Calories burnt while cycling
June 25, 2012 6:15 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend a reliable webtool to calculate calories burnt while cycling?

Ideally, what I want is something that just takes three variables - time taken, distance travelled, weight - and spits out a decent approximation of how many calories have been burnt.

At the moment I use gmap-pedometer (which produces surprisingly high values, but doesn't care how long you took) and myfitnesspal (which produces surprisingly low values, but uses vague speed ranges instead of distance).

Any decent options out there? Or is my only option to suck it up and buy a heart monitor strap?
posted by sodium lights the horizon to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wolfram Alpha does this, you can use all sorts of forms when entering information there but something like this should work: "Calories burnt cycling 15mph 2 hours 170lbs male" and it'll calculate it for you.
posted by carmel at 6:39 AM on June 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Honestly, I doubt you'll ever get a worthwhile number from this because coasting and wind resistance are both huge factors in cycling, so I'd just get the heart rate monitor if you're worried about tracking how hard you're working.

15 mph in a paceline is massively less work than 15 mph on your own, which is much less than 15 mph on a coastal route where the #%(*& wind always seems to be blowing straight at you. And that's ignoring the fact that the same route can be a brutal, exhausting struggle to go 10 mph one direction, and absolutely no work to go 20 mph the other way.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 7:20 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is more complicated than what you're asking for, but it does what you want.
posted by adamrice at 7:49 AM on June 25, 2012

Wow, I think myfitnespal numbers are WAY high. It claims like 960 cal/hour for me, wheras my heart-rate monitor is more like 500-600.

You will never get an accurate number out of a web app without heart rate info. Most bike computers with a HRM will do an OK job.

There are charts on the web that estimate calories/mile given your weight, age, etc, they tend to be about as accurate as web programs (that is, not particularly, given that programs tend to give a range of 2-3x for me)
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:06 AM on June 25, 2012

Wolfram Alpha looks powerful for this, but gives some odd results if I modify my speed. Maybe it's being cleverer than I am thinking about efficiencies though.

Looking at MyFitnessPal, I'm getting the feeling that the movement based exercises fail to take weight into consideration. So, if you're light then it records high but heavyweights like me get very low suggestions.

Since no-one seems to make a watch that tracks your heart rate at all times, I guess I'm looking for a giant sized chest strap. Thanks all!
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 8:51 AM on June 25, 2012

Thread on the subject at Bikeforums.

Numbers like those quoted by myfitnesspal are uselessly inaccurate, due to huge personal and environmental variation over populations and geography.

Using an HRM is better, but still with potential for significant error without personal calibration. Without resorting to expensive power meters, best approach is probably to habitually use an HRM to get good relative estimates of your effort, ride-by-ride.
posted by normy at 10:51 AM on June 25, 2012

I can't find the source, but assuming you are in reasonable fitness (able to ride a couple of hours routinely) then your calorie consumption is typically 200-400 calories per hour for easy riding and 450-600 for hard riding. If you want to get exact for purposes of ensuring that you run a deficit for weight loss or other precise outcomes a heart rate monitor will a calorie function is the way to go.
posted by dgran at 11:21 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, as unscientific as it is, 500/hr is the rule of thumb I've heard for hard riding (perceived exertion >8 or so, I guess).
posted by rhizome at 11:43 AM on June 25, 2012

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