The most accurate (and available) count of calories burned will be through a heart rate monitor. While they are not as accurate as an indirect calorimetry lab test, they’re pretty dang close. I don’t ever rely on apps that estimate my calories burned, especially when all they ask for is my gender, height, and weight. But that’s just me… I also don’t count calories. If you’re doing it for the purpose of dieting or weight loss, there are other factors to take in (e.g., fats, proteins, sodium, medications that might interfere with metabolism, genetics, etc.), so I think it would be best to talk to your PCP and/or a registered dietician before making any drastic changes to your lifestyle.
But it certainly is fun looking at your calories expenditure after a really hard unicycle ride!
EDIT: I know that some apps these days, like Strava, have available heart rate chest straps so that you can use both the app and the strap. Then you don’t have to buy a $300 watch!
I think you burn more calories unicycling than bicycling over the same distance and terrain, but that number will vary substantially depending on how good a rider you are. Beginners are tense all over, and will burn a lot more calories than more experienced riders who are generally relaxed as they ride.
But no, I don’t bother counting calories, I just ride and have fun! If you ride enough, you’ll lose weight and get stronger, and be in better health!
Yes, my guess would be that this is based on speed, and it takes more energy to ride a unicycle the same speed compaed to a normal freewheel bicycle:
b/c the freewheel saves some energy
but even more because of “back pedaling” on the unicycle to maintain balance, as well as side-to-side movements in your hips/stomach/legs (and arm movements unless you’re very skilled and the route is not easy).
A small sidenote, but shouldn’t really effect calories so much, but on the top end of aerobic capacity for a fit rider, on a unicycle you can “run out of gears” so that you may not be able to reach a really high heart rate (e.g. on my 36er which is ungeared, my heart rate never goes really high on flats as I’m not skilled enough to spin any faster and maintain a cruising speed over 20km/h (12.5mph). Because of the gear, on a bike I can shift up and up and cruise at 30-35km/h (19-22mph) and really drive my heart rate up. But this is more relevant for high invensity aerobic training like lacttic aced threshold training.
For the calories, this calculation would be for a bike rider who is going the same speed, so a unicyclist going the same speed requires some extra energy, so more calories.
Unlike a bike, unicycling requires constant pedaling to stay in motion, regardless of grade. No low gears to help climb hills. No fore & aft stability. Constant balance corrections. More wind resistance due to more upright posture. For just these reasons, and there are probably many more, I believe unicycling burns more calories than bicycling. Significantly more.
A clear example would be to compare calories burned during a century ride. Riding a unicycle (especially ungeared) 100 miles would be much more physically and psychologically demanding than riding that same 100 on a bike, even though the two-wheeled cyclist would likely finish far ahead of the unicyclist. A big part of this is due to the sheer number of revs done on the unicycle. About 56,000 for an ungeared uni and possibly less than half that for a bike due to so much coasting, on both flat and downhills. A much more succinct example would be climbing Fargo st. on a bike vs a unicycle. No contest as far a which is way harder.
Lol, it’s mainly an event for bicyclists. 99% use lowest possible gearing, with a few using custom gearing that is so low they are pedaling what seems like 5 revs per foot of travel! The annual event has been happening since the mid '70’s.
Thank so much for all the feedback! I really just enjoy the ride, but feeling like I burn more calories makes it great for bragging rights. My goal is an accumulated 300 miles this year. That is like 3 days of riding for the Unigeezer…
Take heart in knowing that riding 300 miles (or even a single mile!) on a unicycle is more than 97% of the general population! (probably even closer to 99%!) So yes, congrats to you and best wishes for the best and unicycli-est New Year!
Personal opinion: Hands down unicycling burns more calories. I am not a calorie counter at all so put my opinion in the “for what it’s worth column” but I see more gut heavy bicyclists than unicyclists. The effort expended to maintain balance alone far exceeds that of a bicycle yet alone the “no coasting”. Now as for the Fargo street comment I thought I saw a video on that once Terry
But you know those times when you cruise along with just the right balance, your feet floating on the pedals, no corrections. I recon they are no so far short of the efficiency on a bike except your legs are moving fast.
One of the frustrating things on a uni is when you can’t find the sweet spot and you expend twice the energy to go at half the speed you know is possible.
I also think a uni could potentially be close to the efficiency of a bike during hill climbing when the slope is just right that you can pedal at a good speed without the pronounced cyclic acceleration that becomes necessary on steep climbs.
The more I do hill-climbing the more fascinating it becomes.
I think that estimating calories burnt based on millage is misleading since the last mile requires more calories than the first mile. Compared to bicycling there is less room for relaxation. Getting tired means that riding is less smooth and more energy expended to correct mistakes.
Also, riding a Unicycle is relaxing because it engages the mind. At least for me as as a member of the non-multitasking gender. This aspect is in my opinion overlooked in the sports-for-health debate.
There’s an extremely accurate, non-digital device for measuring caloric expediture and overall fitness. It’s also very cost-effective. You’ll find it hanging on the wall in your bathroom. It’s called a mirror. Simply stand in front of it and check the display. If you see gobs of blubber, increase your excercise level and reduce caloric input.