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What’s The Average Cycling Speed And Tips To Improve It? 

 January 4, 2024

By  Max

Ever wondered how fast you're supposed to be zipping past those park benches? Worry not, fellow cyclist, for the elusive concept of average cycling speed is about to be demystified!

As a cycling enthusiast with years of experience pedaling across terrains both smooth and rugged, I understand the allure of a good average speed.

It's a tangible metric of progress, a way to quantify those wind-whipped miles and feel the sweet satisfaction of leaving yesterday's you in the dust. But before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let's set the stage.

Average Cycling Speed

What's the Big Deal About Average Cycling Speed?

Simply put, average cycling speed tells you how far you've covered in a given amount of time. It's your personal speedometer, a gauge of your effort and efficiency on two wheels. Now, why should this matter? Well, for starters, it:

  • Tracks your progress: Witnessing your average speed climb over time is a potent motivator, fueling your desire to push harder and explore further.
  • Sets realistic goals: Knowing your current speed helps you plan achievable distances and set challenging yet attainable targets for future rides.
  • Benchmarks your performance: Comparing your average speed to others (with a pinch of caution, mind you!) can be a healthy way to gauge your skill and identify areas for improvement.

Factors Affecting Your Average Speed

But hold on, aspiring speed demon! Your average speed isn't a fixed number etched in stone. It's a dynamic tango between you and the road, influenced by a myriad of factors:

1. Fitness: This is the big kahuna, the engine that drives your cycling machine. The better your cardiovascular health and muscular endurance, the farther and faster you can pedal. Think of it as the fuel gauge – the fuller it is, the farther you go!

Fitness Level

Riding Time (10 miles)

Average Speed

Beginner

1 hour 15 minutes

8 mph

Intermediate

55 minutes

11 mph

Advanced

40 minutes

15 mph

2. Riding Position: Your posture matters! A hunched, upright position creates a wall of wind resistance, slowing you down. Conversely, a streamlined, aerodynamic stance (think crouching like a superhero) cuts through the air like a hot knife through butter.

3. Bike Type: Road bikes, with their lightweight frames and skinny tires, are built for speed. Mountain bikes, on the other hand, prioritize sturdiness and knobby tires for tackling rough terrain, sacrificing a bit of pace in the process. Choose your weapon wisely!

4. Tires: Think of your tires as the interface between you and the road. Wider tires offer better grip and stability on rough surfaces but add weight and rolling resistance. Thinner tires, while faster, can be trickier to handle on uneven terrain. Find the sweet spot for your riding style!

5. Gradient: Hills are the arch-nemeses of speed. The steeper the climb, the more energy you'll expend battling gravity, sending your average speed plummeting. But hey, conquering that climb will feel all the sweeter!

6. Terrain: Smooth asphalt is your friend, offering minimal resistance and allowing you to glide effortlessly. Dirt roads and gravel paths add bumps and vibrations, slowing you down but adding a touch of adventure.

7. Environmental Effects: Wind can be your best friend or your worst foe. A tailwind propels you forward, while a headwind feels like pushing a brick wall. Rain and fog add another layer of challenge, reducing visibility and requiring extra caution.

This is just the tip of the iceberg! Mastering the art of average cycling speed is a journey of exploration and experimentation. Pay attention to your body, listen to the road, and most importantly, have fun! The miles will melt away, and your average speed will soar as you find your rhythm and refine your technique.

So, clip in, fellow cyclist, and let's conquer the road, one pedal stroke at a time! And remember, the true measure of success isn't just the numbers on your bike computer, but the joy you find in the ride itself.

Bike Type & Tires

Average Cycling Speed

First, let's talk about your trusty two-wheeled partner. Different bikes are built for different speeds, and understanding these differences is key to setting realistic expectations. Here's a quick breakdown:

  • Road Bikes: These aerodynamic speedsters are designed for smooth, paved surfaces. With skinny tires offering minimal rolling resistance and aggressive riding positions, road bikes can easily clock average speeds of 18-25 mph (29-40 km/h) for experienced riders.
  • Gravel Bikes: A jack-of-all-trades, gravel bikes offer a comfortable balance between speed and off-road capability. Wider tires provide stability and grip on rougher terrain, while still allowing for decent average speeds of 14-18 mph (23-29 km/h) on mixed surfaces.
  • Hybrid Bikes: These versatile workhorses are perfect for commuting and casual rides. Offering a relaxed riding position and wider tires than road bikes, hybrid bikes average around 12-15 mph (19-24 km/h) on paved roads.
  • Mountain Bikes: Built for conquering climbs and tackling gnarly trails, mountain bikes prioritize durability and traction over speed. Their knobby tires and suspension add weight and drag, leading to average speeds of 8-12 mph (13-19 km/h) on off-road terrain.

