Spinning your steps: Cycling with your pedometer

I’m an avid cyclist. In the winter, I’m in spin class and as soon as the weather is nice, I’m outside racking up the mileage on my road and mountain bike. And of course I wear my pedometer on the bike. Over time, I’ve learned some tricks about using it with my pedometer that I wanted to share with all of you. NOTE: this is for use with the Omron HJ720IT WalkingSpree pedometer that is accelerometer based and not pendulum.

There’s no doubt that the pedometer will not pick up all revolutions on a bike. I did a mountain bike race  that was 13 miles long and I obtained 15,000 steps for that event. If I had walked that fair, it would been have closer to 19,000 steps (based on my stride). So yes, I lost approx 4,000 steps but that’s still 15,000 steps that I obtained that if I hadn’t worn my pedometer, I wouldn’t have had at all. Of course, there are also plenty of times where I was not pedaling, ie. riding downhill, coasting over rocks/roots, etc. Even when I’m road biking, I don’t obtain the full spin equivalent and again coasting at times does not cause a step.

1. Prepping your pedometer:

If you’re like me and your bike ride involves a pretty grueling ride and likely a lot of sweating, you’ll need to protect your pedometer. The humidity can build up in your LCD display, so I cover my pedometer with a zip lock bag and then use an elastic band to seal it off. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. At the end of a 60 km ride, excited to check out my steps, only to be viewing a blank LCD display with humidity bubbles behind it. (note: it will often dry out after a day or so (you can place it in a bag of rice to help it dry) and continue to work just fine, but let’s avoid it in the first place).

2. Wearing your pedometer:

You have a couple of options here. The most important aspect is that your pedometer needs to be snug against your body. Hanging loose in a pocket will not pick up steps. In order to pick up the most number of steps, it’s important to place it where you’ll have some hip/leg and or foot motion. Some people place it in their sock (be sure to use the lanyard to attach to your sock). I have learned that the only location that gives me a decent number of steps is to place the pedometer approx halfway between the belly button and the side hip area (so it’s approx pocket area and at the leg/waist bend) and then tuck it straight up and down with the lanyard side attachment pointing directly up. So it looks like the pedometer is upside down.  Basically playing around with that area there to determine how far down you need to place it to get the best steps. It’s important to do your own testing to see what works best. Seat height placement can also impact steps if you using the leg/waist bend area with a higher seat providing less steps. I do find with road biking that I have to place it lower towards the front hip bend. Since it’s tucked under the spandex essentially, it has to be covered to protect it from humidity. I personally have not found placing it on the sock/foot to be practical with my bike clips. If you’re not into wearing spandex, then make sure that it is snug in your shorts. On a bike, leaning over, pockets tend to slide to the side with the pedometer and will not pick up steps as well.

If you are on a recumbent bike or stationary bike, you may have to experiment with placement in relation to the hip motion. A recumbent bike may work better with the sock location. Some of have used a knee brace and tucked the pedometer under that.

3. Aerobic steps:

Aerobic steps are continuous steps taken at a minimum of 10 minutes with a 60 step/second pace. On a bike, you’re not likely to attain aerobic steps for your whole ride. This is because of periods of coasting and cadence changes. So it depends on the route you’re tackling, so don’t be surprised if your 2 hr ride doesn’t have 2 hrs of aerobic steps even though you know you’ve aerobically worked for 2 hrs. However, your steps should be fairly close to being accurate give or take a few depending on hip movement during hill climbs, coasting etc.

So even though it may not capture all the steps, it does capture a lot of them (mountain biking seems to capture more than road biking). Anyone doing a decent amount of cycling is going to get several thousand steps and that all contributes to their step total.

Ideally you want to be putting your pedometer on first thing in the morning and taking it off only when you go to bed, so it captures a full day’s worth of activity. There are many times throughout the day where you are walking and not participating in a sport/activity alone such as cycling. It all adds up over the day!

So if you’re looking for another way to get in your steps, I highly recommend jumping on your bike and hitting the open road or trails!

Discussion32 Comments

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  • Lance May 21, 2011 

    It’s all downhill from here.

  • Jeni May 29, 2011 

    LOVE the idea of attaching the pedometer to my shoe!!! I rode for 22 miles today with my pedometer in my pocket and only racked up about 1800 steps. DEFINITELY didn’t capture even close to what i did. Thanks for the tip!!

    • Michelle Mar 08, 2012 

      Jeni, how did the shoe placement work out for you? Tks.

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  • Jess May 21, 2012 

    I ride a recumbant, I have tried several placements for the counter and the best position seems to be just above the knee. I clip the lanyard to my shorts on the inside of my thigh, drape it over my leg and let it hang loose. I use a piece of duct tape about 2″ away from the counter to keep it from flying around wildly. however I find it counts more steps like that than when I position it snugly against my leg. I have been riding about 30 to 35 miles on average and it counts about 10,000 steps for 30 miles. That has been the most productive position for the counter so far. I still feel i’m not getting all the steps because it is only counting the movement from 1 leg. when walking it registers each foot impacting the ground. When I ride I almost never coast because I need to get the rpm in to condition for longer rides. I generally even pedal when I’m going down hill.

  • Rachel Nov 09, 2012 

    Pedometers are really useful in sports action. I like it..

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    Is there a bike specific pedometer !?

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