Many of the road bikes I've owned have been at most 62cm in size. That's usually the largest frame size available from mainstream manufacturers. They've fit me pretty well with some exceptions.
Those exceptions were bikes with a long enough seat tube, but too short of a head tube and low stack height. The result would be with my saddle set at the correct height I'd have to bend too far over. I'd endure abnormal discomfort on longer rides. Ill-fitting bikes don't last long in my possession.
High performance road bikes often come with feathery wheels, thin tires and wispy components. These all keep the bike light. This is okay if you're racing or are lightweight yourself, but for larger people it can mean expensive upgrades or equipment failures.
Bikes made for big people
Last year I got introduced to a Colorado bike company, Clydesdale Bicycles. They specialize in high performance gravel bikes made for big people. I'm talking big: from my height at 6'3" up to 7' tall and even higher.
These frames are different from most others. Not only are they made of titanium - known for its strength, durability and light weight - but the geometry is also unique. The frames have tall head tubes, adequate reach and stack, a lengthy wheelbase and long seat tubes. These are full-sized bikes.
Clydesdale models stand out in their spec: components clearly suit big people. Wide handlebars, a supportive saddle, high volume tires, tough wheels and lengthy crankarms. These are not the type of components that you will find on a bike from an everyday manufacturer.
Earlier this summer, Nick Wigston of Clydesdale was kind enough to send me a gravel bike to test. This is my review after having the 2XL-sized Clydesdale Team for two months.
My experience ordering the bike
Ordering my test bike from Clydesdale was a fun experience. First, I entered my measurements into their web form. With the help of my wife, it took about 10 minutes to get all the numbers and submit them.
Next, I picked the model I wanted - the Team which features Ultegra Di2 and hydraulic disc brakes - and entered my shipping information.
A few seconds later, I got an email receipt from Clydesdale with my order confirmation.
About two hours later, I received an email from Lennard Zinn (yes, the Lennard Zinn) with questions about my measurements. A day after responding to him, Lennard replied with my suggested bike size, a 2XL. Clydesdale also sells bikes in 3XL and 4XL for people who are really tall.
From the date I ordered the bike to the day it arrived in Whitehorse, was under two months.
Upon and after the bike's arrival
The Clydesdale was itself delivered in a Clydesdale-sized cardboard box. Two boxes, in fact.
Upon opening the outer box, inside was another with the titanium beauty packed inside. This was a nice touch. When you buy a CAD $8,000 bicycle it's a relief to see it safely and securely mailed to your doorstep.
After pulling the bike out of the box and setting it on our garage floor, there appeared to be little left for me to do. The rear wheel was already in the frame, the front wheel was off and the handlebar disconnected from the stem.
All I had to do was pop the front wheel in, connect the stem to the bar, plug in the Di2 electronic cables, attach my pedals and pump up the tires. That took me about 30 minutes.
There was also the short amount of time it took to dial in the fit of the bike. I adjusted saddle position and stem height, but that's part of any bicycle buying experience.
An extra courtesy that Clydesdale provides but I didn't use was their offer to help dial in the fit. After you get the bike set up, you can contact them with questions about position and settings. If things feel off, they work with you to tweak stuff.
You can send them a photo of you on the bike and Lennard will help improve your position. For example, if you should be more or less upright, less stretched out or more extended.
Riding the Clydesdale Team 2XL
Within seconds of rolling out of the driveway on my first ride aboard the Team, it was clear this is a special bike.
I noticed the extra width of the handlebars and the feel of the saddle. The titanium frame is luxurious in its comfort over bumps on the road. Add to the package, supportive 32 mm tires on wide 36-spoke rims (the frame takes up to 38 mm tires). The Clydesdale is not your average “big" bike with “small person" components.
No, to me the Clydesdale Team is the ultimate big guy gravel and road bike. The design, the quality, the parts; they add up to create a bike with a style and purpose all its own.
These are all the type of parts I'd pick if I was building my own perfect big guy gravel bike.
The frame itself is a work of art. Sturdy drop-outs and internal cable routing with inserts to switch between mechanical or electronic shifting. Shapely head tube and beautiful little bends and curves all over the place. The Team has, a clean, crisp and timeless aesthetic.
Weight and feel
Upon riding my carbon Cervélo R3 after the Clydesdale, their different geometries were noticeable. The Clydesdale has a long rear centre and wheelbase that makes for a stable and predictable ride. That said, the bike is still quick to turn, lively in its response and has no problem accelerating fast up hills.
My Cervélo is 17 pounds while the Clydesdale is 23 pounds. If you're racing and competing at a high level, you may not be on a bike like the Clydesdale due to the weight.
Instead, it feels like the type of bike you choose if you simply love riding gravel and road. The Team is made to enjoy the range of experiences when doing so.
I have a friend named Colin who lives around the corner from my house and is 6'10" tall and 260 pounds. He's the ideal customer for a Clydesdale bike. This is what Colin had to say about the Team after borrowing it for a week.
I am an avid mountain biker who mostly rides hardtail or full suspension as those types of bikes tend to have bigger, stronger frames. They can take more punishment from a large body.
I had the opportunity to ride the Clydesdale Team several times. For someone as large as myself I have never been on a road bike that fit me so well.
I am often on a bike frame that is too small with an over-extended seat post and too-low of handlebars. As you can imagine, this does make for the most comfortable ride. The Team gave me a correct fit that most big guys may never experience.
I found being on the Clydesdale alleviated my typical knee pain. I finally had better or even a proper range of motion. I was also able to get the bike moving fast and with relative ease for its size.
The Team was fun to ride, quick and powerful. I am not one who usually rides road bikes because of their lack of size and strength. The Clydesdale closes that gap.
The return ride home
I was a pretty lucky guy (as was Colin) to be able to ride the Clydesdale Team for an extended time. Thanks to Nick and Lennard for organizing this test and shipping the bike over 4,000 km to my home in the Yukon. It's now making the return trip back to Colorado.
The Clydesdale Team is a gravel and road bike a big person could own forever and ride almost anywhere. This is the type of bike you save up for and invest in.
I took the Team on routes with smooth and rough asphalt, chipseal, dirt and gravel. It was always solid, smooth and confident no matter what we encountered.
Visit Clydesdale Bicycles for more information.