Over the years, I’ve come across several people who’ve talked trash about exercise bikes because they’re “too easy” or they “don’t get my heart rate up high enough” or they just “don’t burn enough calories”.
As a guy who gets his butt kicked on an indoor cycle on a weekly basis, I’m a little dumbfounded by these statements because I feel like I’m getting great workouts on my exercise bike.
Am I in that bad a shape? Are these folks in that amazing a shape?
I’m guessing people who make statements like this are a little naive to what can really be done on an exercise bike, but that’s neither here nor there.
I recently had this conversation with a patient of mine and it inspired me to write this article discussing how many calories we can actually burn on an exercise bike.
If you’re new to cycling or exercise bikes in general, some of these numbers might surprise ya – just keep in mind the amount of calories we burn depends on a few different factors… but more on that in a bit.
First things first.
How Many Calories Can You Burn On An Exercise Bike?
As I mentioned in the intro, I’ve been told several times over the years that exercise bikes aren’t hard enough or that they just don’t get the heart rate high enough to be effective.
I was even told this this morning by one of my patients who declared his hatred for recumbent bikes because they were just “too easy”.
Give me a break.
Different exercise bikes are better equipped than others for getting our heart rate up and burning more calories, but let’s be real – any type of exercise bike can get the job done if you put the effort in.
Burning calories on any exercise bike really boils down to the amount of resistance you’re using and the cadence at which you’re pedaling.
If you jack that resistance up high enough to challenge you and/or pedal fast enough, I promise you you’ll get your heart rate up and burn calories.
To be fair though, all exercise bikes aren’t built equally and some are far better than others when it comes to providing a great workout.
Which Exercise Bikes Burn The Most Calories?
I stand by my statement that any exercise bike can offer a good workout as long as it’s capable of providing enough resistance to challenge ya, but let’s be real – some bikes are better than others.
You can get some great upright and recumbent models that have heavy flywheels and offer enough resistance for taxing workouts, but when it comes down to burning calories, air bikes and indoor cycles rule supreme.
When it comes to burning the most calories in a short period of time, air (or “fan”) bikes are the best for a couple of reasons.
For starters, the nature of air resistance allows these bikes to basically provide unlimited resistance.
This is because the resistance you feel on these bikes is dependent on how hard you pedal – so, the harder you pedal, the more resistance you get.
This is a potent combination for burning calories fast.
The other great thing about these bikes is that you get to use your arms too, turning it into more of a full body workout.
And more muscles being used = more total calories being burned.
And with indoor cycles, it’s all about speed and resistance.
Indoor cycles often come with heavy flywheels that can provide a lot of resistance and since you’re sitting in an upright position (like riding a real bike), you can reach faster speeds.
And combining faster cadences with higher resistances is a guaranteed way to burn more calories.
So, if you’re looking to burn as many calories as possible on an exercise bike, it’s a smart idea to opt for an air bike or an indoor cycle.
Let’s Talk Numbers
Ok, I know the real reason anyone is reading this is to see some real numbers, but we have to realize that the amount of calories you can burn on any exercise bike is going to dependent greatly on how much effort you’re willing to put into it.
That, plus your body type, gender, weight, metabolic rate, etc.
There’s a lot of stuff that ultimately determines how many calories you’ll burn doing anything, but 2 big ones are your weight and your level of effort.
Folks who weigh more are going to burn more calories doing the same activity than folks who weigh less.
This is why cardio machines ask for your weight – they need it to provide an estimate of how many calories you’re burning.
And the effort level makes sense – the harder you work, the more calories you should burn.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has some great info on how many calories we burn depending on activity and level of effort and you can check out their Calorie Calculator for more info.
Here are a few indoor cycling estimates according to ACE:
- 150 lb person cycling at moderate intensity for 30 min: 272 calories burned
- 200 lb person cycling at moderate intensity for 30 min: 362 calories burned
- 150 lb person cycling at vigorous intensity for 30 min: 408 calories burned
- 200 lb person cycling at vigorous intensity for 30 min: 544 calories burned
Ok, so again, keep in mind these are only estimates, but I think they really show how weight and intensity level can effect your calorie expenditure.
Based on these numbers, a 200 lb person is going to burn about 90 more calories than a 150 lb person doing the same thing (roughly 3 more calories/min).
I also want to point out that burning 300 – 400 calories in 30 minutes is pretty freakin’ good.
I don’t know about you, but I would consider this a legit workout session.
Especially considering folks who are trying to lose weight are encouraged to try and lose 1-2 lb per week and 1 lb is usually considered to be the equivalent of 3500 calories.
So, if you burned 250 calories a day (could only take 30 min) and reduced your calorie intake by another 250 calories, you could theoretically drop 1 lb per week.
Speaking personally, I’m roughly 200 lb and according to my Peloton, I usually burn somewhere between 300 – 400 calories in a 30 minute workout… depending on the workout.
I’m happy with anything above 300 calories because that’s 10 calories/min and for some reason that sounds like a worthwhile number to me.
With these numbers in mind, I have to really push it to burn 400 calories on my bike.
I hope these numbers show that you can burn some serious calories on an indoor cycle, but let’s switch gears here and talk about air bikes a little more.
Most people use air bikes more for interval training, although there’s nothing stopping you from riding for prolonged periods – but these bikes do work really well for quick, all-out effort intervals.
Doing this, you can become breathless in a matter of seconds, while burning ridiculous amounts of calories in a short period of time.
Going all out on an air bike, you can seriously burn 20, 30, 40, or even 50+ calories in a single minute (depending on your fitness level of course).
Full disclosure, it’s not gonna be fun burning these kinda calories in such a short period – it would be the equivalent of sprinting as fast as you can for the given time period.
But if you’re looking to burn a lot of calories, adding a few rounds of the ol’ air bike could certainly get the job done.
Check out this video and tell me exercise bikes can’t burn calories:
Wow, that just looks painful…
Now that dude is obviously in great shape, but it just goes to show ya what air bike can do.
After watching that video, I feel kinda bad about myself – it takes me 30 min to burn 400 calories and he burned 66 calories in 1 minute…
Eh, what can ya do.
Regardless, I hope the above info shows that it is possible to burn some serious calories on an exercise bike.
And even though indoor cycles and air bikes are the most potent calorie burners, you can still burn plenty of calories on upright bikes and recumbent bikes.
Also keep in mind that the number of calories you’re burning will depend on many variables, including your body weight and the amount of effort you’re willing to put into your workouts.
Smaller folks will burn fewer calories, but it’s still very doable to burn 10 calories/min on an exercise bike – and it doesn’t even require all-out efforts.
Well, I hope you found this article helpful and if you have any comments you’d like to add, please leave ’em below and I’ll get back to you shortly.
Now go jump on that bike, crank up the resistance, and go burn some calories!