Heart Rate: biking vs running

  • Home
  • Heart Rate: biking vs running
24 replies [Last post]
Anonymous's picture

Looking for comments from NYC's finest minds...

I cannot seem to get my heart rate biking as high as I can running. When I run a 9 minute mile, my BPM range 145-152; I can maintain this rate for 60 minutes without too much suffering. While biking about 18mph on flats, my BPM is about 128-135. I can go faster but my legs start getting tired and then I start slowing down. Should I be able to get my heart rate range for either sport?

I do find the muscular effort required for biking substantially more than running. May be I should spin more to get my heart rate at the same range as running?

Looking forward to the comments and feedback.

Anonymous's picture
<a href="http://www.OhReallyOreilly.com">Peter O'Reilly</a> (not verified)
That's correct

One's heart rate from running is typically higher, on average than that of cycling for comparable efforts. I believe this is due to the demands of increased blood flow needed for upper body movement in running.

Anonymous's picture
Richard Pu (not verified)

I think it's simpler than that: running uses more muscles than cycling, so that even with less exertion of the muscles, a runner can get his heartbeat higher. For the same reason, if you ride in the drops, you can get your heartbeat faster than riding on the hoods. Riding in the drops uses larger muscles.

Anonymous's picture
sg not ka (not verified)
2 things

Typically HR is higher running due to running requiring more effort to keep you body upright. On a bike, don't support yourself as much.

I don't understand why you want to get your HR higher biking. If you want to improve as a cyclist, you should be trying to learn to ride faster (or perhaps longer) at the same or lower heart rates than you currently are able to. It should not be a goal to ride at a high heart rate. It should be goal to ride faster at the same or lower heart rate.

Anonymous's picture
Paul (not verified)
I could be mixing my sports, but

MHR swimming > MHR running > MHR biking > MHR watching the Simpsons

I can peg over 200bpm when finishing a a short running race, but I'll never get that high biking.

Anonymous's picture
Minda (not verified)

I wish I had your problem. :(

Anonymous's picture
Yogi (not verified)

info needed. This could be a nice riddle but you need to tell us Age, Weight, Run miles/ Bike miles per average year. The type of riding you like to do. Color of bike…

I’m no expert on heart rates, I own a HRM but I never use it. 130’s is not very high intensity (unless you’re 80 years old), but that’s good if you’re spending many hours on the bike. If you’re doing a 15-mile TT or trying to jack up a long hill as fast as you can, you can easily approach you max HR on a bike. It’ll still be a few beats below your running max maybe because you have to swing your arms when you’re going all out on foot.

Just from what you‘ve told s so far. It sounds like you have the cardio vascular fitness of a runner, but not the muscular conditioning of a cyclist. Pay attention to how you’re breathing on a bike- shift up if you’re out of breath, shift down if your legs get tired. It appears that your “cycling” muscles get tired before you’re winded.

As in anything else, you get better by pushing the envelop in an controlled manner.

Anonymous's picture
BiggMakk (not verified)

"Let me help solve the riddle. I am 42, 152lbs, 5'9"", resting heart rate 54 bpm. I mostly run in the winter; try for 25 miles per week mixed with other aerobic stuff on the off days. During the summer I try to ride about 120+ per week.

I am neither a gifted runner nor a strong cyclist. I do it for fitness, fun and friends; although I am very dedicated. You are very correct in saying my cycling muscles get tired before getting winded. I think it's the main reason I can't get my heart rate high. I only get winded for short spurts while hill climbing but otherwise cycling does not ge me winded. However, after a ride to Nyack my legs are pretty shot the following day for hill climbing. My leg strength does improve a bit as the summer progresses but just one cog lower.

Fire away with more questions and comments."

Anonymous's picture
Yogi (not verified)
Time on bike

It does seem like you wear out shoes faster than tires, so be it. Some people put in 100 miles (bike) on a bad winter day. If you want to be a stronger cyclist, spend more time on a bike, but don’t make a “Higher” heart rate your goal.

It sounds like you’re in good condition year round and cycle more when it’s warmer. A ride to Nyack is not a walk in the park if you don’t build up to it. If you ride with people who do it all the time, it’ll seem like they’re having an easier time. I’m sure if those same people decided to run 5 miles without building up the distance gradually, they’ll be hurting for a week.

If you cycle for enjoyment, leave the HRM and bra strap at home, you’ll go faster from being lighter. For fitness- Running is a better bang for the buck (time wise), …so I hear. But it hurts more and people usually look miserable when they’re running.

