The Average Speed Page (how to find your average speed, what is a ‘good’ average speed)

So you want to know if your average speed is any good?

The truth is it’s very difficult to say, so much is dependent on what route you are riding. To find a ‘true’ average speed you would need to ride in a velodrome, but as you are probably not an athlete, most of your riding will be done on normal roads, so let’s use normal roads for our route. Here are my suggestions for choosing a route to work out your average speed:

  • Ride a circuit route, i.e. finish where you started, that way you will ascend the same amount as you descend and in theory any disadvantage from a headwind or advantage from a tailwind will swap round when you are heading back the other way.
  • Try and pick a route without too many steep hills, it’s fine to have one or two but too many steep hills and small areas of flat will slow you down and make you think you are slower than you could be.
  • Think about traffic, my route uses left turns all the time so I’m not crossing the traffic (traffic drives on the left in the UK for non GB readers), most of the route is on backroads or away from major traffic. Be advised though that riding in fast traffic, particularly lorries, although scary will help you go faster as the slipstream of the passing vehicles will pull you along slightly and shelter you from the oncoming wind, much in the same way drafting another rider in racing does.
  • Whenever you make an attempt on your personal best, try and do it in the same weather conditions that you did when you set your last personal best.

My Route for testing my average speed 14.3 miles, a couple of hills, nice and circular, a mixture of busy roads and backroads, long straights, windy corners it’s all here.

Rode-Dilton-Westbury-Yarnbrook-North Bradley-Southwick-Rode

Get a cycle computer, there are some fairly cheap ones available, as long as it shows average speed and current speed you will be fine, Halfords do them for under a tenner. Obviously wireless ones are best, but if you want to keep costs down a wired one is fine, just wrap the wire carefully around the front brake cable, making sure you don’t affect the braking. The computer sits on the handlebars and it’s so useful. Yes you could work out your average speed by timing yourself and working it out afterwards by measuring the distance and doing the maths, but a bike computer will show you exactly how far you have gone and at what speed. Not only that you will be able to see which points of the route you ride quickly and which bits slow you down. you can react instantly to a drop in speed by piling on the pressure. If your average hits 14mph you want to try and keep your speed above that, the only way you can do that is by getting ‘real-time’ ‘live’ information on how fast you are travelling.

Ok so you’ve got your computer and your route, now don’t do anything special, just ride it and see how you do. Ride at a comfortable level and don’t push yourself too hard. This will be your base level of average speed which you can build on. If I ride at a neutral, comfortable level these days I’m riding at between 15-17mph average speed for 14.3 miles. When I started riding again it was about 14mph. The lovely thing about cycling is that you very quickly start improving. I think it was only a month or so ago that I was riding flat out and getting an average of 17.3mph for this route, now I’m 2mph faster and I know I can do it even faster than that with a bit more practice and effort. If you are a bit sporty give it a bit of effort on that first run, push yourself a bit.

The next time you ride it try riding it at fast as you can. By the way, it’s a good idea to start from your house, or a base where you can collapse (pub? cafe?) afterwards if you really have given it your all and you’re out of energy. Compare the two readings of average speed. How did you do?

Now you can build on those speeds, your ‘easy’ speed and your ‘flat out’ speed. More on how to do that another time.

What is a good average speed?

Well it varies so much and so much depends on the bike and how it combines with the rider. For example a friend of mine averages 9-10mph on a mountainbike over 3.6 miles, which at first glance seems pretty slow. But then you consider that he’s riding in an urban environment, wearing his work clothes which he has to wear for the rest of the day, his bike is over 30lbs unladen, he’s carrying a rucksack with 10lbs full of stuff and he has no toeclips. Actually I’d say he was doing ok.

If you are riding to get fit then either you need to ride with an average speed of above 14mph or ride for a bit longer. Why 14mph? That’s the speed where you start to fight your own wind resistance so it becomes much harder work and you’re giving yourself a good workout, much of your energy is devoted to just pushing through the wall of air in front of you. If you are riding slower than that and you want to get fit, then you will need to ride for 30mins minimum if you want to see any benefit. An hours ride at least I would say. Very crudely, the reason is that it seems to take 30mins for the body to start pulling energy from your fat reserves so you’re not really burning the fat until that point. Obviously keep going for a bit more and you burn more fat.

You will hear of some road riders saying “oh we cruise at an average of about 30mph” which sounds impressive (actually it is impressive), but the clue is in the “we”. Road riders often ride in groups, taking turns to ‘pull’ the chain of riders. The rider cycling just behind the lead cyclist is using 20% less energy than the lead rider to ride the same speed, the first rider is giving them shelter from the wind, the rider behind that rider is using around 20% less again. When the first rider gets tired the next rider will take their turn ‘pulling’ while the others ‘draft’ and are ‘pulled’. Consequently the riders can ride faster for longer, thus upping their average. This is why the Tour de France riders ride in that big group called the ‘Peloton’. It’s also why solo breakaways on the flat during the Tour rarely succeed, without the shelter of the Peloton the solo rider can get no rest and is working much harder than the other riders to go the same speed. However it was a brave ride by Bradley Wiggens in this years Tour, though I love his reason for doing it, he thought it was a breakaway group then he realised he was on his own and just kept going so it looked like he meant to do it.

An average speed for a road bike (racing bike I guess) is generally agreed to be 17-25mph – that’s quite a big range, but it depends on the combination of bike and rider, and the distance being ridden. I would say 18mph+ is a ‘good’ average speed if you are wanting to go fast. Pro riders obviously ride much, much faster for much longer.

An average speed for a mountainbike off road on middling terrain is around 12-15mph, that’s pretty good going actually.

On road with semi-slick tyres a mountainbike could probably average around 14-17mph again depending on rider and bike set up.

A hybrid bike should by rights nestle somewhere between the road bike and the mountainbike.

