I can already see my running friends raising their eyebrows when they see the title of this post. Don't worry, I'm not saying running is easy. I'm saying running is simpler and cycling requires much harder work.
You need to look at how you compare the two sports. Comparing distances like running 20km or cycling 20km or whatever distance is dumb. Of course it is easier to ride 20km than running it!
To compare the two you have to look at it over a long period or switch between the two full time for a year or longer. That is what I had to do and is where this comparison comes from... switching from running for 34 years to cycling as my sport for the last three and a half years.
Keeping fit and in shape over a long period and achieving your distance goals is much harder with cycling than with running.
Let's look at what I find harder...
I'll start at the beginning. Getting ready to go out training. Oh my word! This can be extremely painful. I have to give myself 20 to 30 minutes extra for this which means my 4AM alarm for longer runs is now a 3:30 - 3:40 alarm for longer rides before work.
From the bib shorts to the helmet and gloves and glasses and lights and chain lube and all the other paraphernalia
, it is really a time consuming task to finally get outside.
Oh, and those bathroom breaks once the bib and everything is in place... let's not even go there!
Then there is the bicycle itself. The pride of any full blood cyclist. I'm not full blood yet. I don't like being dependent on anything that has some mechanical or moving parts. Now it has to be part of the routine. Check the tyres, check the gears, check the chain... Even worse if any of these have something wrong with it.
By now the runner would be halfway through his or her run! Plain, simple, easy...
Once out riding the problem is how much time and distance you need to put in to stay in shape and reach the goals you are working for. I find this very hard. Even though cycling is much softer on the body, I find that the time and effort required is a lot more exhausting than running was.
At my age and with my ability I had to run a minimum of 75km per week to stay in shape, keep my weight down and build from here for ultra runs. With cycling my minimum is about 200km per week and I find the time and effort to keep this up much harder than the 75km and bigger weeks were for running. Over time it takes a lot more out of me.
This brings us to the physical aspect. I find long rides harder than long runs. For me hours of riding is harder than hours of running. Riding a bike for long distances in the wind is harder than running long distances in the wind. If you bonk while cycling it is also much harder than when running. The same goes for long, hard climbs.
Breaking into a walk up a hill or when you really have no energy left is much easier when out running. Add a bicycle to the mix and you have to struggle forward in some ridiculous gear or get off and push. Both can be extremely painful. I always feel sorry for the people struggling to push their bikes while trying not to slip on their cleats.
I still do the toe clips and tekkies (running shoes) thing... My Nike Pegasus Trails are the best!
I've had a few long walks home after numerous punctures and I am so glad I could do them in my Nikes.
I might have moved to the dark side but I'm not a Sith yet...
To summarize then:
Cycling all year round is much harder work than running all year round. It is softer on the body, but when the going gets tough, it is much easier to suffer without carting a bike around. Over time it is much more exhausting.
Also, there is no such thing as sit and free and relax! One thing I learned very quickly is that the recovery you think you'll get on the downhills don't really happen. I certainly relax more when running downhill. The downhills also goes by so quickly on the bike that time to rest is very limited.
No relaxing on the downhills!
In the end training hard and often all year round is hard, regardless of what your sport might be. There are no shortcuts or easy ways anywhere. What I find might be different for someone else, but for me cycling is much harder than running was.
Happy training and stay safe everyone! Keep it going!