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Electric Bike Buying Considerations if You’re a Heavier Rider

Electric Bike Buying Considerations for Heavier Riders Featured Image

Electric bikes are excellent for making cycling accessible if you’re a heavier person. This is especially if your weight normally makes it difficult for you to cycle. So if you’re a heavier rider looking to buy an electric bike, you should ideally buy one that supports your weight. 

Some electric bikes will support your weight better than others if you’re a heavier rider. An electric bike that doesn’t support your weight very well, wouldn’t necessarily fall apart the moment you sit on it though. However, the better a bike supports your weight, the longer it will last. Also, the less likely it is that any parts will break. Rest assured though, that no matter what your weight is, there will always be an electric bike for you. 

Here in this article, I will talk about what to look for when choosing an electric bike, if you’re a heavier rider. 

Wheels 

If you’re a heavier rider, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the wheels when buying an electric bike. The heavier you are, the more pressure you’re placing on the wheels. This can mean that you’re more likely to break a spoke. So to reduce the likelihood of this as a heavier rider, you can make sure your wheels have more spokes. Being a heavy rider, opting for wheels with 32 or 36 spokes should give you good peace of mind. Any fewer spokes, and it’s more likely a spoke will break here and there over time.

The heavier a rider you are, the more pressure you’re placing on the wheel rims as well. This can lead to enhanced wear and tear on these. However, having more spokes helps here as well. This is due that this spreads the pressure placed on the wheel rims more evenly. So the more spokes, the less concentration of pressure on any given part of the wheel rim. This is due to there being more contact points. 

Bike wheel

Below are some further considerations with regard to wheels if you’re a heavier rider.

  • Smaller wheels with wider tires will be better supported under your weight if you’re a heavier rider. This is opposed to large wheels with thin tires. Generally speaking, 26 inch wheels (in diameter) is a suitable wheel size for heavy riders. The smaller the wheel you opt for below this size, the more likely you’ll experience handling issues. This is due to the frame needing to be a certain design to accommodate the smaller wheels. A suitable tire width if you’re a heavier rider is 2 inches or wider. This should support you very well. Anything below an inch ⅓ is not ideal for heavy riders. 
  • Wider tires are also especially beneficial if you’re riding on rough terrain as a heavier rider. They’ll absorb the bumps better than thin tires, reducing impact on the frame. This will particularly benefit the frame, due to the extra pressure already imposed on the frame from your weight. So this will minimize the chance of any cracks in the frame. 

Bike wheel image

  • Opting for wider and deeper rims, ideally double wall aluminium rims, are suitable for heavier riders. These are heavy duty and will make the wheel stronger. Again, making the wheel better able to accommodate the extra weight. 
  • Wheels tend to be stronger on fully hand built bikes. Here, they will hold out better if you’re a heavier rider.   

Brakes

Having effective brakes is particularly important if you’re a heavier rider. This is due to that the extra weight will mean it’ll take longer for your bike to stop. When it comes to brakes, you’ll find there’s 2 main types. These are rim or disc brakes, as talked about further below.

Rim Brakes

This is the most common type of brake you’ll find on bikes. These brakes work by pads that clamp down on both sides of the wheel rim to create friction. You should find that if tuned correctly, these types of brakes can have plenty enough stopping power for even the heaviest of riders. So if you’re a heavier rider with rim brakes, then it’s a good idea to make sure they’re always well maintained.  

Disc brake and rim brake infographic

Disc Brakes 

These types of brakes are more effective than rim brakes. This means they give you better stopping power and therefore more safety. So if you’re a heavier rider, this can give you extra peace of mind. Also, disc brakes do not cause any wear and tear on the wheel rims, like rim brakes do. They also provide the 2 below benefits.

  • Work very well in all weather conditions.
  • Provide greater control than rim brakes, as braking is more consistent.

Disc brakes work in a similar way to rim brakes. The difference though, is that you have a disc (called a rotor) at the center of the wheel, which has pads on each side of it. When you apply the brakes, the pads press down on this disc to create friction to slow down the bike. These brakes tend to cost more than rim brakes. However, due to the better stopping power they provide, this can be worth it if you’re a heavier rider. 

