Probably the most asked question regarding cycling is about the average speed of both a beginner rider and an experienced cyclist.
All bikers want to know the standard that they should aspire to or maintain the next time they take their bike out for a ride. The answer to this question, however, is not all that simple.
Before we determine what should be the optimum average speed of both beginners and professional bikers, it’s important to realize that the average speed of cyclists depends on a variety of factors such as weather, equipment, teamwork, age, terrain, and the distance covered.
Let’s take a look at these factors below and see how they impact bike speed before outlining the speeds achieved by cyclists with different levels of experience.
Weather and Topography
Weather condition plays a large role in determining the average speed of any ride.
Wind resistance always comes into play whether riding with the wind or against it. Riding against the wind decreases the speed while riding with it can slightly increase it.
Clear visibility is also a factor as riders feel confident enough to try hitting greater speeds if they can see what’s in front of them. The quality of the road surface matters as well; paved roads enable higher speeds than rocky trails that lead into the hills.
Maintaining the riding position on rolling hills is comparatively more difficult as compared to urban areas where the route is mostly flat and clear. Therefore, one is more likely to hit a greater mean speed in road biking as compared to mountain biking.
Type of Bike and Maintenance
It is also important to understand the limitations of one’s own bike. As road bikes are built for speed and agility while mountain bikes are built for endurance, it is futile to expect mountain bikes to provide the same velocity as their urban counterparts.
Both the build material of the bike and the extent of its periodic maintenance also affects its velocity. Due to their weight, road bikes made of steel or aluminum are generally slower when compared to those made of lighter materials.
Similarly, bikes with metal or alloy frames are the hardest to pull on rough terrain while a bike made of carbon fiber is comparatively easy to ride on the same surface.
A well-oiled drive train directly affects cycling cadence as well. A bike with properly lubricated parts will undoubtedly have a faster cycling cadence compared to a bike that is poorly maintained.
Age of the Rider
The effect of age and experience on cycling performance is a somewhat contradictory phenomenon. One would think that younger cyclists could outrun older ones but this does not always turn out to be the case.
Pro cyclists develop slow-twitch muscle fibers over time that come in very handy over long distances. While younger bikers do beat older ones in short bursts over difficult terrain, there is no alternative for the professionalism that comes after long hours of training.
Veteran bikers can also switch speeds effortlessly depending on the terrain, saving precious time in the process. They also have a greater understanding of terrain surfaces and thus can maneuver their bikes in line with what the topography demands.
Therefore, owing to their developed stamina and sheer experience, a veteran biker will have greater speeds over long distances than a young, inexperienced person just starting out.
We know that average speed on any ride is directly proportional to the distance covered on that ride and inversely proportional to the time taken to complete the ride. Therefore, obstacles such as traffic lights and traffic jams along the route will make the journey longer, decreasing the average velocity.
It has also been documented that bike speed remains low during the first 30 minutes of the ride as the riders are slowly warming up. The velocity increases once the riders have been cycling for some time and then decreases again over longer distances as fatigue settles in.
Cycling in groups has an effect of improving the whole team’s speed more over long distances. As the first cyclist in line takes on most of the air resistance head-on, it becomes easier for his followers to maintain their velocity due to reduced drag.
A desire to maintain the group’s momentum also works in favor of the average speed as bikers will try their level best to ensure their cadence remains on pace with the rest of the group.
How Fast Does the Average Cyclist Ride?
Even though the average cycling speed depends on the various factors covered above, we can paint a general idea about the average speeds of bikers who have varying levels of professionalism.
Thanks to fitness applications such as Strava, which not only measures velocity, body temperature, and distance but also acts as a heart rate monitor, we know what the average bike velocity is across the globe.
Through this data, it is now known that a beginner cyclist can easily achieve 12 mph starting out. It is easier to achieve this speed in areas where the terrain is flat and there are no obstacles to hinder the journey.
A cyclist with more time under his belt than a beginner can go a little higher at about 15 miles per hour or more. A couple of hours a week on the ride improves both dexterity and muscle co-ordination which results in this increase.
The highest average speed of 18 mph or more is reserved for the professionals who ride at least one to three hours a day. These professionals know their bikes well, have had their stamina and fitness developed, and can easily achieve such speeds on a variety of topographies.
What is a Good Average Speed on a Road Bike?
Therefore, a good average speed on a road bike is between 15 mph and 20 mph over a journey of about 20 miles in flat areas. It is important to outline the number of miles here as exhaustion and debility over long distances slow the bikers down considerably.
In hilly areas or roads with twists and turns, the journey will definitely be longer and slower than the speed stipulated above.
Beginners should thus be deterred from pursuing high speeds at the start as control and safety are much more important in this phase. However, bike speeds are sure to increase over time if one indulges in consistent practice.
Average Speed of Tour De France Riders
Some bikers may consider it a moot point to even compare their speeds to the pros taking part in the world’s most famous biking competition. However, it is important to know what the best of the best are able to accomplish on what arguably is the most challenging biking trail across the globe.
For comparison, Tour participants average about 25 mph over long distances. One must however keep in mind that this incredible speed is due to various factors such as toned leg muscles, a high fitness level, and years and years of practice.
It is important to state that 25 miles/hour is the absolute best that any biker can hope to achieve in real-world scenarios.
Those who ride for fun may never come close to these speeds but it is important to be aware of what the pros are capable of for both inspiration and encouragement.
We know that every biker wants to go faster, both for the purpose of challenging oneself and for developing endurance and stamina. However, biking can prove to be dangerous in specific circumstances and it is important to keep oneself within the prescribed speed limit.
Tips from professionals regarding an increase in speed make it clear that the only way to improve it is more practice over progressively longer time durations and distances. Both the mind and machine must work in tandem to deliver improved performance.
By all accounts, those able to ride every day will find themselves faster than those who don’t. To sum up, there’s no substitute for hard work if you wish to increase your average speed.