> >
>

# The Cost of Food as Bike Fuel vs Gas for Cars

Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

# The Cost of Food as Bike Fuel vs Gas for Cars

06-04-08, 09:29 AM
#1
JugglerDave
Senior Member

Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 467
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
The Cost of Food as Bike Fuel vs Gas for Cars

I've been doing my 3-4 days folding bike + train commute for almost a year and a half now, and I consume a bunch of extra snacks at work. I was just playing with some numbers yesterday, thought it was interesting:

\$4.00 per gallon gas.
My car gets approx. 23.5 MPG, (this is \$0.17 / mile for gas).
Biking is approx. 30-40 calories per mile (I'll use 35).
That's 35 * 23.5 = 822 calories for "gallon of gas distance equivalence".

So any snack that costs \$4.00 for 822 calories costs the same as gasoline.
Starchy snacks (e.g. pretzels) are 100 or 110 calories per ounce.
Potato chips are 150/oz. Nuts are in the 200 range.
Most other snacks (e.g. my trader joe's granola bars) run around 130 calories per oz.

So the "typical snack" of 130 cal/oz. can cost as much as \$10 per pound before it's more expensive than gasoline. (130 * 16 = 2080 calories / 882 cals * \$4.00).

My \$1.00 Clif bar (230 calories) is almost as expensive as gas.
My \$2.49 / 4 oz of dehydrated oranges (100 calories per 30 g) is \$10 / pound for 1500 calories, so more expensive than gas.
Plain old pasta (about \$1 / pound dry, 1760 calories) is about 30% the cost of gas.

06-04-08, 09:30 AM
#2
genec
genec

Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: West Coast
Posts: 26,244

Bikes: custom built, sannino, beachbike, giant trance x2

Mentioned: 24 Post(s)
Quoted: 5866 Post(s)
Eat more Pasta.

06-04-08, 09:31 AM
#3
joeprim
Senior Member

Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Northern Neck Tidewater Va.
Posts: 1,688
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Cool calculations. I calim my bike gets 50 mpg, but then beer is more that \$4/gal

-

Joe

06-04-08, 09:32 AM
#4
Scorer75
Senior Member

Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: New York
Posts: 1,945
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
ummmm, but if you drove to work you would still have to eat, right?

The only extra food I eat on days I ride is two extra snacks, a 210 calorie single pack of trail mix for .49 an extra yogurt or fruit which is probably around .50 - .75

Since my company pays for gas, I asked if on the days I ride they would buy my lunch. This wasn't a serious request, it was something that came up as a joke when we were discussing gas prices one day.They are considering it, but I believe it's more as a novelty.

06-04-08, 09:33 AM
#5
lil brown bat
Senior Member

Join Date: May 2007
Location: Boston (sort of)
Posts: 3,878

Bikes: 1 road, 1 Urban Assault Vehicle

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
It's an interesting analysis, although of course it's a bit simplistic. A snack (or other food) that costs \$4.00 for 822 calories doesn't cost "the same as gasoline", it costs the same (about) as a gallon of gasoline. Whether it's more cost-effective depends on what that gallon of gasoline will get you vs. what that snack will get you, and that analysis gets pretty tricky. In addition, food doesn't simply vanish as calories expended, it goes into building a healthier body (one hopes). But the point is a good one -- food can get spendy if you don't choose it carefully.

06-04-08, 09:45 AM
#6
_dhan_
Amateur Hack

Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Austin
Posts: 135

Bikes: Marin mtb turned tri turned commuter turned singlespeed, Haro Werks 2.0, Specialized Epic Allez carbon main tube built up for triathlons

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I already filled up with about 20 pounds of extra fuel. It's a sunk cost.

06-04-08, 09:45 AM
#7
girljen
Nerd

Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Wheat Ridge, CO
Posts: 450

Bikes: K2 T-9 Crosswind

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
And then there's the consideration of the enjoyment level of the food. There is no emotional or sensual benefit to putting gasoline in a car. However, food can have emotional benefits. Think of the difference between 500 calories of granola with milk (tasty but nothing special; inexpensive) vs. 500 calories of filet mignon and fresh steamed veggies (WANT!!; expensive).

06-04-08, 09:46 AM
#8
JugglerDave
Senior Member

Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 467
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Originally Posted by lil brown bat
It's an interesting analysis, although of course it's a bit simplistic. A snack (or other food) that costs \$4.00 for 822 calories doesn't cost "the same as gasoline", it costs the same (about) as a gallon of gasoline. Whether it's more cost-effective depends on what that gallon of gasoline will get you vs. what that snack will get you, and that analysis gets pretty tricky. In addition, food doesn't simply vanish as calories expended, it goes into building a healthier body (one hopes). But the point is a good one -- food can get spendy if you don't choose it carefully.
I was trying to compare solely the cost of "distance equivalence cost" of gasoline in my car. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

I can bike 23.5 miles on 822 extra food calories (cost varies...)
Or I can drive my car 23.5 miles on 1 gallon of gasoline, which currently costs \$4.00

I wasn't playing with the obvious efficiency differences, the fact that there are 33,000 calories in a gallon of gas, etc. And of course, if one has 'spare' calories (e.g. overweight) then clearly one can lose weight and not have to buy as much replacement food.

