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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

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Old 06-10-10, 10:23 AM   #1
mtalinm
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reasonable calories-per-mile rule of thumb for me?

exasperated at the wildly high calories-burned estimates produced both by website calculators and by my Garmin, I've come up with a rule of thumb and wanted to check it out with you.

(note: I know there are highly accurate calculators out there that take all sorts of things into account, but I need more of a baseline to work with in general)

a few threads pointed me to some data on calories per pound-minute, based on speed: http://www.bicyclesource.com/body/tr...urn-rate.shtml

I took the calories per pound-minute and multiplied by 60 and my current weight (285) to get the per-hour burn for me at various speeds. I then divided each figure by that speed to get an estimate of my calories per mile. the table looks like this:


mph cal/pound-mile cal/hr cal/mile
8 0.0295 504.45 63.05625
10 0.0355 607.05 60.705
12 0.0426 728.46 60.705
14 0.0512 875.52 62.53714286
15 0.0561 959.31 63.954
16 0.0615 1051.65 65.728125
17 0.0675 1154.25 67.89705882
18 0.074 1265.4 70.3
19 0.0811 1386.81 72.99


so it's pretty much in the 60 calories/mile range, unless I get to higher speeds which I usually don't. the website says there is a premium for climbing, but I want to do a conservative estimate.

does this sound like a reasonable rule of thumb? I care because I'm trying to calculate my calorie "deficit" each day of calories consumed - basal metabolic - calories burned exercising

Last edited by mtalinm; 06-10-10 at 10:26 AM. Reason: formatting table
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Old 06-10-10, 10:35 AM   #2
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If you're trying to work out your deficit per day, I'd suggest simplifying the math a bit, and thinking in terms of calories per hour of cycling, rather than per mile. It's not just that the math is less ugly, but the answers you get will be more accurate. There are less assumptions going into it ( average speed in particular ) and you won't be tempted to hammer through the miles as quickly as possible to get on with your day.

I did the counting calories thing for several months, and dropped a lot of weight in the process. So you're definitely on the right track.
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Old 06-10-10, 10:44 AM   #3
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On a per mile basis it's tough to figure because there are so many factors to consider:
Rider weight, bike weight, tire width/pressure/tread, terrain, speed, wind, rider position, etc.

I've seen estimates from 25 - 55 cal/mi, with outliers of 18 and 65. Typically, I use 35 cal/mi as a baseline for comparative purposes.
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Old 06-10-10, 10:54 AM   #4
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If you're trying to work out your deficit per day, I'd suggest simplifying the math a bit, and thinking in terms of calories per hour of cycling, rather than per mile. It's not just that the math is less ugly, but the answers you get will be more accurate. There are less assumptions going into it ( average speed in particular ) and you won't be tempted to hammer through the miles as quickly as possible to get on with your day.

I did the counting calories thing for several months, and dropped a lot of weight in the process. So you're definitely on the right track.
interesting idea to think of it in terms of hours. seems like the cal-per-hr varies so much based on average speed that it would be simpler to think of cals-per-mile (which is pretty much the same until you get really fast). but I'll give that some thought.
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Old 06-10-10, 11:28 AM   #5
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interesting idea to think of it in terms of hours. seems like the cal-per-hr varies so much based on average speed that it would be simpler to think of cals-per-mile (which is pretty much the same until you get really fast). but I'll give that some thought.
Only if you're constantly riding the same terrain. I can burn fewer calories per hour at the velodrome doing 23mph than riding hill repeats at 8mph.
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Old 06-10-10, 11:53 AM   #6
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interesting idea to think of it in terms of hours. seems like the cal-per-hr varies so much based on average speed that it would be simpler to think of cals-per-mile (which is pretty much the same until you get really fast). but I'll give that some thought.
If you maintain a constant effort, calories/hr will be pretty constant. Your speed may vary a lot, based on things like hills, head winds, the sort of bike you're riding.

