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  1. #1
    simply bikin' dobovedo's Avatar
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    Commuting = ? Calories

    Comparing the costs of owning a car vs. a bike makes sense.
    Comparing the costs of maintaining a car vs. a bike makes sense.
    But, counting gas for a car in the totals and assuming a riding a bike = $0 fuel isn't accurate.

    It takes some form of fuel for cars AND bikes.

    For anyone who isn't in this to lose weight and arguing they are burning the same number of calories... Calories burned = calories consumed = calories purchased.

    Depending on how far and how hard you ride each day, the increased calories burned can be significant.
    Depending on what food choices you make, the increased calories consumed/purchased can be significant.

    Here's how it breaks down for me:
    Calories Burned
    During the 80-90 minutes I ride each day to cover 21 miles, I burn roughly 1000 calories.
    During the same time driving a car I would burn about 100 calories and use .8 gallons of gas.
    (Yes, driving takes less time, but I would be doing something else at resting heart rate if not riding)

    Calories Consumed
    1000 calories. I am more or less at a maintenance weight of 160 pounds

    Calories Purchased
    1000 calories can vary widely depending on what type of food you buy. Since I would burn 100 driving, let's look at the cost of 900 calories of various single foods:
    • Peanut Butter: $0.77
    • Pasta: $0.95
    • Glazed Donuts: $1.04
    • Milk: $1.40
    • Pretzels: $1.08
    • Doritos or M&Ms: $1.75
    • Black Beans: $1.89
    • Eggs: $2.25
    • Yogurt: $2.61
    • Almonds: $5.00
    • Power Bars: $6.84
    • Carrots: $11.25
    • Celery: $13.99
    • Peppers: $14.53
    The foods I regularly choose are all over this range, but it's safe to say 900 calories costs me about $2, so my gas savings isn't $2.40 per trip. It's only $0.40.

    Calories burned varies greatly depending on the individual, the bike, the route, and the speed, so some might easily argue they burn far fewer calories. Valid point. But what foods do you choose?

    BTW: I got my numbers from a blog that was based on a Wise Geek article called "What Does 200 Calories Look Like?"

    How about a Big Mac Value Meal? That's more than 900 calories, but also more than .8 gallons of gas.

    If you eat a fairly healthy diet with lots of extra veggies and nuts, to go along with a healthy bike riding lifestyle, it can cost you a lot more than gas does.

    On the flip side, one can argue that if you didn't ride to work, you would do some other form of exercise and that the calories burned would be the same. Or one can argue if they didn't ride to work every day they'd weigh twice as much and consume the same foods, and cheap garbage foods, anyway. Or one can also argue that you're not paying for other exercise costs like health club memberships or driving your bike to club rides in an SUV. All valid. Unless you do those things in addition to commuting. I dropped my Y membership, but I ride by bike to/from my club ride 3 days a week. My 10000+ miles a year burns and costs 4000 calories a day on average.

    So... how's it work out for others? How many calories do you burn and how much do they cost?
    Last edited by dobovedo; 03-01-08 at 11:52 AM. Reason: typo

  2. #2
    ****** squegeeboo's Avatar
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    Um, I figure I eat nearly the same as if I was driving, I just don't get fat. So I assume nearly total gas savings.

    That said, 4k calories of biking a day is a lot of calories in my experience. Based off of the online calculators I checked, as well as the calorie calculator on my bike, I only burnt 4600-5600 (depending on the source) over a 138 mile ride last weekend.
    In the words of Einstein
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  3. #3
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Good job dobovedo....I vote for the jelly donuts

    Actually my fuel for a morning ride is a big bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios with 2% milk, OJ and coffee. Then when I get the munchies homemade GORP, or some other type of energy snack. I avoid processed foods as much as possible. I find it hard to believe that dumping all of those ingredients, that I can't pronounce or spell, into my body can be good for me.

