Four ways that cycling is better than golf

Four reasons why you should be hitting the open road instead of the fairways

The cycling boom is great, especially seeing more people on bikes. The sport going mainstream? That’s great. There’s just one thing that’s not so great; that whole “cycling is the new golf” thing.

So it is no less than our duty, now that this phrase is gaining widespread currency, to compile a short list of things which proves that cycling is better than golf. In so many ways. . .

Golf is frustrating. Cycling isn’t.

It’s quite common to finish eighteen holes in a state of mental torment and psychological anguish so acute that the clubs have come within an inch of being hurled into the lake on 17th fairway in a fit of monumental pique.

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There are fewer human pursuits more guaranteed to mess with your head than golf. It’s a great game, don’t get us wrong, but man, it’s frustrating. The odds are utterly stacked against you finishing a round feeling good.

In contrast, it is close to impossible to finish a bike ride feeling worse than when you started it. It’s a truth universally acknowledged by anyone who knows anything that cycling is a universal panacea.

It cures all known ills, especially those like stress, angst and general perturbation that reside in the head.

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Cycling is hard exercise. Golf isn’t.

winter cycling sprinting

(Image credit: chris catchpole)

OK, you walk a bit. You swing a club around a bit. You carry a bag around a bit – although many golfers will rely on electric propulsion even for this task.

It’s mentally exhausting (see above) but golf is hardly serious physical exercise. Golfers who drive themselves around the green sward in a cart will burn around 800 calories over a round that can last four to five hours.

Where, oh where shall we start with cycling as a contrast? Let’s just take calories burned – we’re looking at a rough average of 800 calories per hour, and if we’re hammering it, it can be substantially more.

Cycling well is hard – that’s a critical part of its immense appeal. Getting back from a ride so shattered that the only priority over lying on a sofa is devouring the contents of the fridge is all part of the rich reward of hard physical exercise that cycling provides.

Cycling makes small talk tricky. Golf doesn’t.

Look, we’re as great a fan of the art of conversation as anyone else. But the rest of the week is full of chitter and replete with chatter. Once we’ve grunted ‘Good Morning’ at our riding mates, agreed the location of the café stop with a series of monosyllabic muttering and nods of the head, the crushing need for further discussion is pretty much done.

Photo: Jesse Wild

Photo: Jesse Wild

We may pass the time of day while stopped, but on the road, in the actual act of cycling, bar the odd barely comprehensible shout indicating a hazard (not that type of hazard) riding a bike is refreshingly free of pointless wittering.

Golf, on the other hand, provides endless scope for small talk. As the actual doing anything bit of the game, rather than navigating between its various areas of play, accounts for approximately 2% of the time spent on the course, the gaping chasms need to be filled with something. Much of that is prattle.

Golf takes forever. Cycling doesn’t have to.

“It’s looking like a five hour round”, they grumble as they loiter on yet another fairway, waiting for the hapless hackers on the next green to get the actual ball in the actual hole in something under twenty minutes.

The arcane and impenetrable rules of golf mean that it’s very difficult to take any kind of control over the time you take to play the game. And you can be delayed by any number of things – lost balls being chief amongst them.


While many serious cyclists will dismiss anything under three hours as not a proper ride, you can actually nip out for a fast thrash round a local loop and get back home before anyone properly notices you’ve gone. It can be done inside ninety minutes.

You will derive many of the benefits that a longer ride would have provided and there’ll be no-one holding you up - you have control of the activity.

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