Although cycling speed may not seem too important when you start out on your cycling interest and journey - it’s one of the easiest ways to record your performance on the bike. With many cycling apps, such as Strava recording speed over certain distances over your cycle ride - you can compete with others to be the fastest in each segment.
It’s vital of course, to stay safe when cycling out on the roads or the trails - and to not put yourself or others at risk in order to chase the quickest possible speed. Having said that, getting quicker on a road bike or mountain bike is important to most of us - and in this post, we look at some of the things that you can do to improve your average speed on the bike.
What is a good average speed on a bike?
Average speeds on a bike is very difficult to define. It depends upon so many things, the bike you are riding, the weather conditions, your fitness levels, the route you are travelling, the tyres you are using and so on. At a professional level, the smoothness of the road you are cycling on also makes a difference, with many riders from across Europe complaining about the effects of the rougher tarmac we have here in the UK.
Of course, the biggest contributor to speed is fitness levels. The average speed for most recreational riders on road bikes is around 15mph - a speed which can be sustained for many hours by most riders. There’s a big jump in performance and effort required to travel more than 15mph, as wind resistance and other forces massively increase when cycling at 20mph - a speed most need to train to achieve.
How to Cycle Faster
Reading the road ahead, such as when traffic lights are going to turn red - prevents intense pedalling efforts just to come to a standstill. Instead, look further ahead and read the road - making sure you can put the energy down and pedal flat out, when the road allows you to do so.
Although braking is an important part of keeping safe on the bike - again, read the road well ahead and only brake when needed. Everytime you brake, you not only ruin the average speed but you also need to pedal harder to get back up the speed. A big part of this is learning to corner well, and if you learn to corner and handle the bike well - you can lower your centre of gravity and keep off the brakes.
Ride with Others
Riding with others, whether it’s a group of friends, just one friend, or a local cycling club - focusses the mind and allows you to squeeze out every bit of performance you can muster. As well as pushing you along, there is also a more scientific and sneaky advantage to riding with others - slipstream. When you tuck in behind another ride, you can save up to 40% of the effort required to race at the front in the headwind - it takes practice, but if you watch the professionals - you can see many riders holding back before a sprint to the finishing line.
Be more Aero
One of the biggest obstacles to riding faster, is wind resistance and drag when pedalling. The wind resistance you experience is higher the faster you are going, but it does make a difference at all speeds. One of the best ways to reduce aerodynamic challenges is to lean over more - and reduce the amount of your body which is in the wind. Riding in an aggressive position may be more uncomfortable, but it certainly makes all the difference when it comes to speed.
There are a massive range of cycling computers out there - which measure performance in many different ways. One of the most reliable measurements is that of speed - and a cycling computer not only allows you to retrospectively look at your performance on a ride, but also provides real time updates on speed, so you can understand your performance in real time.
One of the biggest challenges that many cyclists face here in the UK, is the lack of available training time over the winter months. This means slower performances in spring, and peak performances before the weather starts to turn again in the autumn and winter months. A turbo trainer, designed for indoor cycling use is a great way of effective training in the comfort of your own home.
The benefits of interval training are well recognised in running, and these benefits can also be enjoyed when out on the bike. Make sure to stay safe when doing intervals on the road however.
Cycle a different discipline
If you cycle on the road, and want to get quicker - one of the best ways to do so is by jumping on a mountain bike. Mountain biking improves bike handling skills, cornering performance and the extreme terrain which can be found off road - also improves cycling fitness.
Find a Tailwind
A tailwind can make riding feel amazing, keep an eye on the weather forecast and find a road where you know there will be a tailwind - and take advantage of nature giving you a helping hand.
Embrace the Lycra
If you are a rider looking for extra speed, it’s a safe assumption that you will already have a good wardrobe of cycling lycra. Again, this makes a difference - and non cycling clothing which becomes a parachute/sail when out on the road does nobody any favours.
Change your Bike
It may be that your bike is not set up for you to squeeze out maximum MPH - if you are riding a commuter/leisure bias road bike for example - it will always be slower than a carbon fibre race bias road bike.
Maintain Your Bike
Cleaning your bike makes a difference not only to the longevity of the components on the bike - but also how quickly you can travel. A clean and lubed chain will run smoother than a dirty, dry chain - and worn brake pads and components will be less effective in bringing you to a controlled stop - all factors which slow down performance.
Buy Faster Tyres
Tubeless tyres are more efficient than tyres which use inner tubes. Faster tyres are an easy win, for a relatively low cost. A lot of bike brands specify cheaper tyres to save money on their build - so swapping these out for more efficient tyres, is a great way to make some quick gains.