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Which Is Better Running or Cycling?

There is a lot of broscience BS out there about how aerobic training is, like, bad and stuff. Aerobic exercise is an effective tool to assist with fat loss. It can be fun, and it can help sculpt your physique into something awesome.

This article is a compare and contrast of my two favorite aerobic workouts, running and cycling. As a fitness guy, I make time for both. But maybe you’ve only got time for one or you’re trying to decide which to engage in first as you dip your toe in the aerobic waters.

Well, read on, and make an informed decision about which is best for you.

Enjoyment factor
There are a lot of hardcore runners who just love making their body move with nothing but running shoes propelling them. Some even do barefoot, but I’m a city boy, so that ain’t happening.
Running can be very enjoyable, but if you’re into speed and a bit of danger, cycling is where it’s at. I have a road bike that can reach pants-crapping speed when going down a steep hill, and it really lets you know you’re alive.
Winner: Cycling

Time management
At the metabolic level, fast running beats fast cycling. There is also the fact that when you’re riding downhill, you’re essentially at rest because you’re coasting. Not so with running. Speaking strictly about aerobic results and caloric burn, you can do more in less time with running. You’re also getting more of a total body workout with running than you get with cycling.
And if mountain biking is your thing, you may need to factor in driving time. With running, it’s often possible to just head out your front door.
Winner: Running

Well, from a time management perspective, cycling kicks the ass of running. You will get where you are going way faster on a bike when reaching a specific destination is your goal. It’s also easier for carrying things like a change of clothes on a bike. The one merit to running is not having to worry about your bike being stolen. But still…
Winner: Cycling

It’s possible to spend a crapload of money on both of these activities, especially if you’re traveling to run marathons, like I’ve taken up doing. Every five months, it’s a new R2 000 pair of shoes, plus a small fortune over the years for a variety of all-weather running clothes.
You can cheap out on cycling and get some crappy bike from the hardware store for R500. If that bike helps you feel the love, go big. I needed to drop some cash. My road bike cost R8 000 with all the accessories, and I love that sucker. Clothes are extra here as well. Mountain biking can be just as expensive, if not more. My bike alone is nine years’ worth of running shoes, so …
Winner: Running

Difficulty of adoption
Just think about what it was like to be a kid with a new bike. You could ride that sucker for hours. There’s no pounding on your joints, you can go far and fast, the wind ripping through your hair …
Now compare that to taking up running. I tried and failed the first few times I tried it. I sucked. And I hated it. And I sucked. The first several times I tried running, I was huffing and puffing like a mayor on a crack bender, wondering why the hell I was putting myself through such torture.
It takes tremendous perseverance for most people to become runners. In my experience, cycling is just easier to get into.
Winner: Cycling

Prevalence of pain/injuries
I don’t know of a “Cycling Injury Clinic.” I’m not saying you can’t get injured while cycling, but I’d argue running injuries are more prevalent. The things I notice get the most sore from cycling are my balls, from getting mashed into the seat, and my neck, from having to tilt my head back to see where I’m going. Running, conversely, has the ability to cause pain from the eyebrows on down. But on the average…
Winner: Cycling

Foot races are prevalent the world over. There are 5Ks, 10Ks, half and full and ultra-marathons. Any decent-sized city will have your choice of races, and entering them can be very motivating because it forces you to train and pushes you to get better.
Conversely, it’s harder to find many races for cycling. Often they’re part of a triathlon, which requires a running and a swimming component.
Winner: Running

Bad weather
I run more in the winter than in the summer, with the simple explanation being that I hate riding my bike in sleet and freezing cold. I can handle any kind of weather when it comes to running, and any kind of slippery surface. Although there are spikes you can get for riding in sleet and on ice, at a certain point — and this is just my personal opinion — you just start to wonder why the hell you want to do this. To me, cycling is enjoyment first, fitness second. Conversely, running is fitness first, enjoyment second. I can handle “suffering” in brutal weather conditions on foot, but on a bike, I prefer it to be above freezing, and preferably not pissing down rain.
Winner: Running


There is no real winner. It’s about analyzing the various categories and deciding what’s right for you. Running wins for time, cost, racing and weather, but cycling is tops for enjoyment, commuting, ease of adoption and injury avoidance. Maybe you’ll decide both have something to offer your unique lifestyle.