Utility bikes, shoppers, brompton etc, it’s anyone’s guess – I can do 14-16mph average on the Brompton depending on whether I am wearing my big trousers or a pair of shorts. I bet Lance Armstrong could get it to go considerably faster.

So I would say that the average speed for ‘a bicycle‘ is about 14-15mph.

How can I improve my average speed David?

Good question, there are a few basic things we can do to the bike and how you ride, but I’ll add those later. Two things that are better than clipless pedals or thinner tyres etc are simply eat less and ride more.

The very bare bones of improvements to the bike are:

a) Tyres pumped up fully (less rolling resistance).

b) Chain clean – faster gear changes, smoother spinning, less energy wasted.

c) Suspension locked out if you have suspension – stop all your energy being absorbed by the bouncing.

d) Saddle the right height – too low and you will hurt your knees and/or lose power, too high and you will lose connection with the pedals, lose power and numb your softbits.

Of course, the main reason to up your average speed is so you can Ride Like the Wind and Be Home for Tea.

I hope you’ve found this useful, please let me know if you did or what I need to add in order to make it more useful to you.


Published on July 18, 2007 at 11:21 pm  Comments (81)  

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81 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Why is a wireless computer “Obviously” better? Wireless computer are less reliable as they are prone to interference with other microwave radio sources, eg traffic lights, HT power lines and sometime HR monitors.

    • Agree; I would always choose a wired device. They just don’t go wrong.

      Cateye’s Strada Cadence 5 is about £40 and has the added advantage of measuring cadence. It’s quite a revolution when as a newbiw you realize you’re riding at 50-65 cadence, and drop a pile of gears to go 80+ and then stay at 80+ while rising the gears, and just see that speedo advance.

  2. Good points Kim, although not something I’ve ever experienced. I once had a Sigma wireless computer on my mountain bike that used to go a bit funny in the wet, but that was in the bad old days when rather like the first desktop PCs or laptops, wireless bike computers were massive. I currently use a Topeak… something or other, that works just fine. My experience with wired computers is that the wire needs to be very carefully wrapped round the brake cable, and if the wire is not the right length, it requires a bit of cunning to stop it flapping about or slipping loose on the cable. I got through three wired computers on my ol’ Alpine 10, to one wireless on my mountain bike. I admit though, Kim, that as I really only need the computer to show distance, speed and cycling time, with average speed, I’ve never spent that much on a bike computer. I understand that there are some pretty amazing offerings out there for the serious cyclist. So perhaps I’ve just bought inferior cabled computers and suffered for it. Thanks for your comment, I’ll shortly update the text on this page to reflect your input.

    • I have never noticed a problem with my wireledd computer but have had moments where my HRM quit giving me readings. This happens at times when I go under High power lines but rarely lasts longer than just a few secs. I have always had good luck with Sigma. I could have went out and spent $400 or $500 on a top of the line Polar… but I find information overload is the last thing I need when at or near my Vo2 max. I find having the basic functions such as ride time, current speed, average speed and maximum speed are about all I can handle while my brain is starving for oxygen. I also like the feature where the ride time stops when the bike stops moving. This gives a better idea of average speed when you have to stop at several lights while on your ride.

      Here is a question. Do you guys include your warm up time with your average speed or do you start the clock when you start all out? I never bothered waiting til after my warm up because I feared I might forget to start the computer some 6 to 10 miles later. I did however during my warm down period turn the computer off once I kne the distance from past rides on a particular rout.

      • OOPS! I meant wireless not wireledd. My brain must have been starving for oxygen.

      • Well I’m not really sporty, so I don’t really warm up, I start the average speed test from the moment I roll out the front gate and finish when I come back through the gate again and crash into the dustbins.

        However when I’m running (rare) and doing a time trial I’ll warm up for a mile, run the time trial then warm down.

      • my wireless cateye strada doesn’t work when I use my L&M seca race lights…

  3. my average speed is 100km/h. my max is about 1000km/h.

    • lol…. reminds me of Velo (wireless computer) that conveniently showed 75mph whilst I was stationary IN THE CYCLE SHOP…
      that went in the bin….

  4. Erm… nyes!

  5. Nice article. I will have to check out one of these bike cpu’s.

  6. Thanks Rock, yes it’s definitely worth getting one.

  7. Nice and concise answer to my question. The wireless computer I got for my birthday was less reliable than the ten quid job I had to replace it with when a slight tap to the sender unit caused it to disintegrate. So obviously not better in my opinion.

  8. Very interesting post, especially the two sentences quoted as follows:

    “14mph is the speed at which you begin to fight your own wind resistance.”

    “It seems to take 30mins for the body to start pulling energy from your fat reserves so you’re not really burning the fat until that point.”

    So, it appears that it would be advisable for an elderly person returning to cycling after many years(mainly to lose a bit of weight and enhance general fitness, rather than with anything like sporting ambitions) to deliberately remain below 14mph, but aim at longer rides of 45-60 minutes or more.

    In other words, avoid the really hard work so as not to tempt heart attacks etc. but enjoy more gentle rides though long ones.

    • It would be more advisable if an elderly person was concerned with their heart rate and rhythm than their average speed. so a graduated return to excercise with probably some low intensity gym stuff (more controlled enviroment). Seeing their Dr. would not be a bad idea either.

      if you get chest pain
      then you should refrain
      from pedalling too fast
      and give your GTN a blast

  9. Hi Justwilliams, I would say that makes sense. There is an argument that we have evolved to walk/move over long distances at a moderate pace, with very occasional short bursts of fast movement, generally we just walked along 40-50 miles at a time maybe, at the speed of the slowest in our group. We seem to have spent 90% of our time as what we might call modern humans being nomadic hunter gatherers, moving from place to place. I have found that I have lost the most fat – as opposed to weight – after doing very long rides at a moderate pace of 13-14mph. Short rides at over 18mph didn’t seem to help my shape at all, although it did seem to improve my ‘fitness’ and recovery time. My not inconsiderable tummy only started going when I started taking rides of 1.5-2.5 hours at a moderate pace rather than snatching a quick 20-40 mins at speed. In a way cycling is ‘too’ efficient in that you can go a long way with comparably little effort, and by that I mean comparably to, say, running. So longer distances or time riding is needed to start burning fat.