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  4. #4
    simply bikin' dobovedo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by squegeeboo View Post
    Um, I figure I eat nearly the same as if I was driving, I just don't get fat. So I assume nearly total gas savings.

    That said, 4k calories of biking a day is a lot of calories in my experience. Based off of the online calculators I checked, as well as the calorie calculator on my bike, I only burnt 4600-5600 (depending on the source) over a 138 mile ride last weekend.
    To clarify... the statement about 4000 calories a day was total calories, not just from riding.

    But I did forget to change my weight since I ran this a year ago and have dropped 25 pounds. At 160 lbs, it's 2000 base and 1500 riding = 3500 average.

    I take my numbers from formulas in Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook. From that I created a simple little spreadsheet I set up where I input my current weight, daily miles for a week, and effort level (Cal/hr/#). That gives me estimated totals and averages for the week. I verify the calories from riding with HRM data.

  5. #5
    Real Human Being wild animals's Avatar
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    yeah, i was gonna say, the awesome thing for people who already have a calorie surplus is that they (we) might not have any increase in food expenses

  6. #6
    Laid back bent rider unixpro's Avatar
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    Your calorie expenditure sounds about right to me, if you're doing a real workout over the riding time, and you're considering your BMR, as you said you were. I'm at about the same total per day.

    I generally eat lighter during the day, although I will sometimes have a sit-down lunch if the occasion calls for it. My issue is simply that I usually bring enough fruits and snacks to keep me satisfied, so I just don't eat "regular meals." I bring in 3 bananas per day, usually a couple of apples and a couple of oranges, and I'll also have a few South Beach Diet High Protein bars.

    I have a good dinner in the evenings (a couple of pork chops and some mixed vegetables, for example), followed by a couple of sugar-free fruit Popsicles and a couple of fat-free fudge bars. My downfall is that I'll also have a bowl or so of chips as an evening snack while watching TV.

    Oh, and oatmeal-raisin cookies. Wave one of those at me and watch your fingers.

  7. #7
    Got Scotch? goalieMN's Avatar
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    I would work out for the amount of time I commute (or more) daily anyhow, so I just look at it as not only a gas money savings, but a time savings as well.

    I personally get two 40-minute workouts a day when I commute for a net time of 10 minutes or so, since it only takes about 5 minutes less to drive each way.


  8. #8
    GATC
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    Quote Originally Posted by dobovedo View Post
    Calories burned varies greatly depending on the individual, the bike, the route, and the speed, so some might easily argue they burn far fewer calories. Valid point. But what foods do you choose?
    Getting distracted from the forest by the trees, I just want to point out that speed might not be an issue, I am pretty sure a person's calories burned are determined entirely by distance travelled. If you are going faster, you'll be burning more cal per unit time, but not more total. Running essentially the same calories per distance as walking, but obviously can be substantially more cal per minute. Same w/ biking. Biking of course is less cal/distance than biking/running (or else why would we use a machine to help us do it).

  9. #9
    RacingBear UmneyDurak's Avatar
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    The way I look at it I can either spent money on stinky gas, or on delicious food for my tummy. I think I'll stick with option2.
    I see hills.... Bring them on!!!
    Stay calm and bring a towel.

  10. #10
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    Swapping from carfree in LA with main transit being feet or city buses, to carfree in Madison with bikes and longer distances meant our food budget stayed roughly the same. Calorie consumption measurably went up (same sorts of food, but where 1 bowl full would have been fine in LA, in Madison we regularly want seconds). Once winter hit, calorie consumption dropped, food budget went down. Over 80 inches of snow kind of put a damper on biking since we're inexperienced, not acclimated and don't have a full suite of good winter gear.

    I fully expect that as temperatures go up, food budget will return to "normal" or even a bit higher.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Jarery's Avatar
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    I spend just as much on food as I would have spent on gas.

    I love food, I enjoy eating food, i enjoy being able to eat great food without feeling guilty since i can burn it off.

