Weight gain is fast growing into a global problem. According to the World Obesity Federation, at least 51% of the world will be obese or overweight by 2035. Note that those two conditions are distinctive. There is a difference between overweight vs obese characteristics. Both are screened using body mass index (BMI): you’re overweight if you have a BMI of 25 to 29.5, and obese with a BMI of 30 and above.
Despite these differences, being overweight or obese has similar health risks, including heart disease and diabetes. Fortunately, they can be treated similarly as well—by switching to a healthier lifestyle, which involves more regular physical activity. If you want to lose weight and want an activity that feels more like an adventure than a workout, mountain biking is something you should definitely look into.
However, you may be wondering: can you be “too heavy” for a mountain bike? How does your weight affect your performance while cycling? We discuss the answers below—and share some beginner’s tips for heavier riders.
Are you too heavy for a mountain bike?
Mountain bikes are sturdy vehicles designed to get you through muddy trails, stubborn obstacles, and abrasive weather. Manufacturers prescribe a maximum weight each bike can carry while still maintaining top performance—and the average maximum weight across the board is 300 lbs. If you weigh more than that but still want to go cycling, you can reduce the load in your backpack to make up the difference. You can also start practicing with road bikes: these have higher weight limits and are not expected to face as much stress. Once your weight drops below 300 lbs., you can show off your skills in a mountain context.
How does weight affect mountain biking?
Mountain biking is a great way to lose weight: a 2020 study found that amateur cyclists increased their exercise efficacy for better weight loss within a 7-week training period. Work on your mountain biking skills, and you can burn up to 600 calories per hour. However, your starting weight can affect more than just the bikes you can use. It’ll be more difficult to climb uphill, and more challenging to regain speed after slowing down. Both these things can limit the benefits you reap from this activity. Fortunately, mountain biking is a low-impact exercise that’s easier on the joints—so if you’re a heavier rider, you can work your way to success with these tips:
How can heavier riders start mountain biking?
Get your bike fit
This step involves adjusting your bike’s position to maximize comfort and efficiency with respect to factors like body type and flexibility. Before getting the fit done professionally to ensure quality positioning, you can try some broad-stroke guidelines yourself. For example, you can adjust your seat height so your feet can reach the pedals without bending your knees. You can also check your handlebar distance by examining if your elbows are slightly bent, not locked. Ensuring the proper fit can provide maximum comfort as you transition into a more active lifestyle with mountain biking.
Gradually build endurance
If you want to take up mountain biking regularly, start by building up a basic level of fitness and endurance. Spend your first 4 to 6 weeks doing consistent, low-intensity rides on easier trails. From here, you can work on the intensity and speed of your rides. When you get the hang of it, you can begin mastering tricks to navigate the rough terrain, like cornering and lifting yourself over obstacles.
Track your progress
You can track your weight loss goals by measuring your weight or body fat percentage at specific weekly times. However, it’s important to remember that sustainable weight loss is less about numbers and more about building a healthy lifestyle that maximizes your well-being. Another way you can track your progress is to journal your fun experiences or take pictures of the beautiful trails you’ve ridden.
Take note of your mountain bike’s limit for your safety. If you’re too heavy, don’t worry—once you’ve reached 300 lb, you can hop on a mountain bike for the rest of your weight loss journey.