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How to Lose Weight on Your Bike

Part one: How to set up a bicycling workout


Updated August 11, 2014

How to Lose Weight on Your Bike

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 a casual ride with a friend. Use the tips below to set up your bike workout properly so that you get the greatest benefits out of your ride.

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, schedule longer rides during the week. If you do three cycling workouts each week, complete one short ride (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?

If weight loss is your primary goal, exercise intensity matters more than speed. A higher intensity ride will burn more calories than a lower intensity ride.  But the type of bike you ride and the trail you choose will affect both intensity and speed. For example, if you are riding a heavy mountain bike on muddy, off-road trails at 12 miles per hour, you'll probably have to work very hard. But if you are on a road bike pedaling down a hill, you can reach that pace with almost no effort at all. 

Your best bet? Learn to use a heart rate monitor. The device provides an accurate 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 in a monitor, used the 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 breath.

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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