    With gas....i get zero enjoyment pumping gas into a gastank. I have yet to hear anyone come into work and say they had an awesome time at the gastation last night. But many talk about enjoyable meals.
    Jarery

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  12. #12
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    I am pretty sure a person's calories burned are determined entirely by distance travelled.
    I am pretty sure they are not XD.

    Total spent energy = travel (movement) work + dissipative (friction) work

    The first, travel work (your weight * distance, assuming round trip there is no need of accounting for elevation changes) is independent of your speed.
    The friction, however, is (on a first aproximation) dependent on the square of speed. allright, the time you spend biking is less if you go fast, but that goes down linearly with speed, while the "wasted effort" goes up as the second power.

    Going fast is more tyring.

    Ah, about the fist post calculations, some people might eat the same (taking the bike or not) and then go to gym to burn the extra, in that case commuting saves you more that 100% of gas price!

  13. #13
    simply bikin' dobovedo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glacierre View Post

    Going fast is more tyring.
    Very true. The largest force a cyclist needs to overcome to move forward is air mass.

    Example (using CycliStats): I weigh 160 pounds and my road bike is roughly 20. On flat ground in neutral wind, a 10 mile commute takes the following:
    • 10mph = 60 minutes @ 47 watts avg & 21 calories per mile (213 per hour)
    • 15mph = 40 minutes @ 107 watts avg & 29 calories per mile (431 per hour)
    • 20mph = 30 minutes @ 171 watts avg & 21 calories per mile (650 per hour)
    FWIW: driving = 20 minutes @ 0 watts avg & 2.7 calories per mile (83 per hour)

    Going twice as fast doesn't take twice the power, but half the time... it takes 3.5 times the power, but half the time.

    BTW, I used an air temperature of 70 degrees. An entirely different subject is the fact that riding in colder temps requires more energy output due to increased density. Riding 20mph jumps from 171 to 184 watts & nearly 700 calories/hr.

    As many pointed out, there are other gains. My point is that commuting by bike doesn't save me a single penny when considering 'fuel costs'. Unless I assume I would ride and train as much anyway. What I do save is time. And, since time=money, I come out ahead in other ways.

  14. #14
    Senior Member biknbrian's Avatar
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    I do agree that these is not a huge saving for fuel, as you have to fuel your body more. However, don't forget the costs of owning and maintaining vehicle.

    I wonder how much it costs to maintain a bike versus a car per mile. $30 for 2 tires every 2500 miles would cost about $256 dollars to go 40,000 miles. A $250 set of small car tires should last for more than 40,000 miles. A car needs a $20 oil change every 3000 miles or so, but would you use more than 4 $5 bottles of lube to ride a bicycle that far, especially in adverse condidtions. Also on a bike you need special clothes that always need washed and eventually wear out and need replaced. Then there's brakes, cables, bearings, pedals and everything else that needs maintained. Bike parts are cheaper than car parts, but they last far, far fewer miles. I'm guessing that including fuel and maintenance a bicycle is not really cheaper to operate per mile than a small automobile.

  15. #15
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by biknbrian View Post
    I do agree that these is not a huge saving for fuel, as you have to fuel your body more. However, don't forget the costs of owning and maintaining vehicle.

    I wonder how much it costs to maintain a bike versus a car per mile. $30 for 2 tires every 2500 miles would cost about $256 dollars to go 40,000 miles. A $250 set of small car tires should last for more than 40,000 miles. A car needs a $20 oil change every 3000 miles or so, but would you use more than 4 $5 bottles of lube to ride a bicycle that far, especially in adverse condidtions. Also on a bike you need special clothes that always need washed and eventually wear out and need replaced. Then there's brakes, cables, bearings, pedals and everything else that needs maintained. Bike parts are cheaper than car parts, but they last far, far fewer miles. I'm guessing that including fuel and maintenance a bicycle is not really cheaper to operate per mile than a small automobile.
    Why? I don't buy special clothes...I wear my regular street clothes to ride my bike. Also if you choose your bike, maintenance can be minimal. I rode the same Raleigh Sports from 1982-1995 with minimal maintenance. IIRC tires were good for around 5k miles, unless you cut one. Chain was every other year, or even two years. I only recall replacing one brake cable, never replaced the shifter cable...it is still on there and I suspect it is the one that was put on in Malaysia when the bike was built around 37 years ago. Also FWIW the average carfree cyclist rides about half as far in a year as the average motorist drives.