Tire pressure also plays a crucial role. Underinflated tires flex more, increasing rolling resistance and slowing you down. Properly inflated tires roll smoother, boosting your average speed by a few precious miles per hour.

Gradient & Terrain

Now, let's talk about the battlefield beneath your tires. Hills, mountains, and even slight inclines can significantly impact your speed. As a general rule of thumb, for every 1% increase in gradient, expect your average speed to drop by 2-3%. This means that tackling a 5% climb could reduce your usual 15 mph pace to around 10 mph.

But don't despair! The key to conquering climbs is pacing yourself and maintaining a consistent cadence. Shifting gears efficiently and using your body weight effectively can help you power through hills and minimize speed loss.

Environmental Effects

Mother Nature adds another layer of complexity to the speed equation. Wind, elevation, and temperature can all play a role in influencing your average cycling speed.

  • Wind: A tailwind can be your best friend, pushing you along effortlessly and boosting your average speed. But a headwind, especially a strong one, turns into your nemesis, forcing you to fight against its relentless force. Remember, a 10 mph headwind can cut your average speed by as much as 25%!
  • Elevation: Climbing higher means thinner air, making it harder to breathe and deliver oxygen to your muscles. This can significantly reduce your average speed, especially on long climbs. Expect to lose 8-10% of your average speed for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
  • Temperature: Extreme heat can sap your energy and make it harder to perform. Conversely, cold weather can stiffen your muscles and reduce your flexibility, both of which can impact your average speed. Optimal cycling temperatures are generally considered to be between 50-70°F (10-21°C)

Planning for Success: Tips for a Speedy Ride

Now that you understand the key factors influencing your average cycling speed, you can utilize this knowledge to plan faster and more enjoyable rides. Here are some tips:

  • Choose the right bike for the terrain: Don't expect a mountain bike to compete with a road bike on paved roads, and vice versa.
  • Be mindful of the gradient: Plan your route to avoid unnecessary climbs, or train specifically for hilly terrain.
  • Check the wind forecast: If possible, plan your ride for days with little to no wind, or adjust your route to take advantage of a tailwind.
  • Start early or ride later: Avoid the hottest part of the day to maximize your energy and performance.
  • Stay hydrated and fueled: Proper nutrition and hydration are crucial for maintaining your average speed throughout your ride.

Cycling is about enjoying the journey, not solely chasing numbers. Don't get discouraged by slow speeds on challenging terrain or unfavorable conditions

Factors Influencing Average Cycling Speed

Cycling speed is influenced by various factors, each playing a crucial role in determining how swiftly you can navigate the open road. To understand this better, let's delve into the physics of cycling and explore the primary resistances that impact your average cycling speed.

Air Resistance: The Invisible Force Battled with Aerodynamics

Overview of Air Resistance

As you pedal through the air, you encounter a formidable opponent—air resistance. This force increases exponentially with speed, creating a non-linear relationship. At lower speeds, it's a mere whisper, but as you pick up the pace, it becomes a formidable barrier.

Non-linear Resistance and Speed

The relationship between air resistance and speed isn't linear. As you go faster, the resistance grows exponentially.

This means that even small increases in speed result in a significant rise in air resistance. It's akin to pushing against a gradually strengthening headwind.

Improving Aerodynamics for Speed:

To combat air resistance, cyclists often turn to improving their aerodynamics. This involves tweaking body position, reducing frontal area, and optimizing equipment. The coefficient of drag (CdA) becomes a critical metric in this quest for increased speed.

Different Riding Positions and CdA:

An image speaks volumes. Picture a cyclist in a traditional upright position versus one adopting an aerodynamic tucked position. 

The latter significantly reduces the frontal area exposed to the wind, effectively lowering the CdA and enhancing overall speed. It's a visual testament to the impact of aerodynamics on cycling performance.

Rolling Resistance: Where Rubber Meets the Road

The part of your bike in direct contact with the road—the tires—plays a pivotal role in determining rolling resistance. The type of tire, its pressure, and the road surface collectively influence how smoothly you glide.

Softer tires generally provide a more comfortable ride but can increase rolling resistance. Conversely, higher pressure reduces rolling resistance but might compromise comfort.

For cycling enthusiasts seeking to fine-tune their setup, the Bicycle Rolling Resistance website serves as a valuable resource. It meticulously tests and reviews tires, providing insights into their rolling resistance characteristics.

Armed with this knowledge, cyclists can make informed decisions to optimize their setup for speed.

Gravitational Resistance: Navigating the Uphill Battle

Gravitational resistance becomes particularly apparent when tackling inclines. While reducing weight is advantageous for climbing, it's essential to strike a balance with aerodynamics. A feather-light bike aids uphill endeavors, but wind resistance gains prominence on level terrain. Cyclists must find the sweet spot between weight and aerodynamics for optimal speed across varied terrains.

