When cycling for weight loss, is it better to bike for longest distance or longest pace/time?

July 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Common Questions

weight loss
by jackiebese

Question by Music1358: When cycling for weight loss, is it better to bike for longest distance or longest pace/time?
Just wanting to see what is best for someone wanting to use cycling as a form of weight loss.

Goal wise I’m pretty sure both are what I need to be doing, but answers from seasoned pros are most welcome.

Best answer:

Answer by Old Hippie
Not a cycling pro – but maybe closer to a weight loss pro, since cycling is how I did it. Start slowly & build up to an hour to an hour & 1/4 per day – 4 to 5 days a week. Don’t worry about how fast you go or how far you went that day. That can change with the terrain & wind direction. Worry about keeping a “cadence” or rhythm going of between 70 to 90 rpm on the crank. This is all explained below on the link from Sheldon Brown. Click on every sub-link & read everything.

Summer is here. Stay hydrated! I fill water bottles about 2/3 full the night before & freeze them. In the morning I top them off with cool water & go. Always take along at least one water bottle – two is better. Don’t gulp! Take sips. Gulping only causes possible stomach problems & cramps.

Want to go all out? Get an inexpensive bike computer to track your time, distance, total miles, etc. They sell them for about $ 10 at Wally World. (second link) On both my bikes I have added a rear rack to carry things. What do I carry most of the time? A Sunlite Toploader 3 rack bag. It’s insulated to keep those extra water bottles cold. (3rd link)

The best time of day now (summer) to ride is just before or right at sunrise as that is the coolest part of the day. To summarize…read everything from Sheldon Brown, keep a steady cadence going, stay hydrated & I forgot – cut out all junk food. One Big Mac can ruin a week’s worth of riding. Diet is just as important if not more.

Add your own answer in the comments!


2 Responses to “When cycling for weight loss, is it better to bike for longest distance or longest pace/time?”
  1. Bob A says:

    Cycling is a cardiovascular sport and you determine how much time and effort you put into it. You want to start out with an easy 10 min warm up ride. That will help prevent muscle pain and allow you to ride longer. After the warm up you want to pedal at a high cadence 70-90 rpm’s in a gear that is easy to spin. That will use you slow twitch muscles that use fat as a fuel and can go for a very long time. Pedaling slower then 70 rpm’s and mashing on the pedals will wear out your legs very quickly. You want a pace that you can do for a long time but hard enough to get your breathing elevated.

    Start out with 20-30 min rides and work your way up to a hour or more. Once you can go for a hour start climbing hills to get stronger. You can also do intervals where you can go fast for 30-90 seconds and then slow down to recover. Once you catch your breath do it again. It will help you build more muscle so you can burn more calories even at rest.

    You wont get anywhere without a good diet plan. You burn only 35 calories per mile so the more miles you can do in a hour the faster you will lose weight. At slow speeds cycling burns less calories then walking. A cheeseburger, large fries, and a large coke can take 40 miles to burn off.

    You need a good plan and stick with it, it will take a few weeks before you see decent results.

  2. SoccerRefToo says:


    Yes. Both are right. You want to ride for a minimum of one hour. On your ride whether 10 or 40 miles, you want to ride with a minimum cadence of 70+ rpm with moderate pedal pressure. This is called spinning. It is both the proper way to pedal, but, it also assures sufficient exertion to maziimize your calorie burn.

    Besides riding various distances and times, ALWAYS spinning …. you need to go on an effective diet. Mine is the ‘push back diet’. I just push back my plate when 1/2 is eaten. That way there are no special cooking requirements. By limiting what is going in, and burning more you will see weight coming off as you spend more time on the bike.

    You can utilize an average of 35 calories per mile ridden as a tool for calorie planning.


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