Electric Bikes for Heavy Riders
One of the most important things when buying a bike is choosing the right size that comfortably fits your body type. Riding a bike that isn't a suitable size or strength for you is like wearing the wrong sized shoes! Riding will feel awkward, uncomfortable and potentially harm your health. This is why there are so many variations of frame, saddle styles and positions, handlebars and more - you need to be comfortable.
If you're heavier than average, there are a few key considerations to have in mind when shopping for an electric bike. Improved tyres, heftier brakes and the frame style may all ultimately mean you need to invest slightly more in a quality electric bike. Find our top recommendations below, as well reading our handy guide which runs you through what you need to look out for.
Best Electric Bikes for Heavy Riders
As a heavier person, you should be looking for the largest capacity battery you can afford. The battery powers the motor, meaning if the battery runs out, you're down to only human power. Electric bikes are much heavier than normal bikes because of the battery and motor, so running out of power can mean a lot of extra effort! The larger the battery, the further you can go.
Lead acid batteries put out much less power and are heavy. Lead batteries are obsolete, and are only found on cheap, inferior bikes. If you come across Lead Acid batteries on any second hand bikes you are considering, avoid them!
Lithium Batteries are vastly better with improved performance, faster charging and much longer lifespan, but tend to cost a bit more. However once you balance out the performance difference, and how much longer a good lithium battery will last, the cost starts to even out. Thanks to advances in battery technology, costs are also dropping each year with higher densities available.
Some of our eBikes come up with 735Wh or even 983Wh batteries!
It's important to understand that all rechargeable batteries degrade over time (much like your smartphone), so your bike's battery will need replacing after a few years. A lithium battery, if it's looked after, can last around 1500 charges, and Bosch guarantee theirs to a minimum of 2 years, or 500 charge cycles. This might mean a battery change every two to three years with seriously heavy usage.
To put that in perspective, if you are riding around 50 miles a week you would likely charge a 500Wh battery two or three times, (depending on your journey). Even at 3 charges a week, 1,500 charge cycles means your battery would last for 10 years worth of charge cycles, and be guaranteed for over 3 years.
The second key part of an electric bike. The motor is the driving mechanism, and a more powerful motor is important when you're heavier as it's driving more total weight.
Larger motors cost more and if run at full assistance mode, will drain the battery faster and will deliver better performance, especially on hills. Many cheaper electric bikes have poor quality, weaker motors.
These are suitable for lightweight town riding on the flat, but if you’re heavier it's best to buy a motor that can comfortably deal with your needs. We highly recommend arranging a test drive before purchase to experience the difference a good motor makes.
Electric Bike Motor Types
There are three types of motor commonly used, with only rear hub and mid drive suitable for heavy riders. Let's explore why.
Front Hub Motors
Mounted directly to the axle, direct hub motors are simple, with almost no moving parts. They're also capable of generating electricity whenever you brake, which can be found on some of our high end brands such as Stromer.
Often front hub motors are used on cheaper, lightweight models and are weaker. You may see cheaper electric bikes and conversion kits with this type of hub on the front wheel. These can lead to the feeling of being "pulled along" from the front, which feels unnatural.
While great for folding electric bikes and for commuting on the flat, they will struggle on hills and we would suggest avoiding for heavy riders.
Rear Hub Motors
However, rear hub mounted motors are far more powerful. Our Speed Pedelecs often are rear hub motors delivering 45Nm directly at the wheel. This gives several benefits such as direct power delivery, giving better handling and high efficiency due to lack of chain energy transmission loss. Weight is better distributed between the battery, rider and motor, and the ride style is a far more natural feeling because traditional bikes also work by powering the rear wheel.
Mid Drive or Crank Motors
Built into the middle of the bike rather than around an axle, mid-drive motors create torque which is transferred to the axle by a chain or belt, like a standard pedal bike.
Mid-drive motors are powerful, so well suited to mountain bikes, and best used as a supplement to human power.
Motors mounted in the centre of the bike can give more balance and weight distribution, with the centre of gravity lower down in the middle of the bike.
They tend to have higher Torque ratings because they have indirect power delivery which means they require more energy to achieve the same result as a rear hub motor. They are also more complex and difficult to swap out in event of a maintenance problem, though high quality hub motors should be relatively trouble free.
Geared mid motors are one of the most popular eBike motor types, with some excellent brands such as Bosch delivering high power systems.
The frame needs to be strong enough to take your weight, and be designed in a way that is easy for you to get on and off. If you are over 18 Stone, while most quality electric bikes may be suitable it's always important to check the model weight rating specifically.
The frame is the structure of the bike, taking all of the daily strain of the ride. If you're heavier, you're going to need to look for a heavy duty electric bike with a strong frame and a higher weight limit.
As a rough guide, our QWIC electric bikes are suited to up to 120KG (18 Stone), with some heavier duty models such as Speed Pedelecs suitable for up to 150KG (20 Stone+).
You should also find a frame that fits your size properly to ensure comfortable riding position and good balance. For example, the QWIC range come with small, medium and large options as well as comfort (step through) and sport (top bar) frame styles.
Comfort - Step Through
If you struggle with mobility, we suggest considering a step-through frame which offer either a reduce, or no top bar.
This design is much easier to mount the bike as you can “step though” the frame without having to lift your leg as high.
Heavy Duty Tyres
The heavier you are, the more force you exert on the bike, especially at high speeds. That matters for two things when it comes to tyres.
More weight and more force means more wear. Look for tires with a tough walls and strong inner tubes. Again, this will require investing slightly more in a good quality tyre.
