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I am curious what a reasonable speed to travel on a bike is. Speed will obviously vary based on the conditions in which you are riding. I am planning on taking the GPS out with me this weekend to see how quickly I go. Before I did that I wanted to get some benchmarks.

For the most part I will be riding an older road bike on crushed rock. (Very small rock, with good rolling resistance but still much worse than pavement).

I will also be riding that road bike on the road (i.e.: pavement in North America, Tarmac in Great Britain).

What is a reasonable speed on these two surfaces? I am more interested in speed over long distances, i.e. if you were going 80 km what would your target speed be?

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note: in the US, "pavement" means normal road surface. In the UK, it is equivalent to the US' sidewalk –  Jonny Cundall Sep 21 '10 at 12:02
    
@Jonny, I will update the question but if I want to be more generic what should I say? –  sixtyfootersdude Sep 21 '10 at 16:37
    
Road? Tarmac? Concrete? Slabs? –  Amos Sep 21 '10 at 17:19
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@Amos: I think "road". Sadly our countries are divided by a common language. Here in the US, "Tarmac" is usually specific to airports, and I think it's actually a trademark of the Tarmac corporation in the UK. "Concrete" is used for a substance made of limestone, clay and gypsum with stones and sand added as aggregate. Slabs are a particular format of concrete that a building might be built on, or possibly a large piece of bacon. Technically the common road surface is "asphalt concrete" composed of tar (thick oil) and aggregates, but typically only engineers use that term. –  freiheit Sep 21 '10 at 17:59
    
@freiheit: The type of slabs I was thinking of were actually paving slabs, which are usually concrete (I think) about 2 feet by 3 feet. Sometimes used for garden paths and for pavements (sidewalks). –  Amos Sep 21 '10 at 18:18
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7 Answers

up vote 32 down vote accepted

Speed varies widely by cyclist, depending on fitness, road conditions and traffic. Some of my observations (cruising speed based on a flat, paved road in good condition):

  • 20km/h - many "occasional" cyclists ride around this speed
  • 25km/h - most commuters
  • 30km/h - fast commuters, slower roadies
  • 35km/h - fast roadies
  • any faster than that on a long flat and they're probably a racer

(based on who I pass and who passes me when riding around 30km/h)

Average speed will usually be slower than you think, once traffic stops and hills are factored in, especially over longer distances (like 80km). On my 21km commute I'll hit 30+ on every long stretch I can, but my average still only works out to 24km/h. For longer rides I cruise around 27-28 km/h, which is more sustainable; averaging 22-24 over a very long ride (200km) is a great pace for me.

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For Americans, 20 km/h=12.5 mph — 25=15.5 — 30=18.5 — 35=22 –  Drew Stephens Sep 23 '10 at 1:00
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+1 This is a difficult question, with as many answers as there are people, but this is about the tidiest answer that I've seen anywhere. –  Will Sep 23 '10 at 18:14
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+1. Bike and wind also makes a big difference - In my younger days, I could average 30km/h on my roadie over a 1 hour circuit. A bit off wind, that would drop considerably (eve though it was a loop- you would think you would get back on the down wind what you lost on the up wind... not...). The same ride on my MTB (with me at the same fitness levels) I could just make 24km/h for the same effort. Drop 2km/h off these and it was a "leisurely cruise/all day" pace so to speak. Same ride in a bunch would add more speed. Just tire pressures are good for another 2-3 km/h variation. –  mattnz Sep 16 '12 at 22:11
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How long is a piece of string? Your speed is totally dependent on your surface, equipment, bike type ... and you!

I keep a record of most of my training ride (for the last few years with GPS, but summary data going back further) and compete with myself. If you're interested in what you should/could be doing, maybe liaise with a local club.

On my commute my rolling average with lots of braking and accelerating, is a good mph or two lower than training rides (further, but quieter roads) with race pace being another mph or two higher; cyclo-cross and off-road is completely terrain dependent so your mileage really will vary enormously

And if you have professional road aspirations, you'll want to average at least 25-27mph.

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I've already answered this question, but this is a different answer; I've recently started using a website called Strava (they do also have iPhone/Android apps as well as accepting GPX uploads which can be generated by many platforms and devices - I use MotionX-GPS for the iPhone).

Their (I think unique) central point is to allow users to defined specific 'segments' of their ride and then anyone whose uploaded route passes over that segment is included in a virtual league table. This allows you to easily compare yourself to others over short routes, climbs, sprints and so on.

So long as you cycle in reasonably populated areas, you'll be amazed at how many segments your ride already covers, at least around the London area, I was.

