Riding is good for you in many ways. Is weight loss one of them?
Weight loss fads are always changing. Carbs are good. Carbs are bad. Red meat is good. Red meat is bad. Plus you can use statistics to back up any claim you want to make, whether it's true or not. We already know that motorcycling is good for you, but some say that riding can even help you lose weight.
To say that motorcycling helps you lose weight goes against the stereotypical image of an older male Harley rider with a big gut, where the only six-pack involved is what he drinks when he reaches his destination (hopefully not before). As my own metabolism slows down with age, I've been taking a greater interest in what goes into my body as well as how to burn it effectively. The idea that motorcycling, which has already been my favorite activity for years, could help intrigued me. After watching this Facebook video I decided to dig a little bit deeper.
Of course, motorcycling websites are quick to point out the beneficial workout and weight loss effects of motorcycling. (Mental health is a given.) A Leather Up blog post discusses it enthusiastically, but ironically it almost contradicts itself at the same time. While saying that a 150-pound person riding a motorcycle for one hour will burn 179 calories, that's barely more than the same person burning 145 calories while driving a car for an hour. It also lists several other forms of exercise that burn far more calories than riding. One important point this post does make, however, is that off-road riding is far more strenuous than simply cruising down the highway. A 230-pound rider can burn 400 calories during an hour of off-road riding, which is even more than bicycling.
Another post at Estonia's Harley-Davidson Tallinn echos this sentiment, claiming up to 600 calories per hour of off-road riding. Street riders still benefit, though. Turning the handlebars, operating the brakes and clutch, and changing gears are small, simple movements, but they all take a small amount of energy, which adds up during a ride. In contrast, motorcycle passengers get almost no calorie burning benefit, which is all the more reason for passengers to start riding their own ride.
Motorcycle websites are preaching to the choir, so I looked for corroborating evidence from sources that have nothing to do with motorcycles. A discussion on the MyFitnessPal forum includes many riders chiming in on how many calories they burn during their off-road riding. I use the MyFitnessPal app to track my daily calorie intake, and when I looked through its list of possible exercises, I found "Motor-cross" included. At my weight, the app says I would burn 408 calories in one hour of "Motor-cross." My usual road riding is not listed, but activities such as automobile repair, curling, fishing, gardening, horse grooming, and hacky sack all have entries. I suppose that hurling tools and magic car fixing words at an automotive project gone wrong can be a bit of a workout as well. Not that I'd know from experience or anything.
A recent VeryWellFit article cites a 100 calorie per hour estimate for a 150-pound person riding a motorcycle. Most places I look seem to agree that a couch potato (or a RideApart contributor writing this article) burns a mere 68 calories per hour. Even if I'm just commuting to work by motorcycle, I'm doing much better than sitting on the sofa. Taking the long way home on a nice day simply adds to that benefit.
The biggest bang for your buck, though, is off-road riding. You can pick up a used dirt bike or dual sport for cheap, ride it on the street like you normally would, and then hit the dirt for a more intense workout. Add this to my ever increasing list of reasons why I want to add a dual sport to my motorcycle fleet. It's not just fun, but it's good for me, too.