“Cycling is something that has always appealed to me but like many, I am pretty scared of road bikes. I’ve never owned a road bike but have had good quality Specialized Mountain Bikes in the past. I hear what you are saying about the weight of the bike making a difference, but my question is this:
“Like many I want to cycle to lose weight, yet it seems that I never, and I seriously mean NEVER see chubby or overweight people on road bikes. Mountain bikes yes, road bikes – no. This may be because they have burned their fat or have always been skinny, but my issue is – if there is a vast difference of a bike at 20lbs and a bike at 35lbs, thats basically a difference of 1 stone (14lbs to a stone here in the UK). But if I am 16 stone (224lbs) how hard is it to get going on a road bike? The size of the saddles looks painful enough for people of 140lbs, let alone me being 224. So this is my concern. Lisa, you say you were 250 lbs, did you get straight onto a road bike at that weight and how did you find it? I would like to cycle and your web page is inspiring, but getting on a road bike at my weight is rather terrifying.”
This is such a good question because I think a lot of readers are wondering the same thing. I’ve never done a study of my reader’s demographics but from emails and comments I’d guess that most people read my blog for inspiration on losing weight. The common misconception is that “I’m too big to exercise”–I had the same misconception, which is one of the reasons why swimming appealed to me. I didn’t think as a 250+ pound person I could run or ride a bike. That is not the case!
Here is Michael’s helpful response:
This weekend was one of the largest organized rides in the area, the Seattle to Portland ride. For most people, this is a 2-day ride that covers approximately 200 miles — a serious trek. As you’ve seen, Lisa and I are often on bikes riding about town and saw a few of the riders that participated in this event. Sure, some of them looked like emaciated pro-cyclists, but many of them looked like average people that would love to be able to lose 50-ish lbs and they were perfectly capable of riding a road bike 200 miles! Don’t let your weight discourage you from getting started, everyone has a first day.
I don’t think your decision comes down to your weight or even what type of saddle to buy but it comes down to how long/far will you be riding. To sum it all up as simply as possible, if want to be on the bike for over an hour, you should be considering a road bike. If you don’t think you’ll be doing that, you should be considering a hybrid bike. It’s as simple as that. The reason for the aggressive riding position of a road bike is to help divide your weight between the saddle and the handlebars. Hybrid and mountain bikes tend to have a slightly more upright riding position which results in more weight being carried over the saddle and therefore the potential exists to become fatigued quicker. That being said, there are plenty of hybrid bikes out there that are light like traditional road bikes so don’t think that you’re sacrificing quality if you decide not to get a road bike. Just be sure to get something of quality. If you buy something you don’t like, you will not want to ride it. Take your time, try out a lot of bikes and make an informed decision. You’ll know when you find the right bike for you when you find it. Do not rush this decision.
It’s also worth pointing out that all saddles feel weird at first. There is a breaking in period that you can expect with them similar to that of a baseball glove. Your goal when shopping for a saddle is to find one that lines up properly with your “sit bones” that doesn’t create numbness. Any good cycling shop will allow you to try out a variety of saddles in the shop before you commit to purchasing one. It’s not uncommon to buy a new bicycle and swap out the saddle immediately either. You can find a wealth of great info on saddles here — http://www.sheldonbrown.
One last thing you can do which may make this easier for you is to consider purchasing a bicycle trainer. These devices will convert your bicycle into a stationary bicycle. These will help you break in the saddle and build up cycling stamina in addition to allowing you to ride when the weather is poor. This is how I keep in shape during the off season. One final thing to point out is that pedaling on a trainer is less comfortable and more fatiguing than pedaling on the road because you’re 100% locked into a stationary position. If you can do it on the trainer, you can definitely do it out on the streets!
Let us know how your bike shopping experience goes.
Lisa’s Note: I am happy that I made the decision last year to buy my road bike. I had limited funds and I too was nervous about buying a road bike. Growing up I always had mountain bikes, and for awhile I used Michael’s old hybrid for our rides. It was such a HUGE difference when I got on a road bike. I am so glad I made the switch.
Because I didn’t have a lot of money to spend and I had a deadline (Reach the Beach) I did rush my purchase. While there’s nothing wrong with the entry-level bike I bought it’s definitely heavier than I would have liked. Had I been able to wait and save more money I would have bought something else.
If you have cycling questions for Michael, email me at 110pounds at gmail.com and we’ll try and help!