Biking Beasts: The World’s Fastest Cyclists

Want to know who the world’s fastest cyclists are?

Well, there’s both a short answer and a long answer.

For the absolute fastest cyclist ever, look no further than Denise Mueller-Korenek’s staggering 184 mph (296 km/h) cycling speed record set on the salt flats of Utah in 2018.

However, with so many disciplines and styles of cycling, the full story is a little more complicated.

As well as the twisting tales of cycling speed records – which include bike racing legends, speed-addicted eccentric inventors, and even the TV psychic Uri Geller – we think the fastest cyclists over a full road-race stage and on the varnished curves of the velodrome deserve a mention too.

To give you the full lowdown on the world’s fastest cyclists, we’ll be covering:

  • The Fastest Road-Racing Cyclists
  • Cycling Speed Records In The Velodrome
  • Ultimate Cycling Speed World Records

Ready to learn about cycling’s ultimate speed demons?

Let’s hit the road!

Biking Beasts: The World's Fastest Cyclists (Title Image)

The Fastest Road-Racing Cyclists

Though the top speeds hit by road cyclists will never get close to the prototype-riding record chasers, we think they still ought to have a look-in.

After all, we’re talking about the world’s fastest cyclists – not just the speed records.

So, in our not-very-scientific opinion, here are the fastest road cyclists in the peloton in 2022!

Fastest men’s road Cyclist: Tadej Pogačar

Still only 23 years old, Slovenia’s Tadej Pogačar has already proved he’s destined to go down in history as one of cycling’s greats.

He’s already won both Tour de France titles he’s contended – becoming the first rider since 1983 to win on debut and the youngest champion since 1904 – and is the hot favorite for the 2022 edition.

He was utterly dominant at the 2021 Tour, taking victory by more than five minutes overall. Over the 3,414 km race, his average speed was 25.58 mph (41.17 km/h) – which is monstrous when you factor the towering climbs of the Alps and Pyrenees into that route!

Still, it’s a long way off the top speed ever recorded at Le TourMarcus Burghardt took that honor in 2016 with his descent of the Cote de la Comella, in which he hit a frankly terrifying 81.2 mph (30.7 km/h).

Even so, we’d back Pogačar as the fastest cyclist over just about any road course out there – if you don’t believe us (and want to feel utterly inadequate), he’s a prolific poster to Strava so you can compare your efforts to his times there.

Spoiler alert: he’s King of the Mountain for most of them.

Fastest Women’s Road Cyclist: Marianne Vos

Marianne Vos‘ dominance over cycling in the 2010s was absolute.

The Dutchwoman’s accomplishments are too numerous to detail here (the list is so long it has its own Wikipedia page), but highlights include three Giro d’Italia wins, two Olympic titles, three Road Race World Championships, and countless one-day and Classics victories.

As with the legendary Eddy Merckx in the 1970s – with whom she shares the nickname “Cannibal” – there was a period in which a Vos win was so inevitable that finishing second to her came to be seen as a victory in itself.

She won the 2012 Giro at an average speed of 24.04 mph (38.68 km/h), almost four minutes clear of her nearest rival.

Her monopoly on major cycling honors isn’t limited to road racing either – Vos has 8 (eight!) Cyclo-Cross World Championships, and at just 19 years old she was simultaneously World Champion in both Cyclo-Cross and Road Racing. To top it off, she’s also won Olympic Gold on the track, making her one of the most complete cyclists of all time.

Though it’s true that, at 34, Vos is probably in the twilight of her career, she remains a ferocious bike racer. In the past year, she’s won both the Gent-Wevelgem and Amstel Gold Race Classics and the 2022 Cyclo-Cross World Championship. Count her out at your peril.

Marianne Vos is impossible to ignore in a discussion of the world’s fastest cyclists.

Cycling Speed Records In The Velodrome

A cyclist in a yellow jersey speeds her bike around the wooden track of the velodrome.

As we swap tarmac roads for the banked tracks of the velodrome, the speeds start to tick upwards.

Fastest Cyclists: The Hour Record

The Hour is one of the most prestigious records in cycling, and is the ultimate test of a rider’s pure sustained power and speed.

The record has been held by a host of cycling’s most iconic names, including Jacques Anquetil, Fausto Coppi, Miguel Induráin, and Bradley Wiggins.

The most famous hour cycling record was set by the great Eddy Merckx in 1972 when he rode 30.715 miles (49.431 km) at Mexico City’s Agustín Melgar Olympic Velodrome. Merckx would later describe his effort as ‘the hardest ride I have ever done’ – no minor statement considering the Belgian’s list of achievements.

Even with the vast advantages of modern aero technology, the current men’s record – Victor Campanaerts34.231 miles (55.089 km), set in 2019 – averaged barely 3 mph faster than Merckx did back in 1972.