Saddle

Some saddles are made to accommodate more weight better than others. In particular, the saddle rails can fail if they’re not made to handle extra weight. These rails are on the underside of the saddle, which connects it to the seat post clamp. The materials that saddle rails are available in varies. These can include steel, titanium, aluminium and carbon. However, steel and titanium are the strongest materials that saddle rails come in. So a saddle rail made from either of these 2 materials is going to withstand your weight better as a heavier rider. This means the saddle rails will be less likely to break or bend, under any extra pressure due to more weight. 

Bike Saddle

Luckily, steel and titanium are not the most expensive saddle rails materials. This is due to the fact that the cheapest saddle rail materials are the lightest ones, not the strongest. You may consider saddle weight not much of an issue though, by the way. This can be due to the weight of the saddle having a negligible impact on the overall weight of the bike. 

Some saddles have extra thick padding, especially for heavier riders. This helps the saddle to support the extra weight better. Again, this will help the saddle rails to last longer, due to less stress placed on them. If you opt for a saddle with extra thick padding, then this will add more weight to the saddle again though. If you’re concerned with extra saddle weight though, due to if you have steel or titanium rails and extra padding, then you can negate this by opting for a carbon chassis. This will add more cost though, as carbon is the most expensive saddle chassis material. This is due to it being the lightest.    

Image of bike saddle

A lot of cyclists think that the bigger you are, the wider the saddle needs to be. This is not always the case though. The ideal width of your saddle depends on the width of your sit bones. This is the part of your anatomy which comes into contact with the saddle. If you’re big bottomed, it does not always mean that your sit bones have a big width. So you can have a big bottom, but your sit bones can be of a small width. If a saddle is too wide in relation to your sit bone width, then this can cause chaffing.

Conversely, if the saddle is too narrow, then this can cause undue pressure on your sit bones. Both cases will mean discomfort. Many bike shops have devices that measure the exact distance between your sit bones. This will then allow you to determine the most appropriate width of saddle for you. 

Frame 

The frame material choice (in terms of strength) is not really an issue if you’re below 120 kilos, 19 stone or 165 pounds. Any frame material should be strong enough here, whether it be aluminium, steel, titanium or carbon etc. So if you’re within this weight range, other factors may influence your choice of frame material. For example, you can pick a carbon frame, for the bike to be lighter. Although carbon is the most expensive frame material by the way. 

Bike frame

If you’re above 120 kilos, 19 stone or 165 pounds, then you should consider the strength of the frame material more. Steel and titanium are generally considered the strongest bike frame materials. Titanium frames are more expensive than steel frames though. However, many riders consider titanium to be the best all round frame material. This is due to the fact that it offers a great balance of many properties. These include strength, being fairly lightweight, shock absorbent qualities and rust resistance. Furthermore, titanium frames are easier to repair than other material frames. This is in addition to the fact that they are well-equipped to withstand heavier loads anyway. So you can have extra peace of mind, for just in case the frame was to ever break. 

To be extra safe though, you can always check the manufacturers specifications, with regard to the bikes maximum weight limit. In terms of the frame shape, the standard triangle frame, where the fame consists of a front and rear triangle, will be the strongest. As a scientific rule, triangles are always the strongest shape. Having said this though, there are low step bikes that have a different type of frame. Some of these types of bikes are stronger built, especially for heavier riders. The advantage of these low step bikes is that the frame design makes it easier for larger/heavier people to get on and off the bike. Again, if you’re buying a low step bike as a heavier rider, you should check the specified maximum weight limit first.  

Bike with low step frame
Bike with low step frame

Electric Bike Types Considerations for Heavier Riders 

Electric Hybrid or Gravel Bike

If you’re a heavier rider who will be doing a lot of road riding, then a suitable option can be a hybrid or gravel bike. These types of bikes have a more robust build quality compared to road bikes. This means that they are better equipped to handle your weight if you’re a heavier rider. So the frame of these bikes will be more likely to last longer and less likely to break. 

Cyclist riding a gravel bike off-road

The reason why hybrid and gravel bikes are more robust than road bikes is because they are general purpose bikes. So with these bikes, you also have the advantage of having a bike that’s suitable for light off-road. Additionally, these types of bikes can accommodate wider tires compared to road bikes. Wider tires offer more support and stability, which is also handy if you’re a heavier rider.  

