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Does Riding A Motorcycle Burn Calories?

Riding a motorcycle is a really fun thing to do. It’s awesome to feel the power motorcycles have and to lean and move with the bike in the corners. There are some physical aspects required to work a motorcycle properly, but whether riding a motorcycle burns calories or not is a different matter.

Riding a motorcycle does burn calories. Riding a motorcycle burns between 150-600 calories per hour. How many calories you burn when riding your motorcycle depends on various factors, such as your riding style, the weight of your bike, and your own fitness level.

Below, we’ll discuss how many calories riding a motorcycle burns in more detail. We’ll also go through the different factors that affect how many calories you’ll burn in more detail as well. First, let’s give a rough overview of why motorcycle riding does burn calories.

How Many Calories Does Riding A Motorcycle Burn?

How many calories riding a motorcycle burns varies, but on average, riding burns between 150 and 600 calories per hour. This is certainly a wide range, so to be able to get more specific, you have to consider the multitude of factors that affect this number.

There are different styles of motorcycle riding, and they will burn calories at different rates. Probably the most calorie-burning style of motorcycle riding would be racing. The specific types of racing do consume calories at different rates, but there isn’t as much data on this so it’s hard to be certain. It may differ from rider to rider.

Motorcycle Racing

In general, motorcycle racing is very intense. Whether it be off-road or on-road racing, professional motorcycle racers are incredibly fit people, who need to maintain a high level of physical endurance in order to be able to race competitively.

For example, in motorcycle road racing, a rider must deal with physical stress on most of their body for an extended period of time, often at least 30 minutes straight. Unlike other types of sports, where there are usually periods when the body is allowed to relax, motorcycle racing requires constant exertion until the race is over.

Road and track racers ride at incredible speeds. In the 2018 Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy), lap record holder Peter Hickman’s average speed was 135 mph. It’s very physically demanding to endure the physical forces you feel at those speeds, so to be able to do so for long periods of time is even more impressive.

Beyond that, motorcycle racers have to be incredibly mentally focused to avoid hitting a wall at 150 mph. That mental focus also takes physical energy, which there won’t be an excess of when dealing with all the other physical stressors of racing. The more a racer is physically capable of withstanding forces and speed, the more mental faculties they have to focus on riding well.

Off-Road Racing

While off-road motorcycle racing is a somewhat different story, the physical endurance required is just as demanding, if not more so. In many cases, off-road racers aren’t going as fast, but the physical strain is undeniable, even if it comes in different ways.

Motocross riders will constantly be jumping their bikes and dealing with bumpy and sometimes slippery surfaces. With these constant impacts, minor injury can be very common, with serious injury not too far behind. The physical stress of this type of racing is quite high.

As with on-road racing, it simply takes an incredible amount of energy to control a motorcycle during an off-road race. People from both of these categories are going to be among the highest calorie burners when it comes to time spent on a motorcycle. While riding motorcycles is physical across the board, nothing takes more energy than racing.

Riding Style

What will generally determine how many calories you burn while riding your motorcycle is how you ride. This is also often affected by choice of bike, although it isn’t specifically determined by the bike. Personal riding habits are the main determinant of your caloric loss.

If you have a super sport motorcycle, and you ride hard, that probably burns lots of calories. If you have a dual sport and you carve through back roads and gravel tracks, that probably consumes a lot of calories as well. Those who ride in city traffic, or other situations that require adaptability and quick responses to external factors, will also tend to use a lot of calories when riding.

Low Calorie Riding Styles

However, if you spend most of your time cruising, you’re probably not going to see this same caloric loss. People who ride scooters casually to and from work, or people with large cruiser motorcycles that mostly just ride on highways or easier country roads, will not see the same burning of calories as sportier riders.

In general, common sense is a pretty good guide on this question. If you ride aggressively, like an athlete would run, you’re going to burn more calories than if you ride calmly and cruise around. This doesn’t mean you should necessarily change the way you ride, just that it might result in higher or lower calorie consumption.

With that said, if you’re trying to maximize the exercise you’re getting while onboard a motorcycle, think about the kind of riding that you’re doing.

Do You Have To Be Fit To Ride A Motorcycle?

You don’t have to be fit to ride a motorcycle. Riding a motorcycle does not necessarily require extreme fitness, although it will help to be fairly fit. This level will also change depending on the style of riding you’re doing. More often than not, people who ride motorcycles are pretty fit people.

Riding is a very physical thing to do. A car can more or less be driven with your feet and hands. You don’t need to move around in the seat, and your hands and feet stay in more or less the same positions for most of the journey. Some cars can even be driven somewhat or entirely automatically, requiring minimal human input.