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  16. #16
    RacingBear UmneyDurak's Avatar
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    Well 20mph average is closer to 200W. Although that really depends on many factors.
    Quote Originally Posted by dobovedo View Post
    Very true. The largest force a cyclist needs to overcome to move forward is air mass.

    Example (using CycliStats): I weigh 160 pounds and my road bike is roughly 20. On flat ground in neutral wind, a 10 mile commute takes the following:
    • 10mph = 60 minutes @ 47 watts avg & 21 calories per mile (213 per hour)
    • 15mph = 40 minutes @ 107 watts avg & 29 calories per mile (431 per hour)
    • 20mph = 30 minutes @ 171 watts avg & 21 calories per mile (650 per hour)
    FWIW: driving = 20 minutes @ 0 watts avg & 2.7 calories per mile (83 per hour)

    Going twice as fast doesn't take twice the power, but half the time... it takes 3.5 times the power, but half the time.

    BTW, I used an air temperature of 70 degrees. An entirely different subject is the fact that riding in colder temps requires more energy output due to increased density. Riding 20mph jumps from 171 to 184 watts & nearly 700 calories/hr.

    As many pointed out, there are other gains. My point is that commuting by bike doesn't save me a single penny when considering 'fuel costs'. Unless I assume I would ride and train as much anyway. What I do save is time. And, since time=money, I come out ahead in other ways.
    I see hills.... Bring them on!!!
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  17. #17
    Thread Killer evblazer's Avatar
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    If I drove everyday during a week I'd use 3.2 gallons a week which at todays price is $9.60 (IRS would say $80.80 so gas is only a _small_ part of the cost)
    If I cycled 5 days a week it works out to about 18,370 calories in 15 hr based on a week with no bad weather. I guess even if you say I take 200 calories to do nothing it would leave 15,370 calories / 1,000 * $2 = $30.74 of people fuel to replenish. $2 is pretty low for what I eat and I'm trying to drop alot of weight so I'm it may be somewhat of a wash right now.

    I'm just commuting myself out of house and home Imagine if I got that maxiscooter I wanted I'd surely be wasting calories by riding

    I still have a gym membership and locker fees to take a shower at work and keep stuff at work so I don't have to carry it back and forth. It does keep me off of some meds but they were free with my health insurance anyways so $$ wise I'm still in the hole. Still probably better in the long run not to have to take em.

  18. #18
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dobovedo View Post
    Comparing the costs of owning a car vs. a bike makes sense.
    Comparing the costs of maintaining a car vs. a bike makes sense.
    But, counting gas for a car in the totals and assuming a riding a bike = $0 fuel isn't accurate.

    It takes some form of fuel for cars AND bikes.

    For anyone who isn't in this to lose weight and arguing they are burning the same number of calories... Calories burned = calories consumed = calories purchased.

    Depending on how far and how hard you ride each day, the increased calories burned can be significant.
    Depending on what food choices you make, the increased calories consumed/purchased can be significant.

