Biking vs. Running

When I bought my bike, I thought that biking would be pretty similar to running. In the aspect that they’re both workouts that can be done inside or outside, yes, they’re similar.

So since I’ve had time to get a few more rides under my belt, here are some of the main similarities and differences I’ve noticed.


How Biking Is Like Running:

  • You can get started relatively cheaply. You can buy a bike on Craig’s List and see if you’re going to like it or not before you throw down more cash just like you can get started running with just a pair of sneakers.
  • But if you really get into it, you will convince yourself you need so much more. I started with just the bike, a (pink!) water bottle cage, a helmet, lights and a lock. Already on my short list of things to buy? Padded shorts, a bike calculator for my handlebars (I think it will be easier than looking at my Garmin while riding), bike gloves, potentially biking sunglasses.
  • It’s a hobby that people get really into.
  • It’s something you can do as exercise or to get from place to place.
  • It’s something that can make you feel really badass.

How Biking Is Not Like Running At All:

  • It’s something you can do totally leisurely and let the bike do all the work. While yes, you can do a “slow” run, it’s sort of hard to just cruise like you do on a bike.
  • You can go way farther. This morning, I rode eight miles before work like it was no big deal. An eight-mile run before work? Would definitely be a big deal. (Side note: is there any sort of 1 mile running= xx miles biking? I vaguely remember my trainer, Joel, last summer talking about it but I can’t find any sort of consensus on the internets.)
  • You get less sweaty. (Well, maybe I just haven’t rode that hard yet…)
  • Stopping to take a picture is significantly harder. For one, you can’t ride with your phone in your hand.
  • I haven’t had to do it yet, but I imagine stopping to use the bathroom would be significantly harder. I mean, when I need to stop to use the bathroom on a run, it means I really need to go. Like, ASAP. To stop on a ride, I’d have to lock my bike before I could stop…and sometimes you don’t have those extra few seconds when you really have to go, you know? To be honest, this is one of the things that makes me most nervous about riding.
  • But! I do get the impression that I won’t have to worry about what I eat (as far as stomach discomfort) before I ride as much as I do before I run.
  • You pass almost every single runner. I don’t know about you, but this does not happen when I run.
  • It will get very expensive very quickly if you let it. That was one of my biggest reasons that it took so long for me to get into it. I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on something I might not be into.
  • You have to be fairly coordinated. I can easily see myself falling in multiple situations: taking a hand off to use my Camelbak, stopping at a light, my lock getting stuck in the pedals’ arc. If you think I’m being paranoid about these things? You don’t know me very well.
  • Even if you are going relatively fast on a bike, it’s still easier to take in the sights than it is on foot.
  • Your ass hurts more. (Please see: need for padded shorts.)

If you are a cyclist (biker?)/runner, what differences have you noticed?


11 comments on “Biking vs. Running

  1. alanna

    I’ve been biking and running in nyc for almost ten years. Some tips for a clumsy girl who always needs a bathroom:

    always bring a lock or ride with a friend, so you can just hop off your bike when you need a bathroom. Keep a mental check list of where you are and where the nearest bathrooms are: fairway, wholefoods, starbucks, public bathrooms, etc. I’ve asked strangers sitting at an outdoor cafe to watch my bike so I could pee – most people are usually helpful.

    I used to use a odometer (handle bar calculator), but after getting caught too many times in the rain, it died. I was going to buy a new one, but I figured that my garmin performs the same function and it’s super easy to plug into to your comp and keep a record of total miles ever rode. It’s pretty damn cool to say I’ve rode of 6,000 miles) Instead of wearing it on my wrist, I secure to my handlebars when I ride, in the same place that my odometer used to be. Works like a charm.

    Don’t get too exciting about passing all the runners, I occasionally still get passed by a runner (on my bike) while going up harlem hill.

    Good luck and try not to be too embarrassed or discouraged by the falls. I’ve fallen more times than I can remember. I just always get back up and finish my ride home.

    Have fun and follow the bike laws because nycpd are on a tirade against bikers and we’ve got the tickets to show for it.

    1. Keath

      @alanna: I do have to admit; once in a while when I catch a cyclist on foot it really swells the ego. It’s usually someone three times my age and/or on a steep hill, but I’ll take it! 😉

  2. Keath

    I’m primarily a runner – most cyclists would probably laugh at my bike. But I do have one other difference to add; maintenance. You can get away without ever “maintaining” your running gear, but worn brakes or misaligned derailleurs really suck. Which sort of ties in to your “it gets expensive” item. I think I paid for one tune up before deciding it was time to learn the basics myself; and thanks to a very friendly bike shop in Golden and an ex-pro-triathlete I met in SoCal, I’m now significantly more capable.

    A suggestion on the bike computer vs Garmin thing; bolt an old bell or light mount to the handlebars and wrap your watch around that – the flat part will keep the watch facing up and allow you to see our stats without taking your hands off the bars. Not as fancy, but it works for me!

  3. Heather @ Side of Sneakers

    This post rocks. I’ve noticed you can’t combine biking with other things- when I run I combine it with running errands or on my way home from work, etc., but I can’t do that with a bike on my car. Well I can, but I can only guess how long it’ll stay on the back of my car before someone helps themselves to it.

    Plus, I can’t just go out the door and bike like I can with running- I have to put it on my car, drive somewhere, change shoes, fix my hair so I can get a helmet on, and then bike.

    But it is pretty awesome to be all ‘yeah I biked 20 miles this am”. 😉

  4. Lindsay

    I would consider the bike computers to be up there in the “necessary” items. I was a little intimidated by this, but they’re actually fairly cheap and easy to install on your bike! Make sure to get the magnetic ones so that you don’t have to worry about pesky wires. Also, I get all my cheap bike stuff on You can go into bike stores and pick apart the employees’ brains, but you’ll find everything and more on Nashbar, for substantially cheaper. Enjoy!

  5. Theresa

    I love love LOVE cycling! I’ve never had a great relationship with running, so I use cycling to balance out my running schedule.
    I mainly use my bike for exercising (I’m training for my first 100 miler!) but I also use it to run errands that are fairly close to home – like quick trips to the grocery store, restaurants, to visit neighbors. It’s great!
    And you don’t have to have expensive gear to do that stuff – just a bike lock and a back pack! (Although I’ll admit – we have saddlebags and handlebar bags to tote our stuff around now since we ride so much.)
    And I agree with what others have said about the bike computer – just strap your Garmin onto the handlebars! (Lots of Garmin models have “bike mount” kits available too so you might want to check that out.)

  6. Liz

    I started out cycling, at the time I was pretty heavy and biking 50 miles was so much easier than running 3! Fast forward to today, I’m much more into running but I still love my bike. I’m thinking about a century at the end of the season, which means logging mucho miles while also training for my first full (probably not the best idea!). I agree with a lot of the comments re: strapping your Garmin to the handlebars. Some must haves for sure are padded shorts (a must for rides over 30 miles) chamois cream and clip in’s – you will find such a difference in cadence specifically on hills when you are clipped 🙂


  7. Cait @ Beyond Bananas

    I have tried my hardest to get into cycling – but only through spinning classes. I think Iwould enjoy being outdoors on a bike where it can be more leisurely – so I guess I need to get a bike and get outdoors!

  8. Rachel

    Have you considered getting a gel padded seat cover instead of the shorts? I’d bet they’re cheaper too.


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