    • I used to ride solo for about 95 to 115 miles at a time averaging 19.5-20 mph. I found that it was closer to 19.5 when the ride included challenges such as big climbs or more smaller climbs. I liked the longer rides but as a resuld may have neglected shorter faster rides. That being said it would stand to reason that riding in a group should increase the average speed as one can use about 30% less energy while drafting. Assuming everyone in the group of say 5 riders is in similar shape and assuming everyone does their share drafting the group should average about 15- 20% higher speed than riding solo. In climbs as the speeds decrease this drafting advantage decreases. I usually rode solo due to my work shedule and other commitments so I never had a real chance to test myself in a race. I am curiouse as to how I would have done in a race. Do you think I could have held my own in a mid level race?

      • Yeah I reckon speedwise you’d have been fine Eric

      • Thanks for your reply. I know strategy also has a lot to do with the sport and it takes a while to develope this. One problem I had was due to my bad back I wasn’t able to ride in a tuck and breath well at the same time. That’s part of the reason I started working more on climbing. I might have done fine in the climbs but on the flat time trials or flat break aways I probably would not have done so well. I’m a bit old now to start thinking about what might have been but the thought sometimes creeps in to my head.

        Thanks again,

        Eric

  10. Thanks for that explanation. My very limited experience seems to have confirmed what you have written.
    I have taken the liberty of putting a link to your blog on mine (justwilliams.wordpress.com) and I hope that is OK with you.
    I may write a brief post on the theme that we have discussed above. I suspect that a lot of older potential cyclists may be hesitating after years of little “exercise” through fear of health issues. This sort of info ought to be made more widely available – though perhaps it needs to be verified by the medics first? It works for you and also for me but in this day and age I suppose it needs a health warning!

  11. Hello again, to be honest I think you’ll be hard pressed to give yourself a heart attack riding beyond fourteen miles an hour, you are likely to get limb fatigue and shortness of breath long before the heart rate tips over the danger level. Still, it pays to be careful. For all round fitness though, definitely go for the longer and slower rides. I’ve almost completely lost interest in my average speed, except when I’m out with the sporty riders, or I’m trying to get to work by a certain time.

    You and I are statistically more likely to suffer a heart attack, or at least heart disease from NOT exercising, we’re also statistically more likely to die or be seriously injured by being in a car than being on a bike, though often it doesn’t seem that way.

    I’ve just had a read of your blog and greatly enjoyed it, I’d be delighted if you linked to me and will do the same for you as soon as I get onto my revamp of my blogroll.

    Thank you very much for reading and for your comments.

    Keep those pedals turning.

  12. Thanks again, and especially for the tip about reducing the “not inconsiderable tummy”!

    Don’t encourage me too much though – you might find me cycling into Highway (from Cardiff). In fact we nearly moved to Corsham recently but chose Cardiff instead for family reasons.

    Have just brightened up my blog and look forward to future discussions with you.

    Thanks again.

  13. Enjoyed the post, after a long time now of trawling the cycle/bike forums, the pieces of the jigsaw are, at last, coming together. Thanks.

  14. Hi just a quick comment-
    I used to ride with John 10 or so years ago when he had a Rock Lobster mountain bike!
    He was fast enough to turn pro! a real warp speed average on the rough!
    I spoke to John in Frome recently and passed him (In my car) at Hilperton and gave him a wave- so he will remember me!
    I hope to join you all for a ride in the near future when my waistline has reduced!
    Good luck
    James

  15. Thanks for your very informative average speed info. I have just started using a road bike very recently, after 5 years of regular cycling on a very heavy Decathlon MTB. The road bike has a speedo, so I was curious to find out if my average speed was acceptable or not. Hence, I Googled that & found your site. Nice site BTW.
    I am lucky enough to live now in a quiet part of Dumfriesshire, about 5 miles or so from where old Kirkpatrick McMillan decided it would be a hoot to put some pedals on his push-a-long. I am also lucky enough to be able to work at home, but still manage to cycle to work most mornings. I leave the house every morning just after my 2 kids have left for school at 8.30. I then do a 6.75 mile circuit – from where I live, through the nearest village, along to the next small hamlet, over the bridge (stop for a quick swig of water), then back home along the back road (that’s what it’s called, honest.) I do this route whenever I am working, regardless of the weather. It’s a good time to get your work head on & empty your brain of the domestic. The rain isn’t too bad – I have good waterproofs…the wind however, can be cruel and knackering. And the timber lorries don’t take any prisoners – you just have to stop & get off the road.
    Since I got the road bike, I am going considerably faster – partly because it’s easier to cycle (much lighter & with hard skinny little yellow tyres), but also because it makes you want to GO faster….it’s a much more thrilling ride. Put it this way, on the mountain bike, I never really felt like I was going fast enough to wear a helmet, but after one trip out on the road bike, the first thing I did was go out & buy one. It feels like it could really hurt if you fell off this thing, as it whizzes along the (mainly empty) roads.
    As far as average speeds go, I think I’m Ok for a 46 year old bloke who smokes & drinks…I am at about 14.9 – 15.5 at the moment, but hope to improve on that as I cycle more…..(and cut out the fags).
    Your point about the speed is so important – on the mountain bike (which didn’t have a speedo), I don’t think I ever got fast enough for it to break that 14mph barrier, beyond which, you say, you are fighting your wind resistance. All I know, is I get to work a hell of a lot quicker than I ever did before, but when I come in, I am sweating like a bastard and panting like a butcher’s dog. I really feel that it’s doing me some good. I kind of wish I’d got a road bike years ago…

  16. Awesome thanks for the information!

  17. I am training for a charity bike ride in Jordan (desert and mountains) in October. I have a road bike narrow wheels and live in a valley so most of my routes have to go up at the start. We will be riding 60km min a day and i wondered what sort of training schedule you oh wise one would suggest – At the mo i ride a min of 10km a day trying to get average speed up varies between 14 and 25 km an hour. but try two days out of six to do a 30 k ride – don’t seem to be getting fitter. If the weather is bad i try to do some general fitness training in the house, i have a stepper – can you suggest a good way to build my self up so i can beat this challenge ???

