A common reason people start cycling is to get fitter and lose weight as a result of being more active. By now, we’re all too familiar with the mantra that to lose weight we need to burn more calories than we consume. So, burning as many calories as you can during your bike ride will aid your weight loss efforts, but calories burned by cycling isn’t as straightforward as you might think.
Unlike running, where calorie-burn is fairly easy to predict, cycling is a whole different kettle of fish. Calories burned by cycling can depend on anything from your weight to your aerodynamic drag. So, how can you optimise your bike rides to burn as many calories as possible while on the saddle? Use these seven saddle-savvy tips, and you’ll be cycling away more calories in no time!
Discover more: What Are The Health Benefits Of Cycling? [Interactive]
Length does matter
We’re told time and time again that to burn more calories and melt fat we should be doing HIIT (high-intensity interval training). While to some degree this is true – HIIT training burns more calories in a shorter amount of time – the good news is that long, moderate intensity rides are better suited to calorie burn.
This is because, while HIIT certainly has its benefits, it takes the body a long time to recover from and so shouldn’t be done more than a few times a week. Meanwhile, a ride of two hours or longer while your heart rate is around 80% of your maximum heart rate will not only burn more calories, but it can also be done more frequently without as much risk of injury.
Read More: Does cycling strengthen your immune system?
Cut down on coasting
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that when we’re freewheeling downhill, our bodies aren’t working very hard. This is the main reason that you’ll burn more calories running than you will cycling. Whether it’s riding downhill or rolling to a stop at some traffic lights, coasting means your heart rate will decrease and therefore so will the calories that are burned.
So, where possible, try and keep coasting to a minimum and you’ll be surprised how many more calories you’ll burn. Of course, “where possible” should be adhered to here - if you’ve just tackled a monster climb you’ve earned your break on the way down!
Road cycling is great, but if you want to burn some serious calories, going off the beaten track is the way to go. Riding on unpaved surfaces requires more energy than rolling over smooth tarmac because there’s more rolling resistance.
Put simply, the rougher the surface, the greater the workout - shown by the fact that full-on mountain biking can burn upwards of 100 calories more than your standard road ride. Getting on the saddle off-road also means there’ll be less stopping for traffic, lights and stop signs (to name a few) meaning your heart rate will stay nice and high. Although we certainly don’t recommend throwing yourself down an extreme bike trail with your standard, expensive road bike…
Read More: Cycling and injury: What you need to know
When you’re riding alone, it can be hard to find the motivation to push yourself or even to get on your bike in the first place. If you’re on a group ride, you’re a lot less likely to coast along – especially if others in your group are slightly faster. As a result, you’ll be pushing yourself a whole lot more than you usually would, and therefore the calorie count will be going up.
Another extra benefit to group riding is that if you know you have an entourage of cycling pals waiting, you’ll be less likely to snooze that morning ride alarm. Plus, who doesn’t want an added bit of company while they enjoy their well-earned post-ride cappuccino?
We know, this is probably not what you want to hear but hear us out! If you want to take your ride to the next level and burn more calories, planning your route to include as many hills as possible, is a sure-fire way to do this.
In the cycling world, it tends to be the consensus that seated climbing is better since it conserves energy. However, if it’s serious calories you want to burn, conserving energy won’t do this. Aim for a 50/50 split between standing and sitting up the climb, and you’ll soon start to feel just how hard the workout has become.
Keep your body guessing
If you’re in the habit of commuting by bike to work, pat yourself on the back because this a great way to burn calories when you would otherwise be sedentary in the car. However, by always cycling along the same route every day you won’t be maximising calorie burn. This is because your body is great at adapting and will eventually find a way to cycle the route using less energy than you first used – in other words, your fitness will improve.
Although this is great if your end goal is to improve your endurance and cardiovascular fitness if you’re aiming to scorch away the calories it’s not so ideal. To counteract this, have a few different routes hidden up your sleeve with varying distances and terrains. Even if this means you’re cycling an extra 10 minutes uphill each time, the calories will soon add up!
Invest in a heart rate monitor
If you don’t have one already, investing in a wearable heart rate monitor is a must for any serious cyclist. Heart rate monitors are a great way to see if you’ve reached a fitness plateau mentioned in tip 6. If you see your heart rate drop after doing the same sort of rides for a few weeks, you’re becoming accustomed to it so it’s time to change up the intensity and duration.
A heart rate monitor can also act as your coach, telling you if you need to up the ante because your heart rate is too low. Furthermore, it’ll give you a much more accurate estimate of how many calories you’ve burned during your ride.
If you are planning on hitting the roads for a health boost, be sure to check out our cycling insurance.