How To Calculate Calories Used During A Ride

How To Calculate Calories Used During A Ride


By Cameron Chinatti

For years various organizations have touted claims that indoor cycling workouts (theirs in particular) will set you back anywhere from 700-1000 calories per class. While this may be true for some people, this is really a gross exaggeration for most people. So what gives? How much are you burning, and how do you know what to believe? 


What we can measure via the crank arm is the work that you are putting into the bike. On an SC3 Indoor Bike or when you see kcal’s on the RESULTS screen, or on your head unit at the end of a ride these represents what we can measure.  

What we can’t measure is any extra effort you put out that wasn’t directly put into the crank arm. For example, let's say, heaven forbid, you're doing triceps extensions with a 20lb dumbell all while riding the bike. Inefficiency and danger aside, you would be expending additional calories whilst doing so. Thus there would be a higher metabolic factor, so to speak. The problem is, we can’t measure that from the crank arm. In fact, no one can measure that without putting you through an uncomfortable and cumbersome process that involves a mask on your face and an expensive computer. Anything else is a guesstimate based on your height, weight, age, sex and a formula meant to represent the average person.  

Long-story short the kcal number that you see is exactly how much energy it took to "move" the bike from point A to point B. In other words, say according to the distance from your last 60-minute ride you went 14 miles and in doing so you used (not burned) 450 kcal.  

If it helps, you could also think of this as, ‘In 60 minutes it takes one Starbuck muffin to power your bike 14 miles.’ And here is where consistency begins to matter. If next time you ride 60-minutes you cover 15 miles and take 485 kcal’s to do so, then beyond a doubt you burned more calories and you did more work! And you could power yourself to a further Starbucks.

Cameron is the Director of Education of Stages® Indoor Cycling. As a leading authority in the indoor cycling tech revolution, Cameron has had the opportunity to work with the largest commercial fitness accounts and tech firms in the world. Her passion for making the education experience meet the demands of today’s tech-savvy consumer, drives her to innovate each and every day. When not ‘nerding out’ Cameron can be found singing in a studio session in Nashville, TN or riding a bike (indoors and out).


Copyright © 2023 Stages Cycling. All rights reserved.