I’m an engineer, and I hate being asked questions like “what is the best bike for a Clydesdale?”
I need to consider a few more parameters. There is no one correct answer to cover every big cyclist out there.
In this article I’m going to look more at bikes for beginners and those who just want to get out and have some exercise without spending too much ($450-$1500). You can spend a lot if you want to (I do- but cycling is a real passion for me) but for most people they just want a bike that won’t fall apart!
Don’t buy bikes for a big cyclist from department stores
What? Why not?
Department store bikes are made as cheap as possible for average Joe to keep in the shed and pull out a few times a year to keep up with the kids at the park. Or as a Christmas present for average Joe’s kids until they grow out of it and it slowly rusts in Joe’s shed next to his department store bike.
Clydesdales are not average Joes. Clydesdales will destroy a bike that isn’t even expected to last that well for somebody half their size who hardly uses the bike.
Go to a real bike shop – spend a little bit more
By a real bike shop I mean a shop that only sells and services bikes. They will have a range of styles of bikes, maybe a few brands, and can help you pick a bike that suits YOU and what you want to do with it. They can even swap parts for you so the bike is a bit more customized. Discounted servicing is also a bonus. A rusty squeaky chain will not only slow you down but be #%^&*y annoying.
In fact don’t just go to one bike shop. Go to a few and see what deals you can get and what bike inspires you the most.
Points to look out for when choosing a bike for a Clydesdale
In general, everything needs to be a little bit stronger but that is no surprise right. But what makes a bike stronger?
- A strong frame won’t necessarily look stronger. If you pick a model which is made for some rough road use it will likely be ok for a big cyclist to use on smoother roads or tracks. If you want to ride rougher trails talk to the bike shop sales person about just what you want to do. Don’t get sucked into full suspension (or even front suspension) unless you are really going to be hitting the trails hard!
- Strong wheels can be deceptive as well, but there are some basics. More spokes help to spread the load around, and wider/deeper rim will improve strength as well. However quality of the rims, spokes, and the build will affect durability. If they use stainless steel spokes, or “butted” spokes, they are really starting to think about wheel quality more, and have likely put a bit more effort into the build as well. I’m going to write more about wheels in a later post.
- Suspension anything on a sub $1500 bike is likely to not be very stiff or strong, and will eventually start to fail. Suspension that does very little is actually more likely to slow you down and become an annoyance.
What else should you look for?
- The right size bike and comfortable riding position. Spend a lot of time on this. Sit on a lot of bikes and have the shop assistant adjust the seating position so your leg geometry is correct. Because let’s face it if you aren’t comfortable you aren’t going to enjoy riding as much, and hence ride less. Don’t get suckered into the racer boy lower is more aero type position; chances are your body is going to get in the way. The fit has to be right for you. A big cyclist has different needs and intentions.
- Comfortable saddle. This contact point is so personal that if you don’t get the right saddle when you buy the bike, you should consider swapping it in the future if it isn’t suiting you. Soft saddles might feel nice for short rides, but eventually you are likely going to start to find you butt (or other local areas) go numb. If this happens spend the time (and money) looking into a better saddle. I have had great success with Specialized saddles. If you go to one of their stores they will even “fit” you for a saddle!
- Versatile gears. As you spend more you will likely get more gears and smoother shifting, but you need to consider the low gears (for going uphill) as well as the gears you will likely be using on flatter surfaces. Learn to use your gears so you can pedal at a faster speed. You will be more efficient. Even though your lungs and heart start to work more (hey its exercise!) you won’t burn out your muscles and you will start to be able to ride faster and further.
- Disc brakes are becoming ever more affordable and come on more than just mountain bikes. I highly recommend paying attention to strong braking as more weight being stopped needs more power. Hydraulic brakes typically offer better feel and long term performance, but cable actuated discs are still better than rim brakes.
- A good brand with a warranty. Not only will going to a bike shop result in good advice, but they will likely have good reputable brands that will stand behind the quality of what they are selling. Yes you may stretch their good will on that warranty but at least that brand and shop is trying to put a product out there that won’t have a warranty spend that sends them broke.
When you buy a bike at a shop, always try to get a little bit of deal. Quite frankly last year’s model isn’t going to slow you down, but might save you a good % off this year’s version. Also buying some accessories with the bike usually results on some good discounts. Things like helmets, drink bottles, and a bike lock is a good idea. If getting a flat tire is going to be an issue for you-get a spare tire, some tire levers, and a mini pump (and learn to use them!) OH correctly inflated tires can help speed and comfort. Tires do go down by themselves even over a week- check them before each ride J
At some point I also recommend getting a cycling computer. It is nice to know how fast you are going or how far you have been. Another feature I use is an extra sensor to measure how fast you are pedalling. To start with you want to be over 60rpm, but as you get fitter/stronger work on your technique to get up over 80rpm consistently.
In summary if you get a comfortable suitable bike you are going to ride it more. If it starts falling to pieces because you are a big cyclist and harder on your gear then that is going to getting annoying and will be a waste of money. It is worth taking the time and spending maybe a little more to get the right type of bike for you the first time.