    • Hi Jackie

      Wise one? My wife would disagree.

      Thanks for your question. It depends on what you mean by fitter. If you are judging fitness by weight, then the riding you are doing, short rides at speed, will build up muscle, you will certainly get fitter as your body learns to burn the calories you eat. But you may come back from rides starving hungry and eat loads then. The shorter faster rides use the food calories and muscle is heavier than fat, it’s a slower but more complete path to fitness and it requires changes in diet etc.

      If, however you do longer, slower rides, after 30 mins of riding your body will start using fat, keep it around 12-14mph max and ride for a long, long time. I recommend swapping it round and trying to ride longer and slower more regularly, then ride fast and short every once in a while. You will then feel fitter quicker and if that’s what you want, you’ll lose some weight.

      On the other hand, if you’re judging fitness, by recovery time or how long you can go at top whack, then I recommend a bit of cross training and build up ‘the core’ look up exercises like ‘The Plank’ online, Bicycling has some good resources:

      http://www.bicycling.com/article/0,6610,s1-4-20-17961-1,00.html

      By building up the core, you just get fitter all round. It aids recovery and allows you to go longer. Essentially, the core is your powerhouse.

      Good luck, let us know how you get on.

      Thanks for reading.

  18. i would like to confirm some statements made by various people on this site ,i have riden bikes most of my life (now 43)not taken it seriously though until i purchased a road bike this year im now looking to develope and progress my fitness (i actually like hills )i have most of the gear and cycle a 15 mile route twice a week (i wish i could do more )my average is 15mph but does contain some fairly steep hills when i looked at my data i thought i was slow but reading your notes its comforting to know that im probably average i must say i agree with the blog that stated the use of a helmet as the road bikes are much faster for what its worth as long as you enjoy it its a great way to improve yourself in terms mental and pysical wellbeing

  19. What about women? Are their speeds significantly different? This post completely ignored half the riders on the road.

    • Hi Serena

      Thanks for your comment. I don’t think there is any difference for women. Here’s my reasoning, the bicycle is a marvelously efficient machine and the laws of physics apply without prejudice to men and women alike. The 14mph barrier (the point at which you are first pushing hardest against the air itself) is the same for men and women. I suppose there may be some difference in stamina and therefore the length of time the two genders can ride for, but this isn’t really what the post is about. From the information I’ve seen online, top British athlete (and possibly the best cyclist the UK has ever produced) Nicole Cooke rides at an average speed of 25-30mph in a race (source Times UK), which compares very favourably with the last (men’s) Tour De France where the winner’s average speed was 25.1mph (source bikeraceinfo.com). So I make no distinction between male and female here. Having said that, this is a work in progress, so if you think differently let me know.

      What do you think?

      Thanks for reading Serena

      David

  20. I’ve always cycled (don’t drive)and fell into that classic 40 something urge to get a decent bike.
    I started doing regular 20-30-40 mile rides at a fair old lick (by my standards) averaging 17-20 MPH, but…
    I was getting really crappy side effects of what was in effect going out too hard. sort of hangover headaches and tiredness.
    Anyhow, i started leaving my speedo at home and enjoyed my riding much more. By comparison I did a big tour across france and our averages rose from 11mph early on to about 14MPH by the end of it.

    Now apart from my commute, I just ride for pleasure, but try to do 30+ miles and go out for 2+ hours weekly.

    • Ah Doc, good to see you here. Impressive riding, far better than my own meager weekly efforts.

  21. Hey, nice article. I am thinking of cycling a 100mile trip from Bristol to Milton Keynes at some point soon. Anyway- I am hoping it will take me around 8 hours, thats at about 13mph. Normally i sprint on my road bike to work which is a mere 2.5 miles.
    How much training to you think would be appropriate to complete this mission?
    Also any tips for long journeys ie to combat aches, pains and rubs etc

    cheers

    • Hi Tommy

      Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment.

      I think regular stretching is quite good, get off every now and again. In terms of rubbing, you can’t go wrong with a good pair of padded cycling shorts. Sure you’ll walk like you’ve got a small nappy on, but it will make it much more comfortable. Also, good shorts don’t have seams where they would rub. I wear padded lycra shorts, but then to avoid scaring the horses, I put a pair of plus fours over the top. That also gives you some pockets. Keep it lightweight on top, I love a thin merino wool top, then usually just my hi-viz vest (with more pockets) sit upright every now and again, ride with one hand on the bars and your back straight for half a mile before returning to your sprint profile.

      Anyone else have any advice for Tommy?

  22. Hello I live in Montreal Quebec, Canada. I started cycling seriously at the age of 32 I’m now 38 wish I had started at 20, anyway I love it. I bike to work 8 months out of 12 because of snow. I bought a performance hybrid at first and rode that for 5 years doing minimum 3125 miles per year, now this year I bought a giant tcr for 3k under 18lbs, wow I fell in love with biking all over again, the ride all carbon frame comfort of the drop handle bars instead of just straight, what a world of difference and fast, i’m going 3.125 miles per hour now minimum, which is huge and faster up hills by 2mph again huge.