Electric Cargo Bike

Another consideration as a heavier rider is possibly opting for a cargo bike. These bikes tend to be overbuilt, due to that they’re designed to carry heavy loads. Cargo bikes will typically have heavy-duty parts, such a robust frame, robust wheels and robust tires. This can be a good option for you, even if you’re not planning on carrying much cargo, if ever. However, the option to carry cargo is always available to you though, for if you ever choose to. 

Electric cargo bike graphic

Electric Mountain or Fat Bikes

If you’re intending to do a lot of off-road cycling, then the go-to option is going to be a mountain bike. As long as you’re opting for a good quality mountain bike, then you should always expect it to be robust. Again, this is what you want if you’re a heavier rider. Another option to consider as a heavier rider is a fat bike. These have very fat tires for support and stability. Again, they tend to have a robust build quality, to accommodate heavier riders.

Electric Folding Bikes

Folding bikes are a popular option. This is due to the storage and transportation conveniences they provide. These types of bikes tend not to have a very robust build quality, or heavy-duty parts though. So if you’re a heavier rider, a folding bike may not be strong enough to withstand your weight. This doesn’t mean that a folding bike will fall apart on you straight away, but it may not last very well. Sooner or later, a part here and there might break. 

Folding electric bike

These days, some folding bikes are coming onto the market with a more robust build quality though. However, if you’re tempted to buy a more robust folding bike as a heavier rider, I’d certainly still be careful. As with buying any bike as a heavier rider, it’s advisable to check the  manufacturers maximum specified weight limit. Also, robust folding bikes will have a higher price premium. 

My article “Which Type of Electric Bike Should I Buy?“ talks further about the bike types mentioned above. This can further help you to decide which bike type you may feel is most suitable for you. 

Pedals 

It’s also worth considering the robustness of the pedals as a heavier rider. Pedals can break during rides if they’re not strong enough to handle the weight of the rider. Some pedals are made lightweight, where the spindle is not very thick. These are therefore not ideal for heavy riders. A pedal with a standard bearing though (as opposed to a sealed bearing) can generally be a bit thicker. This will make them heavier duty and so more suitable for heavier riders. You’ll also find that pedals found on mountain bikes will generally be heavier duty. 

Bike pedal

Suspension 

Generally speaking, full suspension bikes are too demanding for heavier riders around 300 pounds or over. This is due to the fact that the rear suspension often can’t handle enough pressure to keep you in the appropriate sag, if you’re this sort of weight. Sag by the way, is to do with setting your suspension specific to your weight. This videoOpens in a new tab. talks further about suspension settings, which includes talking about sag. 

You should be aware that some shocks absorbers (as part of a full suspension system) can handle more weight better than others. This is even if you’re below 300 pounds, or above for that matter. So if you’re considering a full suspension bike as a heavier rider, you should definitely check if the suspension can accommodate your weight. If the shock absorbers are not rated for your weight, then you may prematurely wear them out. 

For more information about suspension on electric bikes, you can read my article “Do I Need Suspension on an Electric Bike”

Rear suspension shock absorber

Suspension Seatposts 

You may find a suspension seatpost to be a viable alternative to full suspension. This is a seatpost with shock absorbing technology, which you can replace the existing seatpost on the bike with. These seatposts can absorb any bumps and impacts whilst cycling, to provide comfort. 

There are suspension seatposts especially for heavier riders, available on the market. KinektOpens in a new tab. makes a good range of these suspension seatposts for heavier riders. These particular suspension seatposts have heavier duty parts to accommodate more weight. So aside from the suspension benefits, these heavy-duty suspension seatposts are likely to be better equipped to deal with more weight than the seatpost that came with the bike.

Gears

Riding up hills can be tricky whoever you are, let alone if you’re a heavier rider. A compact or a sub-compact chainset will provide a low gear ratio to give you more help up hills. Therefore, these types of chainsets are a suitable option for an electric bike if you’re a heavier rider.

Bike Chainset  

You may think that gears are not so important if you have an electric bike, due to the boost you’re already getting. However, gears are still beneficial on electric bikes for the below reasons.

  • They give you even further assistance up hills, in addition to the electric motor. An electric motor may only help you so far up very steep hills, especially if the motor’s not high-powered. This can particularly be the case if you’re in the UK or EU, where the legal motor power limit is 250 watts. 
  • Even if the electric motor is helping you up hills, having gears can help you get up hills faster. 
  • Using gears to help you up hills also helps prolong the battery range. This is due to the fact that gears leverage your pedal effort, which reduces the effort needed by the motor.  

