How to get the best fuel efficiency ever AND have fun too!

As you ride your bike, and you enjoy the fact that you are saving so much money I would like to remind you as well that a bike is the most fuel efficient device you will ever own. A bike is better than the best electric car, hybrid bike, even better than some of these wacky solar cars you see pictures out there. How is that you say, let me explain it to you.

Humans are very good at long distance running and we first used running as our method to hunt animals on the Serengeti some 200,000 years ago. We would run them to exhaustion and then just walk up to the exhausted animal and poke a spear in it. Running was our first mode of transportation and if you compare a bike to a runner, both traveling at 16 kmh (or 10 mph) a biker would burn 6x less energy than the runner. We developed a device that makes us 6 times more efficient than before. There is no device which allows us to travel the same distance with such little energy input.

The graph below compares biking with other forms of transportation. Smaller is better.

kcal per hour comparison running biking driving

This graph shows that biking crushes all other forms of exercise and transportation. Even mass transit does not do as well as a bike. Bikes simply rock for efficiency, calorie conservation and conversion into forward momentum.

But wait, that is not all, bikes are super FUN.

I would like to point out that the calories burned by the moped, train and cars are the fuel consumed in combustion and you cannot drink the fuel yourself to power your running and biking.  That would be a bad thing. Only food for you. One thing that gasoline has going for it is its Energy density. There are 31,500 kcal/gallon (or 8290 Kcal/liter) in fuel. This is some dense stuff. Ice cream on the other hand has about 2000 kcal/liter, so gas is 4x as dense as ice cream.  However, ice cream tastes way better.  That is another topic though.

Even if you compare a bike to the most fuel efficient car out there at (128 mpg) you can see on the graph that a bike beats it 4.4 to 1. Put another way the most fuel efficient car out there would have to get to 563 mpg to achieve the efficiency of a bike. This is not happening.

The impressive thing about a bike is that we are able to convert nearly 90% of the energy we put into the pedals into forward moment, compared to a car which is only able to convert about 25% of its energy input into forward momentum. Internal combustion engines simply suck at converting energy into forward momentum.

Biking beats all other transportation hands down without even trying. Even when you approach racing speeds with your bike and cover over 35 km in an hour you still consume significantly fewer calories per km then a moped (the best motorized option).

There are a couple of take aways for me here. First, smaller is better. The bike and the moped are relatively light and allow us to travel with the fewest calories burned. The less mass you have to move the less energy required. Makes sense huh? The other takeaway is when I compare running to biking I see that running consumes a lot of calories and the bike has helped us leverage our calories burned significantly over our human’s first mode of transportation (running).

For me there is one other take away, if you can increase the number of occupants in your vehicle then you can cut your kcal/km per person down. I was in China a couple of years ago and took a picture of a Chinese family on a moped. Here they are able to pack 4 people onto the moped and then they become the most fuel efficient thing out there. I question the safety of doing this with your moped and your family,  but it is possible.

4 people on moped

Alternatively, to be safe I can buy an electric car, and pack my family of 4 in than I can come close to achieving the efficiency of a bike. However, you forget the two for one effect of biking; you get exercise during your transportation.

So, if you want to save money, be nice to the environment and have fun than there is no better option than a bike.

Go have fun on your bike!


3 thoughts on “How to get the best fuel efficiency ever AND have fun too!

  1. Bruce Limber

    Thank you for the maintenance guide.

    It would be most helpful, though, if you’d get the hotlink for “chain scrubber” working: I’ve never heard of such a thing before, and it would be most hepful to learn more about it (as well as what it costs (and whether a toothbrush could substitute)!

    Thjanks again!


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