A heart rate monitor will tell you a lot.
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Old 06-10-10, 12:49 PM   #7
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If you maintain a constant effort, calories/hr will be pretty constant. Your speed may vary a lot, based on things like hills, head winds, the sort of bike you're riding.
I think a lot of this averages out, though, and gets you something consistent enough in the end. Very few people climb hills for an hour straight, and while it's easier to ride on the flats for an hour, it's actually pretty difficult here to find 10 to 15 miles of flat path or roadway. You aren't going to know the biologically correct answer ( 327.9 kCal for the last 30 mins ) but if you calculate it the same way every time, you have something reliable to work with. I guess the same could be said for calculating per mile ... I've been convinced that's not as reliable, though.

The calorie feature on my CatEye seems to be moving time * some rate which is adjusted by my average speed. And the desktop software I feed my GPS track logs into calculates this based on saddle time, too, plus who knows what else? This leads to things like my commute to work burning fewer calories than the one home, because I'm going more slowly, which is the case because it's all uphill. It also takes longer, so, even if I discount the effort involved and go purely based on time, I get the right answer with calories per hour.

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A heart rate monitor will tell you a lot.
Could you elaborate on this? I happen to have a heart rate monitor that records my HR into my GPS tracks, some skill at making computer software, and a bit of weight to lose. I'm always open to improvement...
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Old 06-10-10, 12:53 PM   #8
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60 calories a mile is pretty high, I typically figure 30 cals a mile through rolling terrain. Naturally this swings with your terrain and intensity that you're riding at so...really it's hard to say one way or another.

Last edited by bautieri; 06-21-10 at 07:19 AM.
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Old 06-10-10, 07:37 PM   #9
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well i decided to stick with 50 (my original guesstimate) even though the data suggests 60 for my weight. I think 30 would be for someone lighter

that's why I prefer per mile instead of per hour
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Old 06-10-10, 07:52 PM   #10
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exasperated at the wildly high calories-burned estimates produced both by website calculators and by my Garmin, I've come up with a rule of thumb and wanted to check it out with you.

(note: I know there are highly accurate calculators out there that take all sorts of things into account, but I need more of a baseline to work with in general)

a few threads pointed me to some data on calories per pound-minute, based on speed: http://www.bicyclesource.com/body/tr...urn-rate.shtml

I took the calories per pound-minute and multiplied by 60 and my current weight (285) to get the per-hour burn for me at various speeds. I then divided each figure by that speed to get an estimate of my calories per mile. the table looks like this:


mph cal/pound-mile cal/hr cal/mile
8 0.0295 504.45 63.05625
10 0.0355 607.05 60.705
12 0.0426 728.46 60.705
14 0.0512 875.52 62.53714286
15 0.0561 959.31 63.954
16 0.0615 1051.65 65.728125
17 0.0675 1154.25 67.89705882
18 0.074 1265.4 70.3
19 0.0811 1386.81 72.99


so it's pretty much in the 60 calories/mile range, unless I get to higher speeds which I usually don't. the website says there is a premium for climbing, but I want to do a conservative estimate.

does this sound like a reasonable rule of thumb? I care because I'm trying to calculate my calorie "deficit" each day of calories consumed - basal metabolic - calories burned exercising
19 0.0811 1386.81 72.99
I think 1386.81 is extremely high.
I think 600-700 cals /hr is about right for HIGH effort exercise,
Something like running would be higher (a weight bearing exercise), but exercise like cycling, rowing and swimming, (not weight bearing) it would be extremely hard to get over 700/hr.
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Old 06-10-10, 10:24 PM   #11
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I think a lot of this averages out, though, and gets you something consistent enough in the end. Very few people climb hills for an hour straight, and while it's easier to ride on the flats for an hour, it's actually pretty difficult here to find 10 to 15 miles of flat path or roadway. You aren't going to know the biologically correct answer ( 327.9 kCal for the last 30 mins ) but if you calculate it the same way every time, you have something reliable to work with. I guess the same could be said for calculating per mile ... I've been convinced that's not as reliable, though.
Of course, some places you have to ride 10 miles to find a hill. I've got a 60 mile loop from my house that's got about 500 feet of climbing. People who follow Mr Beanz around certainly could climb for an hour....

