7 differences between bicycle and running events (beyond the obvious)

After completing a second organized bicycle ride recently and having almost fully transitioned to this form of exercise from running and walking, it has become clear to me: I like bicycling.

Bicycling is scenic, it’s social, and it’s something I can do now but only get better at with time and training.

But I liked running a great deal too, and I dearly miss it. I’ve run 137 races, including 20 marathons. And I’m still holding out hope that I can run at least one more 5K or 10K, after my bad left ankle fully heals from surgery. But running, for the most part, is in my past.

After doing the two bicycle events, the Tour de Peaks (25 miles) in the Snoqualmie Valley in August and the Harvest Century (45 miles) west of Portland on October 8, I find these similaries between bike rides and runs:

  • Both bicycling and running have strong and growing communities, with events drawing hundreds of participants.
  • Both have lots of food … and beer at the end!
  • Both rely heavily on volunteers. I can’t say enough about the numbers of volunteers that come out and support the athletes. If you are a participant, you should volunteer to help out at a different race or ride, just to pay back.

But, of course, there are differences. Here are seven different things I’ve found between bicycling and running events, aside from the fact that one is done on a bicycle and the other on foot:

1. Starting times: For every road race, there’s a designated starting time. Smartest thing to do is show up on time. If you show up and start late, sometimes those minutes you’re late are added to your official time. But in the bicycle rides I’ve done, you have a window of time when you can start, such as anytime between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. That lessens the congestion of bikes at the starting line and in the early miles.

2. Finish lines:  Nothing beats crossing the finish line in a road race, especially a marathon. There’s often applause from spectators, a public-address announcer calling your name, a celebratory mood, and a true feeling of accomplishment. There’s fewer people watching or applauding bicycle riders as they finish and less fist-pumping and high-fiving. However, you’re likely to get a better meal and more beer at the finish area.

3. Aid stations and rest stops: Road races have aid stations every two miles or so; usually there are 15 stations for a marathon (26.2 miles). The aid stations generally have water, sports drink, porta-potties, and maybe gel packs. Bicycle rides typically have rest stops every 15 miles that are more elaborate; those in the Harvest Century had tables of bananas, bagels and cream cheese or peanut butter and honey, donuts, and other goodies. One stop offered that and more — it was at a winery; just go inside and you could taste up to five different wines (and we did!).

4. Spandex and singlets: You generally should wear heavier clothing on a bicycle ride. Doh! you say. Well, I guess I had to find this out. Even in warm weather, you need a shirt or coat to break the wind on a ride. I have more than a hundred running shirts, but most are light synthetics that won’t work on a bike. Even the two T-shirts I’ve gotten from bike events aren’t sufficient to wear while riding. So, even though my drawers and closets are full, I need some bicycling shirts.

5. Sudden change of plans: There’s always a chance in a run that you twist an ankle or pull a hamstring, and can’t finish the race. Or, as I have, you finish the run in a walk. But nothing compares to getting a flat tire in a bicycle ride. Experienced riders have spares and small pumps, and simply stop to change the tire and continue riding. I need to buy a small pump. I need to get faster at changing a tire. Until then … I watch like a hawk for glass on the roadways, and same some prayers that I don’t get a flat in the middle of a 50-mile ride.

6. Cars and stoplights: Doing these rides has made me appreciate the police officers who, during road races, escort you through stoplights and major intersections. In most runs, you don’t have to dodge cars or stop at stop signs or stoplights. Bicycle rides are longer in distance, making it impossible to have officers at every intersection (they were patrolling at two or more intersections in my 45-mile ride). So participants must deal with the elements — cars, pedestrians, stop signs, stoplights, etc. — on their own.

7. Races versus rides: Bicycle rides seem more recreational and less intense and competitive than road races. Perhaps that’s because there ARE competitive bicycle races too, in the Seattle area and elsewhere, and I haven’t done any yet. I will need more training and maybe a better bike to even consider doing these. In the meantime, I am happy doing rides, which don’t have clocks at the finish line, don’t have official times, and don’t list results on web pages. I am working toward doing my first century, or 100-mile ride, which I view in the same way I do a marathon.

Love to hear other riders’ opinions on any of this. Please leave a comment.

Till next time.


About monteenbysk

I am not an elite runner or bicyclist, though I am friends with many. I run, walk, and bike for fun and the health benefits. I can get you to the finish but probably not to the Boston Marathon (and especially not to the Tour de France).
This entry was posted in Bicycling, Harvest Century, Marathons, Running, Tour de Peaks, Uncategorized, Walking and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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