires, and while they’re not like fat bikes, they can still give you a cushioned ride. As the name suggests, mountain bikes are designed for off-road use, and they’re not necessarily about speed, but I’ve ridden mountain bikes on roads with great ease and comfort.

I’d suggest avoiding mountain bikes that don’t advertise their weight limit, because not only will you lose your warranty if the bike breaks down, but you might also injure yourself while cycling.

Can Fat People Ride Road Bikes?

Unlike mountain bikes and fat bikes, road bikes are designed to be ridden fast on smooth pavement, and if you use them to go off-road then they can be quite unstable and uncomfortable.

They are also lighter than other types of bicycles, and because of their skinny tiers and frame, they’re not always the best bikes to carry heavy loads.

Road bikes can usually handle 220 to 275 lbs, so you might find it hard to get a road bike that can go over this weight limit.

Instead, you could go for a hybrid bike that has a weight capacity of 300 to 350 lbs. These bikes incorporate the best of both mountain and road bikes, giving you more stability and speed on multiple terrains and surfaces.

Closing Thoughts

I truly believe that we’ve come into this world to enjoy the beauty of simply being alive, to experience new wonders regardless of our body size.

I enjoy good food and traveling to beautiful places, and I’ll take on activities that can make me stronger physically and mentally.

In some sense cycling can allow me to drive anywhere I want until I reach that beautiful scenery, where I can make a stop to eat a goody I brought with me.

Cycling also challenged my body and my motivation, and even now as I ride through these challenges I come out much stronger and more confident. Not because I shrunk my body to someone else’s expectations, but because I allowed myself to feel at home in its great vastness.

Most importantly I made sure to wear padded shorts when I cycle to protect my big and gorgeous thighs!

So, ride your bike and don’t forget to live life big!

Camila R.

Camila is a body positive blogger and fat activist that's focused on helping people of all sizes live life big! That means accepting yourself at any size and just enjoying life! She lives in New Mexico with her husband and two chihauhuas.

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