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Could you elaborate on this? I happen to have a heart rate monitor that records my HR into my GPS tracks, some skill at making computer software, and a bit of weight to lose. I'm always open to improvement...
For a range of heart rates that are interesting to exercisers and physiologists (about 90 to 150 bpm), energy expenditure is pretty linear. So you can know that the increase of heart rate from 120 to 130 results in the same increase in calorie burn as the increase from 130 to 140. There's a whole lot of variance from individual to individual on what the actual numbers are (what the slope and intercept of the line is, in other words), but there are a variety of different formulas available to take your age, gender, weight, resting HR, VO2 max (if known), and body fat percentage (and probably other factors) and give you reasonably accurate calorie numbers, that also have good precision (if it says you burned 250 calories, you might have burned 150 or 300, but the next time it tells you 250, it's probable you'll have burned the same 150 or 300.) I suspect your gps heart rate monitor has software for this.

but even without a computer, keeping your heart rate at a target can help you keep your workout in the range that you want it to.
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Old 06-10-10, 10:30 PM   #12
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19 0.0811 1386.81 72.99
I think 1386.81 is extremely high.
I think 600-700 cals /hr is about right for HIGH effort exercise,
Something like running would be higher (a weight bearing exercise), but exercise like cycling, rowing and swimming, (not weight bearing) it would be extremely hard to get over 700/hr.
heartrate matters more than "weight bearing" or not. If you can't hold your heart rate at high enough level, because your legs aren't strong enough, then sure, you'll have a hard time burning a thousand calories an hour on a bike. If you can, then you can burn a lot of calories on a bike.,
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Old 06-10-10, 11:10 PM   #13
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So do many of you not trust the typical calorie calculators such as LoseIt! or iMapMyRide where they say that a 220 pound man riding at 30kph for 30kms (one hour) burns 1200 calories?

(19-20mph for one hour)
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Old 06-11-10, 03:30 AM   #14
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a more accurate measure is 8 cal per minute at moderate pace, 12-16 cal per minute at hard efforts..
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Old 06-11-10, 01:46 PM   #15
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So do many of you not trust the typical calorie calculators such as LoseIt! or iMapMyRide where they say that a 220 pound man riding at 30kph for 30kms (one hour) burns 1200 calories?

(19-20mph for one hour)
about as far as I could throw their datacenter. There are lots of variables. For instance, it takes about 200 watts for me to make my bike go 20mph on the flat, in the drops. On the tops, it would be about 275. Assuming 24% efficency (which is about typical (a bit high, but it makes nice numbers to work with)), that's 720 Calories/hr on the drops. on the tops, it would be 990 C/hr.

On a mountain bike, with knobbies, and energy sapping gsuspension, it would be something on the order of 350 W to go 20mph, which would get to the 1200 C/hr number.

But add some wind, and thing change. Even a 5 mph tailwind will save 50 watts or more at this speed. 50 watts is 180 calories an hour.
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Old 06-11-10, 02:07 PM   #16
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heartrate matters more than "weight bearing" or not. ,
interesting...how can I learn more about this? the tables I had found are based on speed/distance/weight not heart rate. I'm tracking heart rate, so I could calculate that way instead.

I'm generally riding a road bike with hands on the tops, though sometimes on a hybrid
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Old 06-11-10, 05:08 PM   #17
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heartrate matters more than "weight bearing" or not. If you can't hold your heart rate at high enough level, because your legs aren't strong enough, then sure, you'll have a hard time burning a thousand calories an hour on a bike. If you can, then you can burn a lot of calories on a bike.,
But Weight bearing increases heart rate a lot more. Your gluts and hamstrings are 40% of your muscle mass, and engaging them can really increase your heart rate.
Just using your quads, they are easier to tire and then you can't raise your heart rate. When I cycle (at a fairly hard effort) it is hard for me to get over 140, but when I
roller blade I get over 150 and I feel like I am hardly working.