Understanding the course profile is crucial. On hilly routes, shedding excess weight pays dividends during ascents. Cyclists might opt for lightweight components or even choose a different bike altogether. However, on flatter courses, the emphasis shifts back to minimizing air resistance and maintaining speed on the straightaways.

Mechanical Resistance: The Inner Workings of Speed

Mechanical resistance lurks within the intricate components of your bike. Drivetrain losses occur as power transfers through the chain, cassette, and derailleur. Bearings, whether in the hubs or bottom bracket, contribute to this overall resistance. Regular maintenance, including lubrication and proper adjustment, is vital to minimize these losses.

The humble chain, a vital link in the cycling propulsion system, demands attention. A well-lubricated and clean chain ensures smoother power transmission, minimizing frictional losses. Neglecting chain maintenance can result in increased mechanical resistance, hindering your ability to maintain higher speeds.

Achieving and maintaining an impressive average cycling speed involves a delicate dance with the forces of physics. The interplay of air resistance, rolling resistance, gravitational resistance, and mechanical resistance requires a nuanced understanding.

By optimizing aerodynamics, fine-tuning tire selection, strategically managing weight, and maintaining mechanical components, cyclists can unlock their full speed potential. The journey toward a faster ride is not just about pedaling harder; it's about navigating the intricacies of physics to ride smarter.

What's a Good Average Cycling Speed?

Ever seen those lycra-clad warriors whizzing past, leaving you in a cloud of dust (or exhaust, depending on the road)? Wondered just how fast you could be going? Well, buckle up, because we're about to dive into the fascinating world of average cycling speed.

General Speeds to Get You Pumped

Before we delve into the nitty-gritty, let's paint a broad picture. Here's a quick peek at some general average speeds cyclists of different levels can achieve:

  • Beginner: 10-12 mph (16-19 km/h) - Cruising at a leisurely pace, enjoying the scenery. Think weekend rides with friends or a casual commute to work.
  • Intermediate: 15-16 mph (24-26 km/h) - Stepping up the game! You're comfortable on the bike, tackling some hills, and maybe even joining a group ride.
  • Advanced: 18-22 mph (29-35 km/h) - Putting the pedal to the metal! You're covering serious distances, conquering climbs, and feeling the wind in your hair (or helmet, if you're wise).
  • Pro: 25+ mph (40+ km/h) - These folks are cycling machines! Think Tour de France contenders and masters of aerodynamics.

But Wait, There's More!

Of course, average cycling speed is like a chameleon - it changes depending on a whole bunch of factors. Here are some key players:

  • Fitness: The stronger you are, the faster you'll go. No surprise there! Regular training will boost your endurance and power, letting you conquer those hills with ease.
  • Bike Type: Road bikes are built for speed, while mountain bikes prioritize sturdiness for rough terrain. Choosing the right bike for your ride can make a big difference.
  • Terrain: Flat roads are your friend, while hills and mountains will slow you down. Don't be discouraged, though - even conquering small inclines is a victory!
  • Pacing: Knowing how to manage your energy is crucial. Going all-out at the start will leave you gasping for air later. Start slow, find your rhythm, and pick up the pace gradually.
  • Clothing: Flapping jerseys and baggy shorts add wind resistance. Choose for aerodynamic gear that hugs your body and lets you slice through the air like a buttery knife.
  • Tires: The right tires can make a world of difference. Wider tires offer better grip on rough roads, while thinner ones roll faster on smooth surfaces. Choose wisely for your ride!
  • Drafting: Tucking in behind another cyclist can reduce wind resistance by up to 40%. Find a partner (or join a group ride) and let them lead the way!
  • Environment: Wind, rain, and even sunshine can affect your speed. Be prepared to adjust your effort based on the conditions.

Shave Your Legs? Seriously?

There's a rumor floating around that shaving your legs makes you faster. While the science is inconclusive, it's true that smoother legs have slightly less wind resistance. But hey, if you're not comfortable with it, don't sweat it! Focus on the bigger factors that can truly boost your speed.

The Takeaway

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to the good average cycling speed question. It's all about finding your own sweet spot, enjoying the ride, and pushing yourself when you feel like it. Whether you're a weekend warrior aiming for 15 mph or a lycra-clad speed demon chasing 25 mph, the most important thing is to get out there, pedal hard, and have fun!

Share your cycling goals and experiences in the comments below! Together, we can create a supportive community of cyclists who love the thrill of the two-wheeled world.

So, what are you waiting for? Get on your bike, embrace the wind in your face, and discover your own average cycling speed. The road awaits!

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