In this article, we will discuss how to choose an electric bike for a very heavy rider. One of my readers, let’s call him John Smith, decided to by an e-bike. And because he weights 148 kg (330 pounds), the first thing he did was to go to a local e-bicycle shop to find an e-bike that would be suitable for his weight.
A salesperson persuaded John to buy a “specially prepared (custom built) e-bike” for his weight, and the price tag was around 5+ thousand dollars, as, allegedly, any ordinary electric bicycle under a large man like John will fall apart.
John was a little confused by the price tag, but as he did not see any other option, he almost decided to take the one that was suggested by the salesperson in the shop. But, just before doing that, he accidentally came across the Easy Ebiking website, went through a few articles, and then, finally, decided to ask if we agree with the verdict that he was given in the e-bike shop.
Since this is not the first time we have received a question about a reliable electric bike for a heavy rider, we decided to write this article instead of just answering the reader by email. Feel free to leave your comments via our contact form if you have other ideas or recommendations.
A custom-built e-bike for a heavy rider? – not necessarily
First of all, we do not agree with what the consultants in the store have advised. You can not, of course, say that they were driven only by profit, but in our opinion, assembling a special custom-built e-bike for every heavy rider is not quite optimal.
How much weight can an ordinary e-bicycle carry?
Unfortunately, all cheap low budget e-bikes are completely unsuitable for overweight riders. Those e-bikes quickly start breaking apart even under the riders weighing within 100 kg (220 pounds).
Read also: What is the difference between cheap and expensive e-bikes? – in this article.
If you ride more or less actively, everything starts to fall apart – bearings, axles, bushings, spokes. The rims crack, the steel frames of the saddle are bent. That’s why, if you carry extra kilos (or pounds), it makes sense to look at the e-bike models that cost from 1000 – 1500 dollars and up.
In general, if the rider’s weight is around 100-120 kg (220 – 270 pounds), almost any normal medium level electric bike will do just fine, of course, if the rider does not decide to intentionally break this e-bike.
Read also: How much does a good e-bike cost? – in this comprehensive e-bike pricing guide.
Most mid-range e-bikes would have reliable bearings, bushings, and wheels. Any normal e-bike is designed to carry, at least, 120 kg (270 pounds) of weight. It could become more problematic when you add luggage to your e-bike in addition to your own weight. In this case, it makes sense to start thinking about assembling a stronger rear wheel.
What kind of e-bike is needed for a yet heavier rider?
If we are talking about the weight of above 120 kg (270 pounds), then, of course, the approach will be a little different. Not necessarily a lot – just a little. Even 150 kg (330 pounds) of weight will not instantly break a well-built mid-price-range electric bike.
One option for a heavy rider is an electric tricycle. Electric tricycles are built to carry extra loads and they are well suited for overweight riders as well.
Another well suitable option for extra weight is cargo e-bike. Be definition, cargo e-bikes are designed for additional cargo, so they would have all features, which are required for a heavy rider.
If you are looking for a traditional e-bike, in our opinion, the right approach would to buy an e-bike you can afford, starting from 1000 – 1500 dollars (not any cheap one).
You can often read advises to immediately throw out the original wheels and replace them with more durable. To take a more practical approach, it makes sense to leave the original wheels on, use them until they are used off, and only then upgrade to more durable wheels. If you are a careful rider, the original wheels will serve you well for a while.
Here are a few tips that would help:
- Disc brakes, especially hydraulic disk breaks are much better than rim brakes (or V-shape breaks). The weight of 150 kilos (330 pounds) is not very easy to stop with rim brakes. In addition, you need a clear modulation of breaks (sensitivity).
- Keep an eye on the wheels – after riding your first 100km (60 miles), service your e-bike in a specialized shop, and ask to tighten the spokes of the wheels. At least once a week, check if rims are not becoming curved. Such curves should be removed immediately (in a specialized shop or by yourself).
- Once a week, check all joints to see if anything has become or is becoming loose. The extra load has its effect, after all.
- The type of e-bike that you need is a cross-country or a mountain e-bike. Unlike in cruiser or city e-bikes, in cross-country or mountain e-bikes, rider’s weight is evenly distributed between the handlebars and seats.
More expensive – more reliable?
Even if you have extra money to spend, it is not always the best choice to buy very expensive models. As a rule, the more expensive e-bike the lighter the components. Many top range aluminum frames are so thin-walled that in some places metal can be squeezed by simply pressuring with your fingers. This isn’t the right choice for a heavy rider.
A typical e-bike should be a regular hardtail (it’s cheaper and more reliable), and not the one with a lightweight aluminum frame. Most cross-country or mountain e-bikes will fall under this description.
We also would not recommend buying e-bikes, which are designed for trail runs or for jumping. Although those e-bikes have an extra safety margin, their geometry is usually not designed for long rides.
What are the weaknesses to look for?
Once you buy an e-bike, start riding. You’ll be surprised to see that your e-bike is not thinking of falling apart after the first ride. The most important thing – before the first trip, check the tire pressure. It must be close to the allowed maximum, which is written on the side of the tire. If you do not inflate your tires enough, there is a risk to catch a “snake bite” on the camera.
Besides that, it makes sense to remember that though your e-bike is a mountain e-bike, it does not justify your jumping from curbs. It is better to go carefully to test it out first.
