Bicycle Weight Limits

Scale

Having a bicycling blog can be interesting in many ways. Not only do you think more about bicycling yourself, but by interacting with readers, you learn about problems and questions other cyclists face, which may not affect you.

One such issue has come up several times when readers were shopping for a new bike. I have written about or reviewed bikes which readers were interested in buying. Unlike me, some readers were concerned about the weight limit of the bikes. I’ve never considered this criterion when selecting a bike because I’m not a heavy rider. Therefore, I have never thought about the possibility of being over the weight limit for any bike.

After someone asked me about bike weight limits, I started to reflect upon the widely held stereotypes about cyclists. They are often seen as fitness freaks, as environmentalists, and as health fanatics. These things may be true about some cyclists. But, what’s often overlooked about cycling is that it’s a worthwhile activity for everyone, not just people who are thin or fit.

People of all sizes are attracted to cycling because of its many benefits and the fact that the rider’s size has nothing to do with participating in or enjoying cycling. Consequently, a surprising number of people interested in cycling are larger people. And the weight limit of a particular bike is of concern to them.

A lot of confusion exists among new and experienced riders over whether all bikes have weight limits, and if so, whether there is some sort of standard rule to determine a bike’s weight limit. Even though many bike manufacturers do have weight limits for their bikes, there is no standardization by type of bike. Each brand is different. This makes it difficult for bike shoppers to know whether a bike is suitable for someone of their size.

Some manufacturers publish their bikes’ weight limits on their websites or in product catalogs. Others do not.

To get a general idea of what typical weight limits might be, we can look at the information provided by Trek, for their bicycles.

“Yes, we do have a weight limit on our bikes and they are as follows:

Rider weight limit of 275lb:

Road bikes with drop type handlebar

Triathlon, time trial or Speed Concept bicycle

Cruisers with large 26″ tires and swept-back handlebar, Bicycles that fold.

Rider weight limit of 300lbs:

Hybrid bicycles with 700c wheels, tires larger than 28c, and flat handlebars

City bicycles: hybrids with special equipment, cyclocross bicycles: with drop type handlebars, knobby 700c tires, and cantilever or disc brakes

Mountain bikes of all types including: standard, race, cross-country, heavy-duty, trail, all-    mountain, freeride, and jumping bikes of both the hardtail and full suspension variety.

Combined Rider weight limit of 550lbs:

Tandem bicycles”

These weight limits are higher than many new cyclists expect them to be. In numerous forums, riders in the 225 to 250 weight range have asked others about whether they’re too heavy for a given bike. They may be at the upper range for some bikes, and could be a little too heavy for others. But plenty of bikes will accommodate riders of their size.

Bikes with lower weight limits include very lightweight carbon and titanium bikes designed for racing. Certain manufacturers limit such bikes to riders who are below 180 lbs.

Carbon bikes not designed to be extremely lightweight have higher weight limits. Specialized carbon frames, for instance, are designed with weight limits closer to those of steel and aluminum bikes. Specialized is very specific about the weight limits of their carbon bikes and components:

“All Specialized carbon frames, forks & components have a weight limit of 250 lbs.”

Folding bikes also have a lower weight limit than non-folding bikes. Bike Friday provides weight limit information for their folding bikes.

“Most Bike Fridays are designed with a rider weight limit of 220lbs. The exceptions are the petite models, which are designed for 125lb maximum rider weight, and the Pocket Rocket Pro and Crusoe, which are designed with a 190lb maximum rider weight.

Air bikes are designed for 200lb maximum rider weight. Up to 220 can be supported with heavy rider upgrade.

On special order, we can build bikes with heavy rider upgrades for riders over 220lbs. This does not include the Pocket Rocket Pro or the Crusoe.”

Recumbent bikes, for the most part, seem to have a weight limit of 300 pounds.

A few manufacturers don’t provide specific weight limits for their bikes. One such company is Jamis Bikes.

“Is there a weight limit to a JAMIS bicycle frame?

While we don’t post weight limits on our bike, when you exceed the average weight of an adult rider compared to its size, you need to exercise caution when riding and may require some different components to help the bike endure the additional weight.”

