Cycling is one of the best ways to stay fit and healthy. It can be a great workout to help us stay in shape and shift a few pounds. All you need is a bike, safety helmet, and a fun route.
You could take a gentle ride with friends and family in the park or follow a dedicated cycle path out in the countryside. You can pretty much go anywhere you want. But, the key question here is how far should you go?
How many miles should you bike a day?
30 minutes a day of exercise is typically recommended for basic health and fitness needs. On average, you will find that cyclists can cover 5 miles in that 30 minutes. Moderate to experienced rider should aim for around 10 miles a day.
Although, everyone is different & we don’t want to come across as lazy or fail to put in enough effort when we commit to riding our bikes more often.
But, we also don’t want to push too hard and take on too much. There has to be an optimal number of miles to ride per day for your specific needs. So, how do you determine this figure?
Also, why is it better to ride such regular, frequent distances?
To figure out how many miles you should bike a day, you need to consider the following:
- Why have you taken up cycling?
- What is your route like?
- Do you have any underlying health issues?
- Are you committed to this plan?
Why Have You Taken up Cycling?
The first thing to consider is your reason for creating this plan. What is the end goal here?
When you have a target in mind you can start to plan a cycling schedule to match your goals.
- Are you just trying to get a little bit fitter and healthier?
- Are you out to lose a certain amount of weight?
- Are you training for a cycling event?
If your goals are more gentle and general then you will be fine with small regular efforts. If you have bigger dreams of cycling in a road race or long tour, you will need to increase your training efforts.
Daily Bike Rides For Fitness
The general rule is to spend 30 minutes a day exercising for basic health and fitness needs. So, you can use this as your marker. On average, you will find that cyclists can cover 5 miles in that 30 minutes. This is a good place to start and then once you get fitter and get more into the sport you can always try and go further. If 5 miles sounds like a lot, or you aren’t sure how to create a 5-mile route in your area, make sure to combine your ride with another exercise to make up that 30-minute target.
When you do plan a route, try and turn it into a circuit. There might be a beautiful scenic cycle route or coast path near you with a 5-mile stretch but just remember that you have to get home again. If you travel out 5 miles and ride back then this could be too much at first.
Cycle within your means and make it a fun part of your daily schedule. If you can’t go out in the evening on a 5-mile circuit, look at the distance of your commute. How many miles should you bike a day to ride to work and back? This would be a great way of getting your daily exercise requirement in smaller blocks without messing up your schedule. Of course, there are also the environmental benefits of commuting by bike too. If cycling for light fitness is your only aim then there is no reason to change this approach unless you become ill or develop an injury.
Daily Bike Rides For Weight Loss
Riders out to lose a specific amount of weight will find that it can be more difficult to determine the right amount of miles to cycle per day. The number of calories burned depends on your distance and speed and we all have a different target in mind. You also need to remember that gentle regular exercise with a good diet is much better than intense sessions now and then. So, if you can decrease your calorie intake and make small daily efforts on the bike, you have a better chance at the results you want.
A Harvard study on the impact of cycling for weight loss shows that you can see a big difference depending on your speed. Those that weigh 155 pounds burned an average of 596 calories an hour by traveling at 12 to 13.9mph. This increased to 892 calories an hour at 19 to 19mph. This is a significant jump. These figures and speeds are easier to determine when you have a stationary bike at home. But, you can still put this into practice with your efforts outside. Also, be aware that the figure increases the more that you weigh. Those that weighed 185 pounds burned 710 calories at 12 to 13.9mph and 1,066 at 16 to 19mph.
Daily Bike Rides For Endurance & Sporting Events
Then there are the riders that are more experienced and want to train for an event. Maybe you cycle for fun on the weekends and want to push yourself to sign up for a race. At this point, those 5 miles a day are going to be too easy. You have the fitness and the drive to do more. Figure out the distance and terrain of your chosen event. You will need to cover both comfortably when the time comes. Deciding on the answer to how many miles should you bike a day will depend on this distance. Start with a comfortable daily increase in your efforts and build from there. Make sure that you always check your progress and evaluate your fitness. Challenge yourself an appropriate amount.
Why Is It So Dangerous To Go Too Far Too Infrequently?
