Bikers Versus Runners

Posted by Filed Under: Cross Training

It’s not about the bike.

I’m not knocking the cyclists. Really, I’m not. But if you are a cyclist? Don’t read this.

I never got cycling. Tour de France was interesting and Lance is an incredible athlete, but the bikes never thrilled me. When I think about the bike races, all I can think is “Yeah, but isn’t that because you bought a good bike?”

When it comes right down to it, running is all about the athlete. Yes, good shoes help, but they don’t make or break the runner unless the shoes are terrible and actually injuring the runner. When the runner is out on the road, it just him (her). Nothing else. No machine to manipulate that is making or breaking the race for them. It’s the true feeling of athleticism.

The cyclist needs the bike, by definition. The bike becomes an extension of the cyclist. As such, the performance of the cyclist depends on the performance of the bike. Did you buy an expensive lightweight bike? Well, then your performance is better. Somehow, that just goes against the nature of a sport. If you can buy a better machine, then your athletic performance has a strong tie to your wallet. It’s just not right.

I know, I know, there are expensive running toys like GPS and fancy socks, but let’s be honest about that argument. GPS and nice socks are a far, far cry from the improvement seen with a graphite composite bike that weighs six ounces.


Do you have to be a good athlete to win a bike race? You better believe it. You have to be a good athlete just to compete. Can you be lacking in athletic ability and make up for it with better equipment? I think yes. Try to tell me that cyclists out there haven’t seen improvement in their times with better bikes. Try to tell me that cyclists with times they weren’t happy with, didn’t look at a newer, lighter, better-geared bike for making some headway towards their goals. Tell me if you ever heard of a runner say “If I only had those shoes, I’d beat my PR.”

So when I see an athlete like Lance winning a bike race, I think “Yea for Lance!,” but deep in my heart I know that half of it is the bike. Now Lance wants to run a marathon. Will his time be respectable? You damn well better believe it. I mean, the guy has a heart the size of cantaloupe. But will he ever win? Even in his age group? Nope. I don’t think he knows how to win like that.

  1. Nancy Toby on October 10th at 10:22 am

    Uh huh. I WISH a fancy bike would offer me an advantage! Sadly for me, it’s all about the engine.

    And, uh, so what do you have against swimming, then??

  2. Aaron Engelsrud on October 10th at 11:46 am

    Let me start by saying that I am not a biker, never have been. Now lets look at your argument, you’re saying that because technology can improve perfomace there is something less stellar about the performance as a whole. Interesting, but in reality it doesn’t hold water.

    For example, at the comeptitive level that Lance rode, the bikes are all the same (more or less). Each team wants to win and puts millions into to R & D to make sure their bikes, helmets, and gear is the fastest there is. Still, Lance consistantly blew everyone away. Why? He hates to lose more than everyone else. He will endure more pain, more training, more crap – all just to win. No bike can deliver that kind of motivation.

    I don’t think Lance will ever be a world class runner. I also don’t think Tergat could jump on a $10,000 bike and win the tour.

    Just my two cents…


  3. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on October 10th at 12:37 pm

    I don’t agree at all.

    It’s like saying that horse racing isn’t interesting because the horse does most of the work. It’s like saying that swimming isn’t interesting because somebody with a good wetsuit or shark suit is going to have an advantage over somebody swimming in their skivvies.

    Running on a track will usually be faster than a level road which will usually be faster than a level cross country course.

    They are different sports, and have different rules. Just take each sport for what it is; if you don’t like cycling, just don’t follow it.

  4. Flatman on October 10th at 12:41 pm

    Whoa there, brother…it IS all about the bike. Just ask anyone! šŸ™‚

  5. Dawn - Pink chick on October 10th at 12:57 pm

    You like stirring things up don’t ya Jon. Don’t tell me its not about the bike when that’s what I’m looking for. Unfortunately I can’t afford a $10,000 bike. I’ll be lucky if I can spend a bit over $1000. So my cycling times will suck like my running times but at least I’m consistent.