Last edited by JugglerDave; 06-04-08 at 09:50 AM.

06-04-08, 09:47 AM
#9
gholt
Senior Member

Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Layton, UT
Posts: 686

Bikes: 2004 Giant OCR, 2002 Specialized Stumpjumper, 2008 Trek 6500 Disc

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Bring some apples, bannanas, pears, oranges, carrots, mangos, grapes. They are packed with energy. They don't cost too much and they would give your body what it needs.

06-04-08, 09:49 AM
#10
DataJunkie
Senior Member

Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 14,279
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 1 Post(s)
After some time ones body tends to need less fuel to accomplish the same task.
Cars generally go in the opposite direction. Meaning that they need more fuel as their engines age.

06-04-08, 09:52 AM
#11
Andy69
Ricardo Cabeza

Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Memphis
Posts: 57

Bikes: Lemond Nevada City, Trek 830

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I had that thought yesterday as I was biking to work. I eat like a hog anyway, so I suspect we won;t notice the extra food

06-04-08, 09:56 AM
#12
JugglerDave
Senior Member

Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 467
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I've done my 8.5 mile r/t commute (300 calories) about 150 times in the past year and a half. In theory, I've burned 45000 calories, or almost 13 lbs of fat. In reality, I've enjoyed a lot of really good desserts and beers (as well as my work snacks) and I'm virtually the same weight as a year ago. I'm 100% sure I've been eating a lot of 'extra' food and sure have enjoyed it.

06-04-08, 10:03 AM
#13
jaa1085
Senior Member

Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 169
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Don't forget about wear and tear on your vehicle, oil changes, tires, tire rotation, repairs, etc.

Also medical savings and the environment benefits.

06-04-08, 10:04 AM
#14
Bike4More
Fixed Commuter

Join Date: May 2008
Location: Fresno
Posts: 182

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Bananas are cheap and really good for you compared to nuts and processed foods. They have their own biodegradable packaging also.

06-04-08, 10:05 AM
#15
d2create
Senior Member

Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Houston we have a problem
Posts: 2,914
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I don't really eat any more than normal when doing my 23 mile roundtrip commute.
That kinda defeats the purpose of the exercise.

But only only commute a few times a week.

06-04-08, 10:09 AM
#16
JugglerDave
Senior Member

Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 467
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Originally Posted by jaa1085
Don't forget about wear and tear on your vehicle, oil changes, tires, tire rotation, repairs, etc.

Also medical savings and the environment benefits.
I was just playing with the fuel portion for today's fun.

For my PERSONAL multi-mode commute and playing with every single number and factor I could think of (My username should be datajunkie II), except for things like medical savings, I found I save \$7 per round trip commute versus driving.

06-04-08, 10:10 AM
#17
jaa1085
Senior Member

Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 169
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Originally Posted by JugglerDave
I was just playing with the fuel portion for today's fun.

For my PERSONAL multi-mode commute and playing with every single number and factor I could think of (My username should be datajunkie II), except for things like medical savings, I found I save \$7 per round trip commute versus driving.
Wow! \$7 per commute. I think I would save around \$4 a commute. My trip is only 14 miles.

06-04-08, 10:17 AM
#18
JugglerDave
Senior Member

Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 467
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Originally Posted by jaa1085
Wow! \$7 per commute. I think I would save around \$4 a commute. My trip is only 14 miles.
I'm replacing a 53 mile r/t car commute with an 8.5 mile r/t bike commute plus 25 minute (each way) train. Even with train tickets (as I said, I counted EVERYTHING in my calculations) the savings are substantial.

06-04-08, 10:23 AM
#19
sean000
Senior Member

Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Bellingham, WA
Posts: 403

Bikes: Rivendell Atlantis, Kogswell P58, 1988 Pinarello, Rivendell Wilbury (my wife's bike)

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I like food more than driving.

I'd gladly pay more for food than for gasoline. As far as I'm concerned, spending \$50 or more to fill up the tank is just paying in advance for hours of drudgery behind the wheel. Spending the same \$50 on food... even if I blow it on good food (okay...and wine or beer), rather than stretching it, is at least \$50 I'll get some enjoyment out of! Even if I stretch it by buying cheaper food I'll still get more enjoyment out of it than if it goes into the tank of my car!

