How Cycling Can Improve Your Running Performance.

Collaboration with Bikemap.

Combining different forms of exercise can be beneficial in terms of improving running performance. Running and cycling are different activities with their own characteristics. One of the biggest differences between cycling and running is the impact force. Cycling doesn’t have the regular pounding of the legs, but incorporating cycling into your training can still improve your running performance and bring many benefits to your training.

Muscle work and strength benefits

Cycling, like running, increases cardiovascular capacity. This improves oxygen delivery to the muscle, especially enhancing aerobic performance.  

Endurance runners utilize slow-twitch muscle cells, while cyclists often have a greater capacity to use fast-twitch muscle cells, enabling rapid force production. However, there is no harm in developing these for runners, who also benefit from speed training.  

The emphasis on muscle work is different between running and cycling. In cycling, the quadriceps and glutes do more work as they push down on the pedal to produce power. The hamstrings and calves join the movement right after and are followed by hip flexors.  

In runners, when the ankle is flexed and extended, the calves and shin muscles do more work without the help of the thighs or the pedals. Although the gluteal muscles contribute to the thrust of the step and balance the step, there are runners who have less activation of the glutes and work the thighs more. So, cycling can be helpful and still reduce the impact on the calves and shins.  

When running, the hip area and the hamstrings are the main power generators. The quads stabilize the movement and produce some power, which is why they are also important.

Speed to the feet

Although the emphasis on muscle work is slightly different, in cycling the legs move at a faster pace, which increases the speed at which the legs work. A lower pedaling speed of 70-90 RPM (rotation per minute) reduces the body’s energy demand, improving the economy.

However, a lower cadence increases pedal power but allows longer rides, without high metabolic costs, when it is suitable as cross training alongside running, as well as for active recovery. Pedaling speed and power production are greatly influenced by an individual’s technique, fitness level, cycling terrain, etc.  

Cycling also allows you to do interval training without impact. Also, if cycling is done while standing, the weight comes to the sole of the foot in approximately the same place as when running with the midfoot, which activates the calves. Muscle strength, combined with fast leg work, can improve running biomechanics and help maintain speed during running.


Due to the lack of impact force, cycling also works as a good form of active recovery. When done at a low intensity, cycling improves blood circulation without much additional strain. Because of this, cycling is often also suitable for the rehabilitation of various injuries.

Cycling can also serve as a warm-up and cool-down if it is used when moving to training locations. Here, the heart rate can be slowly raised, and the legs can be moved. For those on the move with a tight schedule, this saves time, as part of the actual warm-up can be handled this way.

The must-have: A good navigation app

Cycling can also offer a mental change when the traditional training routine is slightly changed. At the same time, it offers the opportunity to explore new places that you wouldn’t necessarily visit while running. Some of the new routes can also be transferred to running later. 

You can use the Bikemap application to research and select routes. The application contains more than 12 million cycling routes from more than 190 countries. You can plan routes yourself, save and navigate routes, use voice control and discover new places. You can search for routes for different terrains and profiles, if you want, for example, hilly or gravel cycling. 

The application is free, but there is also a paid version available, where you can e.g., download maps for offline use when you avoid network use and save battery, and also participate in the community reports. The paid version also includes a fall detection feature, which detects if something goes wrong while cycling.

You can check out more Bikemap here and discover new routes.

Abbiss, C. R., Peiffer, J. J., & Laursen, P. B. (2009). Optimal cadence selection during cycling. International SportMed Journal, 10(1), 1-15.

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