  6. Rob on October 10th at 3:04 pm

    I run and I bike. I’ve raced my bike. I disagree with you completely: racing bikes is extremely hard, and 99% of it is the athlete, not the machine. Of course if you’re riding something welded together from drainpipes it’ll make you slow, but most people who bother to race have already got bikes that are sufficiently good that the quality of the machine makes only a small difference between them. I suggest that you get yourself one and see what it’s like.

  7. Anne on October 10th at 3:18 pm

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Jon’s point is that the bike provides mechanical assistance to get the job done. Running does not. And that makes it fundamentally more difficult a challenge — not that anyone is denying competitive cycling is easy.

    Even Lance Armstrong recently admitted to Runner’s World Daily that the body works differently without that assistance:

    RWD: How do you view running differently than cycling?
    LA: Being on the bike is so much different than running. Your heart rate is lower, your stress level is lower on the bike. It’s harder to eat on the run, there’s a lot more impact on your body while running. On the bike you don’t ever hit that weird euphoria that runners talk about. That runner’s high. I’ve never had that. And it wouldn’t be good to have it on a bike. Imagine if you got that euphoric runners high as you’re climbing a big hill and then you have to go downhill at 70 mph. That’s not a good combination.

  8. Anne on October 10th at 3:22 pm

    not that anyone is denying competitive cycling is easy.

    oops…I meant difficult. It’s hard, not easy, at that caliber athlete. (And to think, this time I thought I’d proofread first.) Sorry, folks.

  9. Funky Dung on October 11th at 7:03 am

    At least biking requires significant physical exertion. I still don’t get why NASCAR is 1) a sport and 2) fun to watch.

  10. bex on October 11th at 9:49 am

    Hear hear! Yes, you do have to be athletic to race bikes competitively. But it IS somewhat about the bike. I’ve ridden a couple of different bikes in 40-50 mile rides, and unequivocally, it was easier on the lighter, more streamlined bike.

    With running, it’s just you and the road. You don’t even have to have shoes to do it.

  11. Funky Dung on October 11th at 10:30 am

    If we’re going to dis biking because it requires equipment, are we also going to dis rowing? Biking and running are different sports. Period. ‘Nuf said. There are plenty of non-sports (usually forms of moving art) masquerading as sports to complain about. Take synchronized swimming for instance…

  12. Jank on October 11th at 8:21 pm


    The bike makes a difference in much the same ways shoes make the difference to runners. Well, except for barefoot pose types. But, given a bike that fits and is in decent shape, it’s all about the engine regardless regardless of being a $500 or $10K bike.

  13. Jank on October 11th at 8:22 pm

    What I meant to add was that Armstrong could clean my clock if he were riding a Schwinn from Target.

  14. Nzz on January 20th at 11:00 pm

    This is moronically wrong. I don’t see sprinters blazing down the track in a pair of brown wingtips. Marathon runners pounding out the miles in hunting boots. I’d bet the percent a good pair of running shoes increases a runners speed would be comparable to a cyclist on a 10,000 bike instead of a 1,000 bike. Your article reminds me of a quote from an old movie I saw, “You act as if stupidity were a virtue.”

  15. LL on February 25th at 5:09 pm

    I want to resurrect this thread another two years later to point out how stupid Nzz’s analogy is. Of course runners aren’t going to race in hunting boots anymore than bikers will race on a touring bike loaded down with filled saddlebags. Boots or wingtips will slow you down more than no shoes at all, the same as filled saddlebags will slow a biker down more having no saddlebags! And you analogy shows your ignorance (as well as the failure of the analogy) of running as there are cheap and expensive running shoes, like there are cheap and expensive bikes (though bikes are much more expensive), but running a race in boots or wingtips would be like bike racing on a beach cruiser or bmx bike; they are designed for completely different purposes than racing.

    And you missed out on the fact that people have not just run marathons barefoot, but in fact WON them barefoot (the most famous being the 1960 Summer Olympic marathon). Try winning a bike race with no bike. That is the main point. Shoes are just a tool to help the runner along; there is no biking without bikes.