You might ask if it wouldn’t be better to do those 10 miles three times a week than 5 miles a day. While the number of miles would average out to nearly the same amount, this isn’t the best approach for those that are new to cycling. You could end up pushing yourself too far, seizing up on your rest day and then find yourself unable, or unwilling, to ride again. Small consistent efforts are easier to manage. There are also risks if you end up too far from home on your own and become dehydrated, injured or otherwise unable to continue. Be smart and safe so that you don’t put yourself at risk.
When Should You Try & Increase Your Miles Per Day?
While it is important to stay safe while riding so you don’t overdo things, it is also possible to become a little complacent. Say you started riding with no experience and did so for 5 miles a day. By the end of the first month, those 5 miles might seem a lot easier and you might end up completing them in 20 minutes, not 30. This could be a problem. In this scenario, you aren’t putting in as much effort, you have decreased your time exercising and you might not see the rewards. If 5 miles becomes too easy then you can make a change. See how far you can comfortably ride in that 30 minute period. You might find that 7 miles are now the optimal daily goal to keep you fit.
Increasing your miles per day is important when you have the fitness and confidence to do so. This is more important for anyone looking to compete in longer events than those losing weight. However, when you upgrade your aims and goals you get a sense of accomplishment. It is another way of seeing how far you have come since you started.
Motivating Yourself & Seeing Progress When Things Get Hard
There will be times when things get tough. You might get to a point where your weight loss plateaus despite your regular efforts. You might come down with a cold or a develop muscle strain that stops you from riding as much as you would like. Remember that your bike is always there when you need it and you can jump back into the saddle as soon as you are fit. As for the weight loss issues, don’t try and push yourself too hard or get discouraged. Re-evaluate your efforts, along with your diet plan, and focus on what you have achieved.
If you do struggle with motivation then there are ways that you can encourage yourself to complete your designated miles per day. Those that struggle to see their efforts and achievements can use fitness trackers to count up the miles traveled and perhaps the calories burned. You don’t have to follow the same route all the time if it has become monotonous. Mix things up and discover new places. Also, you could take a friend along. When you show them how easy it is to get into cycling for fitness it can reinvigorate your own love of the activity.
Other important considerations for riding an appropriate distance each day:
What is the terrain like where you intend to ride?
Of course, determining the answer to how many miles should you bike a day will also depend on the terrain. If you plan to ride on a pretty flat route, such as a seafront promenade or around the city streets, then 5 miles isn’t a problem at all. But, it all gets a lot tougher when you start heading out into the countryside and climbing hills. Experienced riders that are fit and healthy and training for events should add hill rides to their plan. They are great for building your muscles and stamina and you may encounter similar during your events. Inexperienced riders need to be careful here as you could get tired out, strain a muscle and struggle with the rest of the ride. If you want to try a hill one day, and it is safe for you to do so, shorten your route to compensate.
Do you have any underlying health conditions?
Don’t forget that your ability to ride a specific number of miles per day can also depend on your health. Those with underlying health conditions, such as heart problems, breathing difficulties or restrictions in their joints, might not be able to cover the same distance. You have to ride within the confines of your physical ability. There is no point in riding 5 miles for fitness if you get chest pains and shortness of breath halfway though. You can’t push yourself through knee pain and risk further damage.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t take up cycling if you have a heart condition, asthma, arthritis or any other related condition. You just have to be realistic about your abilities. Consult your doctor for their advice. They can help you determine a plan where you can start small and find your limits. You might end up having to stick to a 3 mile rile each day to stay on the safe side. But, you might find that you can increase this gradually over time if conditions improve. After all, a study from Purdue University shows that cycling 20 miles a day can reduce the risk of heart disease by 50%. Therefore, there must be a significant impact for those that ride 5 miles too.
On a related note, don’t get too worried about any ideas of age restrictions. While it is true that you might not be able to ride quite as far as you did when you were younger, that doesn’t mean that you have to give up cycling when you hit your senior years. If you are healthy, comfortable when riding and safe on the road, you can carry on. Just make sure to set a realistic target of miles per day.
There is a lot to consider when determining how many miles should you bike a day. The most important thing to remember right now is that everyone has different needs and abilities. You may have an active friend that can do 10 miles a day. That doesn’t mean that you should be able to do the same. Find a distance that is safe, convenient and comfortable for a daily ride. Increase the distance gradually when you have the fitness and confidence to do so. Understand your limitations but don’t lose sight of your potential either.