Anonymous's picture
RichFernanandez (not verified)

Could it be that your rides are too long all at once?Maybey try shorter rides of about 1hour perhaps an hour and a half?Maybey your just fatigued and need time to recover?Who knows but your resting heart rate is pretty low.I think the lowes I've seen mine was 57,the highest was 194 when I attacked a steep hill and then died 3/4 of the way up.Rich

Anonymous's picture
Eric Rayvid (not verified)

I assume you're talking about training and not riding say, a century. If you want to get your HR up, do as someone else said, hill repeats, hill repeats and more hill repeats. You'll see a spike up to at least 80% if not more.

Anonymous's picture
Judith Tripp (not verified)
Efficiency plays a part, no?

It sounds right that your legs are getting tired biking before your heart rate has a chance to get higher. You are probably a more efficient runner. The way I see it is you can get your heart rate higher the more efficient you are at a particular sport. Over the years, I was never able to get my heart rate high while swimming (I'm not a fast swimmer). And, like you, my heart rate can go much higher while running than while biking (I'm a better runner than cyclist). I ended up figuring out that it had to have something to do with that. Check with people who are very efficient/fast cyclists but not very good runners.

Anonymous's picture
Todd Brilliant (not verified)

do hills and spin, spin, spin...you'll get that HR up and your legs won't get too bogged down!

I've been cycling forever and i deal with the same issue. my legs can't keep up with my heart. the only training method i find that helps me is to spin up hills.


Anonymous's picture
RichFernanandez (not verified)
heart rate

Running is anaerobic.Let me guess:your really thin?

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)
Some Things to Consider

1) Comparison of heart rates among individuals is meaningless.

2) Without well knowing the individual in question, speculating upon intensity based upon heart rate should be avoided.

3) A high heart rate is absolutely not an indication of cardiovascular fitness.

4) A low heart rate generally indicates cardiovascular fitness.

5) Pronounced R-R variability is a strong indication of cardiovascular fitness.

6) Women for the same age and same fitness generally have a higher heart rate than men.

7) Smaller individuals for the same age and same fitness generally have a higher heart rate than larger individuals.

8) Across mammalian species, resting heart rate is a strong indicator of longevity.

9) Exercise requiring more muscle mass will elicit a great VO2 and higher heart rate than exercise eliciting a smaller muscle mass.

Anonymous's picture
Wayne Wright (not verified)
More things to consider

1) Running is boring.

2) Cycling is fun.

Anonymous's picture
Robert Shay (not verified)
Yes, you can achieve your stated HR range in either sport

Once you build up your base miles (about 500) ride with a group that is a little faster than you and your HR will rise to your aerobic HR range.

DISCLAIMER - The chart below represents averages. The first row in the chart below consists of a Maximum Heartrate in Beats Per Minute. Take 220 and subtract your age to find out what an average persons maximum HR should be for someone your age. For example, 220 minus 42 equals 178.

The HR range you stated should be within your aerobic range and achieveable and sustainable on a bicycle. Once your HR goes into the Lactate range (85-100%), you'll begin riding anaerobically and one can't do that for a very long time. Again - these are averages and each individual is different. Your maximum HR could be higher or lower, but once you know your maximum HR, the % ranges should be fairly accurate.

Maximum 100% HR 178
Lactate 85% HR 151
Aerobic 80% HR 142
Endurance 70% HR 125
Recovery 65% HR 116

P.S. The web link below will provide more info on MHR and VO2 Max. Keep in mind that HR is a lagging indicator of the work effort your body is producing but is a readily available measure to cyclists and runners with portable heart rate monitors.


Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)

"""Once your HR goes into the Lactate range (85-100%), you'll begin riding anaerobically and one can't do that for a very long time.""

Not exactly true. Anaerobic efforts are of very short duration and do not correlate to HR except above 100% of VO2 max HR. Two examples: every time a ride first starts, the effort is at first anaerobic, as force requirements are high (heart rate is low). Second example: 30 second sprint from rest start; pure (mostly) anaerobic and max heart rate will never be reached although it may rapidly increase.

What does happen is that around 50% of V02 max, the body’s fuel source switches from fat to carbohydrate (glycogen); glycogen stores are small compared to fat stores and at intensities below 95% of VO2 max HR is the primary limiter to a well-trained cyclist’s performance."

