Average speeds cycling

A look at different average speeds in different types of cycling. All speeds are in km/h.

People often ask what is a good average speed for cycling? When I was in Otley CC, we used to have ‘reliability rides’ (think sportive which doesn’t cost anything). Usually, the reliability rides involved riding 50 miles in 3 hours. – 16.6 mph, 26.8 km/h. It was a good test for the club-rider; it could still be done at a non-competitive, but ‘brisk’ pace. I don’t know if people still do reliability rides.

Usually our old club runs would be done at around 14mph (23 km/h) and that didn’t include the three tea stops during the day. Of course, the average speed of a club run will all depends who you go with. If it’s a club run of more than 20mph, I think a chain gang is probably more important. When I went with a local Oxford chain-gang, the average speed was something like 23mph for a flattish course around Otmoor.

Good tool for calculating average speeds

A quick conversion for km/h to mph:

  • 20 km/h = 12.4 mph
  • 30 km/h = 18.6 mph
  • 40 km/h = 24.85 mph
  • 50 km/h = 31.06 mph

My personal average speeds

iffley-road-wet-cycle-lane

When average speed of cyclists is higher than average speed of motorists

  • Commute into town, including stopping times at traffic lights – 12-16 km/h
  • Commute into town (slow) – 16-2o km/h
  • Commute into town (fast) – 20-28 km/h. (The average speed of motor traffic in Central London is said to be around 9mph.)
  • Training ride on winter training bike – 24-27 km/h
  • Training ride in summer – 28 – 30 km/h
  • Threshold training ride 32-33 km/h
  • Threshold training ride on time trial bike 34-37 km/h
  • Hilly time trial on road bike – 38 km/h
  • Hilly time trial on time trial bike – 40-42 km/h
  • Flat time trial TT bike, no traffic – 46-47 km/h
  • Fastest time trial on TT bike (fast course, + traffic)- 50km/h
  • Fastest downhill – 85 km/h

Factors that affect average speed:

Timetrial-rider-daises

  • A time trial bike in a very aero position can add an extra 3-4 km/h (see: difference between road bike and TT bike)
  • Passing traffic on dual carriageways can add an extra 2-3 km/h
  • Very smooth roads – smooth tarmac can add an extra 1 km/h
  • In a 10 mile time trial, with a tailwind of 20mph, I once averaged 56km/h. Into the headwind on the return, I averaged 36 km/h. Wind  is important
  • If you can average 32-34 km/h on the flat on a road bike, you may find you can get close to 40km/h on a time trial bike on a fast course.
  • If you cycle in the wheels – behind another rider, you can save 20-40% energy. In the middle of a large peleton, it is said you can save up to 50% of your energy. You can probably ride 3-9 km/h faster. Average speeds for team time trials are often 3-5 km/h faster than individual time trials.

Average speeds for hill climbs

  • A gradient of 3% (Long Hill) – average speed 36 km/h
  • A gradient of 5% (box hill) – average speed 31 km/h
  • A gradient of 10% (Dover’s Hill) – average speed 22 km/h
  • Hardknott Pass (average 13%. Max 30%) – average speed – 12.7 km/h

Average speeds using gear ratios

You can calculate the slowest you will be able to ride up a hill using gear tables.

  • If you have a 36*25 and a cadence of 70rpm – your speed will be 7.9mph (12.7 km/h)
  • If you have a 34*28 and a cadence of 60rpm – your speed will be 5.7mph (9.1 km/h)

Average speeds for Road Records Association

eileen-sheriden3-400

Eileen Sheriden, RRA star.

 

In the ‘Good old days’ Road records association (founded 1888) was a big thing. The top amateur riders (such as Eileen Sheridan) would often turn pro, just to break records for set distance or place to place.

These days very few go for these records, due to different priorities and heavier traffic. It’s hard to imagine trying to break the London – Edinburgh record by riding up the A1.

The most prestigious existing record is Lands End to John ‘O Groats. The current record for men Gethin Butler (2001) is 1 day 20 hours, 4 minutes, 20 seconds. That’s 874 miles at an average speed of 19.8 mph / 31.9 kmh

World Hour Record (solo time trial on flat track)

The first official world hour record was set in 1893 by Henri Desgrange. He completed 35.3 Km in an hour. 100 years later, the average speed of the world hour record had increased to an incredible 56.37 Km. This was a reflection of improved training, improved aerodynamics and fitter athletes.

boardman-superman

After Chris Boardman set a record of 56.375Km in 1996, the UCI change the rules. Using 1970s technology, Chris Boardman was just able to beat Eddy Merckx distance, covering 49.4 km/h. This shows the technology of Chris Boardman’s super aero position, added an extra 6 km/h on to his speed.

  • 1893 Henri Desgrange – 35.325 km/h
  • 1914 Oscar Egg – 44.247 km/h
  • 1942 Fausto Coppi – 45.871 km/h
  • 1972 Eddy Merckx – 49.431 km/h
  • 1992 Graeme Obree – 52.713 km/h (superman position)
  • 1994 Miguel Indurain – 53.040 km/h
  • 1996 Chris Boardman – 56.375 km/h (superman position)

New UCI ‘unified’ Hour record

The new UCI ‘unified’ hour record allows the same technology used in current pursuit events on the track. This allows tribars, but not extreme positions like Obree’s ‘Superman’ or ‘tuck’ position.