A motorcycle is not like this. When you ride a motorcycle, you are a half of a whole. A part of a system. A motorcycle without a rider is an incomplete machine. The bike needs you to be there, to move and change your weight balance and lean. Without you, it is an unfinished work of engineering.

Because motorcycles require physical inputs that easily surpass what is required for driving a car, if you’re more physically fit, you’ll most likely be able to ride better. The stronger you are, the easier it will be to control what the bike does. Muscling around a motorcycle takes energy and strength, and the more of each you have when you start riding, the easier it will be to learn quickly.

Motorcycle Type

The level of strength required will also change depending on the bike you’re riding. A smaller scooter has a pretty low threshold for strength, meaning almost anyone can learn to ride one pretty easily. I usually recommend scooters as starter motorcycles for this reason.

More demanding bikes will require a higher level of strength to operate, such as street sport motorcycles, adventure bikes, and larger cruisers. This is not to say that you can’t learn to ride from any fitness level, but if you start stronger, you’ll have an easier learning progression.

Does Riding A Motorcycle Build Muscle?

Riding a motorcycle definitely builds muscle, although not necessarily in immediately obvious ways. Motorcycle riding is really a total body workout, but there are a couple of specific muscle groups that are stressed more than others, namely the core, wrists and arms.

Muscle Groups

First of all, motorcycling improves core strength. The physical act of even basic riding requires some core strength. Simple things like just moving the bike around and turning through corners are good promoters of strength within your core muscles.

The back and neck muscles are also strengthened with basic riding. Whenever you’re riding at higher speeds, the basic act of moving your head around to look at things takes strength and energy, as helmets are heavy, and you are often fighting wind resistance.

Motorcycle riding also strengthens the knees and thighs. When riding, you’ll often end up standing up on the bike to go over a bump, or using your legs to help push the motorcycle where you want it to go. These actions all use leg muscles and will help make them stronger in the long run.

Grip Strength

The act of controlling a motorcycle will help tremendously when it comes to improving grip strength. Braking, using the throttle and clutch, and just steering the motorcycle itself will all help improve the strength within your hands, and your ability to use and coordinate those muscle groups.

Coordination

While it’s not going to be a visibly obvious improvement, riding a motorcycle also helps with your muscle coordination. Riding requires a lot of coordination when it comes to using different muscles simultaneously.

Controlling a motorcycle is a physically complicated thing to do. Each limb is usually operating at least one control, often at the same time. These controls need to be operated in a specific way and at a certain time. Doing this requires some strength and a lot of coordination.

This coordination work is very useful, as the link between your brain and what your muscles actually do becomes strengthened and more efficient. The value of this training can be seen in any situation where coordination is required, even outside of motorcycle riding.

Endurance

Lastly, with all the aforementioned muscle groups, motorcycling doesn’t promote raw strength as much as it promotes endurance. By the necessity of having to use these muscle groups consistently for long periods of time, you are building more on your endurance and stamina than on your raw power.

Though your endurance muscle gains may not always be as obvious as gains through raw strength training, they can be very useful. It’s nice to have more stamina to deal with all areas of your life. Even though there isn’t always a direct connection, riding motorcycles can really improve a lot of different parts of your life!

Does Riding A Motorcycle Count As Exercise?

Riding a motorcycle does count as exercise, but it definitely isn’t a targeted workout. You’ll work various different muscle groups when riding, and if you race it can certainly be quite a workout. However, it usually won’t serve as the same level of exercise per hour as going for a run for example.

While riding isn’t necessarily going to be as targeted as a workout at a gym, it still provides a notable workout, and can certainly be considered a form of exercise. With that said, it probably shouldn’t fully replace exercise in your schedule, as it takes a lot of energy and doesn’t target every muscle group equally.

Motorcycle riding certainly works some muscle groups very well, but it doesn’t always work specific groups well. Motorcycle riding is the best training for more motorcycle riding, but as far as other fitness goals go, it will have limited benefits.

Riding Takes Energy

Riding a motorcycle can be very draining, especially if you’re riding for long periods of time. A motorcycle instructor I had once told me a story about a long trip he did. At the end of the trip, he arrived home, and immediately fell over in his driveway because he forgot to put his feet down. He was a rider with 15+ years of experience!

He was fine, but it’s just a funny example of how even an experienced rider may struggle at the end of a long trip. A high percentage of accidents happen within the last few miles of a journey. While motorcycling can be good for you in many ways, it’s important not to take it lightly either. Too much of a good thing can be dangerous.