Anonymous's picture
BiggMakk (not verified)

"Thanks all for your comments. Here's what I've learned:
- Cycling and running are very different; each requiring its own specific conditioning.
- Being ""fit"" does not necessarily translate into being a good cyclist.
- Cycling efficiency improves with saddle time.
- I am going to keep the two sports separate and allow myself time in the Spring to improve my cycling efficiency without worrying too much about my aerobic fitness level.
- Spin like an eggbeater to keep my heart and legs in sync.
- Finally, cyclists are very territorial about their sport."

Anonymous's picture
Yogi (not verified)
Sorry Makk:

>Finally, cyclists are very territorial about their sport.

No offense meant with the slight about runners.

I’m sure if you went on a runner’s forum with similar questions, you’d get some of their bias in the answers.

Happy riding

Anonymous's picture
Cells (not verified)

<- Cycling efficiency improves with saddle time.>

Very true in my experience. Interesting discussion, here are a few thoughts:
By cycling within your aerobic zone (below lactate threshold heart rate) for long periods (>90 minutes) and doing this often, I believe the muscles in your legs will not only become stronger, but will improve their ability to aerobically metabolize glucose. (This glucose comes from many sources, including fat). A few mechanisms: the vasculature in your cycling leg muscles will increase and there will be increases in mitochondria within muslce cells. Other things happen too, but the end result is that your cycling muscles will use more oxygen as a result of endurance training on the bike. At some point, this may challenge your cardiovascular system more than it is being challenged by your cycling legs now. Therefore, your HR may begin to increase. Then again, your cardio system may become more efficient as well. Many conditioned cyclists can ride with their HR within 5 or 10 bpm of their lactate threshold heart rate for many hours. For me, this is about 175, but I'm young (25).

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)

"""...Other things happen too, but the end result is that your cycling muscles will use more oxygen as a result of endurance training on the bike...""

Not sure waht you mean? As effiency increases, the body will require less oxygen for the same power or conversely produce more power for the same oxygen.

VO2 max can increased by training."

Anonymous's picture
Claudette (not verified)
Fitness: Aerobic vs Anaerobic

Your comment about your legs burning when you try to up your HR while riding is telling.

When you run and get your HR high, you are likely using your anaerobic motor to fuel yourself. Many people (myself included) can ride a bike pretty well just by using mostly your anaerobic system, but you can't perform as well as an aerobically fit person.

Cycling selects for the AEROBIC motor. Meaning, you can get away with less if you are not as fit. When you reach a certain point, you will switch over to your anaerobic motor and lactate will build up and you will fail at a certain point (when you can't cycle harder since your legs burn).

We can train our aerobic system much better than we can our anaerobic system. Many cycling fitness programs emphasize LOW heart rate endurance riding in order to prime your aerobic system so that you can last longer in that zone. It takes about three months to start to see results.

Then we can see our HR's gradually going up and our being able to endure that for longer periods of time without the lactate buildup.

My two cents...

Anonymous's picture
Ash (not verified)

As Todd mentioned above, I often feel like my lungs can't keep up with my legs, or my legs can't keep up with my lungs. It tends to switch depending on what types of training I've been doing; e.g. strength and force training (some on and some off bike) often leaves my legs without snap for a few days.

Does anyone have a strategy for balancing the lungs/legs? Perhaps working with cadence more while riding would help (higher cadence on days when my legs feel behind). Then again, lagging legs or lungs may just be a consequence of trying to ride hard after training.

Anonymous's picture
Yogi (not verified)
Air Intake and exhaust systems

The higher the aerobic effort, the more oxygen you’ll need for your engine.

Since both air in and air out are through the same pipe (no, the other exhaust pipe doesn’t count). Conscious breathing for the exchange of CO2 an O2 can certainly help with our performance.

Practice belly breathing, engaging your abdominal cavity to breath while under hard effort is much more efficient than using you chest muscles to gasp for air. Expand your gut and let your diaphragm drop down for the inhale and draw your belly toward your spine for the exhale. The difference in air pressure draw the air into the lungs; less muscular effort is used than when we’re chest breathing. It also helps you to relax and stay focus when the going gets tough.

During extended tough climbs, forcefully expel CO2 from your lungs by drawing the belly in and up. Again refrain from gasping for air with your chest and shoulders. Focus on blowing out as much exhaust with each exhale and then push your belly out for the inhale, new air inflates due to the difference in air pressure created by the increase in volume in the chest and abdomen. Mountaineers in high altitude forcefully blow air out and worry less about air intake as they know how inefficient gasping is. Cyclists breathe faster because we have to exchange the air quicker for our activity.

If none of this makes any sense, go to a yoga class where they practice pranayama. I might give a free class for the nycc later on in the summer if there is enough interest.

cycling trips