Being 180 pounds guy myself, I didn’t worry too much about the potential weight limit of wheels when I bought my first set. Luckily I didn’t have any problems for now, but heavier cyclists might have them if they ignore the wheels’ weight limit.
Bike wheels typically have a weight limit of 265 pounds (120 kg). The number includes the weight of a rider, a bike, and any other equipment or cargo. If the limit is exceeded, you should inspect the wheels for any damages more often.
With the growing popularity of cycling, manufacturers have begun to produce wheels tailored to a broader population, even for those with a few pounds more. Finding a wheelset for a rider of any type is no longer a problem.
Wheels’ weight limit
Wheels are the second most expensive part of the bike (behind the frame), so breaking them can be costly. It’s crucial that you know the weight limit of your wheelset and therefore avoid any potential problems.
The manufacturer should provide weight limit information, but finding it is often harder than you would think and like. Some manufacturers give you the number for every model separately, some set the same weight limit for all their models, and some don’t publicly announce the weight limit, and you have to contact them directly.
If you’re a skinny 160-pound guy (72 kg), then the wheels’ weight limit doesn’t really interest you, as every wheel should hold your weight without a problem. On the other hand, being a 280-pound guy who wants to start cycling, you would want to check the weight limit of the most important bike parts.
We have already learned that most brands set the weight limit between 250 and 265 pounds (115-120 kg). The number includes the rider with all the equipment and the bike.
Now let’s do the math. A bike typically weighs 15-22 lbs (7-10 kg), which leaves us at around 240 lbs (108 kg) for a rider and equipment.
Equipment can differ heavily, but for the sake of our case, let’s include all the basic equipment that most cyclists have. That would be:
- Helmet (0.55 lbs / 250 g)
- Shoes (2x 0.55 lbs / 250 g)
- Glasses (0.07 lbs / 36 g )
- Clothing (0.88 lbs / 400 g)
- Water bottles (2x 1.65 lbs / 750 g)
- Bike computer (0.17 lbs / 79 g)
After deducting the equipment weight from our total, we get 233.93 pounds (106.1 kg). If a cyclist weighs less than 234 pounds (106 kg), the wheels’ weight limit shouldn’t be a problem.
Some would even argue that the overall weight limit is higher because weight is distributed between both wheels. In theory, each wheel could carry 234 pounds. I still suggest that you consider the weight limit set by the manufacturer, as any “experiment” can become quite costly.
Can I ride even if exceeding a weight limit?
The wheels are made to withstand heavy loads, which means they won’t break the moment you exceed their weight limit. You can use them even if you weigh 10 or 20 pounds more than the limit, but keep in mind the chances of potential problems are higher.
Manufacturers suggest that you inspect wheels more often if you exceed the weight limit. Look for any cracks or bends of the rim and loose or broken spokes that might indicate the failure of the wheel.
Potential damage to the wheels is also strongly influenced by the terrain on which you ride. The rougher it is, the more chances of damage.
Most wheels will fail when a significant impact force is applied to a small area. The most common example of this is driving over a pothole that every cyclist experiences a few times a year. The greater the rider’s weight, the greater the force. The greater the force, the greater the chances of a break.
You might be lucky and do thousands of miles with a wheelset whose weight limit you exceed, but with every pound over the limit, the chances of failure rise. I suggest you choose a wheelset with a bit of maneuvering space weight limit-wise so that you can be sure everything will be OK.
How to protect wheels if I’m overweight?
I will always tell you to buy wheels whose weight limit exceeds your weight. It’s the safest choice, and I don’t see any argument that would make sense in buying wheels with a lower weight limit. Having said that, there are a few tricks you can use to protect your wheels if you exceed the weight limit.
Number of spokes
When buying new wheels, choose ones that have at least 32 spokes. The more spokes there are, the less weight each supports. If one breaks, only a small portion of the overall weight is transferred to other spokes, making it less likely that some more will break.
With more spokes, the area where one broke is still well supported. Therefore there is a lesser chance for bending of a rim.
As a general rule, road tires should be inflated between 90 to 120 PSI. Lighter riders will stay on the low side, and heavier riders will stay on the higher side.
If you’re exceeding the wheels’ weight limit, inflate your tires to 110-120 PSI. They will be much harder and will not give in to every bump on the road. That will be especially important if you drive over a pothole, as it will prevent the rim from hitting the edge of the hole, which could damage it.
Installation of a wider tire has a similar effect and result in a much smoother ride. If you consider yourself being on the heavy side of the scale, use a 25 mm tire or wider.
Carbon vs. aluminum wheels weight limit
Having carbon wheels is tempting to many. They are lighter and therefore faster. Also, they look cool. But all that comes with a price – literally. Performance-wise they are superior to aluminum wheels, but what about the weight limit.
The weight limit is the same for carbon and aluminum wheels. Both have a weight limit of around 265 pounds (120 kg), varying slightly depending on the model.
I suggest that you don’t buy expensive carbon wheels until you’re really serious about cycling. If you’re struggling to drop below the weight limit, then having carbon wheels doesn’t make any sense. You can achieve speed increase and lightness by dropping a few pounds of body weight.
Best wheels for overweight riders
There are a lot of wheels on the market, but not many are made with overweight riders in mind. Those few models made specifically for heavy riders are expensive and not really an option for a rider that’s just getting started.
I picked two wheelsets -aluminum and carbon – that I would consider buying if I were overweight. The main factors in selection were weight limit, the number of spokes, and price.
- Weight Limit (rider + bike): 120 kg
- Number of spokes: 32
Miche is a well-known bike brand, so you can’t go wrong with picking their product. X-Press model is made from aluminum, which is a plus for me, as carbon fiber would only raise the price.
The decisive factor for me was the number of spokes. As told before, 32 is a must, although I would prefer having 36. But I do understand that wheels with 36 spokes are rare on the open market.
The price point varies between sellers, but normally they would cost you around $225. One big plus is that they are also available on Amazon, so you don’t need to search for your local seller. You can check them here.
Superteam Carbon Wheelset
- Weight Limit (rider): 130 kg
- Number of spokes: 24
I wanted to include one carbon wheelset on my list. Superteam is an affordable entrance to the world of carbon fiber. The quality of cheaper carbon wheels is usually questionable, but Superteam’s wheels are surprisingly well made and high quality.
The number of spokes is obviously low, which is the major drawback. But the manufacturer guarantees that the wheels can withstand the weight of a 285 pounds (130 kg) cyclist.
Cyclists using Superteams wheels are pleased with their high quality and surprised with the fact that you can get a decent set of carbon wheels for under $400. If you always wanted carbon wheels, now is your chance. Check them here.