Whether you ride solo or love a group ride, there’s a decent chance that you measure your progress by comparing yourself to other cyclists.
With the ever-increasing popularity of cycling, we are becoming more curious about how our average bike speed measures up against other people. It’s easy to do with Strava and the various other fitness apps available.
But, answering the question, “What’s a typical cycling speed?”, is more challenging than you may think.
Therefore, in this article, we’ll be covering:
- 4 Key Factors That Affect Your Average Bike Speed
- How Does The Type Of Bike You Ride Affect Average Bike Speed?
- 6 Ways To Improve Your Average Road Bike Speed
Let’s dive in!
4 Key Factors That Affect Your Average Bike Speed
There are many factors that will make a difference to your average mph on bike rides. These are based on your body, mind, experience, environment, and bike.
Let’s go into these in a little more detail:
#1. Physical Condition And Age
Our bodies power our bikes, so physical condition will of course make a difference to your average bike speed and how long you can maintain that speed.
However, fitness isn’t the only physical factor that affects performance. There are some things beyond our control, such as age.
Age plays a significant role in cycling performance. Unfortunately, our bodies become less efficient and powerful as we get older.
Our blood flow volume reduces as we age. This is because the tissues within our hearts start to harden while the ventricles get thicker. Therefore, our muscles don’t get as much oxygen when we exercise.
We also start to lose muscle mass after the age of 30, reducing our strength. However, cyclists who keep training after turning 30 can dramatically reduce their performance losses.
Older cyclists who continue to train regularly can maintain strong levels of fitness even into their retirement years, even though their maximum achievable performance will be lower than in their youth.
Your mindset can make a massive difference to your average bike speed.
For example, your perspective can cause you to reduce your effort before you reach your peak. You may do this when you approach a steep hill, which can demoralize you, slowing you down when you really need to put in more effort.
You may also fixate on your aching muscles rather than focusing on the goal. Doing this exacerbates the discomfort, if only in your mind.
To keep a good mindset when riding, you can listen to fast-paced music and focus on power output rather than the extra effort you are putting into the pedals.
It’s a good idea to have only one earbud in or use open-ear technology though, so you’re aware of traffic or other riders around you.
#3. Skill And Experience
Over time your skill and experience as a cyclist will develop, helping to raise your average cycling speed.
For example, you understand your strengths, the best riding position for the terrain, how to pace yourself on a climb or through a long ride, how to fuel yourself properly, and so on.
You might also develop a more efficient pedal stroke or improve your skills as a technical descender, all of which help to increase your speed.
All these factors come with experience and will give you the advantage over a novice rider.
#4. The Environment You Ride In
Your average bike speed will naturally be much faster if you stick to flat ground, straight roads, and smooth surfaces.
Hills, corners, and poor road surfaces will slow you down.
Riding uphill will slow you down dramatically. An incline of just 4% can reduce your average bike speed by 75%. This effect is exaggerated on steeper climbs.
Your speed also reduces by a significant amount if you encounter a headwind (or crosswinds, to a lesser extent). It is a similar case when riding in cold weather, rain, and snow, as it is safer and more comfortable to ride slower.
Another factor that will slow you down when riding in bad weather is that you need to wear bulkier clothing. More clothing layers restrict your movement and increase drag, so it is more challenging to keep a high average bike speed.
However, riding in hot weather can speed you up.
This is because you can wear thinner, more aerodynamic clothing, and warmer air is less dense, reducing drag. That being said, hot weather can make you dehydrated or cause you to overheat, affecting your performance.
How Does The Type Of Bike You Ride Affect Average Bike Speed?
There are bikes to suit everyone’s circumstances and needs, but their characteristics and features affect how fast they go and other aspects of their performance.
However, just because one type of bike is slower than another doesn’t mean it is a bad bike. It’s just made for a different purpose.
Heavier bikes take more effort to get up to speed. But other elements such as wheel size, gearing, riding position, tire choice, and maintenance will determine how fast you can ride.
With this in mind, speed is sometimes a misleading metric to measure if you’re not making a direct comparison, with all other factors equal.
However, for many riders, speed is the most obvious metric to use as a gauge of their own progression.
Average Road Bike Speed
As we have already established, many things will affect your average bike speed. For the average road bike speed, we will concentrate on riders completing an hour-long ride relative to their experience.
A typical road cyclist on a relatively flat course will have an average bike speed of about 15-18 mph (24-29 km/h) over an hour’s ride.
However, bear in mind that this is a very rough approximation that is dependent on weather, elevation, road surface, and any number of other factors.
If you’re a beginner, you will probably start out averaging slightly lower than this, perhaps 12-14 mph (16-23 km/h) or so, but it won’t take long before you improve.
If you train regularly, you might get your average bike speed up to about 20 mph (29 km/h). But if you commit to a serious training plan, you could be blasting along even faster!
Average Road Bike Speed For Professional Cyclists
At an average speed of 26.12 mph (42.03 km/h), Jonas Vingegaard‘s 2022 Tour de France victory was the fastest in history.
Maurice Garin’s average speed on his way to victory at the inaugural 1903 Tour was 15.96 mph (25.68 km/h) – which is still remarkable considering the ancient equipment cyclists rode on, the absence of teams, and each stage was an average distance of 251 miles (405 km)!
However, there are many other factors that affect the average speed of a modern professional stage race compared to the amateur hour-ride averages mentioned above.
For example, their rides are much longer, extremely mountainous, and feature little time for recovery, all of which will reduce their average bike speed.
