A 10-mile bike ride may be a low-impact exercise, as cycling isn't a weight-bearing workout, but that doesn't mean it's a small feat. Whether you're on a stationary bike or pedaling to work, it's worth the effort — 10 miles on the bike puts you well on your way to a healthy lifestyle.
Take it from the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommend that adults put in at least 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise every week in the second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
At average cycling speeds, you'll meet that 2.5-hour suggestion in just two and a half 10-mile bike rides. Not a bad start to be sure, as long as you don't forget to complement your bike treks with a healthy dose of strength training.
As a rough average, expect to burn about 500 to 600 calories on a 10-mile bike ride at a normal traveling speed. Don't forget to account for variables like your body weight, exercise intensity and duration.
A Look at Some Averages
Naturally, your bike, your pace, your body and your unique cycling trip are all individual to you. As such, that means that the number of calories you torch on a 10-mile bike ride will differ from the calories your mom, best friend or neighbor will burn during their 10-mile bike ride. So while an exact calorie burn figure for a universal 10-mile bike ride is impossible to settle on, exploring a variety of averages helps you arrive at a solid, reliable ballpark estimate.
Body weight plays a critical role in how many calories a person burns during physical activity (not to mention how many calories they expend even while at rest). While body weights naturally encompass an extremely wide spectrum, the CDC places the average weight of an American woman at 170.5 pounds and that of an American man at 197.8 pounds, as per collected national statistics reported in 2016.
Right alongside body weight, exercise intensity is also a vital consideration when accounting for calorie burn. At least in the case of biking, speed helpfully serves as a rough measure of your overall exercise intensity.
For an average cycling speed estimate, the Cycling Embassy of Denmark has your back. In their bi-annual report on the biking habits of the cycling mecca known as Copenhagen, Denmark, the organization finds that — at least from the decade-long period spanning from 2004 to 2014 — bike riders pedaled at an overall average speed of about 15.9 kilometers per hour, or about 9.9 miles per hour. Conveniently, that puts your typical 10-mile bike ride right at an hour.
Keep in mind that these average calorie-burn estimates are just one part of a whole equation, though. The rate at which your body burns calories depends on a handful of variables well beyond your body weight. Your resting metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns calories when you're inactive), your age, your overall body composition and your sex all affect your energy expenditure, as the Mayo Clinic points out.
A 10-Mile Bike Ride
Those average body weight and biking speed figures work out so cleanly that it's easy to get an average estimate of the number of calories burned on a fairly typical 10-mile bike ride. Applying the averages and using ExRx.net's Exercise Calories Burned Calculator, a 170-pound person burns about 510 calories on a 10-mile, one-hour bike ride at a speed of (of course) 10 miles per hour. A 198-pound person at the same speed and duration burns about 594 calories.
But what about all the variables? That's where things start to get really interesting — better put your bike helmet on and hold on to those handlebars tight, because you might be in for a few surprises.
At a much more leisurely speed of 5.5 miles per hour, the calorie burn estimates, perhaps unexpectedly, change only a little bit. The 10-mile journey, in this case, takes closer to 1.8 hours to complete. This puts the projected calorie burn for a 170-pound person at 490 calories while the 198-pound person burns about 570 calories.
These figures are comparable to the faster speed, likely given the increased amount of time spent biking. So, just like Aesop taught you with the tortoise and the hare, there's no need to make it a race.
Can you keep up with all of these calorie-burn estimates yourself? The authors of a study published in the November 2012 issue of SenSys certainly seem to think so. In this study, researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that a combination of GPS apps and a smartphone's built-in accelerometer could count calories with a 2 percent margin of error. And that's to say nothing of the advances in smartphone tech and calorie-counting apps since 2012.
Exploring More Variables
The ExRx.net Exercise Calories Burned Calculator provides an interesting look at 10-mile bike rides of all sorts of different varieties. For instance, what if those theoretical bikers ramped up the intensity a bit? What if you're really pushing the pedals, all the way up to racing speed?
An increased pedaling speed of about 13 miles per hour decreases the amount of time needed to cover 10 miles to roughly 45 minutes, cutting a third off of the total time. With this quicker ride, a 170-pound person burns an estimated 543 calories over those 10 miles, while a 198-pound person burns 633 calories. This makes the middle ground between speed and time spent the most efficient calorie burner.