Jamis’s approach is to caution all riders whose weight is above average. However, they don’t specify how much the average adult rider weighs, leaving the cyclist to wonder whether he or she needs to use different components to make the bike endure additional weight. A statement like this makes Jamis appear confident in their frames’ ability to accommodate large riders. Rather than focusing on the weight limit of the frames, they advise larger riders to consider other factors. This is a good point.

One of the biggest problems facing heavy riders — people who fit bikes for larger riders will tell you — is not the frame but the wheels. Rims and spokes can break under the weight of a very heavy rider. To combat this problem heavier riders can opt for 36 spoke wheels and durable rims. Such rims should be thicker and wider than the typical rims found on stock bikes. Stainless steel spokes are also stronger than all steel spokes, due to the nickel content in stainless steel.

For riders exceeding the 300 lb limit for stock bikes, there are specialty bicycle companies who cater to very heavy riders. Super Sized Cycles carries an assortment of bicycles, electric bikes and tricycles that carry up to 550 pounds. These super sized bikes are made out of cromoly steel.

With all the hype over exotic materials like titanium and carbon as being the “strongest” frame materials, and aluminum as being lighter than steel, when it comes right down to it, steel, the old standby, may be the most durable frame material of all. According to companies who specialize in bikes for heavier riders, steel will not crack under the weight of a very heavy rider.

Large riders should always contact a manufacturer directly if no weight limit is included in a bike’s specifications or on the manufacturer’s website. Sometimes, instead of including this information as part of the bike’s specifications, manufacturers provide weight limit information on their website’s FAQ page. If after a little research, this information can’t be found, then a phone call or e-mail to the manufacturer is in order. It’s better to ask about a bike’s weight limit before buying a bike, than to buy it and then worry about the bike failing due to the rider’s weight.

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17 Responses to Bicycle Weight Limits

  1. Pingback: Bicycle Weight Limits | IsolateCyclist

  2. notbikesnobnyc says:

    having had some experience in this area, I need to add a few things:

    1) people worry about frames, but that’s not the main concern. frames are pretty study in general. the real problem is rear wheels, which bear the brunt of the weight. A heavy rider may pop spokes on a rear wheel that has few spokes or was poorly adjusted. I had this problem with two different bikes, and upgrading the wheel was the solution. So, if you are worried about “the weight limit for a certain bike” you should be looking at the rear wheel, not the frame. (of course, if you are 400#+, the frame may start to have trouble too)

    2) please do not generalize to all folding bikes from the Bike Friday specs! I rode a Xootr Swift, which is rated for 260# and I weigh more than that. Now, it doesn’t fold up teensy like a Brompton or BF but you can take it on the subway or commuter rail. (And even BF makes a sturdier version of their bikes for a 260# rider for an extra $100 or so.)

    3) in general, just like maximum PSI ratings, the weight limits published by manufacturers are designed to keep them from getting warranty claims and lawsuits. the bikes are probably good for a bit more weight than they are speced. that said, rear wheels are usually the first to go.

    • Thanks for the additional information. I agree about rear wheels bearing the brunt of a rider’s weight. Heavier riders should be aware of this problem. To avoid breaking spokes or rims, it’s probably best to upgrade the wheels when purchasing the bike.

  3. BigGuy says:

    Thank you for being considerate enough to write such an article. Many overweight people would like to get into cycling to get fit and they may be rather large when they go about beginning.

    My personal concern, when it comes to weight capacity, is not so much the frame or even the weight on the wheels, but the pedals. Some bikes are just made cheap and if too much weight is put on the pedals they will strip out and fall off, eventually, if one stands on them for any number of reasons. I’ve had this happen with bikes and my brother (who is not a big guy like me) has had it happen to him as well. Granted, such a concern has more to do with poor machining and design than weight, but lots of manufacturers will cut corners if they know that a certain thread pattern is cheaper to manufacture than one which would increase the weight capacity by 20 pounds, or the durability by more than a year.

    What sort of threading and pedal/crank construction would you recommend heavy people (and probably most people) look out for, in particular? Do you have any recommendations on the weak points of a bicycle which should be of particular concern to heavy riders who are shopping for a bicycle? Typical weak points which should be closely examined?

    Thank you.

    • “My personal concern, when it comes to weight capacity, is not so much the frame or even the weight on the wheels, but the pedals. Some bikes are just made cheap and if too much weight is put on the pedals they will strip out and fall off, eventually, if one stands on them for any number of reasons.”

      You’ve hit the nail on the head with your observation about some bicycles being made cheaply. That’s why you and your brother have had problems with pedals stripping out and falling off. With bicycles it’s not so much a question of the thread pattern as the quality of the parts. The other thing to consider is that manufacturers are obsessed with making bikes as light as possible. So they sacrifice durability for weight savings. To combat this problem, try to avoid parts designed specifically for racing because those are the least durable.

      Mass produced bicycles usually come with cheap pedals. Often cyclists replace these pedals at the time of purchase. For larger riders, it’s important to work with a local shop to get pedal and crankset recommendations. Using the flimsy parts that come with some bikes can be a safety hazard.

      You didn’t mention whether you’re planning to ride with clipless or platform pedals. For clipless, go with Look or Time pedals. They both make durable pedals which hold up better than the ones that come with component “groups.” For platform pedals, look for models that can be rebuilt. They are better made and last longer since they can be serviced.

      As a general rule, steel and titanium are stronger than aluminum, which is the material most cranksets are made of. Aluminium is used due to its strength to weight ratio. It’s lighter than steel and less expensive than titanium. If you can’t afford titanium — or just don’t want to spend so much money on components — then consider getting steel cranksets. Be sure to purchase good quality steel. Cheap steel won’t be any stronger than aluminium. Steel is heavier than aluminium, but it’s also more durable. Unless you’re planning to race the bike, the additional weight won’t make any difference.

      For heavy riders, the weak points are the wheels, and as you’ve pointed out, the pedals and crankset. Other than those items, heavy riders shouldn’t have any problems with bikes — although I recommend buying the best quality bike you can afford. Bikes are like anything else: you get what you pay for.

  4. Deqna says:

    I hadn’t thugoht of changing the tires, that’s a good suggestion. Next time I’m in the bike shop getting some riding shorts and a bike pouch thing, I’ll have to take a look at tires.

  5. George Hill says:

    do you sell or recommend a good heavy duty back wheel ( I need to change gears also)
    for my 2011 jamis cruiser. I weigh 290 and my spokes are loosening and I need something heavier in the back- my front tire and wheel are fine the tube is a 700c 35-45. The tire tho says 28 x 17/8.
    Ineed something solid and you apparently are the one who can recommend what I need for my jamis 2.0 cruiser, 8 speed. Thanks GAH

    • George,

      You have couple of options. First, you may not need a new rear wheel. If your spokes are just loosening up, instead of breaking, the spokes may be too loose and/or the wheel may be out of true.

      Before you buy anything, take the bike to a reputable bike shop — ideally one that employs someone who handbuilds wheels — and explain your problem. Properly tensioning and truing the rear wheel might make it usable.

      If the shop’s wheel builder thinks that tensioning and truing the wheel won’t correct the problem of the spokes loosening, then ask them to recommend a wheel for someone your size. A handbuilt wheel is your best bet, and the shop may be able to build one for you.

      There are several rims on the market which are good for larger riders. Of these, I prefer the Velocity Dyad. It is a very tough rim which is often used for loaded touring. Velocity makes some of the best rims on the market and sells them at a reasonable price. After choosing a strong rim, have the wheel built with either DT Swiss or Wheelsmith spokes.

      In any event, it’s worth a trip to your local bike shop to discuss the matter. They will be able to evaluate the condition of your wheel. And, they will also be able to help you with any problems you may encounter with your wheels in the future.

  6. Reallywantstobike says:

    I really appreciate your blog and the article about weight and bikes I researched and reviewed a lot of bikes (in my price range) prior to purchasing a bike a few days ago. The same manufacturer had another bike which had a weight limit of 225, so I opted to go with the large frame upgraded version of the bike designed for taller people up to 6’5″ (I’m 6’2″). There was no information about the weight limit for large frame bike. After the purchase I got curious so I called the manufacturer. They said all their bikes had a weight limit capacity of 225-250 and the one I purchased was 250. Well I’m 270. I called a local bike shop about upgrading my wheels to support the extra 20 lbs and the response I got was there’s nothing you can do as far as upgrades for your bike that will increase the weight capacity limit except lose the 20 lbs. Now I’ve got a bike I can’t ride until I lose 20 lbs. The whole reason for getting it was to get more exercise to lose more weight. Catch 22. I would appreciate any feedback anyone has. Thanks.

