In general mountain bikes are designed to stand up to enormous impacts, especially FR/DH rigs where big hits are the norm. Burly bikes typically have wider, deeper rims, stiff suspension components, and oversized welds and tubing to stand up to the extra abuse. Even small, 2 foot jumps can subject a bike to nearly 3-times the rider’s weight so a lot of thought has to go into making frames and components that won’t fail. Most manufacturers typically design mountain bikes to support riders up to plus or minus 200 pounds.
Designing bikes for heavy riders poses much the same challenge as designing a sturdy DH mountain bike so it’s not surprising to see familiar component specs. Super Sized Cycles sells bikes the company claims are safe for riders up to 550 pounds. The New Leaf, for example, features heavy duty, double-walled 26″ rims, a high-strength cromoly frame and rigid fork (I suppose they don’t want riders getting too aggressive off road), disc brakes for extra stopping power, a large seat with extra padding, and “slimed” tires for extra flat protection. The whole package weighs around 40 pounds which is a good rider-weight to bike-weight ratio if you ask me. (As a point of reference, my ratio is about 7; a 500 pound rider on this bike gets a 12.5. Bigger numbers are better.)
Super Sized Cycles also sells the “Big 29er” designed for the big and tall crowd. The Big 29er supports riders up to 375 pounds which is still a lot, though not nearly as much as the New Leaf (perhaps due to the larger wheel size more than anything else). Everything on this bike is said to be “improved for durability” but in the end the bike ends up looking more like a cruiser bike than a mountain bike. The coaster brakes confirm our suspicions that this isn’t like any other 29er we’ve seen. Neither of these bikes seem to be spec’ed for true off-road riding but they do make use of mostly mountain bike standards.
All the heavy duty bikes at Super Sized Cycles are priced at a slight premium due to the custom nature of the designs ($1,850 for the New Leaf, $1,075 for the Big 29er). Still, it’s great to see bikes that larger riders can enjoy and use for fitness. And when folks outgrow (or un-grow) these bikes after a year they can always upgrade to a more aggressive clydesdale mountain bike!