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# Which is more efficient riding a bicycle or walking?

Fri 16 Feb, 2018 11:48 am
Which is more efficient riding a bicycle or walking?

I'm not interested in how much energy is spent per hour, but which uses the least energy on a level surface, riding a bicycle or walking the same distance?

I think some people will impulsively answer one or the other. To make answers less impulsive consider that the bicycle you are riding weighs 200 pounds. It's obvious that it's going to be more efficient walking a mile than riding a 200 pound bike for a mile. But suppose the bike weighs 100 lb or a 50 lb or less. At what point does it become more efficient to ride the bicycle, if at all, than to walk.

Notice that I'm not trying to burn the most energy but the least energy.

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Type: Question • Score: 12 • Views: 3,551 • Replies: 35
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ehBeth

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 12:14 pm
@coluber2001,
coluber2001 wrote:
But suppose the bike weighs 100 lb or a 50 lb or less.

or ... more likely ... 20 - 30

http://www.mytenspeeds.com/My_TenSpeeds_1/Site%20Contents/Weight/Weight_2_ActualWeights.htm

energy burned

http://calorielab.com/burned/?gr=17&kg=68&mo=se&q=&ti=walking&un=lb&wt=150

http://www.ilovebicycling.com/how-many-calories-do-you-burn-when-cycling/

https://healthyliving.azcentral.com/riding-bicycle-walking-burn-fat-9263.html

___

so ... how do you measure efficiency? distance covered /`100 calories?

0 Replies

ehBeth

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 12:19 pm
@coluber2001,
coluber2001 wrote:
but which uses the least energy on a level surface, riding a bicycle or walking the same distance?

At what point does it become more efficient to ride the bicycle, if at all, than to walk.

I think the calculation will give you cycling pretty quickly as you can cover a lot more territory on a bike.

Quote:

If you speed up to walking a mile in 13 minutes or less, you will be burning more calories per mile. But for most beginning walkers, it is best to increase the distance before working on speed. A simple rule of thumb is 100 calories per mile for a 180 pound person.

http://nj2ny50.org/calorie-estimator-how-many-calories-do-you-burn-walking

Quote:
How many calories do you burn riding a bike for 1 mile?
Light Cycling. Bicycling 10 to 11.9 mph is regarded as a “light effort” by the Wisconsin Department of Health. When you bicycle 10 to 11.9 mph, you burn about 47 calories per mile if you weigh 190 pounds, about 38 calories per mile if you're 155 pounds and about 32 calories per mile if you're 130 pounds.

https://www.livestrong.com/article/135430-calories-burned-biking-one-mile/
ehBeth

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 12:23 pm
@ehBeth,
using 10 mph on a bike and the bike using 1/2 the energy of walking

...

you'll hit the sweet spot at about 3 -4 minutes

sooner if you've got a better bike

___

granted I'm using gemini math (rounding rounding rounding) but you can calculate more precise numbers fairly easily if that's your jam
coluber2001

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 12:28 pm
@ehBeth,
So if your bike weighs 200 lb it's still much easier to ride a bicycle for a mile than it is to walk, right? How about if bicycle weighs 100 lb? Nobody seems to take the weight of the bicycle into account. Also I don't understand why the speed should make any difference. If you walk or ride a bicycle at twice the speed you get there at half the time. If you talking about riding a bicycle or walking per hour, then the speed would be important. If you're moving a certain distance you're moving that same weight the same distance. So what does it matter how fast you go?
ehBeth

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 12:32 pm
@coluber2001,
yeah they do - there are websites where serious biking folks talk about the weight issue - and compare and contrast differences on ounces of bike weight

the bike is going to have to be so heavy that you almost can't use before it's less efficient than walking
0 Replies

tsarstepan

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 12:52 pm
@coluber2001,
What freaking bike weighs 200 pounds?! Even if it did? You still have leverage that comes with the chain (and multiple gears if you don't have a fixie or crappy fixed-gear bike).

You wrote this... but what's the context behind the statement.
Quote:
Notice that I'm not trying to burn the most energy but the least energy.

Efficient? How? Burning calories? Getting to where you need to go?
I assume burning calories? Walking is better. Most of the work is done by the bike and ... well physics and gravity.

Getting to where you need to go? The bike will get you there faster and use less personal energy.
ehBeth

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 12:56 pm
@coluber2001,
coluber2001 wrote:

So if your bike weighs 200 lb it's still much easier to ride a bicycle for a mile than it is to walk, right?

the bike would have to weigh somewhere over 600 pounds to be less efficient than walking - but who can move a bike that heavy even on a level surface

most average bikes are closer to 25 pounds
0 Replies

ehBeth

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 01:00 pm
@coluber2001,
coluber2001 wrote:
Nobody seems to take the weight of the bicycle into account.

https://newhorizonsbikes.com/articles/bicycle-weight-the-benefits-quantified-pg170.htm

Quote:
Everyone talks about bicycle weight. It consumes our discussions. Magazine reviews make it clear that if the very lightest parts are not chosen, if it is not as light as possible, the bicycle being examined is suspect. Light weight has become the sine qua non of a good bicycle. A light bicycle is a good bicycle, without any further discussion of its other merits or qualities.

decades ago I kind of went with a bike dude (he's still a bike dude, rides cross-continent every couple of years) - he used to weigh biking shoes before considering them for purchase
0 Replies

maxdancona

2
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 01:21 pm
@coluber2001,
Let's look at this from a scientific standpoint. Bicycles have two big advantages over walking.

