The often-quoted benchmark of 10,000 steps per day is recommended by the CDC for maintaining optimal health. But, if you are a cycling enthusiast or a person who relies on their bike for daily commuting, have you ever wondered how your miles traveled by bike translate into steps, especially when trying to keep track of your daily exercise routine?
This guide will shed light on this topic and help you understand the connection between the rotations of your pedal and those healthful strides. In this article, we’ll provide a step-by-step guide on how to convert bike miles to steps.
TL;DR? A rule of thumb
If you don’t want to go through all the calculations below, here’s a general rule of thumb: one hour of low-intensity cycling is the equivalent of walking for about 6000 steps. The faster you can cycle or the more intense your cycling is, the more walking steps you can achieve per hour.
That number is obtained by assuming the average step length is 75 cm (~1333 steps per kilometer), the walking speed is 4.5 km/h, and the cycling speed with a road bike on an easy or commuting pace is 20-25 km/h. To follow the 10,000 steps recommendation, you will have to cycle for about 100 minutes per day (1 hour and 40 minutes). Of course, this is a broad generalization, just like the CDC recommendation itself.
If you want a better approximation to convert cycling mileage to walking steps, use the calculator below.
Bike Miles to Steps Calculator
The difference in effort and intensity between bike miles and walking steps
Biking miles is not the same as walking steps. Walking steps and cycling miles carry different weights and intensity levels in terms of calorie burning and cardiovascular exercise because going the same distance on the bike takes less time and effort compared to walking.
To illustrate this, consider a 5-kilometer route. If you were to bike this distance, it would take 15 minutes of cycling at an average speed of 20 km/h. However, walking the same distance at an average walking speed of 5 km/h would require about an hour. Biking is a more time-efficient mode of transportation, and it’s less intensive than walking, so you can’t compare the two exercises using time and distance alone.
Using the example above, if your cycling speed is 20 km/h and your walking speed is 5 km/h, your cycling speed is about 4 times faster than walking. So if you want to know the equivalent walking steps for a given cycling workout, you will need to divide the distance or the duration of the cycling by 4. Using this new distance or duration, you can find how many steps you’d have taken to walk that far/long.
Let’s learn how to do that step by step.
1: Determine your average step length and walking speed
Before converting your bike miles to steps, determine your average step length and walking speed. Step length, also known as stride length (usually used in running) is the distance between the heel of one foot and the heel of the other foot when taking a step.
If you wear a smartwatch, like an Apple Watch or Garmin, it may already track your step length and walking speed which can be found on the device’s companion app (Apple Health or Garmin Connect). If you don’t have a smartwatch, here’s how to do it.
To find your average step length, walk a known distance (for example, 100 yards or 100 meters) while counting the number of your steps. Divide the distance you walked by the number of steps you took. The result is your average stride length.
To find your walking speed, use a stopwatch while walking the distance then divide the distance by the time it took you to walk it. This will give you your walking speed, which you will convert to mph or km/h in the next step.
2: Convert step length and walking speed
Once you have determined your average step length, you can calculate how many steps it takes to complete a mile or a kilometer.
In metrics, divide 1000 by your step length in meters or divide 100,000 by your step length in centimeters. That’s the number of steps you need to take to walk one kilometer.
For imperial folks, divide 5280 by your step length in feet, or divide 1760 by your step length in yards, or divide 63360 by your step length in inches. That’s the number of steps you need to take to walk one mile.
In case you need the speed unit conversion, here it is:
To convert walking speed from meters per second to kilometers per hour, multiply it by 3.6.
To convert walking speed from feet per second to miles per hour, multiply it by 0.6818. From yards per second to miles per hour, multiply by 2.0454. To convert from inches per second to miles per hour, you multiply by 0.0568182.
3: Compare your cycling speed and walking speed
Choose one of your cycling workouts that you want to convert to walking steps. Since we’re comparing cycling to walking, ideally you should choose one of your easy cycling workouts on a flat road. Take note of the average speed of that cycling workout, or if you only have the distance and time, divide them to find the speed.
Next, divide your cycling speed by your walking speed. This will give you a ratio of how many times faster you are while cycling compared to walking. For example, if your cycling speed is 20 km/h and your walking speed is 4 km/h, then you are 5 times faster while cycling than walking (20/4=5).
4: Calculate the equivalent walking steps
Now that you know how much faster you are cycling compared to walking, divide your cycling distance by that ratio, and finally multiply it by your number of steps per kilometer or mile from step 2.
For example, if your cycling distance is 30 kilometers, you bike 5 times faster than walking, and you take 1500 steps to walk 1 kilometer, then 30/5*1500 is 9000. So, your 30-kilometer cycling workout is equal to walking 9000 steps.
What if you’re on a spin bike / stationary bike?
If your stationary bike has a screen with virtual distance, then you can use that data for the calculation. If not, you can simply use the cycling time. Multiply the workout time with your walking speed and number of steps per kilometer or mile.
Alternative method: Calories Burned
Another way to compare the intensity of walking vs cycling is by looking at the number of Calories burned. The calculation can be done much faster using this method, but there are more assumptions made versus using the original method above because almost every workout tracker overestimates Calories burned.
To do this, you will need to walk for a specific duration (longer is better) with a smartwatch and see how many steps you’ve taken and how many Calories you burned. Divide the Calories by the number of steps, and this is how many Calories you burn each step.
Then go cycling and see how many Calories you burn throughout the workout. Divide this number by your Calories burned per step and that’s your equivalent of walking step for that cycling workout.
Impact on joints when cycling vs walking
Both cycling and walking are considered low-impact exercises, meaning they put less stress on your joints compared to high-impact activities like running. The difference is that, unlike walking, you can bike at high intensity without having a high impact on joints. This makes cycling a better training for cardiovascular health compared to walking for those with joint pain or injuries.
The impact of cycling on joints is lower than walking, but unless you have pre-existing joint issues, both activities should not cause any problems. People without mobility issues shouldn’t avoid high-impact exercises that involve running and jumping as they are beneficial for bone and joint health in the long term.