However, the speeds will be increased by the drafting effect of riding in a peloton, the absence of traffic and junctions (the Tour de France takes place on closed roads), and professional-standard equipment.
Perhaps the purest measure of average speed for a professional cyclist is the time trial. Rohan Dennis’s average speed in the 2015 Tour de France time trial was a blistering 34.46 mph (55.45 km/h).
Team time trials can be even faster, as the riders benefit from drafting. The current record is team Orica–GreenEDGE’s effort at the 2013 Tour, in which they averaged an astonishing 35.94 mph (57.84 km/h).
- Want to know more? Check out our in-depth guide to Tour de France Average Speeds and Records Through History here!
Average Bike Speed For A Commuter
Coming back down to Earth from those astronomical speeds, if you ride a commuter bike, your average mph on bike lanes will probably be somewhere around 12 mph (16 km/h).
Don’t be disheartened if you’re not commuting at this pace yet, as your ride could easily be affected by traffic, the quality of bike lanes in your area, and how hilly the roads are.
As you cycle more, your fitness and strength will naturally improve, and you’ll find your average bike speed increasing bit by bit.
The bike you choose to ride will also make a difference – a commuter bike will be more comfortable, but if speed if what you’re after a road bike will make a big difference.
Bear in mind though that safety is much more important than speed, and you have to be especially cautious while riding in urban areas.
It might be tempting to chase a personal record each time you’re heading home from work, but remember to put the safety of yourself and other road users first!
Average Mountain Bike Speed
There are many different mountain bike disciplines, so it is hard to pinpoint an exact figure for the average mph on bike trails.
The differences come from the terrain that the bikes are designed to take on.
For example, a competitive downhill mountain biker might hit peaks of 30 mph (48 km/h) or more on a steep descent, but another rider on a singletrack trail might have an average bike speed of only 10 mph (16 km/h) or so.
On a really technical trail with large obstacles and steep inclines, this average speed could come down even further.
All that being said, Eric Barone reached a brain-melting 141 mph (227 km/h) on a downhill mountain bike on snow. He was riding a prototype bike for the event on March 19th, 2017.
6 Ways To Improve Your Average Road Bike Speed
There are a few steps you can take to increase your average bicycle speed.
In this section, we’ll be diving into them so you can claim the bragging rights at your next group ride!
#1. Improve Your Fitness
The single best way to increase your average bike speed is to work on yourself.
Spending your hard-earned cash to improve your gear is all well and good, but the rider is always likely to be more important than the bike!
#2. Reduce Drag
Cyclists wear tight-fitting clothes to reduce wind resistance. If you wear baggy clothes that flap in the wind, you are not very slippery through the air.
When you combine tight clothing with an aerodynamic riding position, you will be able to increase your average bike speed significantly.
80% of aerodynamic drag on a bike comes from the rider’s body, so there are huge speed savings to be made!
You can also fit your bike with aerodynamic components. For example, aero frames and wheels will cut through the air much more easily than regular equipment. However, they are not cheap!
Alternatively, you may want to fit aero bars. These put you in a more aerodynamic riding position, often preferred by triathletes.
#3. Reduce Weight
Weight has a significant impact on your average bike speed.
This is especially true while cycling uphill. On the flats, aerodynamics are more important than weight.
#4. Optimize Your Tire Pressure
If your tires are underinflated, they create more rolling resistance. This means you need to put more effort into the pedals to accelerate and maintain your speed.
Firmer tires roll more easily, but make sure you stay within the psi (pressure) limits of the tires for safety and the best performance.
It’s also worth noting that lower pressures can have advantages too. They provide a more comfortable ride, which can help you maintain pedaling power over bumpy road surfaces, making you faster.
Too much tire pressure can actually reduce grip and cause such a bumpy ride that your muscles become more fatigued compensating for it.
So, it’s all about finding a balance!
- Want to know more? Check out Bike Tire Pressure Explained: All You Need To Know here!
#5. Look At Your Bike’s Gearing
Your average bike speed will be determined by your bike’s gearing. The gears affect how far the wheels rotate in regard to a single peddle turn.
This means a higher gear will be faster than a low gear as it makes the wheels spin faster. However, higher gears make the bike harder to get going from a standstill, and the extra speeds make coping with changes in the terrain and corners more challenging.
If you are in the market for a new bike or want to upgrade the one you have, you should check out the optimum gear ratios for you.
#6. Brake Less, Ride Smoother
Reducing the amount of braking you do means that you ride more smoothly. It takes less effort to accelerate while rolling than it does from being stationary.
We’re not trying to suggest you ignore your brakes when you need them for safety’s sake!
What we mean is that you can be strategic with how you accelerate, decelerate, and maintain speed. Planning ahead can increase your average bike speed throughout your ride.
For example, when approaching a traffic light, some cyclists will approach it maintaining their full pace, then brake firmly to come to a complete stop.
However, gradually reducing your pace as you approach a red light might mean that it turns green again while you’re still rolling, saving you the significant amount of energy required for the initial acceleration of a bike from a standstill and raising your average pace.
Of course, you still need to be considerate to other road users. It’s not practical to crawl along slowly 50 meters from a junction with a logjam building behind you because you want the lights to turn green while you’re still rolling!
Now You Know All About Average Bike Speed…
Determining how fast a bike goes isn’t as clear-cut as you may think.
The many variables and disciplines involved mean that you have to drill down into the details that are relevant to you.
But if a higher average bike speed is your goal, working on your fitness, maintaining your bike, staying lean, and working on bike skills will set you in good stead!