    Here's how it breaks down for me:
    Calories Burned
    During the 80-90 minutes I ride each day to cover 21 miles, I burn roughly 1000 calories.
    During the same time driving a car I would burn about 100 calories and use .8 gallons of gas.
    (Yes, driving takes less time, but I would be doing something else at resting heart rate if not riding)

    Calories Consumed
    1000 calories. I am more or less at a maintenance weight of 160 pounds

    Calories Purchased
    1000 calories can vary widely depending on what type of food you buy. Since I would burn 100 driving, let's look at the cost of 900 calories of various single foods:
    • Peanut Butter: $0.77
    • Pasta: $0.95
    • Glazed Donuts: $1.04
    • Milk: $1.40
    • Pretzels: $1.08
    • Doritos or M&Ms: $1.75
    • Black Beans: $1.89
    • Eggs: $2.25
    • Yogurt: $2.61
    • Almonds: $5.00
    • Power Bars: $6.84
    • Carrots: $11.25
    • Celery: $13.99
    • Peppers: $14.53
    The foods I regularly choose are all over this range, but it's safe to say 900 calories costs me about $2, so my gas savings isn't $2.40 per trip. It's only $0.40.

    Calories burned varies greatly depending on the individual, the bike, the route, and the speed, so some might easily argue they burn far fewer calories. Valid point. But what foods do you choose?

    BTW: I got my numbers from a blog that was based on a Wise Geek article called "What Does 200 Calories Look Like?"

    How about a Big Mac Value Meal? That's more than 900 calories, but also more than .8 gallons of gas.

    If you eat a fairly healthy diet with lots of extra veggies and nuts, to go along with a healthy bike riding lifestyle, it can cost you a lot more than gas does.

    On the flip side, one can argue that if you didn't ride to work, you would do some other form of exercise and that the calories burned would be the same. Or one can argue if they didn't ride to work every day they'd weigh twice as much and consume the same foods, and cheap garbage foods, anyway. Or one can also argue that you're not paying for other exercise costs like health club memberships or driving your bike to club rides in an SUV. All valid. Unless you do those things in addition to commuting. I dropped my Y membership, but I ride by bike to/from my club ride 3 days a week. My 10000+ miles a year burns and costs 4000 calories a day on average.

    So... how's it work out for others? How many calories do you burn and how much do they cost?
    This is a great thread. I like thinking this way be the information all correct or all wrong, it opens up dialog for further thought and analysis.

  19. #19
    put our Heads Together cerewa's Avatar
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    This is a great thread. I like thinking this way be the information all correct or all wrong, it opens up dialog for further thought and analysis.
    I do think it's a great thread, and the information looks pretty much correct too.

    For the first 30 or 60 minutes per day that you ride, there is a huge potential savings from the bike, not from saving gas money, but from the fact that you must either exercise less (and risk inconvenient/costly/deadly medical problems) or spend extra time and just as many calories exercising anyway.
    Some awesome folks who are working to give Haitians the ability to manage their safety and their lives:
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  20. #20
    The wrong side of normal jmeier's Avatar
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    WOW, when I drive to work all week, I need to fill the tank every week ($3.59 x 15 gallons= $53.85), when I ride I eat about 15% more ($45 weekly grocery bill x 0.15 = $6.75), so I save about $45 a week. And I stay healthy with less stress from traffic. I also change the fluids and filters in the car less
    My wife rides the train, that is nearly a wash $$ wise, but she likes it, so its worth it
    WTF man, WTF

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by HardyWeinberg View Post
    Getting distracted from the forest by the trees, I just want to point out that speed might not be an issue, I am pretty sure a person's calories burned are determined entirely by distance travelled. If you are going faster, you'll be burning more cal per unit time, but not more total.
    I'm afraid that it is not just a function of distance travelled, but of speed also. If your argument was correct, then you wouldn't burn more calories going faster. Sorry, but the amount of energy you use increases with the amount of effort. Unless, of course, those TdF riders don't need to eat more per mile than a tourist pottering along.

    And, as someone has pointed out, the increase in energy used does not increase in parallel with the increase in your speed, but geometrically, because of wind resistance. Doubtless the scientifically literate amongst us will have the figures at their fingertips (which should be applied to the keyboard for the enlightenment of the rest of us).

