What is Your Average Cycling Speed and Why it Matters
Given how general the title to this blog is, we imagine that various kinds of cycling enthusiasts will find their way here (or we at least hope you will). While Ride and Seek provides truly epic cycling trips all around the world, we hope many of our cycling guides will be useful to casual cyclists as well as some of our regular guests who come on our tours. Today we’d like to talk about average cycling speed and why it matters. This is a casual discussion of the topic, but we hope to offer some useful advice and insight. If anything we say inspires you to travel with us, take a look at our Epic Cycling Tours and please get in touch if you have any questions.
An Introduction to Average Cycling Speeds
If you’re a cycling veteran, you likely already know your average cycling speed. Depending on your goals, it’s also highly likely that you’re trying to increase this number. In road cycling, we often cover vast distances, so top speed isn’t nearly as relevant as your average cycling speed. We’re cycling dozens of miles each day, understanding your average speed can help you judge what kind of distance you’ve capable of covering, which in turn allows you to plan larger cycling trips, cycling from accommodation to accommodation.
Working out your Average Cycling Speed
At its simplest, you can simply take the overall distance of your journey and divide it by the time it takes you to complete it. This is your average cycling speed. It gets a lot more complicated, however, when you consider relief, traffic, obstacles, and anything else that slows you down. Your average cycling speed in the ups and downs of a mountain range will likely be significantly lower than your average speed on a flat route. And, as very few routes are ever perfectly flat, it’s hard to fully define your absolute average cycling speed. This gives us all plenty of wiggle room when judging ourselves as cyclists as we can make all kinds of excuses as to why our time was a little lower than expected…
The Average Cycling Speed of Beginner Cyclists
While some people’s mileage may vary, most agree that the average cycling speed of beginner cyclists ranges between 10 and 15mph (16 to 24kph). If you arrive at cycling completely fresh, it’s likely to be at the lower end of this range, but if you have previously been an avid jogger or you are especially fit, then you may be at the top end of this range. However, given the unique physical challenges of cycling, it’s unlikely you’ll be much above 15mph at the beginning, but that’s okay. It’s completely normal.
The Average Cycling Speed of Professional Cyclists
Professional cyclists are on a completely different level, reaching average speeds of between 25 to 28mph (40 to 45kph) on flat roads. No one can get to these speeds overnight; it takes years of training to achieve. So, while it’s good to aspire towards these top speeds on some abstract level, if you never plan to race professionally you shouldn’t make the pros’ average speeds the metric with which to judge your success as a cyclist. Aim for something in between and be happy with any gains you make.
How to Increase your Average Cycling Speed
Lastly, we’d like to look at several simple things you can do to increase your average cycling speed. Of course, working on your cardiovascular fitness and improving your overall stamina is part of this, but there are other smaller tweaks that you might find useful. We’d like to outline some of our favourite tips and tricks for improving your average cycling speed below.
Take Advantage of Downhill Stretches
This may seem obvious, but a common difference between a beginner cyclist and a veteran is how quickly they speed down hills. Beginners may be a little wary of the higher speeds, so they may choose to pedal less or to occasionally use their brakes to regulate their speed, while an experienced cyclist will know how fast they can go while maintaining full control. Heading downhill should often be seen as the opportunity to make up some of the time you lost climbing up to that height earlier on the route.
Riding as a Group
Riding as a group can significantly increase your average cycling speed for two main reasons. The first is that cycling in a group spurs you on, giving you enthusiasm and energy you simply wouldn’t have on your own. Ride and Seek has run group cycling tours all around Europe and beyond for years and our guests often say that being with the guides and the rest of the group gives them energy they never knew they had.
The other benefit to cycling in a group is that you can take advantage of the drafting effect, reducing wind resistance for those behind the leaders. Drafting can reduce the effort required by up to 40%, so it’s not a small, ignorable factor when trying to increase your average speed. Often groups will rotate who is at the front to conserve people’s energy, keeping the entire party moving much faster and for longer than any of them could manage on their own.
Your Cycling Cadence
This topic deserves a blog all to itself as there is a lot to say about cadence. Put simply, your cadence is how quickly you pedal. Pedalling faster can actually be easier, as there is often less resistance as long as you’re in the right gear and are moving at the right speed. It’s a complex topic that we won’t cover in depth today; but it’s worth noting that you should aim for a cadence of between 80 and 90rpm to get the most speed without exhausting yourself too much.
There is so much to discuss on this topic, such as using your bike’s gears efficiently, reducing wind resistance, factoring in tailwinds, and much much more. When we get a little more time, perhaps we can come back to this guide and add to it. Ultimately, understanding your own average speed matters because it lets you plan longer trips with a greater degree of accuracy, deciding on how long each day’s ride will be.
If you have any questions about our cycling tours, please feel free to get in touch. At the time of writing this, we are looking ahead to our first epic cycling trip in Australia and our first cycling trip in New Zealand. Click on these links if you’d like a little more inspiration. And please subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of the page if you’d like even more cycling inspiration!