If you’re new to cycling or considering getting started, then you’ve probably found yourself asking questions such as what are the calories burned bike riding? And is cycling good for weight loss?
So today, we decided to put a blog post together covering exactly that.
In this blog post, we’re going to outline the calories burned bike riding & explain what factors influence how many calories you actually burn as you ride your bike.
Plus we’ll also be providing you with a cycling calories per hour calculator which will help you determine how effective cycling could be with regards to weight loss (and how quickly you could lose weight).
What Are The Calories Burned Bike Riding?
In general, the average person will typically burn anywhere between 450 calories to 750 calories for every hour that they spend cycling, some may even burn up to a whopping 1,080 calories per hour.
That’s a lot of calories.
But whilst those are “average” figures, what you will actually achieve for yourself will depend on a number of factors – such as the speed at which you ride, your body weight, the time you spend cycling & the ground that you’re cycling across.
For example, a 55kg rider cycling at 13mph will burn around 440 calories per hour, on average, yet a 90kg rider cycling at 18mph will burn around 1,080.
And again, that is only factoring in weight & speed.
If one rider spends the majority of his hour cycling uphill at the same speed another rider spends cycling across mostly flat ground, it’s obvious that one is going to burn a lot more calories than the other.
And that stretches even further – because things like aerodynamics, right through to the width & compound of the tyre being ridden on also play a huge part in calorie burn, too.
A wider tyre will generally result in more friction, and more friction means more effort… Which means more calories.
So how can you accurately calculate the number of calories burned bike riding?
Well, being realistic – you can’t… Not unless you were cycling in a controlled laboratory environment.
You could certainly leverage the use of tools like GPS trackers, heart rate monitors & cycling computers to help you generate a more accurate figure, but ultimately all of these tools are only ever going to provide “rough guidance”.
The good news, however, is that even whilst calories measured by those tools may not reflect true calories burned, they can still make for an accurate comparison of effort.
For example, if you are cycling on a turbo trainer where no wind is involved & your device records that you burned 300 calories, then that will act as an accurate baseline for future rides.
You know that if you hop on again & record 350 calories that you have certainly put in more effort, even if that may not necessarily reflect the true amount of calories your body has actually burned.
Average Calories Burned Cycling
Okay, so we now know that “average” calories may not necessarily represent the actual calories that our bodies will burn when we’re out cycling… But averages are still nice to know all the same, right?
So here goes:
And from that chart of average calories burned cycling you can clearly see that cycling is a very effective form of exercise for burning calories.
In fact, cycling is actually one of the top highest-calorie-burned-per-minute exercises there is.
Is Cycling Good For Weight Loss?
With the potential of being able to burn over 1,000 calories per hour, cycling is a very good exercise for weight loss… Hence why cyclists are renowned for having a slender build.
It’s estimated that losing around 1lb in bodyweight requires being in a deficit of approximately 3,500 calories. So a day out cycling could see you well on your way to losing 1lb in bodyweight.
But as with any exercise, cycling only plays a small part in an overall weight loss goal.
Diet plays the largest part.
You see, you could very well cycle all day long & burn thousands of calories, but in order to actually lose weight, you must end the day in an overall deficit.
So even if you’ve burned a whopping 3,000 calories, you won’t find yourself losing any weight if you happened to take onboard a total of 6,000 calories during the rest of the day.
The reason for that is because overall you’d still be up by 3,000 calories.
To lose weight, overall you need to take in fewer calories than your body actually needs, as that’s when it turns to your fat reserves to get energy since it hasn’t gotten enough from food alone.
Still, any exercise is better than no exercise at all & any calories burned is better than no calories burned.
Calculating Cycling Calories Per Hour
Again, this calculation will not provide an “accurate” figure of exactly what your body will burn per hour when cycling due to the many contributing factors, but it will indeed provide a rough guideline for you to work off.
To calculate cycling calories per hour, the following formula is used:
((MET x body weight in KG x 3.5) ÷ 200) * 60)
“MET” is a measurement of the energy cost of physical activity for a period of time. An activity with a MET of 1 is roughly equal to a person’s energy expenditure from sitting still at room temperature not actively digesting food.
- Cycling leisurely at an average speed of 5.5 mph has a MET of 3.5
- Cycling with light to moderate effort (51 to 89 watts) has a MET of 4.8
- Cycling with moderate to vigorous effort (90 to 100 watts) has a MET of 6.8
- Cycling with vigorous effort has a MET of 10
- Cycling in a race, or uphill with vigorous effort has a MET of 16
So as an example, for a 55 kg person cycling with vigorous effort:
(10 x 55 x 3.5) ÷ 200) = 9.625 calories per minute
9.625 * 60 = 577.50 calories per hour
And for more detailed information on MET codes, or to obtain more MET codes for different situations, you can visit the Compendium of Physical Activities.
The Bottom Line
There’s no doubt about it, cycling is a fantastic way to burn calories – in fact, it’s actually one of the highest-calorie-burning-per-minute exercises that there is.
However, as with any exercise, cycling only plays a small part in actually losing weight. If you wish to effectively lose weight then you must also work to control your diet at the same time, too.
Is cycling good for weight loss? Yes, but only if you end your day in a calorie deficit – which means that you take on board fewer calories than your body needs to burn.
If you do not end your day in a deficit, you will never lose any weight, regardless of how much you cycle.
But the good news is that because cycling is such a high-calorie exercise, it typically makes it much easier to fall into a calorie deficit even without putting a huge focus on your diet.
That’s why cyclists are typically renowned for being of a slender build – especially those cycling over longer distances at a time. It’s a very demanding exercise (but always fun, of course!).
What’s the most calories you’ve ever burned on a ride? Let us know in the comments below.