  • Jens Voigt – 51.11 km
  • Matthias Brandle – 51.8 km

This record will almost certainly be broken in 2015. Alex Dowsett, Bradley Wiggins / Tony Martin / Fabian Cancellara could push – 55 km/h ?

Average speeds women

If you look at current times of professional riders, as a rough rule of thumb, women’s average speed tend to be around 4-5 km/h less than men.

Women’s Hour Record

  • 2003 – Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel (NED), 1 October 2003 – 46.065 km/h
  • 1996 – Jeannie Longo – 48.159 km/h

Tour de France average speeds

tour de france

  • 1903 – 25.5km/h
  • 1919 – 24.0 km/h (slowest ever tour)
  • 1937 – 31.768 km/h (first use of dérailleur gears)
  • 1939 – 31.9 km/h
  • 1956 – 36.2 km/h
  • 1971 – 38.084 km/h
  • 1981 – 38.960 km/h
  • 1991 – 38.747 km/h
  • 2001 – 40.02 km/h
  • 2005 – 41.654 km/h (fastest tour)
  • 2012 – 39.83 km/h
  • Tour de France Average speeds
  • See also more: Tour de France Facts

Fastest Ever Prologue Time Trial

1994, Chris Boardman – 7.2km time trial course of 55.152 km/h (youtube clip)

Olympic road race 2012

  • Women 140 km – 3.35 = average speed – 39.1 km/h
  • Men 250 km – 5.45 = average speed 43.5 km/h

Average Speeds Road Races

  • 3/4th Cat – 32-38 km/h Most common would be around 36 km/h
  • Elite 1,2,3 – 36-44 km/h Most common around 41km/h

If you can average 30-32 km/h in training on your own, you should be fine to enter 3/4th cat road races.

Classics average speeds

  • 2012 – Paris – Roubaix – Tom Boonen average 43.4 km/h (though in 2010, Fabian Cancellara won in an average time of 39.3 km/h)
  • 2012 – Milan San Remo – average – 42.632 km/h
  • 2011 – Paris Tours – average 42.988km/h (though in 2003, the average winning speed was 47. 5 km/h)

Audax Average Speeds

Audax events are not races, but long distance events where the rider has to complete a set route at a particular average speed, emphasising route finding, mechanical reliability and the ability to ride to a schedule. Usually, the average speed has to be between 15-30km/h. – You can get penalised for riding too quick!

Cyclo Sportives

What average speed might you expect for a Cyclo Sportive?

Etape du Tour

  • The Minimum average speed to finish in time limit – 12mph – 20 km/h
  • An average speed of 24 km/h would place you in around the top 1,000 out of 8,000 finishers.
  • The pros may average in the region of 32-34 km/h for a very mountainous stage

Fred Whitton Challenge

For the 113 miles through the Lake District major passes, average speeds vary from a fastest of 30km/h down towards 15 km/h (10 hour finishing time) Fred Whitton results

Rolling Cyclo Sportives

For less mountainous cyclo sportives, you will find higher average speed. A medium hilly cyclo sportive will be completed in average speeds of around 24-32 km/h.

What average speed for a 100 mile Ride?

For a fairly flat 100 miles

  • The record for a 100 mile time trial is close to 3 hours 20 – around 48 km/h. However, this is with passing traffic and aerodynamic equipment.
  • On a road bike, a fast time for a 100 mile training times, would be 5 hours – 32km/h.
  • A decent touring pace would be 6 hours – 27 km/h

Miscellaneous average speeds

In the Race Across America, Pete Penseyres, 1986, averaged 15.40 mph (24.8 km/h)

The fastest ever speed attained cycling downhill on snow or ice is 222 km/h (138 mph), by Eric Barone (France) at Les Arcs, France on 21 April 2000.

Most popular ways to increase average speed cycling

  1. Ride with tailwind
  2. Ride downhill
  3. Ride an aerodynamic time trial bike
  4. Wear aerodynamic clothes
  5. Ride behind another rider (in a peleton)
  6. Train! improve endurance, speed and get fitter.

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8 Responses to Average speeds cycling

  1. Tom Cullen January 22, 2015 at 6:36 pm #

    Great write up, very interesting. The reliability rides are still going in fact the first one is on Sunday! There are 7 this week after week every Sunday.

    • tejvan January 22, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

      Good to hear, is average speed still 16.6 mph?

  2. Tom Cullen January 22, 2015 at 6:37 pm #

    Oops meant to say seven this year not week !

  3. Eatmorelard January 22, 2015 at 11:28 pm #

    12.7km/h average on Hardknott. Blimey! Was that uphill or downhill? I think I was closer to half that…

  4. Tom January 24, 2015 at 8:15 am #

    Last year they were ridiculously quick! Lots of people are heard training to try abd stay in the front bunch! This year I think they are trying to emphasise that it’s not a race and are going to limit the number of riders in each group instead of one group of 50+ riders flying along!

    • tejvan January 24, 2015 at 9:10 am #

      Well, I hope everyone is still stopping for tea and teacakes. Never trust a thin and fast cyclist. That’s what I say.

      • Tom Cullen February 1, 2015 at 6:26 pm #

        Hi Tejvan done the first couple reliability rides, there more like road races these days! The front group averaged 23mph! And Alistair Brownlee was with them, apparently there was a 4 man break away, they did stop for tea and cake at the end though.

        • tejvan February 1, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

          I think I’d have to stick with the old A section if I was still with the Otley CC. 23mph sounds more like a chain gang!

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