Not Your Average Cycling Speed!
Average Cycling Speed
What Is Your Average Cycling Speed? I was interested in finding the answer to, "what is the average cycling speed of a cyclist" because for a lot of beginners and even the individual with more experience, it is one of the methods we use to analyze our progress and measure the competition. When equating average cycling speed you must keep in mind the factors that influence it. This is definitely important when making comparisons of your average cycling speed against others. I have noted below some of the influences that effect your average cycling speed while not exhaustive it gives us a measure of the many factors that affect it.
Terrain-rolling hills, mountains, on the flat.
Road Surface(pot holes, condition and type of road).
Wind speed and direction.
Tyres( thickness, type, quality, tyre pressure).
Weather-rain, temperature, humidity.
Weight of cyclist.
amount of riders in group(drafting).
Equipment(your bike-aero wheels, Helmet etc).
It's important you take all of these factors into account when comparing average cycling speed and really the only way you can accurately compare yourself against others is to ride the same route at the same time. Average cycling speed can be influenced dramatically by the wind, for instance I've cycled a 15 mile route that normally takes me under 50 minutes in 70 minutes plus, when the wind is high. That's 40% slower.
The effects of terrain on average cycling speed can also be massive. Obviously a route that takes in a lot of hills is going to be slower than a flat route in general but even this is not a hard and fast rule, flat open areas can suffer greatly from the effects of wind. Road Surface is another big one, I often see increases/decreases in speed of 2mph+ on the same road simply because of the quality of the surface/tarmac.
Another massive factor is whether you are riding in a group or not. Tour De France winners average 25mph over a 3000-4000 km. It has been calculated that drag can be reduced by 40% in the middle of a peloton.
We can safely assume that the Tour De France peloton has the best riders in the world. Working efficiently together like this is good for a 30% speed bonus(This figure is widely accepted). You can see this in action when the peloton chases down small break away groups or individuals, with blistering group pace.
So if you are a lone rider like I am most of the time and say for instance averaging 18mph you can safely assume that riding with an efficient peloton, such as in the Tour De France your pace would go up to 23.4mph.
This sounds great but before you celebrate remember that the Tour De France riders keep up their blistering pace over three weeks covering up to 4000km/2500miles. Roughly 110miles per day.
A note on equipment is that it has very little effect on overall average cycling speed. I know some of you wont like hearing this especially if you have spent thousands on your bike but the evidence suggests that you are only getting a very small advantage if any, over a good quality 80's steel frame. If we compare 1992, probably the last year that steel frames were widely used in the Tour, the average speed for the winner over 3983 miles was 24.49mph. In 2010 the average speed for the winner was 24.54mph over 3642miles and if we take the last five years that steel was commonly used the average cycling speed is is 23.87mph. As opposed to the last five years including 2010, the average cycling speed is 24.81mph. A small increase of 4.8% on average is not a significantly large figure over a 17 year period considering the development of cycle manufacture materials. How much of this 4.8% increase is down to the bikes as opposed to advances in training techniques is debatable, but the fact is that humans tend to get faster over time, as we see in athletic track running events. My point is don't get hung up on the machine you ride, saving a few pounds will make very little difference if any at all to your average cycling speed. Also if you aren't in great shape it's much cheaper to lose a few pounds yourself.
So what is the answer to determine average cycling speed, well the answer is there isn't one and it wouldn't be worth coming up with a figure because there are simply too many variables influencing speed. If you want my guidance then I'll give you my opinion on average cycling speed but that's all it is.
The following assumes an average 60mile course with some rolling hills 25-35% of the journey with no more than a moderate wind less than 10mph, body fat being less than 25% and cycling alone, no drafting.
Average Cycling Speed-Conclusion
Remember above all enjoy your cycling and don't get too hung up on average cycling speed unless your aim is competition. A big part of the enjoyment of cycling is taking in your environment as you cycle along. You can miss out on a greater part of the enjoyment that cycling brings, if you get obsessed with your average cycling speed.
Average Cycling Speed Poll, Please Take Part
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wadestar (author) from uk-lincolnshire on July 03, 2012:
You make a valid point and I did consider it. Analysing the Speed of the tour de France is worthy of a hub all of its own. I doubt there would be many cyclists left in the main group if they raced the entire event and teams like to stay together for support. A large group can maintain a higher speed than a smaller one with much less effort. That's why break away groups rarely stay off the front of the main peloton, often being caught even though they are putting in maximum effort. While we all know that professional cyclist can maintain speeds in excess of 30mph for long periods I believe the average speed for the whole tour gives a fairer reflection of what can be maintained all factors considered.
Liam Hallam from Nottingham UK on July 02, 2012:
What your figures for the tour de France don't take into account is that not every stage is 'raced' in its entirety. You may actually find that after a fast starting few miles the actual bunch speed is somewhat low until the maybe 20-40 miles to go point.