Watch and take care of the wheels
One of the weakest points on an e-bike because of the extra weight it carries, are, primarily, the wheels. As we have already written above – after the first hundred kilometers visit the biking mechanic, who can help measure the tension of the spokes. Fix what needs to be fixed on the wheel and watch them constantly.
Saddle and pedals
Often the steel frame of the saddle can bend. So, immediately teach yourself to stand on your e-bike when passing unevenness parts on the road, and especially – when riding off the curbs.
If you are looking to improve your existing e-bike to make it suitable to carry extra weight, this Thompson seatpost (see on Amazon) is a great choice. Thompson seatposts are heavy duty and well recommended for those extra pounds/kilos. Reviews are always top.
The pedals can also quickly break down. So it is not recommended to go up steep hills in a standing position. It is much better to go up in a sitting position, use more electric power and shift to the light gear.
What else can break?
In fact, anything can break because of the heavy load. The chain can break, bearings on the rear hub can go out of order, the transmission wears down more quickly. To avoid all this, always drive in a low gear, so that the load on the pedals is low and the cadence (rotation speed) is high.
It is almost certain that if a heavy cyclist rides carefully and closely watches the e-bike, in the first season there will be no need for serious repairs.
Most importantly, it makes sense to immediately understand that an e-bike is pretty much a consumable. Do not be upset if some small bits break down.
If you ride regularly and use this opportunity to lose some weight and become more fit, your weight will go down and soon you will be able to buy a faster and lighter e-bike.
Electic bicycle upgrades for heavyweights
Saddles for heavyweights
Some upgrades can be started immediately after the purchase, and this applies primarily to the saddles. The extra weight has a very negative impact on the spine. When you roll over our imperfect asphalt, or on an unpaved country road, each slight road imperfection will have to be amortized by your back.
Not to mention the fact that on an ordinary seat, the bottom of a heavy cyclist will suffer a lot. So, my recommendation is to buy a Brooks leather saddle with springs like this one (link to purchase). Yes, this model is not light compared to sports seats, and maybe someone will think that it is expensive, but your back and your bottom will say big thank you if you do this.
Handlebars for heavyweights
Since we recommend a cross-country or a mountain electric bike, which implies a forward-leaning position, a novice cyclist may encounter tiredness and pain in wrists and palms.
In this case, a good choice is to install ergonomic grips, which would allow your hands to rest. Here are several examples (link to purchase one, two, three).
Read also: How to avoid sore wrists and hands while e-cycling? – in this article.
Fork selection for heavy riders
Front fork on mid-budget e-bikes is often without suspension. Such forks tend to break down rather fast even under light riding conditions. Sooner or later you will have to think about replacing one.
As far as we know, there are no spring forks that can work adequately with a weight of 130 kg or more (290 pounds or more). So only air compression forks can work. Look at the models at least as good as RockShox Recon Solo Air (link to purchase).
Wheel selection for overweight riders
We suggest changing e-bike wheels when this moment comes. Even the second-hand wheels, if they are worked on by a competent mechanic, should serve at least one or two active seasons.
When you see the first signs of end-of-life for the rear wheel (cracks in the pistons, where the spokes are inserted), a new rear wheel should be put in place. I would recommend taking an inexpensive freeride wheel (such as the Alexrim DM24, for example – link to purchase).
In any case, pay a visit to a competent bike mechanic and say that you need a sturdy wheel and the most reliable spokes, which will have to withstand a heavy load. After the first hundred kilometers, you will need to visit the mechanic again to tighten the spokes. It will be quite difficult to break such wheels if you do not jump with all the weight from high curbs.
It makes no sense to change the front wheel, because the load on it is minimal, and it will serve for a very long time.
Do we need special tires?
Since an overweight rider is unlikely to ride on steep downhill slopes and rocky trails, for a more comfortable ride it makes sense to put tires like Schwalbe Hurricane (link to purchase). Or any other quality cross country tire with a non-aggressive tread (link to purchase one, two, three).
How much would an e-bike cost for a heavy rider?
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, John Smith was offered to buy a custom-built electric bike for about 5K USD.
Let’s compare this with a price tag for a traditional e-bike for a rider weighing 130-150kg (290 – 330 pounds), with all the upgrades.
Let’s take a mass-market e-bike, such as Decathlon Rockrider, for example, for a price of around 1500 USD.
Read also: Rockrider E-ST500 V2 Review: A Solid Starter eMTB – in this article.
We have discussed the following potential upgrades:
- Saddle leather Brooks – $$ (check the current price on Amazon).
- Ergogrips – $ (check the current price on Amazon).
- RockShox Recon Solo Air – $$ (check the current price on Amazon).
- Rear wheel – $$ (check the current price on Amazon)
- Schwalbe Hurricane rubber – $ (check the current price on Amazon).
The total of all upgrades is coming to approximately 500 USD, depending on the current pricing. Those upgrades are far from mandatory and can be invested in over a period of time. You can start simply with an original e-bike for around 1500 USD.
We do not see much sense in assembling a custom electric bike for a heavy rider for 5K+ USD. Yes, you can replace all components with special ones, for example, designed for free-riders. But why do this? It’s unlikely that a rider weighing 150 kg will fly on free-ride trails.
Read also: What are e-bike models for overweight riders? How to select? – in this article.
Take a look at this video on how much does weight affect your e-bike riding: