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  1. #1
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    Stationary Bike vs Biking On-Road: Which burns more calories?

    I've been riding both a stationary bike - especially in the winter months - and my various "road" bikes - which include a Trek 1,5 Alpha, a Surly Long Haul Trucker, a Surly Pugsley and a 1990 Gary Fisher Tassajara MTB. All my road rides include hills - there's no getting away from them where I live! I know I'm "burning up the calories" going up each hill, but once over the top and going down it's a "free ride" with almost no effort at all . I'm not into speed, so rather than powering downhill I'm more likely to be on the brakes. With the stationary bike, I can keep the resistance steady the entire workout - no "coasting". The question is, for a given time period, am I burning more calories on the stationary bike or riding my road bike up hill and coasting down. Comments?

  2. #2
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    Equal effort on both is equal effort.

    You don't have to coast on the road...just keep pedaling.

    Get a heart rate monitor if you want somethign to fix yourself to for added discipline, it will give you feedback on your cardio effort.

  3. #3
    just pedal donalson's Avatar
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    assuming you are working the same amount it should be the same... if you are just barely turning the cranks with virtually no resistance even for Hrs on end you aren't doing yourself any favors (I say this because I see if often in the gym)

    the problem for me is stationary/trainers are so boring... put yourself on a good training plan for them doing intervals and such and the trainer will be much more beneficial... also you don't have traffic to worry about or lights... so pushing hard is much easier to do consistently...

    that being said... with your stable it sounds like you should be set to ride outdoors no matter the weather...
    mtbr clyd moderator

  4. #4
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    Who cares, riding stationary bikes sucks.

  5. #5
    Draft Producer Fastflyingasian's Avatar
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    +1 for the road. hills are like intervals. but in any case i know i am willing to suffer more out on the road rather than sit and sweat in place on a trainer or stationary. also short of the threat of death you wont keep me on a stationary for more than a half hour. sunday i rode with guys half my size for 5 hours and they push me to the breaking point. they almost broke me but i still stole two town line sprints from those elves

    you get out what you put in. so if your working harder for the same volume for one over the other than you have your answer. if the hills are not killing you than go faster .
    "If you never suffered from over training then you've never trained hard enough"

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  6. #6
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    just to reply to the basic premise/question: which ever leads to the best compliance. meaning which are you more likely to do/use.

    it's harder to run or ride outside than inside on machines. yes, you can increase incline and resistance inside but I think the unpredictable nature of the environment adds a certain built in variance that adds intensity, and so also calorie burning ...
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

  7. #7
    Klaatu..Verata..Necktie? genejockey's Avatar
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    I have to concentrate really hard to keep putting out enough effort on a trainer to keep my HR above 120 for half an hour. On the road, it's hard to keep my HR below 140, and I can ride for hours.

    So, if you expend the same effort, it should be the same Calories. But good luck expending the same effort!!!
    "Donít take life so seriousóit ainít nohow permanent."

  8. #8
    Senior Member Jarrett2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fastflyingasian View Post
    they almost broke me but i still stole two town line sprints from those elves
    I don't know anything about stationary bikes, but this line almost made me spit out my lunch

  9. #9
    Senior Member bud16415's Avatar
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    A trainer has the potential to burn more calories than riding outside for a given period of time spent. In the real world assuming you ride from point A to point B andthen have to return to point A you will always have a net zero climbing oraltitude change. On a trainer you can climb for your total workout and end up at the same place you started. In reality the outside factors like boredom and time on the bike not being the same are imposable to calculate from one personto the next. Someone in statistics would say your risk of injury is higher on a real road and the down time after being hurt would subtract from the total. You canít calculate such things.

    If you arean animal and can ride climbing nonstop at your max output and as you wear out lower your output level to your new max and ride till you can no longer a trainer will do more.

    I personallywould rather ride 4 hours on the road compared to 1 hour on a trainer and I havea hard time also maxing my effort on a trainer, so I think I burn more cals on the road.
    What's not in your legs needs to be in your gears.

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    I use the speedometer and cadence meter more on the trainer than on the road. I have a heart rate monitor that I've hooked up occasionally, but overall if I start out in a relatively high resistance on the trainer and keep up 16-18mph average for an hour (with intervals), I'll burn about as much as my outside 22 mile 1hr:20min workout.

    Inside I blow a big fan on me to cool off and stand occasionally whether I need it or not. To pass the time I listen to music and watch closed caption TV. It's still boring, but not as boring. I'd rather be outside, but not in January.

  11. #11
    Senior Member gforeman's Avatar
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    I use Spinervals DVD's for my Spin Bike rides, and I know for sure I burn more calories per hour. But I sure like riding outdoors more, weather permitting. I do thank God I have the spin bike for the winter though. Before I got it, when spring rolled around I was so out of shape biking wise (I did work out all winter, just not biking).

    I have my spin bike set up almost exactly like my bicycles. Same pedals, seat, and all the measurements.
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  12. #12
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    Normal rides < bike trainer < actual climbs

    I'm too lazy and I end up coasting on normal rides, but I found that I work a lot harder on hills than when I do intervals on my trainer. I think it's because whenever I do intervals on my trainer all I think about is how tiring it is, whereas if I'm actually doing a climb I can look at the scenery and such.

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    When I had my knee injury I stayed away from cycling for a long time and yet because of my weak knees cycling was the only form of exercise I could do other than swimming or something like that. I didn't want to risk cycling outside so I used a stationary bike. Combined with dieting I've had very successful results. Now I am back to cycling outside but still the fear is there and I don't want to do anything risky.

  14. #14
    Senior Member IBOHUNT's Avatar
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    Depends on the effort and the duration of the effort

    I've looked at my data for trainer sessions where I knew I was doing intervals (Sufferfest Blender video) and for hard rides where I was on it the entire time. I burn far more on my hard rides, up to 17kJ per minute, than I do on a trainer which was 10kJ per minute for that specific session.

    Can I keep up the pace of my hard rides for as long as I do a Sufferfest video? Not a chance although I'd sure love to be able to.

    At 17kJ per min I'm done after 40 minutes or so.
    10kJ per minute and that's a 4 hour metric that only has 5800' of elevation gain (88'/mi)

  15. #15
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    Get a fixed gear bike if you want a good workout with no coasting allowed.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genejockey View Post
    I have to concentrate really hard to keep putting out enough effort on a trainer to keep my HR above 120 for half an hour. On the road, it's hard to keep my HR below 140, and I can ride for hours.

    So, if you expend the same effort, it should be the same Calories. But good luck expending the same effort!!!
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  17. #17
    Senior Member Mithrandir's Avatar
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    For me the answer is easy.

    Stationary bike = work out for 30 minutes, get bored, get off and do something else.
    Real bike = bike an hour, realise "omg an hour has gone by already!", then either bike back home or go even further.


    Real bike burns more calories, every time.

  18. #18
    Klaatu..Verata..Necktie? genejockey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mithrandir View Post
    For me the answer is easy.

    Stationary bike = work out for 30 minutes, get bored, get off and do something else.
    Real bike = bike an hour, realise "omg an hour has gone by already!", then either bike back home or go even further.


    Real bike burns more calories, every time.
    The other thing is, if you're on a stationary bike and you get bored, you can hop off go watch TV. If you're on the road and you get bored, you still have to get home some how. Last night, the last 6 miles of the 20 I rode were all into a headwind. That sucked. But I still had to get back to the car!
    "Donít take life so seriousóit ainít nohow permanent."

  19. #19
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    With a stationary bike though if you ever feel like working out even in the middle of the night you can just hop on. Right after you can go to bed. And also you don't have to worry about having to slow down because people are around. It would be good to have both. If I had to choose only one I'd go with a real bike but only cause it's more fun, if my objective was to only lose weight I would want a stationary bike. But stationary bikes that can take a lot of weight can be quite costly.

  20. #20
    Senior Member IBOHUNT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bbattle View Post
    Get a fixed gear bike if you want a good workout with no coasting allowed.
    I can see me trying that on some of the hills here.
    Rip my legs clean off and I'd then be the Black Knight in Monty Python Holy Grail

  21. #21
    Senior Member mr_pedro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saluki1968 View Post
    I've been riding both a stationary bike - especially in the winter months - and my various "road" bikes - which include a Trek 1,5 Alpha, a Surly Long Haul Trucker, a Surly Pugsley and a 1990 Gary Fisher Tassajara MTB. All my road rides include hills - there's no getting away from them where I live! I know I'm "burning up the calories" going up each hill, but once over the top and going down it's a "free ride" with almost no effort at all . I'm not into speed, so rather than powering downhill I'm more likely to be on the brakes. With the stationary bike, I can keep the resistance steady the entire workout - no "coasting". The question is, for a given time period, am I burning more calories on the stationary bike or riding my road bike up hill and coasting down. Comments?
    It all depends on how hard you ride the stationary bike and how hard you ride the road bike. The amount of time going down hill should be very small compared to the total ride time.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by mr_pedro;16059305[COLOR=#ff0000
    ]........ The amount of time going down hill should be very small compared to the total ride time[/COLOR].
    Exactly! Let's say I'm going to climb up a pretty good hill. It's a mile to the top, and really exerting myself, I average 5mph. Using V=D/T (velocity = distance / time), at my average speed of 5mph, it would take me 12 minutes to reach the top. So that's 12 minutes of hard exertion. On the return, it's all down hill, and lets say I'm spinning about as fast as I dare and average 30mph. Using the same formula, the "down" trip will take just 2 minutes and being "gravity assisted, the effort isn't nearly as much. So using this token example, for every hill climbed I spend 12 of 14 minutes straining uphill! I guess the old adage is true then - "Going downhill never makes up for climbing uphill"!

  23. #23
    Pedals, Paddles and Poles Daspydyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ShartRate View Post
    Who cares, riding stationary bikes sucks.
    Agreed, riding outside keeps me moving for longer periods of time so it naturally burns more calories. The most I can stand stationary is 40 minutes.
    I think its disgusting and terrible how people treat Lance Armstrong, especially after winning 7 Tour de France Titles while on drugs!

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  24. #24
    got the climbing bug jsigone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daspydyr View Post
    The most I can stand stationary is 40 minutes.
    I'm good for half that LOL and even half of that if talking gym bike

  25. #25
    Senior Member moochems's Avatar
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    My experience is that the trainer is far less fun, but a moderately better workout.

    It can be difficult to find the mindset of getting the most out of trainer sessions, but for me I just remember that when I am finished I can hop off and be home.


    Contrarily I have to keep something in the tank to make sure I can get home when on real road rides.


    Furthermore have signicantly less worry of mechanical failure helps me get a better workout on the road.

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