One of the frequently asked questions in the cycling world is what is the average cycling speed. This question is frequently asked by beginners who want to gauge and understand their riding progress. Understanding your average riding speed is important as it helps you know your fitness levels, understand your bike performance, and encourage you to improve your cycling speed if you aim to be a cyclist above the average or be a professional. Your riding speed can vary depending on some factors. For example, when you are riding down a paved hill, your speed may escalate up to about 22mph, while the speed may decrease when climbing steep or rough places.
Mostly, riders are categorized according to their cycling speed as it is a clear way to show their riding experience, age is also considered, but it is not as crucial as the number of years a rider has been cycling. There are different speed categories that are mainly used to group riders:
When you decide to purchase and cycle your first bike, you feel excited to push your speed limits and ride like a pro. However, it is important to ride at a comfortable speed as you start and increase gradually as you gain momentum. So, what’s the average speed of a beginner? Most beginners ride at a standard speed of 12-14 mph on the road. But the average speed is different for people who were once runners or athletes since they have a higher endurance level than a person who is freshly starting. They can speed to an average of 15-18 mph or more depending on the duration they took off the previous activity.
Regardless of your current average speed as a beginner, it is bound to increase as you continue riding and gaining fitness. The average speed of any beginner or professional may vary depending on several factors such as weight, age, fitness level, the type of road you ride on, quality of the bicycle, and many more.
Intermediaries are riders with average biking skills. They may not ride in races and as a sport, but they do it once in a while to keep fit or as a hobby. Their riding speed is higher than the beginners since they have more experience on the bike than the beginners and are more confident. Their average riding speed may vary from 15-18 mph. But also has the advantage of increasing their average speed with time.
The sight of pro riders whizzing past you like a flash as you watch them can be mind-blowing. However, it is hard to measure the rate at which they are riding from afar distance as they always maintain a very high speed. Their ability to move fast does not mean that their speed is not affected by factors that seem to affect other riders of different levels. Their speed is also affected, but the training they do acts in their favor. As a professional rider, you are required to keep your body active through regular riding so that you can gain the momentum needed in races. On flat grounds, pro rider speed is between 25 to 28 mph, while ascending the mountain terrains, a professional can easily do 21 to 25 mph.
Factors Affecting the Average Cycling Speed
If you live in a region with fewer hills and they are far between, your average riding speed may vary from a person who lives in a region where the hills are closer to each other. Someone riding at about 20 mph on a flat surface may have a different experience while riding on a hilly surface.
In other places, hills may not be an issue, but other natural occurrences like the wind are. Some areas are exposed to extreme wind, which may affect the speed of a rider. Most cyclists pedal harder when battling a headwind, thus reducing their average speed while enjoying the tailwind’s advantage.
Though there is a saying, “It’s not about the bike.” Unfortunately for many beginners, the type of bike is a big factor. A road bike that has drop handlebars and skinny tyres may go faster than a hybrid bike with bulk tyres or a mountain bike made for off-road biking. The weight of the frame and the cassette on the bike may hugely affect your cycling speed, carbon fibre bikes are said to be lighter, thus increasing the cycling speed by 5-10% than bikes made from other materials. Having a quality cassette set can greatly influence the speed at which you cycle.
Your average cycling speed to an extent varies with the distance covered. When you ride for less than one hour or a short distance, you will record a slightly lower average speed because the first bit of riding is slower as your body warms up and gets the energy needed for the journey.
Riding between one hour and two hours is recorded to have the greatest overall speed, while longer rides record a decrease in the average speed as fatigue plays a major part.
The rider’s age is crucial. However, the age is not as crucial as the number of years of experience the cyclist has been riding. Typically, the more years of cycling, the more the rider’s endurance and aerobic fitness. Thus the average speed by age is influenced by the rider’s past and current fitness levels.
Older cyclists usually record less speed in fast sprints or rides on hills, but on the other hand, they are good at retaining a steady speed over extensive distances. Grouping average speed using the age brackets of riders is not advised.
Riding in a group(pace-riding) has very remarkable benefits. The average cycling speed of an individual is said to increase by 20-30% when riding in a group since you find yourself experiencing less wind resistance than when riding solo.
How to increase your average cycling speed
Riding is all about pedaling. It is the mechanic behind bike balancing and speed. But the fact is that experienced riders peddle more than beginners and it all goes down to riders’ fitness, confidence, and ability to pursue the road ahead while on the bike, which can only be achieved through consistent riding.
