Veloria, the creator of the lovely blog Lovely Bicycle!, published a piece in which she asked the direct question, “Does riding truly keep you weight down?” a week ago. Her response was both yes and no. It undoubtedly sparked a substantial amount of feedback, the most of which agreed with her conclusions.

Within the context of this discussion, a question that is seldom asked is “Why do you bike?” For fun? to maintain a healthy body? As a means of inexpensively moving about from one location to another? To lessen fossil-fuel dependency? in order to simplify your life? Every single one of the cyclists I know has a unique response to this question, but they do agree that one of the main draws of the sport is the opportunity to get some exercise.

Here is what I’ve learned from my own experience of bicycling and losing weight. Unless you’re talking about racing or high-intensity mountain riding, neither of which are actually sports that are appropriate for beginners, bicycling is not the activity that will burn the most calories in the shortest amount of time per minute.

Biking Fitness

The game changes completely when you add in commuting by bike. You are burning less calories since you are going at slower speeds in order to navigate traffic and stop signs (which means you are carrying a larger bike), but you are generally doing so (more calories burned). This kind of cycling will, without a doubt, get your heart rate up and force your muscles to work harder than they are used to. The majority of people who ride to work remark about how they have to alter their clothing in order to be warm while also preventing themselves from arriving at their destination drenched in perspiration. There’s also no doubting that going for a ride on a bicycle burns a lot more calories than spending the day behind the wheel of a car.

I think the key to biking fitness on the entry or commuter level is to change up your route. Our amazing bodies adapt so quickly to any fitness routine, so if it never varies, the body doesn’t see it as exercise any more–it’s just part of everyday life. Even adding a hill a couple of times a week is enough to keep the body in “burn calories” mode instead of ho-hum complacency.

I started biking after a running (um, more like moseying) injury put me on the sidelines, and I needed a workout that didn’t subject my knees to pounding. I had a basic bike and a friend who liked to bike, so I started with that. Soon after, I was totally hooked. The calories burned really didn’t matter to me because I was having such a great time and I wanted to push my body so I could fly.

Since I’m home with my three kids, my biking tends to be more for working out than for commuting, though I do get to run some errands by myself on two wheels on occasion. Yes, even in winter. I was really hesitant to try, but once I started reading Dottie and Tricia’s blog, Let’s Go Ride a Bike, I decided that I really didn’t have an excuse not to try. Dottie was biking in Chicago, for crying out loud, and I know what those winters can be like.

What I can say after months of trying different types of exercise is that I think biking is a fantastic activity for the average person. It’s easy on the body, simple to do, doesn’t require a lot of complicated equipment (really and truly), and is undeniably fun. Because I’m more fit from biking, it makes the rest of my life that much sweeter.