Who doesn’t want to know how to cycle faster?
Whether they are chasing Strava segments or looking for a way to monitor your progress, cyclists are always looking for extra speed.
Your speed is a good benchmark, as it is easy to understand, but quite a few variables affect your average speed.
You don’t always have control of some of these variables, but there are some things that you can do to speed up.
In this article, we are going to take a look at:
- 5 key factors affect your cycling speed,
- How fast you should be able to ride,
- and 9 tips that will make you faster on the bike.
Ready to become a faster cyclist?
5 Factors That Affect Your Cycling Speed
Many different factors come into play when it comes to speed.
Here are 5:
1. The type of bike you ride.
On the road, you will never be as fast on a mountain bike as on a roadie.
The chunky tyres’ upright riding position, extra weight, and increased rolling resistance will slow you down. But these two bikes are built for different purposes, so everything is relative.
2. Where you ride.
If your rides consist of mountainous uphill climbs, your average cycling speed will be much slower than someone who rides on flat coastal paths.
3. What surface you ride on.
Smooth tarmac allows your wheels to roll more efficiently, so if you have to ride on bumpy tarmac or gravel, you won’t be able to ride as fast.
4. The local weather conditions.
Strong headwinds and wet weather will slow you down. You may not experience bad weather every time you ride, but it will affect your average over a few rides.
5. Your level of fitness.
It takes time to build good bike fitness, but luckily, this is something you can control.
How Fast Should I Be Able To Ride?
When most people first start road cycling, they can usually manage an average speed of 10mph/16kph on a ride that lasts an hour or two.
But as they ride more consistently, their fitness will improve, and their average cycling speed will increase.
Strava states that the average speed is around 15.5mph/25kph over several hours.
So if you want to be above average, you need to be able to ride at about 20mph/32kph.
How to cycle faster? Well, you need to put in lots of training. But at this speed, it becomes harder to push on as the air resistance increases significantly.
To compare, Tour de France winners do know hoe to cycle faster and consistently average 25mph/40kph! But this is riding over 2,000 miles/3,500km over a three-week period.
They do ride within a group, though, which helps with cutting through the air.
It’s probably not the best idea to compare yourself to the pros, although it is impressive to see what some cyclists are capable of.
9 Tips On How To Cycle Faster
On to what we are all here for!
How to cycle faster…
1. Keep Pedalling
This may seem like an obvious one, but more experienced cyclists spend more time pedalling than novice riders.
Seasoned cyclists can do this thanks to their higher fitness levels. But they can also have a knack for reading the road ahead, which comes with practice.
Riding more also teaches you when to pedal, just like a driver learns the best times to accelerate their car.
If you ride at full speed to a red traffic light, you will need to stop, unclip a foot, and start again when the light turns green. Timing your approach to the traffic light more efficiently will mean that you use less energy and have more flow with your riding.
2. Go Easy On The Brakes
Reducing how much you brake goes hand in hand with knowing when to pedal.
Screeching to a stop at every junction means you have to restart from stationary.
So, slow down more smoothly, read the road and look for safe gaps in the traffic. If it is safe, get back on the pedals while you still have momentum.
When it comes to riding downhill, you will be on your brakes more in the early days. But with practice, increased road sense and confidence, you will find that you will need to brake less on downhill sections.
More experienced riders know how to cycle faster and can gauge their speed to maintain momentum when it matters the most.
Therefore, when they get to an undulating road, they can judge the road ahead better, allowing them to keep going without needing to drop down a gear for climbs.
3. Find Some Riding Buddies
A great way to improve your average cycling speed is to ride in a group.
One of the ways this helps you is that you need to keep up, so you have an incentive to put in the effort. Also, if you are the one feeling fresh, you will inspire your friends to ride faster!
The most significant way a group can help you ride faster is drafting.
This is one of the methods the Tour de France guys use to make the distance at speed.
If you tuck behind a riding buddy, it takes up to 40% less effort to maintain speed than the person in front of you.
Before you start drafting each other, you need to discuss how you are going to do it and communicate for safety.
You also need to be courteous about it and swap places periodically.
To master the art of drafting, you may want to join a cycling club. The riders will be well practised at it and show you the ropes.
4. Pedal Faster
When searching for a faster average cycling speed, you may be tempted to pedal as hard as you can for as long as possible.
But this isn’t very efficient, and you won’t be able to do it all day.
It takes some trial and error to find the perfect cadence for you. But when you do, your muscles will be under less strain, you will become more efficient and take longer to fatigue.
Your cadence is how many times you spin the pedals every minute.
Most cyclists have a cadence of 80 to 90 rpm (Revolutions Per Minute). However, pros pedal at about 100 rpm.
When you are experimenting with your cadence, you should also be mindful of how smooth you pedal. Try to develop a smooth riding style that uses more of the pedal stroke to put power into the back wheel.
5. Streamline Your Bike And Yourself
Being more aerodynamic makes a considerable difference to your average cycling speed.
Most drag comes from you and not your bike, so reducing your drag will allow you to ride faster.
The first thing to do is reduce your head-on profile. If you drop your chest towards the handlebars, you will become more slippery through the air.
This is why roadies ride with their hands on the drops. You can enhance this position by lowering your stem.
The next thing to do is to consider what you are wearing to ride.
If you wear anything that flaps in the wind, you will experience increased wind resistance.
Tight-fitting lycra jerseys and shorts help you cut through the air better. But you can take it to a whole new level with skin suits, aerodynamic helmets, and even aero socks!
If you don’t nail your form on the bike, you may experience a speed wobble!
For more info: SPEED WOBBLE EXPLAINED: WHAT CAUSES SPEED WOBBLE?
6. Improve Your Fitness
Fitter cyclists can ride faster for longer, which gives them a faster average cycling speed.
We have already mentioned that riding more improves your fitness, but there are other things you can do.
Riding on a turbo trainer, spinning bike or exercise bike will improve your fitness.
You can do this at home to get bike fit when time is tight, or the weather is bad. Interval training on an indoor bike is a great way to improve fitness, as it is intense and doesn’t take too long.
7. Fuel Yourself Properly
You will not be able to improve your average cycling speed if you run out of energy. Therefore, you need to ensure you take on enough food and water.
The best tactic is to eat and drink small amounts often. However, if you go on a long ride, you may benefit more from stopping off for a proper lunch break.
8. Look After Your Bike
A well looked after bike will perform as it should do.
Part of maintaining a bike is to clean it regularly.
Doing so allows you to check it over, too, so you can spot any issues. For example, are your brake pads rubbing your rims slowing you down? Are your wheels running true?
After you have cleaned your bike, you should lube your chain.
A clean and well-lubricated chain will pass through your drivetrain much more efficiently with less friction.
It is essential to use the correct chain lube for the conditions for the best results.
9. Reduce Your Bike’s Rolling Resistance
You can make your bike roll faster by fitting it with different tyres.
Higher-end tyres roll better than low-cost ones.
The tyres on your new bike may not be the best, as some bike manufacturers tend to cut costs by fitting cheap ones. So, swapping them for faster versions is an easy upgrade.
Tubeless-ready tyres are more efficient than tyres with tubes. This is because you don’t get any friction between a tube and the tyre casing. Also, you stand less chance of needing to stop to repair a puncture.
Before each ride, make sure you check your bike’s tyre pressure.
By ensuring your tyres are correctly inflated, they will roll more efficiently. In addition to this, they will grip properly and be more resistant to punctures.
Now you know everything you need to know about how to cycle faster…
…How about learning how to maximise your uphill cycling game?!
Check out this article on 10 Uphill Cycling tips