    So if you love biking, by the best you can afford which is a minimum of 2k for a carbon fibre, but it is worth every single dime.

    Dustin

  23. I mean my going cruising speed is between 21.875 and 25 mph.On the flats with no wind, averages are not accurate at all because you have to stop all the time and that brings your average ( on the computer) way down. When you are biking normally at your cruising speed, that is what counts, like in a velodrome or a country road where there are no stops.

    good riding.
    Dustin

    • Help! How do you measure average speed? I measure it by what the computer says on my commute (18 miles into/out of central London to the Chiltern Hills). It reads 15.5 mph usually, but I’m constantly start-stopping. (I’m using a carbon cyclocross bike with fat-38mm slicks @ 85psi).

      Between lights and all that, I hover around the 19-21 mph mark, once sped up.

      Which is my average, to compare with what you’re saying? I always assume it’s including stops and starts.

  24. On the subject of average MTB speed. I ride to work mixing routes with road and mountain 18 miles each day. 30 minutes each way morning and night, 5 dys a week. I weigh 220lb, or 100Kg. I follow your principles for increasing speed but would add one more tip… “Aero bars”. Hunkering down ups the speed 2-3 mph. I’ll average now about 24.5 mph over 10 miles and last time 21.2 mph over 40 miles on a roughly flat terrain. Pumped tires (60psi) and locked suspension is the key to keeping up with the racing bikes.

  25. I’m 57 and I’ve just started cycling (6 weeks now) after ten years as a masters track athlete, so I have a good fitness base.
    It’s a fantastic pastime/sport and I have been doing some smaller rides but one weekly 60kms return ride before breakfast to get some “cycling legs” happening. Pleasingly I’m up to just over 15 mph for 2.5 hours trip, but since much of this is shared (with pedestrians)bike path it would be closer 17mph on the road.
    My bike has narrow tyres but straight bars that I’m comfortable with.
    My aim is to approach 30 kph (18.7 mph) for this 60 km ride within 6 months. It’s a fairly flat course but does have some difficult winds at times being near the seafront.
    Again, I know running 100m at 13 seconds at my age is good, but I have no idea how these cycling figures compare on an age basis.
    Considering my age and meagre (6-7 weeks) riding experience do you have any ideas? thanks

    • Hi Stevecro

      I’ve no real input on the age issue, but 15-17mph over 2.5 hours is pretty good for anyone I reckon. With your strong base of fitness I would say that you have a good chance of making the 18.7 mph you are striving for. I’m not an athlete though, and that’s quite an athletic pace you’re setting yourself (from my point of view). If you’re going to go for a fast time then maybe things like tri-bars and tuck positioning will help eke out the extra pace – especially if it’s windy. Maybe even moving your hands closer to the stem if you don’t want to change your bars. Does anyone else have any view on pace for slightly older riders?

  26. NO BODY WANTS TO KNOW ABOUT BYCYCLING COME ON!!!
    MAKE A BETTER WEBSITE!!

    • Um thanks for your input – but er… why did you come here?

    • My guessing is she’s fat and depressed about her weight, coming here for cycling fitness tips only to be confronted with numbers and success stories. Back to the couch love, we don’t need you here.

      My story is I have a Raleigh u6x Cyclo Cross, I do a 32.8m journey to University and back 3 days a week, and do 20m sprints to go to the gym/see my brother and his newborn(located quite close to one another). My only gripe is that I am MUCH fitter, but I have had to double my weight work so I don’t lose muscle mass. Cycling is an amazing workout, and thanks to your blog I am going to get interested and buy a cycling computer. I’d like to know the stats behind my cycling!

      Note: When I started cycling I had a slight podge (beer belly) that I couldn’t shift through the gym. Since I bought my bike I’ve literally turned into an ironing board and I am saving over £200 a month in car insurance / train tickets.

      For all of the people who found this blog and want to use a bicycle to enhance fitness, listen to the blogger and do LONG slow journeys to lose weight, and use the sprints to get fitter. You could also interval-train to get the best of both worlds. I’ll post back with my averages!

  27. [...] I’m guessing there’s 2 factors – the time it would take (can I ride for that long), and could I output the right amount of energy (really coming down to – what would my average speed on a road bike be compared to my mountain bike if I put in the same amount of effort).   And so I started looking up the average speed for mountain bikes versus road bikes.  Of course there is no real definitive answer, but “people” seem to think it could add at least 5-10 km/h for the same effort (eg. http://highwaycyclinggroup.wordpress.com/the-average-speed-page-how-to-find-your-average-speed-what-…).   [...]

  28. I came to this blog 6 months ago because I wanted to know how to compare my ride to a ‘norm’ of some description. There are a a lot of norms out there, so I’ll write mine. But also, I want to outline what I think impacts average speed and stamina.

    First of all, 6 months ago I was a smoker who had not exercised for 10 years, and I cycle about 120 miles a week. I’m male aged 38 with a cyclocross bike (with road slicks on), and weigh 205lbs. In my club, I more than keep up — I can give the old hands a run for their money, but my club leans more towards social than competitive.

    1. OFFROAD vs ONROAD
    I can see that I burn 50 calories/mile on road, and 90 calories on (nice) dirk tracks. That means that tracks are nearly twice as hard. 20 miles on track is 40 miles on road.

    2. GOOD ASPHALT vs ROUGH ASPHALT
    I am pushed to do 13 mph on the rough surfaced roads close to my parents (in UK). However, the same effort gives me 21 mph on the smooth surfaces I found in New England.

    3. HILLINESS vs FLAT RIDE
    Going uphill adds more time to a ride than the downhill after gives back. e.g., A 1-mile uphill at 4% might be at 7mph and take 8.6 minutes; the downhill might be at 30mph and take 2 minutes. Total = 10.6 minutes or average speed 11.3mph. However, 2 miles on the flat at 18mph would take 6.7 minutes.

