I’ve done both. In England during the 1970s I rode cyclo-cross October through to February. I trained by running 30 minutes each evening after work, and riding a cyclo-cross event at the weekend.
As a measure of cycling fitness level attained in this fashion, my cycling club always ran a 10 mile time trial the day after Christmas. (Boxing Day.) I would usually turn in a respectable 25 minute ride.
I always reckoned a one hour cyclo-cross race was the equivalent of 80 miles on the road. At least that was the effect it had on my legs when the event was over. The reason I chose running over cycling was mainly a time consideration. My framebuilding business took a great deal of my time, and I had a family to consider.
Thirty minutes of hard running was a pretty intense workout. To get out on the bike it would have taken me thirty minutes to get dressed and pump my tires up; then I would have to ride for an hour and a half or two hours. Plus, it was winter time; I could endure half an hour of running even if it was raining or snowing.
So running at that time suited my busy schedule. Years later when I left the bike business in 1993, I scaled down my lifestyle and moved into a tiny studio apartment. I sold off many of my possessions including my bike, and went back to running as my main form of exercise.
I kept this up until about three years ago when my hip started hurting and I realized I had to quit running. I switched to walking but that didn’t do it for me; I started to gain weight, even though I am not a person to overeat.
Last summer I started riding a bike again, and now I wonder why I didn’t start back sooner; now that time is not such an issue. Running was never a pleasure, it was a chore; something I would discipline myself to do.
Three hours of cycling is all pleasure, an hour of running would be purgatory. On a bike I can ride up a hill to the point of exhaustion, knowing that I will recover as I coast down the other side; running I had to constantly pace myself, and there is no such thing a coasting down hill.
Heat is less of a factor when cycling because you create your own cooling breeze as you ride, plus it is easy to carry two large bottles of water on a bike to keep hydrated.
Cycling for me started a love affair with the machine, with its looks and beauty. Once I started riding it became a love of being a part of the machine. At times, it is still an almost surreal experience and I marvel at how fast I can go, realizing that it is me alone driving the machine forward.
Out this weekend I rode over the Cooper River Bridge here in Charleston; on the bridge runners probably outnumbered bike riders by at least ten to one. This is what prompted me to write this piece.
Why is this? Is cycling so much of a well kept secret. Of course, there is the cost of equipment; a pair of running shoes is a lot cheaper than a bike, but I can’t believe that is the only factor. Maybe it is a time issue, as it was with me.
Physical fitness has always been important in my life; over the years, my level of fitness has varied but has never dropped below a certain level. If I start to feel discomfort in a simple act like putting on a pair of socks, it annoys me, and drives me back into an exercise regimen.
The older I get, the more important exercise is to me; the old adage of “You're gonna die anyway” is not the issue. It is about quality of life, having the energy to do all the other things I want to do, besides ride my bike.