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Mountain Biking vs Running – Which is Better?

I’m a fan of mountain biking and running and often I combine them. Mountain biking is perfect for warming up and cooling down at it saved me a lot of injuries. I was wondering which is a better training so I decided to find out.

Is mountain biking better than running? Mountain biking doesn’t get you as many injuries as running. You’ll last longer on a mountain bike compared to running and doing both is a great way to prevent you to plateau.

Everything depends on the intensity of your training. You can burn more calories on a mountain bike but burn more calories also when running. Combining the two is a great way to improve both your mountain biking and running skills.

mountain biking vs running

Mountain Biking vs Running

To be honest, it’s hard to compare the two. both are completely different exercises even though many of the muscles used are the same. Using the same muscles doesn’t mean you can compare them, both use muscles in completely different ways.

Also, when you ride your MTB and stop pedaling for a moment you still have momentum while you rest. When you stop running you just stop.

Burning Calories

Do you burn more calories when running or mountain biking? You don’t burn more calories when running, it depends entirely on the intensity of your workout. You can get exhausted from 30 minutes of intense mountain biking or run 30 minutes at an easy pace. But if you run at an easy pace, you won’t last as long as when you mountain bike and take it slow

If you’re after weight loss, a combination of both is probably the best. Workouts lose their effectiveness after a while because your body gets used to it, changing your workout will prevent you to plateau.

Mountain biking is very similar to interval training, especially when you ride trails. While you can also accomplish this by running you have to force yourself. Riding trail forces you to interval naturally (slopes, breaking, speeding up).


Mountain biking is less hard on the body compared to running. I can’t mention how many times I injured myself running by ignoring my schedule and going to far, sometimes literally.

You won’t roll an ankle on a mountain bike (unless you have a weird crash), no shin splints or hamstrings to worry about.

Another thing, the average person can’t go out an run even day. At some point, you’ll injure yourself. Grabbing your MTB each day for an hour is a lot easier.


Running is more intense depending on how hard you train. 2 hours of slow running isn’t something the average runner can do, but 2 hours at a slow pace on a mountain bike is doable for many. This has more to do with running being an impact like sport. It’s also harder to keep your heart rate lower when running, at least from my experience.

I know mountain bikers that can trash a trail for 4 hours but couldn’t run 8 miles if their lives depended on it. Funny thing is that I personally have a harder time biking uphill than running.

Mountain biking for an hour or running at the same intensity will take an equal amount of energy. Mountain bikers will be able to keep doing this for 15 years without problems. Runners will suffer wear and tear to the body in the same period, like knees, feet, and hips from all the impacts.

When it comes to heart rate, I get to the max way sooner than when I’m mountain biking. I really have to push hard to reach the max, but this may be completely different for others.


Mountain biking is a lot more expensive compared to running. Even though runner has to change shoes and gear regularly, it just doesn’t come anyway near the costs of mountain biking.

It’s easier to just run than to jump on a mountain bike. But this also depends on your area. If you like to ride trails you often have to drive for a while before you get to your local trail. Runners just slide into their shoes and go, unless you like trail running as I do.

Do Runners and MTB’ers Hate Each Other?

Sometimes both worlds clash, runners get in the way of mountain bikers and vice versa. A mountain bike on a running trail is seriously asking for problems, just as runners on mountain bike trails. I hate it when I run into one and until now I haven’t hit one yet.

We should just stick to our own trails but that’s easier said than done. Many runners don’t even know they shouldn’t be running on a mountain bike trail. Where I live it isn’t illegal so why should they care.

To be fair, most MTB’ers and runners treat each other with respect and make room for one another to keep each other safe. It isn’t all black and white.

They can be Complementary Sports

After an intense running session, I won’t go for a run the next day. I need to let my muscles rest and regain strength. If I feel like going out there, mountain biking is perfect for recovery training and let the blood flow. I feel better after a ride and not as stiff as before.

It also works the other way around, running can be used to increase your condition and endurance. If you start running you’ll notice a big difference when climbing a hill on your mountain bike. You’re also able to ride for a longer period of time and be less tired.

Like I said I like to do both. I really love running and I really love mountain biking. I’m able to enjoy nature more when I run because I have to pay less attention to obstacles. I still have to keep an eye out though, when I’m trail running you really need to be sure not to roll your ankle on a slippery rock or tree root.

While I’m on my MTB is go way faster and really need to focus more. I don’t mind at all, I love going fast on trails I’m familiar with and enjoy every second of it. I also love mind doing long rides in mid-summer, I can ride the woods for hours and that feeling is awesome.

Both are just completely different sports, but you certainly can benefit from doing both. I’m not saying you should, you should do what you enjoy. To each their own.


Mountain biking and running are completely different workouts. There isn’t a real difference in calorie burn when working out at the same intensity.

Runners suffer more injuries and endure more stress on their bodies, mountain bikers are less prone to injuries from pedaling.

It’s hard to compare the two, there are many variables to take into the equation and you’ll need a professional mathematician and controlled conditions to account for all of them.

When it comes to losing weight, mountain biking is probably your best bet. You can bike every day for longer periods of time, running is just more stressful on the body.

Related Questions

Can cycling improve your running stamina? Absolutely, and it also works the other way around. You train your muscles in different ways which build up muscles.  It will improve your skills and endurance and you’ll be able to train more often

How many miles on a bike is equivalent to running? one mile of moderate running is about the same as three miles of cycling. But when climbing a hill with a mountain bike is more intense than running. It depends on the conditions of the terrain, the weather and you.