(I've no connection to the website, apart from being a satisfied, paying customer.)

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Strava, good find –  Carson Reinke Sep 14 '12 at 17:17
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Average speed is extremely dependant on:

  • Your fitness (main factor)
  • Weather (particularly wind)
  • Road surface quality
  • Interruptions like traffic lights, dog-walkers on bike-lanes
  • Accumulated fatigue over multiple days
  • How hilly the terrain is (although this can be balanced out by the faster descent)

As you mentioned, best way to see is using a GPS and seeing how fast you go.. I've found over the course of about 6-months of riding, my average speed over long rides is around the average of my shorter rides (I'm classifying "long" as around 150-200km, and "short" as maybe 30-80km)

For example, here is a plot of my distances vs average speed:

My average speed vs distance

(the axis's are in km/h and km)

The >50km rides averaging 25-30km/h are mostly group rides. Ignoring those, beyond about 80km begin to converge to an average of 20km/h (although at 80km I've ranged from about 15-25km/h, but this includes when I just started riding..)

These numbers are all specific to me, and even still they vary (particularly over time):

Speed over time

These averages are spread over a few different bikes (start to April was on a hybrid bike, April to mid May was on one road bike, and the rest was on a different road bike) - but, the spikes are almost all related to either terrain (there's a large dip in July related to a Strava hill-climbing challenge), fatigue (the dip in August was another Strava challenge, to cycle long distances over consecutive days), or other factors mentioned above

Sorry for the rather rambly answer, but it hopefully conveys that average speed depends on a lot of factors, and it's hard to give a specific answer

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Are these ride son the same bike? –  mattnz Sep 16 '12 at 22:13
    
@mattnz good point, it was on different bikes, but they are all comparable (two road bikes, and a hybrid which has road tyres) - other factors caused far more noticeable variance –  dbr Sep 17 '12 at 13:26
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Randonneuring or Audax riding is about riding audaciously long distances for the pleasure of riding audaciously long distances. (www.audax.org.au)

One method involves riding at 22.5km/h (14mi/h) in a peleton for up to 1000km. Another method involves riding at any pace above 15km/h (9.32mi/h) (up to 600km) or 13.33km/h (8.32mi/h) (1000 / 1200km).

I would suggest that the reasonable speeds for very long distance riding are 15km/h total average including breaks up to 600km, or 13.33km/h for 1000/1200km/h rides.

As a result I feel good when I make 15km/h of actual time when riding long distances, and try to improve my riding so that I'd be able to make 15km/h of actual time including sleep for longer distances.

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Good point, and well worth pointing out the differences between average speed to get from A to B, versus average rolling speed that many use (e.g. stops excluded). Did a first Audax week before last and 210k took me 11 hours, whereas my average rolling speed reported by the computer was 21.7kph –  Shane MacLaughlin Sep 24 '12 at 9:25
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Here's an article with average speeds for various different cases.

When doing longer than 100km distances, I find it useful to guide by heart rate not speed. Pick a sustainable heart rate and stick to it, regardless of momentary or average speed. In long distances, if it's not racing with tactics and all, it is important to go steady.

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The linked article gives a very thorough list, including commuting speeds, world records, and averages for different races over time. That was very interesting. –  amcnabb Sep 14 '12 at 15:21
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If if you live somewhere where the law lets you ride on the pavement, you should not be going over about 8mph as pavements are for walkers.

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Sorry, I meant pavement interms of the surface (in North America it would be correct to say: "our roads are made of pavement"). What would you you call the material that the road is made out of? Do you pave your driveway? –  sixtyfootersdude Sep 21 '10 at 16:40
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haha. I suspect the original poster is from North America and thus meant "road" when they said "pavement". US vs. UK English. –  alumb Sep 21 '10 at 16:50
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No, Tarmac is an airport thing in the US. –  freiheit Sep 21 '10 at 18:51
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@Ian In the US, "pavement" generally means a hard surface for a road, such as asphalt or concrete (it can also refer to a hard surface of a sidewalk). sixtyfootersdude was using the term to contrast it with a gravel road. "Tarmac" in the US refers to airport runways; the term is actually obsolete, as the actual material called Tarmac has generally been replaced by asphalt (though I believe in British English asphalt is commonly called tarmac). In the US, the place where cars drive is called the "road", and the place where pedestrians walk is called the "sidewalk". –  Brian Campbell Sep 21 '10 at 20:59
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@BrianCampbell -- Except in New York, where pedestrians walk in the street and cabs drive on the sidewalk. –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 30 '12 at 10:41
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