    4. TIRES
    I experienced a 2mph average speed boost when I moved from Specialized Armadillo 32mm tires at 60psi to Continental 25mm tires at 110psi.

    5. RIDING WITH OTHERS
    On my Sunday morning club ride, I average about 2mph more than when on my own. Riding with others is motivational. However, I hurt every single Monday.

    6. LENGTH
    There is a tradeoff between riding fast and riding long. I can keep 21-22mph on the flat and typical UK road for about 20 miles; but more than an hour in the saddle, and 15-17mph will become my average. A 100-miles in Worcester, MA last week (my first ever century), took me 7 hours (av 14mph) in the saddle.

    7. TRAFFIC and JUNCTIONS
    There’s an entirely different world when you’re cruising nicely and you glance at your computer and it says 24mph; and actually calculating average speed based on when you left and arrived and the miles in between (or using a cycle computer). Junctions and the like, traffic, getting lost, red lights — they all impact speed somewhat.
    My commute into London is 17.8 miles, and I’m going for it, and yet I rarely do better than 15mph average.


    I don’t know where these people get speeds of 23+ mph average. My opinion is that they are measuring on contrived conditions, such as a closed road, or a track, or in race conditions, or perhaps in the back-end of Arizona.

    In the 2009 Tour de France, the winners’ average speed was 25mph. He was in a pelaton for much of it, on a top end bike and in extreme top condition on well surfaced closed roads.
    (http://bikeraceinfo.com/tdf/tdfstats.html)

    • Thanks Justin – that’s a really fascinating addition to this page. Lots to think about there, and I really appreciate the amount of investigation and depth of information you’ve produced here. I can see that soon I’m going to have to update the information in my page with the input from everyone else.

      Thanks for reading, and thanks again for taking the time to share your findings – especially the difference the tires/tyres made to your riding – 2mph is a major increase for dropping 7mm of rubber, that’s worth knowing!

  29. Interesting page.

    I’m 50, have no sporting history, work sat at a desk most of the day and started cycling about 6 months ago just to try and get some degree of fitness into my lifestyle.

    Overall I find I’m averaging about 11.5 mph across the various routes I cycle. The routes typically range between 6 and 15 miles across moderately rolling countryside. I’m riding trek 7.2 FX hybrid with 35mm? (700×35) tyres. It weighs about 28lbs or so. I’m also cycling in my normal clothes – which I guess doesn’t help my wind resistance on the downhill bits :)

    • Hi Mike

      Looking through people’s comments here and the information on the page – it sounds like you have a couple of easy wins that will immediately improve your speed.

      Get thinner tyres and pump ‘em right up – you should see a marked improvement, you can afford to go down to 700×25 depending on the rims of your wheel.

      Thanks very much for reading, and for commenting.

  30. I found this information very useful. I use Cardio Trainer an app for my Motorola Droid. It is very useful and gives me statistics including gps and a graph of the minutes of my workout (as an x axis), and speed in mph or kph (as a y axis). Maybe this helps, have fun riding!

  31. Hi, cheers for a great site. I am fairly new to cycling, about a year now. I would agree with the tips and advice here. Pumping up the tyres and big whhels and slick tyres make a huge difference, as did losing three stone. I am regularly cycling to work on a Friday about 15 miles each way on the tow path, I can do now that under an hour. I started on an old basic MTB but now ride a more funky hybrid. Thanks also for the route and the tips. It goes past my front door, so I will give it a go and let you now how I get on, watch out for me puffing up the hill into rode.

    • Hi Ian. That’s all great to hear, three stone lost? Wow! I wish I could manage that. Great also to hear that you are local to me. That hill, when it’s at the end of the route, is a killer, even though it’s not steep.

  32. i got no help

    • Sorry lug, what were you looking to find out?

  33. I am just happy I can now hang onto the group I ride with. I got use to being dropped or someone dropping off with me to help shield the wind. I started out a little over a year ago and could barely do 3 miles at 12 mph. That was my top speed and I sucked wind the whole way. I still suck wind but I can now hang with them or onto them at the 19-24mph speeds they travel.

  34. I’m an obese (not for much longer yay!) guy that has been riding for about 5 months now to get back into shape. When I first started out I was riding an old junker bike with mountain bike tires I had from my college days and I was struggling to maintain 12-13 mph for a simple 10-15 mile ride. As I started to lose weight and become more interested in cycling as a hobby, I decided to buy a new Specialized fitness bike that seemed like a cheaper solution for fitness than spending $1,500 on a decent road bike. It’s very light and has solid road bike wheels so I’m generally pleased with this bike, and I now can finish complete bike trails of 30-40 miles in around 2-3 hours.

    My only problem is getting lapped and passed by road bikers all day. Little frustrating for a competitive guy even if I’m not in tip-top shape yet. I’m still only averaging around 14 mph (I’ve tried a number of different gears and cadences) and I feel like I should be going 15-16 mph at least as I have increased in overall fitness. I just tuned up my bike but haven’t had a chance to ride it yet so I don’t know if my bike’s condition (I love riding in the rain so there was some grime and my tires were a little low) had something to do with my lagging speeds, but I will know shortly. My rides have generally increased in distance but not in average speed. Any suggestions? Should I crosstrain with jogging or do sprints on my bike for shorter distances? My nutrition ratios are pretty solid, and I try to eat the right foods before my bike rides for optimal energy. I’ve also started experimenting with energy bars to give a little more oomph to the 2nd half of my rides but I haven’t seen solid results yet.

    • Here’s what I did faced with the same problem:
      1) measure your heart rate and try to keep the rate above a certain level (eg 140+). You might be getting lazier as you get fitter.
      2) find a club and join their Sunday club run. Ring them first and tell them you’re averaging 14mph and they may well have a group for you. I find that on club runs, I average 2 mph faster than when on my own, because of pure motivation. This is still true.
      3) when on my own, I use a course on a Garmin 705 where I set the target speed and chase it. It great motivation if you’re on your own, though the cost is high for the kit itself.