Besides... most of us in America consume more calories than we need to see us through our daily routine. I'm packing an extra 20 pounds to prove it! Lately I've been cutting back on my portions to lose some of that weight, which means I'm trying to burn more calories than I put in. So I guess biking to work not only saves me money right now, but it's helping me lose weight. The lighter I am, the fewer calories I'll need to pedal to work in the future!

But if you really want to know what motivates me to pedal... it's not saving money. What's going on in the back of my mind is more along the lines of, "How much farther do I need to ride today to burn the extra calories I'll consume if I stop off at the brewery or the cheese shop?"

I'm fortunate that we don't need to fill up our car very often, so the rising price of gas doesn't affect us much at the pump. Where we really feel it is at the grocery store and at the bakery. Our local bakers have raised their prices significantly since they are paying 10 times more for a sack of flour than they did a year ago. Of course it's the rising price of oil, and the demand for corn-based ethanol, that is driving up the price of basic staples like flour. By eating out less, and decreasing the size of my portions at home, I'm saving money on food and losing weight. It's just tough being disciplined about it... I really want to support our suffering bakers, beer brewers, farmers, and cheese makers! I guess the more I ride, the more of their products I'll be able to consume.

Sean

06-04-08, 10:27 AM
#20
jaa1085
Senior Member

Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 169
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Originally Posted by sean000
I'd gladly pay more for food than for gasoline. As far as I'm concerned, spending \$50 or more to fill up the tank is just paying in advance for hours of drudgery behind the wheel. Spending the same \$50 on food... even if I blow it on good food (okay...and wine or beer), rather than stretching it, is at least \$50 I'll get some enjoyment out of! Even if I stretch it by buying cheaper food I'll still get more enjoyment out of it than if it goes into the tank of my car!

Besides... most of us in America consume more calories than we need to see us through our daily routine. I'm packing an extra 20 pounds to prove it! Lately I've been cutting back on my portions to lose some of that weight, which means I'm trying to burn more calories than I put in. So I guess biking to work not only saves me money right now, but it's helping me lose weight. The lighter I am, the fewer calories I'll need to pedal to work in the future!

But if you really want to know what motivates me to pedal... it's not saving money. What's going on in the back of my mind is more along the lines of, "How much farther do I need to ride today to burn the extra calories I'll consume if I stop off at the brewery or the cheese shop?"

I'm fortunate that we don't need to fill up our car very often, so the rising price of gas doesn't affect us much at the pump. Where we really feel it is at the grocery store and at the bakery. Our local bakers have raised their prices significantly since they are paying 10 times more for a sack of flour than they did a year ago. Of course it's the rising price of oil, and the demand for corn-based ethanol, that is driving up the price of basic staples like flour. By eating out less, and decreasing the size of my portions at home, I'm saving money on food and losing weight. It's just tough being disciplined about it... I really want to support our suffering bakers, beer brewers, farmers, and cheese makers! I guess the more I ride, the more of their products I'll be able to consume.

Sean

Very well spoken! I completely agree

06-04-08, 10:29 AM
#21
Sgt Skidmark
Senior Member

Join Date: May 2008
Location: 42.228083, -87.987226
Posts: 79
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Luckily, even if it was price parity for food and gas, the wear and tear on the car would be more than on a bike.

06-04-08, 10:37 AM
#22
Paul L.
Senior Member

Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Arizona, USA
Posts: 2,601

Bikes: Mercier Corvus (commuter), Fila Taos (MTB), Trek 660(Got frame for free and put my LeMans Centurian components on it)

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 1 Post(s)
Hmmm. I commute 24 miles in and hitch a ride home with my Father in-Law so-

3 gallons of gas for my Jeep = \$12
800 Calories = 2/10 of a \$5 Marie Calendars Key Lime Pie = \$1
Net Savings is \$11 WooHoo! Guilt Free Pie and a savngs of \$11 I'm in Heaven.
__________________
Sunrise saturday,
lost in the moment.

06-04-08, 10:42 AM
#23
Az B
Fattest Thin Man

Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Directly above the center of the earth
Posts: 2,649

Bikes: Miyata 610, Vinco V, Rocky Mountain Element

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
All you can eat buffet for lunch. Problem solved.

Next!

Az

06-04-08, 10:44 AM
#24
Andy_K
Senior Member

Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Beaverton, OR
Posts: 11,913

Bikes: Yes

Mentioned: 264 Post(s)
Quoted: 1673 Post(s)
Originally Posted by girljen
There is no emotional or sensual benefit to putting gasoline in a car.
I don't know, I like the smell of gas in small portions. I guess it's a leftover from my happy days as a petroleum distribution engineer.

06-04-08, 10:47 AM
#25
sauerwald
Senior Member

Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: San Jose, CA
Posts: 1,838

Bikes: Bianchi San Remo - set up as a utility bike, Peter Mooney Road bike, Peter Mooney commute bike,Dahon Folder,Schwinn Paramount Tandem

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)