At racing speed, which the American Council on Exercise pegs at about 16 to 19 miles per hour, you'll blast through that 10-mile bike ride in about 35 minutes. In that time, a 170-pound cyclist burns an estimated 462 calories and a 198-pound cyclist melts 538, per ExRx.net estimates.
It goes without saying that not everybody falls into those CDC averages. Going back to the typical 10-mile bike ride at a speed of 10 miles per hour, here's how different body weights break down:
- 100 pounds: 300 calories burned
- 120 pounds: 360 calories burned
- 140 pounds: 420 calories burned
- 160 pounds: 480 calories burned
- 180 pounds: 540 calories burned
- 200 pounds: 600 calories burned
- 220 pounds: 660 calories burned
- 240 pounds: 720 calories burned
- 260 pounds: 780 calories burned
- 280 pounds: 840 calories burned
- 300 pounds: 900 calories burned
Calories Burned Per Mile Biking
While you've got your calories-burned-biking calculator out, looking at the calories burned per mile of biking also helps put things in perspective. After all, not every bike ride needs to be an epic journey, especially for those just getting started,
Going back to the 10-mile-per-hour speed average provided by the Cycling Embassy, the average cyclist cruises through a single mile in about 6 minutes. According to ExRx.net's calculations, a 6-minute mile for a 170-pound person burns through 51 calories. For a 198-pound person, that same 6-minute mile will burn somewhere around 59 calories.
Whether you're thinking about calories burned per mile of biking or per 10 miles of biking, chances are you're out to lose some weight. Although calories measure energy expenditure and not weight, the Mayo Clinic provides a reminder of a well-worn weight-loss rule of thumb: to lose about 1 pound of weight, you'll usually need to burn about 3,500 calories.
Putting that into context, burning 50 to 60 calories per 1 mile of cycling or 500 to 600 calories per 10 miles of cycling is a pretty safe bet, even across a wide range of different speeds and weight groups. That means that, on average, you'll need to bike approximately 60 to 70 miles in total to shed about 1 pound of fat.
Why You Should Bike
Whether you pedal just for fun or bike to burn fat, on a stationary bike or on the city streets, cycling isn't all about calories. The many benefits of biking reach way beyond just burning fat.
Harvard Health chimes in with just some of those potential health perks. In addition to the calories biking burns, cycling packs all the other perks of cardiovascular exercise, working out the heart, the blood vessels and even the brain. And like other forms of aerobic exercise, hopping on a bike releases endorphins, which can boost positive feelings.
Because you're working the gluteus muscles, the quadriceps and the gastrocnemius soleus of the calves as you pedal downward — as well as the hamstrings and the hip flexors on your way back up — cycling builds muscle, too. More than that, maintaining an upright position and a grip on the handlebars engages the all-important abs and the shoulder muscles. The resistance of pedaling also increases bone density over time.
In April of 2017, a massive study of 263,450 participants published in the British Medical Journal laid out a laundry list of health benefits riders gained just from actively commuting (using some combination of cycling and walking) to work.
Participants who stuck to just biking saw some particularly enormous benefits, including a 41 percent lower risk of dying overall and a 40 percent lower risk of dying from cancer compared to those commuting by car or public transport. Bike riders also exhibited a 46 percent lower risk of developing heart disease and a 52 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease.
Compared to walking and running, which put weight on the legs and leg joints, sitting on a bike puts the weight on the ischial tuberosities of the pelvis. That means that biking has less impact on the joints, making it an ideal option for those with joint pain or stiffness — nothing like low impact for big results, right?
- Mayo Clinic: "Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories"
- Cycling Embassy of Denmark: "Copenhagen: City of Cyclists: The Bicycle Account 2014"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- Health.gov: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Health Statistics: "Body Measurements"
- ExRx.net: "Exercise Calories Burned Calculator"
- American Council on Exercise: "Physical Activity Calorie Counter"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Top 5 Benefits of Cycling"
- SenSys: "Accurate Caloric Expenditure of Bicyclists Using Cellphones"
- British Medical Journal: "Association Between Active Commuting and Incident Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer and Mortality: Prospective Cohort Study"