I just got a powertap (probably the only real way to get good numbers) for my Mtb so I think I will be getting some pretty accurate Kj expended numbers. I can't wait.
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Old 06-11-10, 05:16 PM   #18
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a more accurate measure is 8 cal per minute at moderate pace, 12-16 cal per minute at hard efforts..
That makes more sense to me 8 X 60 = 480/hr and I think 12 X 60 = 720 is reasonable for HARD effort. The 16 X 60 = 960 would be hard to get to unless you are really in shape.
I had a friend (400+ lbs) who put his weight into an elliptical machine it it said he burned 3500 cals in 47 minutes. And ellipticals are one of the most useless fat burning contraptions out there.
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Old 06-11-10, 06:19 PM   #19
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But Weight bearing increases heart rate a lot more. Your gluts and hamstrings are 40% of your muscle mass, and engaging them can really increase your heart rate.
Just using your quads, they are easier to tire and then you can't raise your heart rate. When I cycle (at a fairly hard effort) it is hard for me to get over 140, but when I
roller blade I get over 150 and I feel like I am hardly working.

I just got a powertap (probably the only real way to get good numbers) for my Mtb so I think I will be getting some pretty accurate Kj expended numbers. I can't wait.
Which is what I meant by "legs aren't strong enough". If you ride more, you'll get better at it. Cycling uses muscles differently than running (or skating, but I don't know anything about hte biomechanics of skating), but the big muscles are all used. I assure you that serious riders can get their heart rate to whatever figure they care to.
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Old 06-11-10, 06:48 PM   #20
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Which is what I meant by "legs aren't strong enough". If you ride more, you'll get better at it. Cycling uses muscles differently than running (or skating, but I don't know anything about hte biomechanics of skating), but the big muscles are all used. I assure you that serious riders can get their heart rate to whatever figure they care to.
I think anyone can get their heart rate up there, it is maintaining it that is the problem. And it is easier to maintain it using more of your muscles.
On flat ground no wind on my "fast" 21lb hardtail with 2.2 inch 45psi knobs I can do 18-19mph at about 135bpm, If I go to 19-20
it is about 147bpm and pushing it at 21-23 I get around 159-165 and am breathing really hard, but this would be hard to maintain for even 5 miles.
Roller blading with ski poles I get to 155bpm and can go for 2+ hours and 25+ miles and I am not really breathing that hard.
Weight beariing you use your gluts and hamtrings way more than cycling,swimming rowing etc.
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Old 06-11-10, 08:53 PM   #21
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Good rule of thumb for me is between 12-18 calories a minute. 12 would be around 14 mph and 18 would be around 19-21 mph average.
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Old 06-11-10, 09:49 PM   #22
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People who follow Mr Beanz around certainly could climb for an hour....


Yup, our fun rides are 2 hours straight climbing. You guys get pretty technical about calorie intake usege etc.. All I know is that when we train for a ride, we drop an ez 20 lbs without counting calories. Eating sensibly and lots of CLIMBING. One a training ride last year, a dude had a Garmin, said we burned 5000 calories on the 60 mile 6,500ft ride. That's the only time in 15 years I've heard anything about my calories burned! Not that it mattered to me!
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Old 06-12-10, 01:25 AM   #23
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I routinely average 140 bpm and have had a couple of sessions averaging 160.

i put my ideal weight into Garmin instead of my actual weight and now it is spitting out more realistic calorie consumption.

coupled with tracking my intake, it is really making a difference! scale says I've dropped five pounds in the past 10 days, and I feel it too
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Old 06-12-10, 04:59 AM   #24
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the 16 cal / per minute threshold is based on working out at 95% + of your max heart rate..

Hard solo rides for me are at 85% of max average for an entire ride.. If I am in the 90% of max avg range, those are very fast group rides where I am struggling just to keep on the wheels..
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Old 06-14-10, 03:01 PM   #25
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To see how off the garmin 305 is, I used it on a fairly fast beach ride down the SA trail.. Here is the crazy calorie data.. 2:24 ride for 48 miles gave me a calorie count of 3587 calories. Even at the max 16cal/minute threshold that should only be 2300 calories..

MY HR was 150avg - 178 max.. So take what the Garmin is telling you with serious skepticism.. I normally use a Polar or Suunto HR when I ride which gives more realistic numbers..
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