    • Phil S. says:

      I’m not going to pretend that I know a lot or much at all about this but I am just over 300 pounds and I am about to buy a jamis commuter 2. When talking to my bike savvy friends they said to not worry considering the extra force a 250 pound rider would put on a frame. Unless you are purely going on well paved trails, you will add extra weight to the bike by just riding it over a curb or at the bottom of a big hill or hitting a little bump. If your bike can withstand a 250 pound person hopping a curb , it can handle you riding it. I would say try it our, just don’t go all crazy stunting on it.

  7. Robb says:

    Everybody here, makes a lot of sense…to the Blog Site Proprietor, Kudos to you…you are not only helping others figure their problems out, but helping others make sense of some issues brought about by common “substance” failure.
    I have an 0? OCR1 Compact Road Cycle, and Love it…though the front (carbon) forks failed on me, after lubing the bearings, in short order. My fault, for not putting the right torque value on the bearing nuts, and especially the lock nuts, which do the job of keeping the other nuts from backing off, and spinning out…thereby ruining what was a decent set of forks…
    I agree with everything that’s been covered here…but…concerning the spokes, if they are loose, they were more than likely sold that way, best to complain to the manager of the shop/store you bought your bike(s) from…could have been a small error…one way or the other, you could get them adjusted for free, but watch them as they work.
    If you want to see what happens to carbon forks, after getting spun out, here are a few pix I took, just for this…ok…have pix, can’t attach…help…?

  8. David says:

    Thanks for the information, not exactly what I was looking for but was enough to get me thinking in the right direction. I am wanting to build a custom electric trike (not electric assist as I am unable to pedal and in a wheel chair). I want to be able to get out of the house and ride the neighborhood again. As a former century rider and mountain biker, I miss the air in my face and the freedom of cycling, and do not want the noise or pollution of a gas powered motor.

    A note on pedals:
    Any good quality pedal (even aluminum) should be fine for almost any rider. The amount of force generated by a powerful peddler will greatly exceed the weight of even the heaviest rider’s weight standing on the pedals. The leg strength of a cyclist shows easily on a leg press in a gym. Cyclists who have never lifted weights can perform very well in comparison to even weight trainers on the leg lift, far surpassing the average person who does neither.

  9. Alexxa says:

    Thanks for this posting! My fiancé & I would love to go riding together with my son who lives to bike ride but I’m over the weight limits for bikes. I know riding would help with getting more exercise & a great way to spend time together. I just know from experience and common sense that things aren’t always meant to handle to weight of heavier people. My fiancé is also 6’4″ and 275 so he has the weight issue, tho just barely, but the height issue too. So really height and weight are our issues for finding bikes (I’m 5’3″). It’d get us out of the house more too. I will definitely keep all this information in mind & research before buying any bikes for us. Thanks again!

  10. Cole says:

    Awesome article. When I was younger I had a Fuji Absolute DX hybrid which I was in love with but as I got older I got a lot heavier and I would break a rear spoke with almost every ride, so I had to switch to a mountain bike. This past year I’ve been losing weight like crazy and I’m finally light enough to switch back to my precious hybrid just in time for the 5 Borough Bike Tour in NYC :D

  11. Cassie says:

    I am so glad I found this post. I have been speaking to a local bike shop about making modifications to my bike to withstand my weight, but they basically told me I need to buy one of those super size bikes for about 2,000 dollars. I don’t have that kind of money. I think my local shop was afraid I would blame any issues I had on them. I still want to make the mods anyway, but I am not sure what to look for. I know nothing about wheels and crank shafts. How do I know a wide crank from a regular one? And everyone here has mentioned stronger wheels, but does that just mean the rim or does that include the tubes and tire? See? Clueless! I know I have a 26″ cruiser with a steel frame. Not looking to tackle mountains, just flat trails to start with. Please help!!

  12. Richard says:

    I’m a 300+lbs cyclist, and ride a pretty standard hybrid bike. After 3 years of daily commuting the back wheel failed last week, and my local bike shop are rebuilding it with stronger hub and spokes to account for my weight. I’ve been told that hand-built wheels are usually stronger than factory built, and so the new wheel will be more resilient.

  13. Robert says:

    Hi, I have trek 7200 an I keep getting flat’s i m 6’4 267lbs I dont know if i ride to rough
    or am i to heavy

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