The difference between Cycling and Riding

Today I rode just over forty miles in a rectangular route straight north to the western reaches of South Elgin, cut over to the east side of the Fox River to catch the bike trail, and headed all the way south to North Aurora before wending my way back home.

I was doing what I call riding, not cycling.

To me, cycling is the more serious side of biking on the roads. When I’m cycling, it’s usually with another person or a group of people pedaling at a consistently fast pace, usually between 17-20 mph. When my wife and I head out on tri-bikes and finish 56 miles in under three hours, I consider that “cycling.

By contrast, when I’m riding, the pace is not quite as important as other aspects of the journey, such as taking new routes or accepting the limits of riding a bike on public bike trails. It’s not safe or possible to hammer in some situations, and avoiding traffic just feels right some days.

Today’s “ride” was satisfying because I averaged 15.5 mph on a route that included some solid climbing in the Fox Valley. The bike trail crosses the Fox river at the number 5 on the map shown and then goes up a long incline about a half mile long. There’s a slightly steeper section in the middle of the climb, but the grade as a whole is not much more than three or four degrees in gradient. It’s always fun to test yourself there.

To add some more climbs, I spun down a steeper street and looped around the neighborhood next to the river. Those climbs felt good in my legs too. I didn’t hurry. Just spun and rolled uphill. That’s plain old riding. I’ve always loved that.

Climbing drops your overall average pace, but that’s the point of a ride. Enjoy the process. My top speed on the ride today was 34 mph. I still like going fast downhill and climbing back up while letting the legs do the talking.

Cycling and riding are both good ways to spend time in the saddle. Perhaps it’s only my goofy brain that distinguishes between the two. Yet I find it helpful to get into a mindset of one kind or another. I do the same thing with running in many respects. That’s a topic for another day.

My goal is to do both some cycling and riding this weekend. I plainly need to do more of each. I’ve had no “double ride” weekends this year at all. In other years I never missed a weekend double if I could.

For inspiration, the Tour de France kicks off tomorrow. That usually gets the brain juices flowing and the cycling/riding legs going.

This weekend I’ll write about what I’d like to see happen in the Tour and what I think will actually take place. I’ve heard predictions about who will be on the podium and what teams will dominate. It promises to be an interesting Tour, that’s for sure.

Can I ride all 21 days while the Tour is going on? We’ll see. Sounds like a nice challenge.

About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @genesisfix07 and blogs at, and Online portfolio:
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