Cycling 1 hour a day for weight loss – will it work?

Cycling is a great cardiovascular workout. High intensity but low impact, it helps strengthen the heart and build fitness and...

Cycling is a great cardiovascular workout. High intensity but low impact, it helps strengthen the heart and build fitness and can also torch calories. While weight loss depends on several factors, including age, genetics, etc., outdoor and indoor riding can contribute to weight management. But will cycling 1 hour a day help with weight loss?  

Yes, it can. 

But can is the operative word. 

Cycling for 1 hour daily can support weight loss, but it’s not always as simple as that. We’ve already mentioned some personal factors that can influence results, but so can the riding style. The word cycling covers several different aspects, and each offers different intensities and difficulties. When someone says that they cycle, it can mean that they commute to and from work or that they ride pavements or trails at the weekend. It can mean park rides with children, mountain biking, BMX or road and track racing. There are also different indoor pursuits, including indoor cycling classes, road bikes using turbo trainers, rollers, and stationary upright or recumbent bikes.  

The activity you're doing, or the intensity of that activity, will likely influence the amount of calorie burn and fat loss you expect to experience.  

And, of course, there’s also the number of calories a rider consumes when they’re off the bike. British Cycling makes an important point: ‘you can’t outride your diet because exercise alone without keeping an eye on your diet won’t yield weight loss.

But one great thing about cycling is that the intensity can be dialled up or down. It’s a very accessible form of exercise, which is why it’s used by professional athletes right through to complete fitness newbies. People recovering from injury or illness often use them because they’re low impact.  

So, it’s essential to factor in intensity for weight loss. A 40-minute indoor cycling class will burn more calories than a 60-minute slow ride around a park.

However, a 90- or 120-minute moderate bike ride (which is easier for most people to achieve) may likely equal the calorie burn of a high-intensity but shorter class– it just happens over a longer period. 

Outdoor cycling has the benefit of often being more interesting than riding indoors. This can make it a more sustainable weight loss option for people who don’t enjoy the gym or classes. Outside offers a more dynamic experience: changing terrains and environments, different weather, and hazard avoidance. There’s also naturally occurring resistance, such as wind or incline. Outdoor riding can also include breaks and rest stops, making it feel less like exercise and more like a day out. Indoor cycling is often less about the ‘journey' and more about the result – the completed class or target mileage. Indoor cycling is usually easier for intense effort because there are no hazards, no pedestrians, and no need to double back to where you started. Riders in a studio can maintain a level of intensity that matches their fitness (or the program the instructor is following) throughout the session.

So, there are many variables affecting the impact that cycling will have on weight loss, but we can make some suggestions for anyone hoping that cycling will lead to weight loss.  

White female on an exercise bike in a crop top as trainer watches

How many calories does cycling for 1 hour burn?

According to Mayo Health, research suggests that 3,500 calories of energy equal about 1 pound or 0.45 kilograms of fat.  
So, the next question is, how long does it take to burn 3,500 calories when cycling? 

According to Harvard, riding a stationary bike at a moderate pace will burn between 210 and 294 calories every 30 minutes, depending on a rider’s weight. If we take this at face value (without considering the individual), then riding for 1 hour a day would take around 8 days to lose 1 pound.

Of course, remember that this also depends on how many calories a rider consumes, too. When riders pick up the pace, then the calorie burn goes up.

  • Cycling between 12 and 13.9 mph burns somewhere between 240 and 336 calories.
  • BMX and mountain biking between 255 and 357 calories every 30 minutes.
  • 14 to 15.9 mph on a bike burns between 300 and 420.
  • 16 to 19mph burns 360 to 504, and more than 20 mph burns around 495 and 693 calories.

If we then take these figures and double them, then depending on weight, riders could burn anywhere between 410 and 1,386 calories for an hour.

Based on these numbers, it can take between 2.5 days and 8 days to burn enough calories to drop 1 pound in weight.

We mentioned earlier that it could sometimes be easier to monitor calorie burn when you’re riding indoors. This is because conditions in a gym or studio are easier to replicate session after session than outdoor cycling. According to Red Book Mag, the average indoor cycling class burns 400 to 600 calories per session. Instructor-led classes are great for calorie burn because they’re short but intense, often with the instructor controlling resistance.

Red Book Mag also writes that riding in an indoor class three times a week can burn up to 1,800 calories. Bearing in mind, of course, that ‘a pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories’.  

Is it an exact science? No, but it’s probably a good starting point.

White female in red crop and leggings with a green background

Measure power for greater accuracy

Wearing a heart rate monitor will help. According to Training Peaks, they have accuracy within 10-20%, and they’ve come a long way over the last few years as wearable technology has gone mainstream. For an accuracy rate of within 5%, you’ll need to look at ways of measuring power using a power meter

According to, you’ll also want to know your resting metabolic rate, which is how many calories you burn just existing. You’ll also want to know the energy you burn from doing activities. You can find more about this calculation on the website, but understanding power will give you a more realistic and accurate measurement of calorie burn and progress. You can buy power meters to add to indoor and outdoor bikes. The RE:GEN has one built into its Ohm battery. You can find out more about the home bike by clicking here. 

Cyclists using a power meter may find it easier to get a more personalised and accurate read on their energy expenditure.

Speaking to Cyclist website, the CEO of Co Performance says that ‘weight loss is not an exact science,’ he advises calculating a rider's energy expenditure by average watts x time in hours x 3.6. He uses the example of 100 watts for two hours, which means you burn 720 calories. 

Power measurement may be more helpful, but heart rate can still be a valuable tool for many people, especially in the beginning. Live Science explains that the impact of heart rate on training can help you understand how much fat you burn during exercise. Apparently, cycling between 60-70% of your maximum heart rate burns around 70-85% fat.  

Cycling for 1 hour a day is likely to help with weight loss. Still, it’s also important to build rest days into your schedule, especially if you’re riding intensively or participating in other high-impact and intensity forms of exercise. You don't have to put the bike away entirely; recovery rides can include scenic rides, short commutes, etc. Also, while calorie consumption off the bike is essential, you should remember that intense Cycling may require increasing your calorie intake.  

Ultimately, cycling 1 hour a day can help weight loss, but there are a few caveats to that, which include – your personal physiology and metabolism, weight, age, gender and ethnicity, the type of cycling you're doing and the intensity of it. If you’re already physically fit and active with a lower body weight, that can also make weight loss more difficult.   

For a better indication of your calorie burn, you can use a power meter or a heart rate monitor.  

Ready to start cycling at home? Find out more about the electricity-generating RE:GEN and sign up to be notified ahead of the upcoming stock drop.  

Man in grey gym shirt and black shorts on a RE:GEN bike on a green-lit platform


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