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Biking to Lose Weight

Part One: How to Set Up Your Cycling Workout

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Updated February 10, 2013

Biking to Lose Weight

Ride your bike to lose weight

Peter Cade/Getty Images
Do you want to lose weight while you bike? Bicycling is a great leisure activity, but if you are biking for weight loss you need to structure your workout differently than you would if you are just doing some casual bike riding with a friend. Learn how to set up your workout so that you get the greatest benefits out of your bicycling workout.

How Far Should I Bike to Lose Weight?

If you are biking to lose weight, distance matters less than duration. That means that you don't necessarily have to ride the entire Tour de France to shed a few pounds. Relieved? Good. But don't put away the odometer.

If you are new to exercise, see how far you travel when you bike for 30 minutes. Jot down the number in your workout journal and set a goal to decrease the amount of time it takes you to ride that same distance and route. As your fitness level improves you'll be able to travel further in less time and you'll burn more calories in the process.

As you get comfortable spending more time in the saddle, you should begin to schedule longer rides during the week. If you are biking for weight loss three days per week, make one ride a short workout (30 minutes), make one ride a moderate duration (45 minutes) and set a goal to ride one long tour (60-120 minutes) each week.

How Fast Should I Bike to Lose Weight?

Again, the answer depends on a number of factors. Exercise intensity matters more than speed. The type of bike you ride and the trail you choose will affect both intensity and speed. For example, if you are riding muddy, off-road trails on a heavy mountain bike at 12 miles per hour, you'll probably be working very hard. But if you ride that same pace on a sleek road bike on a smooth descent, it probably means you are barely pedaling.

Your best bet? Get a heart rate monitor. That way you'll get an exact measurement of how hard you are working. Aim to work at 70-75% of your maximum heart rate for most rides. If you don't want to invest the money in a monitor, used a perceived exertion scale instead. On a scale of 1-10, you should feel like you are working at a level 7. You should be breathing deeply, but not exhausted or out of breathe.

Where Should I Bike for Weight Loss?

The course you choose may have the biggest impact on the number of calories you burn, because it will affect both duration and intensity. For best results, you want to choose a course that allows you to pedal consistently without taking too many breaks at stoplights or intersections. These short breaks cause your heart rate to drop, take up too much workout time, and decrease the calorie burning potential of your ride.

Many cities have dedicated continuous bike trails. Especially when you are first starting out, opt for these safe routes rather than riding in the road. If you don't have access to a bike path, it may be worth your time to drive to a location where a long stretch of quiet road is available.

Get a list of essential equipment and biking tips>>

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