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heavy riders bobsledding

At first glance, bobsledding might not look like your typical Olympic sport. However, bobsledders go through rigorous training to ensure that they can safely make it down the course at these top speeds and while it may not look as intense as some of the others, there is actually a lot that goes into training for this sport.

This is no surprise when you remember that once inside the sleigh, there’s not a whole lot that you can do

There are a few bobsledding tracks around the world that let non-Olympians try out the sport, most of them being bobsledding tracks used in one of the Olympic games.

But, is there a weight limit for bobsledding?

While many companies offering bobsledding experiences don’t have a maximum weight limit posted, it is generally somewhere around 275-300 pounds. You also have to be in good enough shape to climb to the top of the slope and physically narrow enough to fit inside the bobsleigh with other riders. 

Next, we’ll look at the factors that affect the weight limit for bobsledding, why your weight matters, and some other fun sports that you can try if bobsledding ends up not being a good fit for you.

Is There a Weight Limit for Bobsledding?

Yes, bobsledding is one of those experiences that does have a weight limit. It varies from company to company but usually tops out around 275-300 pounds.

Bobsledding has a weight limit because it’s important that the sled itself is strong enough to hold all the riders inside. Additionally, you have to be physically fit enough to fit inside the bobsled.

Unlike the case with something like riding in a hot air balloon, you can’t really add fewer people to the bobsleigh to offset a person’s weight. The seats all sit in a single file line and it’s going to be uncomfortable for riders that are too large to sit inside.

Furthermore, there is a maximum weight that a bobsled can hold. It’s fairly common for weights to be added (after everyone’s weight is calculated) so that the total weight of the bobsleigh is the same every time that it goes down the track.

This was done to ensure fairness in the Olympics and stop teams with heavier riders from winning simply because of weight alone. Olympics aside, it also keeps things safer and more predictable.

Can You Be Too Fat for Bobsledding?

Yes, it is possible to be too fat for bobsledding. Actual weight aside, it’s vital that you can safely sit inside the bobsled. While they likely won’t make you run at the sleigh and jump as they do in the Olympics, you’ll need to be able to fit comfortably inside to ensure safety on the trip down the slope.

If you’ve looked for bobsledding excursions, then you may have noticed that there are not a lot of tracks offering this experience. That being said, if you are concerned about your weight or size, it may be best to call ahead and find out what physical limitations there are based on the company you are booking with.

What Other Physical Requirements Do I Need to Meet for Bobsledding?

Like scuba diving or bungee jumping, bobsledding is an activity where it’s not uncommon for the operator/instructor to ask for your weight and you may even be weighed before getting on the bobsled. These activities require weights or adjustments for your experience, so it’s important to be honest if you are asked.

Furthermore, bobsledding is a sport where your body experiences a lot of gravitational force the sleigh moves down steep slopes and around corners. It’s not recommended for people with high blood pressure, back or neck injuries, or other health problems for this reason.

Physical health aside, in most cases you also need to be able to climb to the top of the steep slope (which can be a hike) and climb over the side of the bobsled. Usually, it stands about 3-feet high.

Why Weight Matters for Bobsledding

Weight matters for bobsledding because bobsledding is all about physics. They explain how a bobsled works a lot better than I could in this video.

We all know from physics class that when you change the input value of something (like the total weight of a bobsled and its riders), it affects the output value as well. When a bobsled’s total weight is higher, it will handle curves differently. With all the bobsled crashes (yes, even at the Olympics), not exceeding too much weight is really important for everyone to stay safe.

What is the Weight Capacity of Olympic Bobsleds?

The weight capacity of bobsleds used for Olympic competitions is regulated by the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Foundation and it changes based on whether competitors are male or female.

A two-man bobsled for male competitors has to be a minimum of 384 pounds when empty and a maximum of 860 pounds with riders, while a two-man bobsled for female competitors has to be a minimum of 284 pounds empty and 715 pounds when including the weight of riders. The minimum for a 4-man sleigh is 463 pounds when empty and the maximum is 1,390 pounds with the crew.

Total weight capacity also includes the weight of the bobsled. If you were wondering how much an Olympic bobsled weighs, it’s more than 400 pounds for a 4-man sleigh. Two-man bobsleds top out around 375 pounds, while the monosled for single riders weighs about 365 pounds.

Are There Plus-Size Olympic Bobsledders?

Yes, there are plus-size Olympic bobsledders. In fact, this is one of the sports where having a little extra weight did have its advantages for a long time. However, that all changed when the rules were adjusted to make it fair for all bobsledding teams and make it more about athleticism than weight.

One of the most recent bigger Olympic bobsledders was Steven Holcomb. He helped the U.S. four-man bobsled team bring home the Gold medal in 2010.

In fact, height might even play a role here since taller riders need to keep their head down while in the bobsled. Having heads or upper bodies sticking out increases the amount of resistance when going downward, so it can slow riders down.

Teams weigh in before the bobsledding competition and then weights are added, so everyone’s total combined weight is the same. This means that the first several seconds where the team is pushing and entering the bobsled is the most critical for the overall result. Keeping the bobsled on a straight trajectory also plays a role.

Rather than focusing on weight to win, Olympic bobsledders focus on gaining strength. That being said, it is a fat-friendly sport, especially since fat people can be strong and also fit.

In fact, bobsledding is a sport where there are actually minimum weight limits imposed on the riders. They also train by doing things like squats and sprints, which help with having the strength to get the bobsled going and then get inside without throwing off its trajectory.

What if I am Too Big to Try Bobsledding?

Even if you’re too large for bobsledding, there are a lot of other fun winter sports that will have you sliding down the slopes and enjoying yourself. Snowboarding is something that is a lot of fun, though it does require a lot of balance and flexibility. If you are looking for an easier start, skiing is also a fat-friendly sport and it doesn’t require quite as much balance as snowboarding does at first.

While I’m not one to tell anyone that they need to lose weight, a lot of these activities are great if you’re trying to become more fit and build up strength. Having fun really takes priority for me when it comes to the outdoor sports that I enjoy, but the physical fitness aspect is definitely an added bonus!

Final Word

Is there a weight limit for bobsledding? Yes, there is but it can vary depending on who you are riding with. It’s always important to be honest about your weight for safety reasons and if you are unsure, call ahead of time and find out if there are any restrictions in place that would impact a plus-size rider.

If you do get the chance to bobsled, the force you feel going down the slope is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Even if you don’t meet the weight requirements now, there’s no reason you can’t try other winter Olympics sports like snowboarding or skiing in the meantime. What really matters is that you enjoy whatever you are doing!

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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