What’s my cycling “fuel economy”?

Welcome to North Dakota!

People always say bikes have unlimited miles to the gallon, but is this truly the case? Probably not.

Why? Because what powers a car is the energy the gasoline produces not the gas itself. This is interesting because a basic unit of energy is a joule (J) or calorie (kcal). In fact 1 kcal = approx. 1.184 J. However, we’ll stick to the most recognized unit of energy, a calorie.

According to convertunits the amount of calories in a gallon of gasoline is approx 31500 kcal/gallon of gas.

From my experience using a heart rate monitor,  my efficiency goes up and down do to wind direction/speed, tires being pumped up 100%, and other factors. We will ignore all factors except for my weight 160lbs, and assume my average riding speed is 20mph on flats with no wind. For each pound at this speed I lose .25kcal/mile (general rule of thumb I’ve seen many places…here’s the livestrong analysis); therefore, I burn 40kcal/mile – This has been confirmed with my heart rate monitor.

(35100kcal/gallon) / (40kcal/mi) = 787.5mi/gallon = 787.5mpg

Therefore, if I was able to drink gasoline without dying I’d be able to ride 787.5 miles for every gallon I drink… I have yet to see a more efficient motor.


* These calculations are for entertainment purposes only. Enjoy!

Check out my running fuel economy here.


2 responses to “What’s my cycling “fuel economy”?

  1. “I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. Humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the list. That didn’t look so good, but then someone at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of lomotion for a man on a bicycle and a man on a bicycle blew the condor away. That’s what a computer is to me: the computer is the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”
    Steve Jobs Interview for the documentary Memory and Imagination,1990

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