Motor Type 

An electric bike’s motor will either be a hub motor or a mid drive motor. A hub motor is positioned in the center of either the front or rear wheel of the bike. A mid drive motor is positioned at the center of the bike, between the pedals. Neither of these electric bike motor types is better than the other. Your choice of motor type should be down to what suits you best. Nevertheless, mid drive motors offer some advantages over hub motors that are beneficial for heavier riders. I talk about these below. 

Do be aware though that mid drive motors are higher in price than hub motors. So having a mid drive motor will increase the overall cost of an electric bike. 

Mid Drive Motor and Hub Motor Infographic

Mid Drive Motor Advantages for Heavier Riders

More Efficiency 

Mid drive motors are more efficient than hub motors. This is because they directly leverage your pedaling power. So therefore, mid drive motors help with cycling up hills more. This is along with other challenging cycling conditions, like rough terrain, or cycling against the wind. So if you’re a heavier rider who finds cycling in these conditions difficult, then you may really appreciate a mid drive motor. 

Kinder on the Battery

Mid drive motors allow for longer battery range compared to hub motors. This is because mid drive motors are only moving a sprocket, rather than a whole wheel. Therefore, the motor is not working as hard, which means less drain on the battery. Anything that helps prolong the battery range, will really benefit you if you’re a heavier rider. This is due to that the extra weight you’re carrying, is already draining the battery more compared to a lighter rider. So having a mid drive motor can help minimize the impact of this compared to a hub motor. 

Mid Drive Motor on an Electric Bike    

Better Weight Distribution 

As mentioned above, mid drive motors are at the center of the electric bike. This means they provide better weight distribution throughout the bike, compared to hub motors. Better weight distribution throughout the bike makes it easier to climb hills. You will have less weight behind you pulling you back, or less weight in front of you, to push up. 

Also, as mentioned before, disc brakes give better stopping power than rim brakes, which is especially advantageous for heavier riders. So if you have disc brakes and a hub motor, then you will have even more weight on the wheel that the hub motor’s situated on. This negatively impacts the bike’s weight distribution even further. So if you do have disc brakes, then this can be even more reason to opt for a mid drive motor.   

My article “Hub Motors Vs Mid Drive Motors” talks further about the differences between these 2 motor types. 

Motor Power 

This is a particular consideration if you’re a heavier rider, looking to buy an electric bike. The more powerful the motor, the more assistance you get from the electric bike. So as a heavier rider, you’re more likely to appreciate the benefit of a powerful motor. As you may expect though, generally, the more powerful the motor, the more cost it will add to the bike. 

Image showing electric bike and motor power wattage ratings

The power of electric bike motors is measured in watts. You will usually find electric bike motors are either 250, 350, 500, 750 or 1000 watts. Depending on the electric bike laws of where you’re based, there’s likely to be a limit on the power of the motor you’re allowed to ride with. For example, the maximum power electric bike motor you’re allowed to ride with in the US depends on what state you’re in. However, in most states you’re not permitted to ride on an electric bike with a motor above 750 watts. In the UK and EU, the electric bike motor power limit is 250 watts and in Canada it’s 500 watts. 

Nevertheless, as a heavier rider, you may want as powerful a motor as your budget allows. The more power you have, the more help you’re going to get riding up hills. This is as well as other challenging riding conditions. My article, “How Much Power does my Electric Bike Need?”, talks further about electric bike motor power considerations. 

Conclusion

As mentioned before, there is an electric bike out there for everyone. So no matter how heavy you are, you will always find an electric bike that will accommodate you. It may just take a little bit of searching and research to find one that is suitable for your weight. Again, having a bike that’s not built to handle your weight very well doesn’t mean it will break straight away. It’s more that it’s less likely to last very well and parts can break and wear prematurely. 

Being a heavier person certainly shouldn’t put you off cycling. Remember cycling is a fun way to keep active, whilst getting some quality outdoor time. If you do find cycling difficult as a heavier person, that’s where electric bikes come into their own. Electric bikes break down barriers and make cycling accessible for all sorts of people, including heavier riders.

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