Denizot has noticed that many of her customers rebel against the idea of a thinner saddle and prefer wider, more padded saddles. While a cushy saddle is great for a leisurely ride, many cyclists find a stiffer, more supportive model more suitable for longer outings. "I'm consistently telling people if it's not comfortable, go to a bike store and try a different saddle," she explains. "We have comfortable saddles, but every person is different. I tell them to take a bike to the bike shop and ask them about saddles and try out a bunch of different ones."
Terry Bicycles offers women-specific clothing in a wide range of sizes, but the company is also well known for its saddle selection. When it comes to plus-size women and saddles, marketing VP Paula Dyba explains, "One of the [misconceptions] that plenty of riders have is that they need a super-wide and soft saddle to be comfortable, and we sure do hear that from plus-size riders looking for plus-size saddles."
But even a company like Terry doesn't make a plus-size saddle, for good reason: Contrary to what you might think, sit bone width doesn't vary according to weight. "While we don't specifically make a 'plus' saddle, all our sport and touring saddles are pretty wide in the rear to support sit bones properly," she continues. "Sit bone width doesn't change much from female rider to female rider, but what does is the amount of a rider's 'padding' and riding position." Her suggestion? Go wide if it's more comfortable and you're not planning on going too fast, but keep the wide part of the saddle at the back. "More upright riding requires more width and support in the rear," she says, "But we recommend against going too wide through the mid-section of the saddle or it can lead to inner thigh chafing and discomfort. Rule of thumb is enough width and saddle padding to support the sit bones, with a shared balance of weight distribution on handlebars, seat, and pedals."
Other components can be problematic as well, particularly the weight-bearing parts like seatposts and handlebars. "I think the most important thing is for riders to ensure that the products that they intend to purchase are authentic and not knockoffs," says Enve's Pantone. "This seems to be a growing problem. The products that big riders tend to gravitate to from our product line are generally our compact road handlebars, stem, and seatpost."
Again, the best advice for a larger rider on the hunt for the perfect handlebar is to call each company before buying—especially if you're looking at a carbon bar, since they often come with weight restrictions.
While it's fun to be a weight weenie about bike parts, opting for parts that are built to last—even at the cost of a few grams—is a smart move.
Part of the future for larger riders is a more widespread acceptance that anyone can—and should—ride a bike. More companies are building options for bigger riders, and new options like (seriously, no pun intended) fat bikes are great for larger riders who want a smoother ride, but not on a beach cruiser.
Local bike shops play a crucial role in acceptance. To make cycling more accessible to riders of all sizes and shapes, shop staff have to be knowledgeable and welcoming to all types of riders. "A lot of my customers haven't ridden a bike in 20 years," Denizot says. "And a lot of the women are intimidated about going to bike stores. There are a lot of great shops, but there are also a lot of jocks with the attitude that if you're not 120 pounds, you shouldn't be on a bike." She adds, "I also think the future of biking for bigger people is e-bikes. I love electric-assist bikes. You can use the motor to help, [but] not rely on it, so it helps you get up the hills. I love mine. Most places on the East Coast are hilly, and the assist makes riding fun no matter how many hills there are."
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