Cycling v Running

During my teenage years I was a ‘runner’. I would like to claim this was due to a tremendous enthusiasm for running. But my main motivation was to get out of playing rugby. At Bradford Grammar – it was either cross country or rugby union. (football was not played.) I actually like watching rugby, but when you have a frame more suited to cycling uphill, rugby is not so much fun to play. Anyway I became a member of the school cross country team run by two teachers who were super-enthusiastic about cross country; (an enthusiasm which was rarely shared by anyone else), but nevertheless it meant that Bradford Grammar was invariably the best in the north of England at cross country.

Our training strategy was what you could easily call ‘Old School’ – make people run a lot and you would get good results. There was no scientific approach, just try to get us to train on Tues, Wed, Thurs and race on Sat. I never excelled at cross country. I can’t really remember, but I was generally good ‘pack fodder’ As the teenage years wore on, running around muddy fields became less appealing, and I started to look for a way out. I distinctly remember coming last in a particular race – which became a good excuse to slip away from the cross country scene. It was an interesting experience coming last. I have come last in a cycling time trial. It was a 25 mile TT organised by Bicester. I got lost on a roundabout and turned a 25 mile TT into a 34 mile TT. so I officially came last.

At the time, I felt I didn’t have good enough genes to ever become a good runner, so I left my running ambitions on the muddy cross country fields.


Several year later, I temporarily got back into running. But it lead to quite a bad knee injury which lasted for quite a few years. When the knee finally cleared up, I was cycling and I’ve never really run since. In fact I’ve developed an aversion to running. Even, running for the train can leave me with delayed muscle fatigue the next day. I know you should be able to combine running and cycling (as triathletes display with great aclarity) but it doesn’t appeal.

Cycling v Running


Many people say running is harder on the knees, due to the great impact. Many people switch to cycling after being frustrated with some running injury. Running has a higher impact on joints and a greater tendency to cause injury. Apart from swimming, cycling is often the one form of exercise people can still manage when they are carrying injury niggles.

Cycling can still cause knee and other knee injury problems. (especially, if you have wrong saddle height, bike position). But, overall, it is easier on the knees. Less impact on the joints.


Running is probably the cheapest sport you can do. There’s only so much you can spend on running shoes, for a few hundred pounds you can have the same equipment as the pros. If you’re not a fast runner, you can’t start blaming your equipment, like you might with cycling.

Cycling is very different; there is always this irritating feeling that if only we spend more money we will go quicker. And to some extent it is true. There’s always a better bicycle to buy.

Cycling  could (and perhaps should) be cheap. My commuting into town on a bike, is much cheaper than any other form of transport.

But, if you want to compete at a reasonably high level, you are looking at £5,000 for a top of the range road bike.  Then if you do a time trial, you need another bike. Then there are countless accessories from shoes, helmets, pedals, speedometers, power-meters to wind tunnel testing. The list is endless. Cycling is an expensive hobby. If you are really disciplined, you will buy a good value £1,000 bike and make it last for 20 years, avoiding all expensive accessories and gimmicks. But, I don’t know too many cyclists who can avoid the temptation to spend money in the hope it might make them faster.

Which Looks Best?


This is a mute point. You may think of cycling as the height of Italian chic or you may think cycling involves the most ridiculous clothes man has ever worn.


Sometimes when cycling on a A-road and I’ve just been cut up by some juggernaut, I yearn to be a runner – free to run around the fells and unknown track. One thing I liked about running was the freedom to go pretty much anywhere you wanted to. You could escape civilisation and re-find the wilderness. In road cycling, you are limited to sharing the road with people fixated on getting to their destination in the minimum available time.


When you’re running, you don’t get someone beeping you because you are slightly more than one foot away from the edge of the path, but cycling you do.

But, then on the other hand, when I used to run, I used to yearn to have a bicycle so I could go beyond the usual runs around town. With a bike, you have the freedom to see a much bigger range of scenery and countryside. A bicycle is one of the best ways to see the countryside. You can travel much further than on your feet, and you don’t have to look through car windscreen.

bealach-na-ba Photo Alan Lidgley

UK roads may look intimidating to cycle on (I would imagine that is main reason people avoid cycling in UK) But, actually once you get on it’s not that bad. Some quiet country lanes are really quite enjoyable.


Cycling gives something that running never can – speed. I enjoy speeding down hills at 50mph. I enjoy racing at 30mph. It’s just fun. When you’re used to that speed, jogging seems painfully slow. With running there is no break, no let up. It’s hard to coast down a hill. With cycling, you can tuck in behind people who are much better than you and save 25% of your energy. Even when you’re tired you can still enjoy free-wheeling down hills.


With running, you may get a dodgy knee, but at least you don’t have to contend with broken chains, double punctures, squeaky noises and gears which won’t align properly no matter how often you hit them with an allen key. There have been quite a few times when you curse that third puncture in three days, when you really wouldn’t mind the simplicity of running. But, a little knowledge goes a long way. I get less frustrated by mechanicals now than 20 years ago. I think also there have been great technological improvements with better tyres and tubeless tyres.

Beauty of the Bike


When a bike works well it has a beauty and enjoyment of it’s own. Yes, you have to maintain it. But, you can have pride in the smooth operation of a clean, well set up machine. A bike is still a marvellous invention.

You can’t really show off your new trainers, but you can show off your new Bianchi Dura Ace. Even if you’re a rubbish cyclist, you can still look the part.

Shaving of Legs

Being a cyclist gives you a passport into all kinds of strange customs. The justification to shave your legs may or may not be an advantage of cycling, I guess it depends on your point of view..

What do you think running v cycling? or can you really enjoy both?

2 thoughts on “Cycling v Running”

  1. Running definitely has a stronger amateur scene in the UK: more athletics tracks and the likes of Parkruns allowing many people to run at the same time and race (compared to cycling) for free, with times. The price definitely has something to do with it: any person can pick up a pair of decent running shoes for £50, whereas to get on the road with bike, shoes, shorts helmet and other paraphernalia, you’d be lucky to spend less than 10 times that. For me, it comes down to how much time I have. I know that when I’m very busy at school, the bike sits in the garage and it’s far easier to squeeze in a 30min run than a 3hr base ride. However given a free Sunday and dry roads, I’d clip on the helmet any day.


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