Biking is an umbrella term that can refer to any activity that involves a person riding on a bike of any type. Alternately, cycling is a short version of the term bicycling, but it’s used more specifically in many cases.
What is the major difference between biking and cycling? Read on, and I will share all the nuance and details, plus compare cycling to some specific types of biking.
Cycling is frequently used as a specific term for biking as a professional or competitive sport. However, you can use both words interchangeably because they have the same original meaning and are blanket terms for a person riding on any bicycle for transport, recreation, exercise or sport.
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What Is The Difference Between Biking And Cycling
I could joke that the difference between biking and cycling is all in the spelling, but there is one modern difference that matters.
When people use the term biking, it is often a casual interpretation that includes touring, stationary bikes, leisure rides, and even kids learning to ride with training wheels.
Meanwhile, cycling has become the defacto word used for more structured biking styles.
Cycling is the term chosen by professional bike riders who compete and have sponsors.
Similarly, cycling is sometimes applied to describe biking as a competitive sport. The difference between sports and hobbies is the element of competition and the stakes involved.
You can say biking is anyone using a bike, but cycling is more driven and pointed cycling with goals and achievements.
Mountain Biking vs Cycling
There are mountain biking competitions, but even so, the term cycling is usually applied to riders who use road bikes and pavement rather than off-road sports.
Still, there are a lot of similarities between the MTB community and the competitive sports community, even when you’re not a pro mountain bike rider.
Here is a list of similarities between noncompetitive MTB and pro or competitive cycling.
- Cardio Gains – Both cycling and MTB are fantastic for your heart and blood pressure.
- Fast and Slow Twitch Muscle Gains – You will need and build both types of muscle fibers riding these two styles.
- Drive – The people who ride down mountains and those who cycle competitively are highly driven and motivated groups with excellent focus.
If you are highly driven, focused, and love the adrenaline and endorphins from a good ride, either of these styles will work for you.
However, people seeking thrills should try MTB biking because of the challenging terrain and occasional jumps.
Those who want a smoother path with fewer surprises to challenge endurance will want to stick to road cycling.
Road Biking vs Cycling
Road biking non-competitively versus cycling, which is often competitive road biking, is an interesting distinction.
Both groups tend to wear specific clothes, such as cycling bibs and jerseys. Moreover, both groups are typically physically fit and highly motivated people. So what’s the difference?
One significant difference is the competition, but more accurately, it’s the reward at the end.
Non-competitive riders do it for fun and health, while pros do it for those reasons, but also for sponsors, awards, prizes, and money.
Likewise, non-competitive road bikers can ride solo or in groups known as pelotons at their leisure.
Meanwhile, a pro rider doesn’t get to choose when they go it alone or in a pack because it’s based n how the competition is constructed.
Only the fastest, fittest, and best riders can hope to compete on a professional level or joining teams like those who go to the Olympics.
However, general road biking is accessible to all people regardless of age or fitness level.
Utility Biking vs Cycling
Utility biking is the easiest to compare to cycling. If we use ‘cycling’ to mean competitive or professional bicycle riding, utility cycling is as close to the opposite as possible.
Below I’ve created a simple chart to break down the differences.
|Difference||Utility Biking||Sport or Professional Cycling|
|Identity||Utility bikers are ‘just people’ who happen to be riding on bikes.||Pro or sport cyclers often see cycling as a defining characteristic and part of their personality.|
|Rules||There are no rules other than local laws.||There is a code of conduct, dress code, and specific rules for certain events.|
|Purpose||Utility biking is functional or enjoyable leisure riding.||Cycling is for a dedicated purpose such as training, events, or charity.|
|Achievement||The only thing you ‘win’ or get from utility riding is a nice ride.||Pro and sports cyclists often get prizes, sponsorships, or paychecks for their efforts.|
|Effort||The effort is optional, and sweating, or muscle gains may or may not matter at all.||Being better, fitter, faster, or ‘the best’ is essential in cycling.|
|Competition||There is no competition.||The competition is the whole point.|
Utility biking covers everyone who rides for any reason, from getting groceries home to taking the kids out to play.
Cycling is all about being driven, motivated, and setting goals. People should utility bike for fun, relaxation, or everyday reasons, but sporty types who want to stay in peak physical condition are better suited to cycling.
Indoor Cycling vs Biking
The significant differences between indoor cycling and biking are relatively apparent. One is done outdoors on a mobile bike. The other is done in a gym, studio, or home setting.
Outdoor riders have road hazards like traffic and potholes to contend with and weather issues such as wind, rain, cold, heat, and fog, while indoor riders typically have heaters in winter and AC in summer.
People who seek to ride only for their health and those who don’t want the added risks of the road and weather conditions should choose indoor cycling.
However, both are excellent ways to get healthy and improve your cardiovascular health, blood pressure, and overall muscle.
Stationary Biking vs Cycling
Whether in a spin class, on a gym floor, or at home, people usually do stationary biking purely for health benefits.
A stationary bike is controllable and tuneable, making it accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels.
In short, it’s a great way to get healthier or train for cycling if those are your goals.
On the other hand, cycling is all about pushing further, going faster, and trying harder. This sport is not about meeting primary fitness goals but rather excelling at the competitive aspect of bike riding.
Not everyone wants to ride for charity or prizes, but those who do should stick to cycling, and those who just want to be a little more fit will usually be content on a stationary bike.
Helpful Tips To Know About Biking vs Cycling
Even though some people use the terms biking and cycling interchangeably, a growing majority use the latter to describe only competitive and sport-based bike riding.
Context is everything, so pay attention to how each term is used in a specific conversation.
Here are more helpful tips to know about biking vs cycling.
- Both biking and cycling have the same root word: Bicycle. These synonyms have only recently begun to have more distinct and separate meanings in reference to riding styles and end goals.
- As Membean reminds us, “Perhaps the easiest way to remember that the Greek root word cycl means “circle” is through the word bicycle, which possesses two “circles” in the form of wheels.”
- If you want to sound knowledgeable, use cycling when referring to professional or sport-based pursuits. Keep in mind that biking is sometimes also used to refer to riding motorized bicycles and motorcycles and manual or traditional bikes.
Biking versus cycling is a complicated issue. However, language is constantly evolving, and most people now use cycling as a term for competitive and professional forms of bike riding.
Biking is a more casual term that can refer to any bicycle, including indoor stationary bikes or even motorcycles.
There are many types of riding, and only some of them have professional or sports applications.
To sound more knowledgeable, use the term cycling whenever you’re referring to bicycles in a professional, competitive, or sports-based sense.
Call it biking or bike riding when it’s casual, fun, or for health.