In fact, Merckx’s record was considered such a benchmark of performance that until 2014 the UCI separated records made with modern prototypes and unconventional riding positions from those attempted with the technology available to the Belgian thirty years earlier, which remained the official UCI Hour Record.

Merckx’s Hour Record stood for almost thirty years, before it was snatched away by Chris Boardman in 2000 by a scarcely-believable ten metres!

Fastest Speed Ever Recorded At A Velodrome

While the Hour Record is a cut-throat demonstration of a cyclist’s pure performance over a sustained distance, it doesn’t reflect the highest speeds ever recorded in track cycling.

That’s a little more ambiguous as there’s no official record kept for top track cycling speed, but Olympic sprinting seems a decent place to start.

In Olympic Keirin racing, the barrel-thighed Scot Sir Chris Hoy topped 50 mph (80.5 km/h) on more than one occasion while winning his six Olympic track cycling titles.

However, the highest track speed ever that we can find any reference to was Ben Kersten’s motorbike-paced 84 km/h at Sydney’s Dunc Gray Velodrome, recorded just before he abandoned his lap fearing his front wheel would buckle under the immense strain.

Which is just as well, as the velodrome’s architect estimated its maximum achievable speed was 87 km/h – after which the banking would send the cyclist airborne.

Honorable Mention: Beryl Burton

From the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, women’s cycling belonged to one rider: Beryl Burton.

With seven world titles across both road and track, almost 100 domestic championships, and a raft of national and world records (most of which lasted 20 years or more), the Yorkshirewoman is among the most decorated cyclists of all time.

One achievement stands out above the rest: her 1967 world record in the 12-hour time trial.

At 277.25 miles (446.2 km), she not only shattered the women’s record, but set a distance which wouldn’t be matched by a man for another two years either.

At the same event, Mike McNamara was busy setting a new men’s record – 0.73 miles shorter than Burton’s. Having been given a staggered start several minutes behind the men, she caught and passed the entire field, including McNamara.

Burton apparently offered him a Liquorice Allsort as she breezed through.

Her accomplishments were made all the more remarkable by the fact she never had a formal coach, never turned professional (despite numerous offers), and had to fit her training around her job as a rhubarb farmer.

Her record wouldn’t be beaten by a woman for half a century, when Alice Lethbridge finally overhauled her mark in 2017 with an aero-optimised time-trial bike, disc wheels, and skin-tight cycling gear.

Burton had a straightforward motto: “Anything lads can do, I can do.”

She proved herself right. No list of the world’s fastest cyclists would be complete without Beryl Burton.

Ultimate Cycling Speed World Records

The fastest speeds ever reached on a bicycle weren’t on the road or the track, but on the time-honored proving grounds of all good land speed records: Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats.

Cycling speed record attempts use purpose-built prototypes and are “motor-paced”, meaning the rider follows a vehicle (usually a racing car) with a large wind shield to create a slipstream, allowing them to reach speeds several times faster than regular road or track cyclists.

Cycling Speed World Record Holder: Denise Mueller-Korenek

In 2018, American Denise Mueller-Korenek rode her custom-built bike behind a dragster at a mind-melting 183.932 mph (296.01 km/h) to become the fastest human ever on a bicycle.

She shattered the previous record of 167 mph (268.8 km/h), set in 1995 by Dutchman Fred Rompelberg at the same Utah salt flats. Not that he was too upset about it: he was part of the team training Mueller-Korenek for her attempt.

In true Beryl Burton-esque style, her top speed remains 10 mph clear of the men’s cycling speed world record, despite numerous attempts to beat it.

Honorable Mention: Bruce Bursford

We couldn’t close this article without mentioning the late, great British cyclist, inventor, and record-chaser Bruce Bursford.

Bursford was obsessed with two things: cycling, and going faster than anyone else.

Though his most famous record set in 1998 is only considered “virtual” because it took place indoors on a rolling road, it was astonishing nonetheless: 212.48 mph (341.6 km/h), including an acceleration from 0-60 mph in under two seconds.

Bursford rode the prototype bike he designed himself, nicknamed “Ultimate”. Inspired by F1 technology, it had silica tires filled with helium, ceramic bearings, and an outrageous two-foot chainring. Not your average commuter bike.

Bursford was an elite cyclist in his own right. In 1999, the year before his tragic death in a road collision during training, he broke Chris Boardman’s five-minute world record at an average speed upwards of 39 mph (63 km/h) on a hilly Welsh road course – while apparently being cheered on via megaphone by TV paranormalist Uri Geller from a support vehicle.

Bizarre; but apparently not too distracting.

Enjoyed this article? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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One of the BikeTips editors, Rory has enjoyed a lifelong love affair with cycling. Though he’s always game to hurtle down an MTB trail or dive into the backcountry wilderness, Rory’s real passion is bike touring on Europe’s sprawling roads with his old cycling mates. Their most recent adventure was a ride from London to the Italian Alps; the next trip is already in the works!

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