While you would think that cyclists would get a better workout on inefficient equipment in practice it doesn't seem to be true. When you have better equipment you just ride faster and end up getting an even better workout. Also, if cycling seems more like strength training than cardio you aren't doing it right. To go faster spin the pedals faster instead of choosing a harder gear. When you are spinning with a reasonable cadence cycling will get your blood moving.
I think it also depends on what you have been doing (are you starting out or an expert?), and also the gear. From my experience biking has been more strength training than cardio, where running has been much higher on the cardio. However I haven't been able to do any serious biking without added drag, so that means slower speeds and more force to get anywhere. Then there's also the thought that if biking has more muscle building (in my scenario), then it would help be burn more calories at a resting state.
With the gear... it is much easier to get speed when you have a well maintained road bike, and that means less effort, so less calorie burn than going the same speed but cruddier gear.
I think to do the real test would involve a subject, and a heart monitor. Figure how far and time it would take a specific individual to burn 300 calories, then try the other another day. Then you would know the real results, but only for that person. I bet it varies between people.
I do both pretty extensively while in training though I will admit that I am a more avid and, therefore, 'better' cyclist. I've found that for me cycling burns more calories. I emphasize the 'for me' part of that sentence. As I stated I am a better, more efficient rider than I am a runner and am able to get my heart working much harder when I hit the gears than when I run.
I am a 8 min./mile runner and a 23 mph rider on average. Someone with better knowledge of this than me can maybe infer something from those numbers and this topic.
I use a HRM while running & biking. I run at about 5 miles in an hour (so a 12 min pace) & burn right at 500 calories. I bike at about 13.5 mph and an burn about 600 calories in an hour. So, for me, I can burn more cycling than running...at this point in time. I'm sure that could change as I get more fit &/or faster in one sport or the other.
Dana, Half Fanatic #1693
Completed 2013 Events: Feb 9 - Pedaling the Prairie, 45 miles Feb 16 - Lions Club Bike Ride, 46.5 miles Mar 3 - The Great Plane Ride, 25 hilly miles Aug 18 - TriGirl Sprint Duathlon Sept 2 - Dam Ride, 32 miles
current weight: 149.0
Fitness Minutes: (439) Posts: 3,641 10/31/11 12:45 P
Years ago I read an article about this written by an exercise physiologist. The discussion was calories/min in running vs. cycling. Standard wisdom is that it takes longer to burn the same number of calories cycling than it does running. Running seems to be the more efficient workout. It turns out the answer is more complex. Beginning cyclists can not burn as many calories/hour cycling as running. Cycling is mainly a lower body activity and even though it uses the largest muscles in our body it can only use as much blood as as we can send to the lower half of our bodies. Even the arm movements and utilizing the stabilizing muscles in the abdomen and back are enough to make running a whole body activity. Not to mention that beginning cyclists sometimes coast more than they should. In elite athletes the tables turn. Highly conditioned cyclists can send more blood to the lower half of their bodies than most other athletes can to their entire body. If you compare the calories burned by a competitive road cyclist and a competitive distance runner the cyclist burns calories more quickly. The exercise physiologist who investigated this was an expert in running but knew less about cyclists and had to run tests. He worked with the nearest local amateur bike racing team. To his amazement even amateur cyclists burned calories at a higher rate and sometimes for a longer period of time on training rides than elite marathon runners did during competition. He listed cross country skiing as the only activity that burns calories faster than serious cycling does. Adding to Bill's comments, aerodynamic drag increases at the square of speed. It takes four times as much effort to ride twice as fast and nine times the effort to ride three times as fast. Rolling resistance increases linearly with speed. At low speeds rolling resistance is the largest contributor of drag while at high speeds aerodynamic drag is nearly all of the drag.
I can't buy the argument that running is about the same calories regardless of the speed. No chance. Running at 4pm and running at 8mph is GOING to burn different calories and will obviously require different amounts of energy.
As for biking, since I'm a heavier rider (280ish), I burn roughly 70 calories per mile @ a 13.25 mph average pace.
Don't they each burn calories roughly based on general level of exertion across time either way? What I mean is that I'd expect riding as hard as you can sustain to burn as much as running as fast as you can sustain, per unit of time doing either. With running more of the calories will go on weight bearing than going forwards and other inefficiencies, but the cv system has it's metabolic limits regardless.
Which burns more calories, running or cycling? The standard comparison is that one mile of running equals four miles of cycling, but that's lousy science. Although running requires the same amount of energy per mile at any speed (110 calories per mile), riding is affected by wind resistance so the faster you ride, the more energy you use. So you have to compare running and cycling at different cycling speeds.
Dr. Edward Coyle of The University of Texas in Austin determined that if you ride 20 miles at 15 mph, you burn 620 calories (20 miles X 31 calories per mile = 620 calories). Take the 620 calories and divide them by 110 calories per mile for running and you get 5.63 miles to burn the same number of calories. So, riding a bicycle 20 miles at 15 miles per hour is equal to running 5.6 miles at any speed.
Dr. Coyle made the calculations easy by providing conversion factors for different riding speeds: 10MPH=4.2, 15MPH=3.5, 20MPH=2.9, 25MPH=2.3, and 30MPH=1.9. Divide the number of miles ridden by the conversion factor for your riding speed to tell you the equivalent miles of running at any speed. Thus, for 20 miles ridden at 10MPH, divide 20 miles by 4.2 which tells you that your ride is equivalent to 4.8 miles of running. This formula is for an average-size adult (approximately 155 pounds). A larger cyclist would divide by a slightly higher number; a smaller cyclist, by a slightly lower one. Wind and hills are not accounted for in the table; nor is drafting (riding behind another cyclist), which can reduce your energy expenditure by up to one-third.
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