  35. It sounds like you’re doing all the right things, a bit of crosstraining wouldn’t go amiss though. How about some pilates or similar exercises to improve core strength, that will enable you to go faster for longer.

    Look up ‘The Plank’ online (and make sure you’re looking at the floor exercise for building core strength, rather than the classic Eric Sykes comedy film – but actually watch that too).

    I think you’ve just got to keep at it, to begin with people often find they make a big improvement quickly, and then plateau, you haven’t really plateaued, you’re still eating away at that average speed, just incrementally.

    Finally, clean that chain and pump those tyres right up to max pressure – it’s amazing what a difference that makes, and get the tyres as thin as you dare – you want to be running at least 23s for speed, but you can get thinner.

    Good luck – let us know how you get on.

  36. An elliptical trainer is often referred to as a cross trainer. This is an exercise machine that mimics walking and run without pressure on joints. This machine eliminates impact injuries.

  37. I have only just started riding a week ago. More for health reason than anything else, I am a 38 year old man who hasnt ever exercised in my life. I am 5ft 5inch and weigh 17st or 238 lb. I am using a Mountain bike with big ol mountain bike tyres pumped up to 60psi, the bike has front suspension not locked. I am riding a 10 mile circuit at the moment which consists on normal road with some hill climbs and canal paths with varyiong tar and dirt tracks. I have just come back from a ride today 10.2 miles and an average of 9.9 miles an hour, I dont have a bike computer but I use an app on my iphone called “runtastic” which uses gps in the phone and gives me average speed, total distance, and my top speed.

    When I got home today I was totally knackered, and my head was pounding, I gave it everything. So to me 14mph average on a mountain looks way out of my league, I cant afford a new bike at the moment and just wondered if it is for health and weight loss, should I forget the average speed, and just try to build up the distance of the ride.

    Many thanks for any help in advance.

    • Hi Wanna32 – I would definitely go for distance and therefore length of time – it’ll take maybe an hour or so to start burning fat at below 14mph, but if you build up the distance you’ll start to gain speed naturally as your fitness improves. I guess I average about 12mph on my mountain bike which now has a rack and slicks. But I ride for two and a half hours at a time. Good luck – let us know how you get on, and thank you for reading.

    • Hi wanna32,

      I was kinda similar to you and when I started I was thinking 11-12 mph average was a workout. Now, 3 years later I reckon to average 16-17 mph.

      Even now if I leave riding for a few months, I lose 3-4 mph on the average speed. But it only takes 4 rides or so to start getting back. It takes time, but the use the runtastic app to constantly try to better your last fastest time.

      Before you know it, you’ll be 2-3mph faster and not even knackered, and you’ll pop back to this post and justly feel proud.

      One thing though. Do clean your chain before each ride. It really helps.

      • Thanks for the replies, I am very unfit, but feel better after each ride. I will take the advice on aboard and hope to post back with quicker times in the future.
        Thanks again.

    • I am 59 and was 17 stone. I started cycling again just over a year ago. I started using my old raleigh hybrid,I mean old at least 20 years. I remember the first time I went out even a gentle uphill was a strain at 8mph. That gentle uphill I can now do at well over 15mph if I push myself so keep going it’ll get better.

      I struggle to understand average speeds. I have a 17 mile circuit which is up and down hill, I mean real hills, this I can now do at about 15mph on average.

      I tend to find though that 13mph is about my average including stops but I can go for quite some time at speeds a lot higher higher than that.

      I now have a mountain bike and find it slows me down by about 2mph on road at an easy pace. Noway can I match the high speeds of my road bike, partly because the gears don’t let me but mainly because of the tyres. So don’t feel put out if a road bike passes you on your mountain bike.

      I don’t give it everything as my rides all tend to be in the region of 30 miles plus and I like to get round.

  38. That’s a good article. I own a pure mountain bike and use it on the road. I average 19mph on a 27 mile circuit I do a couple times a week for the past month. Would I be any good if I tried road racing?

    • Hi Andrew, I’d say yes! If you’re averaging 19mph on a mountain bike over 27 miles then you would find cruising at 22mph plus on a road bike very easy! Go for it.

    • Andrew. Most pretty good club riders on good road bikes in groups don’t achieve 19mph average. If you’re achieving 19mph average on a mountain bike as an average on a circular route, then you must be in the top 1% of riders and should really consider expanding. Was the course definitely a circuit and not with a net downhill.
      My club does a 10mile time trial, and most reckon that 30minutes is good. That’s 20mph average on a short distance. No one to my knowledge has beaten 26 minutes without being on a time trial bike. (the record on the whole course is 21minutes, which is about 27mph, and that was the top guy on a TT bike).

      • Thanks. The route starts off with a huge downhill, levels off and follows a river. Cross a bridge then some up and downhill cross back to the other side and the last bit is all uphill. No reall dramatic elevation change though.

  39. Jeminar – thanks for your fantastic and constructive comments. All really useful. Thank you very much for reading and adding to the discussion.

  40. I use a mountain bike and found the posts about speed very interesting.
    The fastest the speedo on my bike reached was 68 mph on the Perth to Glasgow road. But that was only because my bike rack fell off and dragged it along behind my car!

    (I always use a locking cable to hold it all on just in case)
    Graham Forbes

  41. I’ve always preferred to use the wireless cycle computers they are much better, I got my cateye one from http://www.cyclexpress.co.uk and its great!

  42. Good article, the one thing that I came away with was “eat less and ride more.”
    Brilliant, direct and simple. Me talking about going faster and looking at the technical side and setup, and not sorting out the monster on top of the bike.