Second is performance and grip. Branded tyres such as Schwalbe undergo more rigorous testing and give you superior grip on the road, reducing your chances of accidents and making the bike much easier to handle.
Similar to tyres - the heavier you are, the more force you exert when stopping and your stopping distance increases.
Counter this with strong, durable brakes that stop you faster, last longer, and are less likely to fail. Hydraulic brakes are a safer option due to the higher average speed of eBikes.
We would avoid rim brakes as they are more likely to wear quickly.
Saddles and Handlebars
Saddle size is responsible for how comfortable your ride is going to be. Seats on eBikes are widely customisable, with hundreds of options available from leading brands such as Brooks and Ergon, and they're easy to change.
Recommendations for heavier people is to get a seat that's wider in the rear, to stop chafing on long runs and make the seat more comfortable.
If you're a taller rider it's particularly important to look at how far the seat extends vertically. One of the biggest issues with ride comfort on new bikes is full range of motion in the leg, and taller people might struggle to sit comfortably on bikes that have shorter seat pillars.
If you are a tall rider, our range of QWIC bikes tend to be more comfortable as they are designed by the taller-than- average Dutch.
Handlebars should also be taller and wider than normal, and the distance between the bars and the saddle should be comfortable to avoid strain.
When buying your bike, look for options that have a wide variety of adjustable riding positions. If you lose weight or get fitter, you're probably going to have to adjust the bike to compensate. Again, adjustable handlebars and sa
When purchasing an electric bike, ensure its construction is high quality. Look at the frame, fixtures and fittings.
Water and dust damage can foul the mechanism and affect motor performance. Cheaper bikes will have less rigorous protection, meaning there's a much higher chance of ingress of dirt and dust, leading to performance issues and risk of accidents.
Many of our electric bikes offer integrated cabling and high quality welding, reducing the risk of rust and weakened structure.
This is especially important with electric mountain bikes, as they're going to go through far more rough treatment compared to road bikes used for commutes.
What types of electric bikes are available?
Electric Road Bikes
Designed for road use, electric road bikes are ideal for commuting, exercise, or any other use of a bike on roads, cycle tracks or other hard surfaces and usually light offroading for weekend rides along canal paths, country parks and other recreational use.
Electric Mountain Bikes
Rougher, tougher bikes, designed for heavy work and abuse on rough trails, electric mountain bikes tend to have heavy duty frames, powerful motors and a higher weight limit. This can make them more expensive, but very well suited for heavier riders.
They're build to take a bit more abuse as they are used both on and off road.
Electric Folding Bikes
A big consideration with an electric folding bike for heavy riders is portability. They're designed to collapse down for carrying onto trains or buses, or putting in the car.
Because they're lighter, folding bikes have smaller batteries, motors and lighter frames. They’re not built for longer distances and are less suitable for heavier riders in general. If you're looking for a folding bike, make sure that you spend a bit more on a quality model with a strong frame.
Electric Bike Conversion Kits
If you have an existing bike frame that you wish to convert to being electric, it is possible to fit a motor and battery onto an existing frame.
A few years ago, this may have been an appealing proposition due to the limited range of electric bikes available for heavier people. In recent years we’ve seen far more high quality electric bike brands come onto the market, building strong frames with strong motors.
Converting an existing frame is expensive to do properly for the result. Conversion kits are often weak front wheel mounted motors, and will not give a good riding experience.We always recommend buying a "native" eBike instead which are going to have the power and comfort for many years of daily use.
What are you planning on using your electric bike for?
Using an eBike for commuting is the simplest option to buy for, because it doesn't tend to put much strain on the bike.You can charge the bike at work, allowing you to opt for a smaller battery and thus a cheaper purchase.
If you're buying an eBike for your daily commute, look for a removable battery, sturdy frame, and in-built security features such as locking motors or rear wheel locks - available on all QWIC models.
An electric bike is a fantastic choice for personal fitness, especially if you're overweight.You can push yourself far harder, secure in the knowledge that you can always increase the motor for more assistance if you find yourself tired and far from home, or faced with a particularly daunting hill.
Studies have shown that owners of electric bikes ride further and faster than those on traditional bikes. We suggest reading up on the health benefits of an eBike at the below articles:
- "I thought electric bikes for only for lazy people - until I tried one" - Guardian
- Electric bikes require almost as much physical exertion as riding a traditional bike.
- Commute 30 minutes a day on your e-bike and you’ll hit the NHS activity guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.
- eBike Riders get more exercise than traditional cyclists due to riding further
If you're buying for fitness, we suggest a mountain bike, so you can comfortably use it on and off road, as the mood suits. However, if you know that you're only going to be cycling on roads then stick with a Commuter style bike as they will give better tarmac-based performance.
Hill and trail running
If you're going to be trail running you should be looking at a mountain bike with a strong motor and powerful battery to handle that.
Wheels, suspension, and seat quality are going to be especially important, as off-road trails tend to be a whole lot rougher than roads, which means more impact on you and your bike. While most eMTBs will come with some elements fitted as standard, we’re able to customise and fit more specialist components based on your requirements prior to delivery. Please contact us for further information.
Electric bikes are a significant investment for a lot of people. Sturdier, more powerful bikes tend to cost more, but also hold their value well and will last longer than cheaper models. The “buy cheap, buy twice” saying is especially true for electric bikes.
An electric bike is a worthy investment, saving you money on public transport costs, and an investment in your own health. If you’re looking for ways to finance your new purchase, we offer a range of financing options, as well as Cycle to Work schemes.