  22. #22
    Cries on hills supton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by biknbrian View Post
    I do agree that these is not a huge saving for fuel, as you have to fuel your body more. However, don't forget the costs of owning and maintaining vehicle.

    I wonder how much it costs to maintain a bike versus a car per mile. $30 for 2 tires every 2500 miles would cost about $256 dollars to go 40,000 miles. A $250 set of small car tires should last for more than 40,000 miles. A car needs a $20 oil change every 3000 miles or so, but would you use more than 4 $5 bottles of lube to ride a bicycle that far, especially in adverse condidtions. Also on a bike you need special clothes that always need washed and eventually wear out and need replaced. Then there's brakes, cables, bearings, pedals and everything else that needs maintained. Bike parts are cheaper than car parts, but they last far, far fewer miles. I'm guessing that including fuel and maintenance a bicycle is not really cheaper to operate per mile than a small automobile.
    I was getting about 40k out of a set of $400 tires on my Jetta; I might get a different set this time that cost 25% more but should last 100% longer. Anyhow, when I bought my car, I calculated about 5 cents/mile fuel, 5 cents/mile maintance, and 10 cents/mile depreciation. [Not including taxes or insurance, as I figured I'd own a car regardless of how many miles I drive per year.] After 4 years, fuel cost is more like 7 cents, but I believe I'm under that 5 cent maintance cost (as I haven't hit those random $1k repair bills-yet), and the depreciation is now in that middle area where it is not dropping in value very fast.

    Anyhow, I assume it costs me 22 cents/mile to drive. I don't commute on bike, so I haven't attempted to figure out yet what it costs per mile. But I figured I'd toss in my 2 cents on car costs for a relatively economical bought-as-new car.

    [I drive 45 or 50 miles to work, depending upon route. I haven't found someone on the way yet that I could bike to and hitch a ride with for the rest of the commute; and it's way too rural for mass transit.]
    '07 Trek Pilot 1.2
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  23. #23
    simply bikin' dobovedo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UmneyDurak View Post
    Well 20mph average is closer to 200W. Although that really depends on many factors.
    I just noticed something about that. When I changed the number of minutes from 40 to 30 (going from 15 to 20 mph) CycliStats changed the default position from semi-aero to aero, assuming a racing position to achieve the average speed.

    When I changed it back to semi-aero, the numbers look like:

    • 10mph = 60 minutes @ 47 watts avg & 21 calories per mile (213 per hour)
    • 15mph = 40 minutes @ 107 watts avg & 29 calories per mile (431 per hour)
    • 20mph = 30 minutes @ 219 watts avg & 41 calories per mile (818 per hour)


    So, 4x the power to double the speed. Which is what I thought it should be before I ran the numbers. I also noticed I had a typo on the original as said 21 calories per mile at 20mph when it should have been 33.

    In any case, I'm glad I'm not the only one who loves to figure out and debate this stuff.

  24. #24
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Another thing to keep in mind is that the bulk of the wear in a ICE is in the first few miles before it is completely warmed up. I know for a fact my diesel truck takes a good 5-7 miles before it is fully warmed up. IMHO most if not all trips under 10 miles should be completable by bike. I realize there are exceptions, however it was taken into account when planning shopping and housing it would make a huge difference on many fronts.

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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by dobovedo View Post
    To clarify... the statement about 4000 calories a day was total calories, not just from riding.

    But I did forget to change my weight since I ran this a year ago and have dropped 25 pounds. At 160 lbs, it's 2000 base and 1500 riding = 3500 average.

    I take my numbers from formulas in Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook. From that I created a simple little spreadsheet I set up where I input my current weight, daily miles for a week, and effort level (Cal/hr/#). That gives me estimated totals and averages for the week. I verify the calories from riding with HRM data.
    Oh cool, that makes loads more sense to me now.
    In the words of Einstein
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