1) If you get a frictionless bike going 10 mph on a level surface, it will go forever with no additional energy. The weight of the bicycle is irrelevant after the one time investment in energy to get the bicycle up to speed.

Of course, no bike is frictionless, but the energy lost to friction on modern bicycles is fairly small.

2) The energy used to make a bicycle go uphill is regained by the bicycle going down hill. When you are going downhill on a bike you accelerate without you having add any energy to the bicycle (this energy is gained from the work you did going uphill). It might be interesting to note that the weight of the bicycle has nothing to do with this in either case... except for the initial investment to get the bicycle up to speed.

3) Walking is inefficient in both of these cases. You have to constantly expend energy to go at a constant speed whether you are level, or even if you are going downhill.

A bicycle is far more efficient than walking, as long as the friction is kept low.
roger

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 02:19 pm
@maxdancona,
Friction increases in a more or less straight line as speed increases. Wind resistance increases much more quickly - as the square of the increase in speed, as I recall.

If we look at overall efficiency, should we consider the issue of securing the bike when not in use? If one lives in a second floor walk up apartment, the energy and general hassle of carrying it up one flight of stairs might make a short walk look pretty good, even if it's made of unobtanium and weighs less that fifteen pounds.
ehBeth

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 02:21 pm
@roger,
roger wrote:
If we look at overall efficiency, should we consider the issue of securing the bike when not in use? If one lives in a second floor walk up apartment, the energy and general hassle of carrying it up one flight of stairs might make a short walk look pretty good, even if it's made of unobtanium and weighs less that fifteen pounds.

my bike lives in the living room when not in use - up those dang stairs - it definitely makes me think about it twice if I'm only going a block
0 Replies

izzythepush

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 02:29 pm
@coluber2001,
coluber2001 wrote:

Which is more efficient riding a bicycle or walking?

Depends on the terrain.
0 Replies

izzythepush

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 02:36 pm
@tsarstepan,
tsarstepan wrote:

What freaking bike weighs 200 pounds?!

This one, (sorry about picture quality)

0 Replies

maxdancona

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 03:05 pm
@roger,
We are comparing the efficiency of a bicycle to walking.

Walking is a very inefficient movement. In every step you push down on the ground. In every step your center of gravity is raised and then lowered. To do this, your muscles expend energy, which is lost to heat, for every step whether you are walking up or down hill. There is no coasting when you are walking the energy you expend walking up hill is wasted.

If you have ridden a bicycle, you have already experienced this. I can ride my bicycle 20 miles without being exhausted.

A bicycle does not have any advantage over a pedestrian when it comes to air friction other than the fact that a bicycle can go faster (but doesn't need to). A bicycle may have an advantage since the cyclist can bend over to be more aerodynamic. You are correct that air friction is generally proportional to v^2. Assuming you bike slowly, this isn't a big deal, and even if you go quickly, the inefficiencies of the walking motion are far more significant.

Rolling resistance is non-linear in practice. If I remember correctly, as you go faster on a pneumatic wheel the energy needed to deform the wheel decreases. It is kind of interesting... but compared to walking I don't think this is significant. And there is friction in walking too.

Of course there is the added expenditure of getting out or locking up you bicycle. On short trips, this might be significant.
0 Replies

coluber2001

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 03:08 pm
I always felt sorry for these guys having to pedal these things around, but I guess they ought to feel sorry for me having to walk.

ehBeth

2
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 03:10 pm
@coluber2001,
I'd rather pedal that than have to push that thing while walking.
0 Replies

maxdancona

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 03:12 pm
@coluber2001,
Really??

That looks like a fun job (if the pay were good enough).
0 Replies

rosborne979

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 03:31 pm
@coluber2001,
Bookmark
0 Replies

hightor

1
Fri 16 Feb, 2018 03:57 pm
This chart was compiled by S.S. Wilson for his article on bicycle technology from the March, 1973 Scientific American:

The May 27, 1899 Scientific American has an article, The Efficiency of the Bicycle, but it's locked. I'm wondering if I should fork over the \$8 — I'll bet it's fascinating.

Ivan Illich wrote:
Man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories. The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man’s metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well.

Bicycles let people move with greater speed without taking up significant amounts of scarce space, energy, or time. They can spend fewer hours on each mile and still travel more miles in a year. They can get the benefit of technological breakthroughs without putting undue claims on the schedules, energy, or space of others. They become masters of their own movements without blocking those of their fellows. Their new tool creates only those demands which it can also satisfy. Every increase in motorized speed creates new demands on space and time. The use of the bicycle is self-limiting. It allows people to create a new relationship between their life-space and their life-time, between their territory and the pulse of their being, without destroying their inherited balance. The advantages of modern self-powered traffic are obvious, and ignored.”

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