Which is harder, biking or running?

Ahhhhh, the age old debate, is running a marathon harder than doing a century ride? Is the triathlon run harder than the triathlon bike? Guess what buddy, they both suck and I am going to list the reasons why each suck and why each are brilliant.

Biking Suck:

  • Flat tires. Unless your running shoe has spontaneously exploded off your foot and you had to stitch it back together to finish your run, runners have no understanding of what a flat tire is.
  • Hills. OK, hills are bad for running too, but in a bike it is entirely possible to actually go backwards. Also, trying to reclip on an incline, getting out of your clips on an incline etc. When you are running you can simply stop, maybe sit down and have a break. When you are biking if you don’t get out of your pedals fast enough you will fall over.
  • Bonking. OK, bonking is bad for runners too. However, there is nothing as heartbreaking as hitting “the wall” and realizing you are 30 miles away from your car.
  • Helmets. Not sexy for anyone.
  • Wind. Wind is your enemy and it hates you. No matter which direction it is blowing it is always right in your face.
  • Money. Incredulous stares from your friends. “How much did that bike cost, like a grand?” Try $3600 and the shoes/pedals are extra.
  • Equipment volume. Bike, car rack, custom saddle, pedals, shoes, cleats, shorts, bibs, jerseys, helmet, helmet liner, arm warmers, arm coolers, leg warmers, leg coolers, sunglasses, fingerless gloves, fingered gloves, saddle bag, spare tube(s), CO2, snack bag, bike lights, rain jacket, water bottle racks, cadence counter, bike computer, water bottles, and if you are lucky – a bike trainer.

Running Suck:

  • Slow progress. Even fast runners don’t have the endurance and speed of a Segway.
  • Sweat. Even an easy jog in warm(ish) weather will drench your shirt.
  • Chaffing nipples. This needs no explanation.
  • Chaffing thighs. See above.
  • When people yell “you are almost there!”. Listen pal, unless the finish line is 100 meters away, I am not almost there.
  • Fuel belts. Sexy for no one. This includes all the other brands of belts that carry little water things.
  • As you get more serious, you get dorkier. When I started I wore long shorts and a tee shirt. Now I have tiny shorts, tight nike running shirt, visor, sunglasses, and of course, a fuel belt. I am an embarrassment to my future children.
  • Headlamp imprint. Headlamps are of questionable coolness anyway, but what is certainly uncool is the sweaty mark on your forehead. 

There should be a chorus of agreement on these things. None of them sound particularly pleasant. If you look beyond them though, there are some highlights.

Biking Brilliance

  • Downhill. Needs no explanation
  • Blowing past runners. You won’t hear the end of “on your left” until I am way past you.
  • Using the word “cogs” and “gears” correctly. We have our own little vocabulary.
  • Drafting. No matter how close you run to the person in front of you, you will not pick up 20% efficiency. You might pick up a charge though.
  • Friends you just met. Cyclists form one massive team on the road. Difficulty changing a tire? Someone will help you. Need a tool? Someone has it. We don’t leave people behind.

Running Brilliance

  • Equipment volume. Shorts, shirt, shoes. Go. Sometimes you don’t even really need shoes, or a shirt for that matter.
  • Social acceptance. More people run than cycle, by a lot. If you say you average 7:30 mile splits – people can relate. People assume 25 MPH average on a bike is easy…and everyone does it.
  • Marathon. How else are you supposed to know the precise distance between Athens and Marathon?
  • Losing weight, getting fit. I can think of no other single activity that sheds weight like running.
  • Running tights. Without fail these make peoples legs look better. Men and women.

As I wrote this I couldn’t help but notice that the suck is more than the brilliance. So why do we do it? Simply put, there is nothing good on TV. Compared to the alternatives, which include a lot of laziness, exercise makes us better and is a transformative experience. It is a treatment for disease that you don’t have to go to the doctor to get a prescription for. If you look at the diseases that kill us or make us miserable – obesity, diabetes, heart disease, reproductive issues, low testosterone, high cholesterol, low bone density etc. These are all things that are treated with regular exercise. To this I say – run and/or bike on!


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