    Cheers

  43. [...] Average urban bicycling speeds: 14-16 km/h [...]

  44. I am a seventeen year old girl who does cross country as a primary sport. I’ve always loved biking, so I got a cross bike this year that I plan to do cross and road races on. I’m in the middle of track season, but get the chance to go on an hour long bike ride about once a week. My average speed for a medium-hard effort is about 18-19 mph although that accounts for going around pedestrians, etc. Is that a good speed for a beginner/ should I train more or just jump into racing?
    Thanks!

    • Hi Maia,

      I think that’s a great average speed for a beginner. Racing is more than the speed, and I guess the only way to learn is jump right in. Having done a couple of *sort of* races, particularly distance, I would say the best advice is not t get caught up with speed at the start. People will set off very excited and very strongly, and every sportive or long timed ride I’ve done has seen a fast start, followed by the field collapsing when people who gave too much at the start lose all their energy. That said, if it’s the average speed you want to focus on, then time-trailing could be more your thing.

      What ever you choose to do, good luck, and thank you for visiting the blog and commenting.

      David

  45. [...] across a neat little article regarding “average speed” and I liked it. So here it is: CLICK HERE. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  46. Probably somebody has commented this already but I will add this anyway.

    I like all the things you said and I agree but I also wanted to know about the clipless/clip pedals. I’ve been riding my bike for about 2years now but I don’t see myself improving in my speed. Well I kinda lied.

    So for my first year of riding I didn’t know too much about road bikes so I bought a bike that is way smaller frame size then the one I was supposed to buy. (I bought it cheap used) Bike it’s self was built in 1980s and I’d say it is perfectly fine other than size. I was going around average speed of 15mph. I was disappointed so I trained about 3times a week going for 30mile rides. Still no improvements.

    My second year I bought a mid range decent bike i’d say. It’s still a starter bike for road racer but… (Allez Specialized) This time I bought the size that fits me. It took about a week until I get used to the bike but my average speed went from 15mph to 17mph. I was happy but still not satisfied. I worked out more doing my same work out schedule as last bike. I got it up to 18mph but that’s only if I really push myself. I forgot to mention but I don’t have any clip on my pedal for my first or second bike. it’s a plan flat pedal.

    I joined the university cycling club recently and joined their ride. omg I cannot keep up with them. I believe they are going around 21-23mph solo, not in a group. I just don’t understand I been training for 2years or I guess you can call it a year. But either way I still can’t keep up with these people. Especially hills, they can sit and climb, I have to stand ride for about 2mins. They all have clips on their pedals. I’m just curious if that’s what is making a huge difference. Or is it just me that I’m not pushing myself hard enough. Just to let you know when I come back from every ride my legs are really packed because I try to push myself really hard. Sometimes I push myself a little too hard I don’t have enough energy to push myself the last 1/3 of the route. I would really like to know what I am doing wrong and some advice please.

    Thank you

  47. @Roy. You’re doing OK by the sound of it. Hills are about fitness and experience, so your university clubmates will have that on you too.
    But your main question is about pedals.

    I personally think cleats are worth about 1 mph on the flat; and longevity on the hills. (I give my reasons below). Most people I know prefer mountain bike SPD shoes and cleats, because they are easier to get into after the lights, even for dedicated highway use; though this is more of a personal decision than anything else. I personally use XTs on all my bikes whether they are race, CX, hybrid or mountain. I also use mountain bike shoes (specifically Specialized Carbon Expert, which are very popular) with some tread on them. This is simply because if you are pulling away from the lights with a group or a car behind, and miss on recleating, a stud or tread will catch it and you can at least get across the lights into safety before faffing around recleating.

    This is why — for me personally — I think cleats make a big difference, and are my #2 recommendation to go faster after thin hard tyres.

    1. On the flat (on seat): a cleat ensures that the pedal remains in the correct part of your foot. This maximises efficiency, and also keeps your overall structure of your legs and through your knees steady so that you can get the overall fit perfect, which in turn reduces fatigue and potential knee damage.
    2. In headwinds and slight hills where you need an extra 10% (on seat): you can start applying force on the pedal for a much greater share of the stroke. When you need an extra little help, you can actually start the stroke at the top with a “kick forwards” push; and at bottom of the stroke with a “kick backwards” push. I personally don’t find this sustainable, but it gives a little boost when you suddenly turn a corner into a headwind, meet a small hill, or fall off the back of a group.
    3. Up hills (sitting): If you ever find yourself going to a steep hill in a low gear accelerating on each power stoke, and feeling that you keep slowing between strokes, then being attached to your pedals will allow you to keep power throughout the stroke and maintain a constant speed. On average, this constant speed technique is faster than only pushing on the down stroke.
    4. Up hills (standing): with cleats, you can use other muscles in your legs to pull upwards on the upstroke. These muscles, if you’re not a cleats user, will be weak to start with, but with training, these muscles will be fresh and strong and will accelerate you up the hill up and over the top, way ahead of others, and with the added bonus that your normal cycling legs will not be quite so exhausted from the climb, allowing you to quickly get back to cruising speed as the hill starts to level out.

    None of the above techniques would be possible without cleats, and it’s the best £150 you’ll spend. Bang for buck, it’s better than upgrading groupsets, replacing wheels or anything else I could see £150 spent on.

    Just be sure to get shoes that fit you very well. Don’t feel embarrassed to spend a whole afternoon in a big bike shop with a lot of choice, getting this right.

  48. Good info best plan as advised is to eat less & try to push harder, weight to power ratio is the key to success.

  49. I have an old Giant Acapulco and I ride downhill and up hill in Cheyenne Wyoming. My goal is to ride to granite resoviour . I ride around town at 20 miles no problem I just wonder if the gradual cling to granit will kill me. It’s only 26 miles from me. I always ride with at least 10 pounds on my back.


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