This is totally unscientific but maybe it will help some of you. I am 6-1/230. Ive been riding for 20 years. Ever since I broke the rear hub on my Kmart Huffy and before Al Gore invented the internet, Ive known that a guy my size has special equipment needs. Here is what I have found through trial and error over the years. Some of this breaks conventional rules, but most rules are for your average height/weight rider. I believe that the very physics and momentum created by a heavy rider demands a lot of rule changes when building a bike.
First, my latest bike is 2005 Trek Top Fuel 110. Yes, its carbon and I have had NO problems or issues with flex etc. Ive run the heck out of it. So far Ive replaced (due to maintenance issues) nothing but the middle chainring, brake pads and a bunch of tires. Bushings are solid and I love the bike. Each of the following changes over stock have broken the conventional rules of what you may think, and each time Ive experienced improvements in ride and handling.
First, go with significant knobbies. Your momentum will cause you to wash out in corners if you dont have enough bite. A lighter guy can get away with smaller knobbies but when 230 pounds breaks loose, it doesnt like to hook back up. On the front, I use WTB Motoraptors or Continental Verticals. Panaracer Fires are a nice budget tire as well but third on my list. I used to go with low rolling resistance tires, but found Im actually faster and more confident with knobbies. On the rear, I tear up tires. If someone in the tires forums say the tire lasts a long time, it wont for me. So I go low budget on the rear. Panaracer Smoke Classic is great as is a WTB Velociraptor. The friction of climbing and slowing my momentum downhill wears the back like crazy. The paddle type rear tire gets me the added traction without tire spin or slip. Cant seem to get that with other tires.
Handlebars.. Go wider than shoulder width. I know that bike fit says same width as shoulders, but you need more leverage. Unless yer winding through tight forest singletrack where you might catch a tree, you wont be disappointed. Most big guys (not fat) have a high center of gravity misproportioned to the lower. Skinny bike riders dont have that problem like us. Having the extra turning leverage really helps when things get loose.
Grips, I had hand pain on long rides until I swaped to the Ergon grips with the bar ends. What a difference in feel. Again, the weight of the upper body seems to punish the hands even when bike fit is proper.
Brakes, I stuck with rim brakes but I keep the rims clean and use Koolstop MTB pads. Ive never had a braking problem. On XC, you dont need stop on a dime power. Ive actually tried to overheat these pads down 1.5 mile decents and cant do it. Safe and secure.
Pedals- I used SPD's for years. Then I broke one and threw on some platform pedals with the little spikes as a temporary fix. I havent gone back. I have less pain in my knees because I can move my foot position around. I believe I had proper fit with the clipless pedals, but the energy and weight is again, disproportonate to a smaller rider with less momentum and kenetic energy bearing down while hammering. If you are happy with clipless, I dont want to change your mind. Keep what works.
Shoes- Go with SPD compatible mid-rise shoes even with platform pedals. You MUST have that stiff sole to hammer and to keep your foot flat on the pedal. If you try using regular shoes, the outside of your knees will punish you due to the squish of the soles on normal shoes. Your foot will "lean" to the outside and stretch that tendon on the outside of your knee/legs causing pain.
There is a reason that runners are small. Big guys who run, normally end up with knee or disc injuries. Its all about kenetic energy and it applies to riding bikes as well. In my humble opinion.
Hope this helps. And remember, we arent racers. But I can keep it going for 30 miles plus on terrain with many steep and long climbs in the San Bernardino Mountains, in California. If you arent comfortable and confident, its just a job.
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Thread: Special bike buildup
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