What’s the biking equivalent to running a 5k? Cycle miles vs. Running Miles

It’s every runner’s worst fear.

An injury that prevents you from running. Especially if you’re in the middle of training for a big race like a marathon.

In those cases, you’re often relegated to a bicycle. But how can you stick with your training plan if you’re got to bike instead of run?

I did a lot of research to find out the conversion between biking and running. I wanted to know the biking equivalent of running a 5k. If you are in the same boat, here’s all the information you need in one place.

Table of Contents

Please do not confuse my personal blog for medical advice. Please consult with a healthcare professional before starting or altering any training plan. This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on a link, I get a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you.

Is Cycling Harder than Running?

First off, both cycling and running are great for a lot of reasons. And no, one is not necessarily harder than the other. I mix running with cycling so I don’t feel at too much of a disadvantage. I’ve heard a lot of my friends tell me cycling is so much harder than running but I don’t agree. I think the issue for some people is they believe they have been running or cycling for years therefore the other should be easier. Nope. That’s not so. 

You should know that running fitness is not the same as cycling fitness. A very simple reason is that both types of workouts perform different functions and use different muscles. Being able to ride a bike for 20 miles a week does not mean you can run a 5k daily or run at the same pace as when you bike.

Cycling has a low impact on your joints in comparison to running. From a cardiovascular view, your heart and lungs are constantly supplying more oxygen and energy to make your muscles work and contract at once when you are running. On the other hand, cycling uses your leg muscles, mainly your quad and hip flexors, but these require faster recovery and is quite intense.

Running Distance vs. Cycling Distance

For runners, cycling is a great form of cross training when you are injured. You can get intense training through cycling without increasing the strain on your joints. But cycling distance is NOT equivalent to running distance.

As a general rule, running distance is calculated on a ratio of 1:3 compared to cycling. In this case, running a mile equals cycling for three miles and vice versa. A 5k run is then the equivalent of cycling for just over 9 miles. But this rule isn’t for everyone. There are always exceptions.

Read More: Which is better, running 5k or walking 10k?

The 1:3 ratio works well but there can be several factors that affect your running or cycling. Your fitness level, hypothetically speaking, could increase that ratio. Someone with a high fitness level could even make it a 1:2 ratio while it might be 1:4 for others. 

Furthermore, preteens are not the most experienced runners or cyclers, you’d find they spend more time during a run as an adult in their early 30s. In the same way, a much older person, say the late 60s, can’t catch up with younger runners. This can skew the ratio and they’d need to cover more ground to make up the distance.

In addition, gender is another factor that can affect the ratio between running and cycling distance. The average female might cover less ground in relation to the average male while running or cycling. Of course, this precludes their fitness levels. A fitter female will run or cycle faster than a male that’s not as fit.

Going at a higher intensity, perhaps in a competition, can also affect the distance ratio. 

If you use a heart rate monitor during training, you can look back at your training logs to see what your heart rate was during your workouts. By matching the heart rate, you can try to match the exertion to what you were doing in the other sport.

How Many Minutes of Cycling Is Equal to a Minute of Running?

Converting cycling minutes or getting an approximate time that is equal to running is a little bit difficult. For instance, Olympic runners are faster than the average person. Some advanced runners can beat most of us in a race. However, there is a simple rule that can give an approximate time.

Remember cycling distance is at a 3:1 ratio compared to running. I generally use the table below as a simple guide.

biking equivalent of running a 5k and other distances chart
Biking equivalent of running a 5k and other distances

Benefits of Replacing a 5k Run With a Bike Workout

Biking and running offer similar benefits. If you are interested in changing your 5k run to doing a bike workout, you don’t have to worry too much. There are some areas where cycling can help you better.

Lower body muscles buildup

A bike workout is good exercise for muscles in the lower part of your body. Muscles in your calf, thigh, and buttocks get more exercise. And your arms and shoulders benefit too.

Body fitness

With biking, you can improve your cardiovascular health with less strain. You do not run the risk of stroke or arthritis because you use minimal effort when biking instead of running.

Less physical

Biking is a less physical workout. Even if you are injured, as long as you are not in too much pain, you can bike for long minutes. That’s why you see injured athletes do bike workouts even when they cannot play or compete. Injured footballers do bike workouts because it’s a good running alternative.

Differences Between Biking and Running a 5k

I’ve mentioned this already but being fit for cycling isn’t the same as having running fitness because you use different muscles. Biking is a low-impact sport. So what other reasons make biking different from running over 3.1 miles or a 5k?

Depending on how fit you are, running uphill or downhill, or even the weather, running a 5k could take as much as 45 minutes or an hour. But you can bike for much longer than that. That’s more exercise time for you if you want.

In addition, running takes a lot out of a person. Aches and muscle tenderness are constant issues. Competitive runners at the IAAF level, for example, are more likely to experience a high level of muscle damage than the average Tour de France cyclist. While a 5k is not the same, a 5k runner has a higher inflammation risk.

When you run, you use your whole body. Your coordination and balance are the key areas of focus. On the other hand, a biker is not as worried about coordination, all they care about is how fast they’re going.

Do Running and Biking Burn the Same Number of Calories?

It’s easy to assume running and biking burn the same number of calories. Or using a bike generally mean you are burning more calories. If you look at the running-to-cycling distance ratio, it’s hard to tell how much distance you have covered from biking when there are many factors that can affect the accepted 1:3 ratio.

A lot of people don’t know this but burning calories is heavily dependent on your weight. If you are a 125-lb person running 5mph, you’d burn fewer calories than a 155 or 185-lb person.

As a rule, running helps a person burn more calories per mile because of the physical effort you put in during a run. An average person burns between 300-400 calories on a 5k run. When you cycle on a bike, you are seated most of the time and your weight is held up. This means you’re moving less.

Running makes you constantly move every muscle in your legs and body. It’s a more physical workout and it burns just a little bit more calories compared to cycling. But cycling burns calories too, just at a lower intensity.

The most similar sport to running which offers nearly the same benefit is biking. However, that doesn’t make them the same. You can bike for longer than you run. Biking also has a reduced effect on your joints. Although you burn fewer calories when you do a bike workout, you are certain of burning a lot of calories with less physical effort.