Understanding when to pedal is crucial, as there is no point in meeting a red traffic light on the road, and you are forced to stop then start again while you would have timed the red traffic light and ride with little effort.
Another obvious technique to improve your average cycling speed is reducing brakes as you ride. For beginners, this might be hard to do, but as you grow your experience, you also grow your braking and road reading techniques.
For example, when on an undulating road, a speedy descent will create more momentum to aid you in riding up the next hill. Gauge it well, and you might ride without the use of brakes or reducing your gear to a lower chainring when you reach the next ridge. Also, learning to take corners when at high speed increases your average speed too.
Cycling in a group can be an assured way to increase your average speed. When riding with other riders, you are motivated to keep up, so if you start to flag off, you will be forced to hang in and keep riding.
The major benefit of team riding is slipstreaming(drafting). Drafting is the art of sitting behind another rider to gain an aerodynamic advantage. The rider in front pushes the air like a ship in the sea, making away or a slipstream for the riders who are behind so that they can ride through with less stress of fighting the wind. It is estimated that a cyclist can save about 40% of the energy required to cycle upfront when riding in a group.
Cycling clubs are great places to find fellow cyclists. Most cycling clubs organize group rides that have different speeds, and you are required to pick a group that suits you so that you can keep up with speed and grow your experience.
Your Cadence rate
Pedaling more can help you ride faster, but it may bring a strain on your muscles at the beginning. As you get more experience in riding, pedaling fast becomes less tiring. Cadence is the rate at which a rider pedals per minute. It’s the number of Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) of the crankset, and it has a constant ratio to wheel speed.
One of the factors that affect your capability to maintain a higher cadence rate is your fitness level. As you become more fatigued, you are likely to change to smaller gear since they have lower cadence. This can be said to be a “survival mechanism” as it aids in preserving energy, but it also adds stress to your lower back, knees, and hips.
To maintain a good cadence rate and avoid pains that may be brought by stressing your body part, it is recommended to have consistent training throughout the week and have a long ride during the weekend. By doing this, you improve your cadence rate and improve your confidence on the roads and increase your experience.
Then what is the right cadence? Riders are different, but targeting around 90 RPM(Revolutions Per Minute) is a good rate for most riders. Beginners can easily cycle at around 60 – 80 RPM, while intermediaries and professional cyclists can pedal anywhere between 90 -110 RPM.
Cycling at a high cadence of about 80 – 90 RPM gives the heart and lungs more stress but less pressure on your legs and back. Cycling at a lower cadence typically means that you are putting more energy on the pedals so as to turn the cranks around and in turn, put more pressure on your hips, back and knees. This results in delayed leg fatigue and increases your cardiovascular fitness, meaning you can maintain a pace for a long time.
Use your Bike gears more
Using your gear poorly can lower your average speed. If you spin before changing up the gear or grind at a low gear as you start to climb, you will always use more effort and energy than if you set your right gear for the terrain.
One of the gear techniques is understanding your bike gear system and its capabilities and the ability to read the road to prepare for what is ahead. This can help you improve your average speed without the use of more energy and effort.
When on a long-distance ride, it is easy to lower your pace if you have just cycled up a hill to ease off a little bit so as to recover. A riding computer will aid you in keeping an eye on average speed as soon as it starts to drop.
Just having a display of your current average speed will encourage you to up your game.
Upgrade your tyres
We have focused on low-cost ways to increase our average speed, but there are little changes to your bike that can make a huge difference in your average speed.
Tubeless tyres are one of the latest fastest tyres. Faster tyres are remarkably effective and cost-saving. Running a tubeless tyre has been recorded to be more efficient than running a tube tyre because of the reduction of friction between the tyre and the inner tube.
Another important technique to improve your average speed is to keep your tyres under the right pressure. The right pressure for your tyre will enhance bike balance, comfort, puncture resistance, and a good grip.
Maintain your Bike
Maintaining cleanness on your bike can be fun, but it can also make a big difference to your bike’s efficiency. Having a clean chain with quality chain lubricant creates less friction. A rubbing brake will slow you down, while torn brake pads will not be effective, meaning that you will be needed to slow down more times before you can eventually stop, thus reducing your average speed.
Keeping your bike in good condition will encourage you to ride more and boost your confidence, increasing your average cycling speed.
Your average cycling speed matters. It is the foundation you build on after every ride. Chasing a better average on every ride will always leave you fit and stronger, which can be a daily motivation.