I highly recommend motorcycle riding as a form of additional exercise, to add to your current routine, or to replace using a car. With that said, it’s probably best to continue doing other exercises outside of riding, as these will encourage a more balanced level of fitness in your life than riding alone might offer.

Is Riding A Motorcycle Good For You?

Riding motorcycles can be good for you in a variety of ways. Although not perfect by itself, it can be a great form of supplementary exercise. Riding can improve core strength and coordination, and overall endurance. Beyond that, there are additional health benefits that go beyond the physical.

Riding a motorcycle can improve not only your physical health, but also your mental health. It’s a great way to focus and ignore the distractions of other aspects of your life. Also, doing fun things generally improves mental health, and motorcycling is pretty fun!

Focus & Concentration

Your focus can be greatly improved by motorcycle riding. In this day and age, focusing on one thing for long periods of time is sometimes less common in day to day life. The worldwide interconnectedness we have certainly has many benefits, but it also has the power to vastly decrease our attention span.

When you ride, you have to empty your mind. If you’re distracted, you can’t ride safely. You can’t focus on important things like looking through corners and being aware of potential road hazards. This means you should let go of whatever problems or distractions you may have been caught up in before getting on your bike.

Riding a motorcycle demands priority, and this can really improve your focus. When you’re forced to focus on one thing for a long period of time, it becomes easier to do this outside of motorcycling. In many ways, the lessons of motorcycling can be applicable to the rest of your life, and the values of focus, centeredness, and concentration on the task at hand cannot be oversold.

Community Building

There are other ways motorcycle riding can be a positive thing for mental health. One way this is true is through the bond between motorcycle riders. In general, I have found that motorcycle riders really watch out for one another. They often even wave to you when you pass each other in traffic.

There are also various events you can attend if you’re interested in motorcycles. There’s everything from smaller neighborhood meet-ups to larger conventions. People are usually very friendly and glad to see you, especially if you bring a motorcycle as well. These events can be an awesome way to meet people and expand your social circles.

Riding is also a great excuse to meet up with friends. Most people will likely know at least a few others who ride. Riding motorcycles on a nice day, through curving country roads with a friend – this is one of the great joys of life.

Having a community of people who are all looking out for you, and mostly pretty friendly, is a super valuable thing. I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve struck up with other motorcycle riders. Whether at stoplights, scenic overlooks, or trails in the middle of nowhere, most riders will happily talk to you – be it about their bike, your bike, or whatever else.

Even while traveling in foreign countries, I’ve been able to have fun conversations with other motorcyclists. In some of those cases, they were pretty limited, given that we didn’t really have a language in common. We both had motorcycles, however, and that was enough to spark up an interaction. A smile and a wave will get you pretty far!

Is Riding A Motorcycle A Safe Replacement For Exercise?

So, we’ve established that riding motorcycles can be good for physical health and mental health, but are they a safe replacement for other forms of exercise? Simply put, motorcycle riding is not a safe replacement for exercise. While riding a motorcycle burns calories and takes energy, if you’re looking to get into it for the physical health benefits alone, you should probably look elsewhere.

Riding a motorcycle is an inherently dangerous thing to do. If you compare the number of people killed in the US on motorcycles each year to the number killed in cars, you’re almost 30 times more likely to die while riding a motorcycle. That’s a pretty crazy number, and definitely not one you want to be part of just because you want some exercise.

Safety Precautions

Even if you compare motorcycling to other higher intensity sports and exercises, the death rates are far worse in most cases. You can always take safety precautions to limit the likelihood of injury or death, such as wearing good motorcycle gear, taking safety courses, and riding cautiously.

However, these precautions can’t always prevent an accident from occurring. There will always be a chance of extreme injury or death, and that chance is much higher than in many other fitness pursuits.

A Safe Replacement For Exercise?

While motorcycling can be a great form of exercise, pursuing it for that reason alone is not something we recommend. If you already want to ride a motorcycle, and are just looking at additional benefits to doing so, then the fitness boost riding can give you is definitely notable.

If you’re just looking for interesting workouts however, I would recommend really doing some risk assessment before you go out and buy a bike. There are lots of other workouts that will be much safer to do. The risk of riding motorcycles is not something to ever be taken lightly.

But riding motorcycles is still a really fun thing to do, with a number of health benefits. I don’t intend to specifically dissuade anyone from considering it as a hobby in their life, but it’s useful to illustrate that it has physical risks that must be taken into consideration when discussing the benefits.

Final Thoughts

Riding a motorcycle does burn calories, usually between 150 and 600 calories per hour. It will burn more calories depending on the intensity of the riding you’re doing. Beyond that, riding can also be a great workout for your core, as well as grip strength, and some leg muscles.