How can a cyclist, new to commuting by bike and not all that experienced in riding, estimate how long a commute will take?

I have been riding for 4 days to and from work. 156km over over 4 days. I'd like to know what I should be averaging time wise. I am 203 lbs / 92kg, and somewhat fit. The ride is 13 miles/ 21km there and back with an elevation of 81 meters and I'm using a good standard bike.

Are there any general guidelines to use to get an estimate? What factors will affect this? (Fitness, traffic, etc.) How can I identify ways to get faster? (Routing, accounting for other delays, etc.)

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    This is a really tough question because it depends on so many variables...
    – WTHarper
    Commented Mar 8, 2013 at 22:27
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    It would take me roughly an hour, on typical roads around here. There are people who could do it in half that time, though. And a difference in roads could easily be another 2x factor, one way or the other. Commented Mar 8, 2013 at 22:44
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    Yeah, a lot will depend on traffic, intersections, the kind of bike you ride, and a lot of other factors. When I did 25 km commute it took me a little over an hour.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 1:01
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    This question is talking about longer distances, but the answer pretty much covers your question - people don't usually go that much faster on a half hour ride.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 4:32
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    Measure your ride in smiles instead of miles. If you get to work on time, you rode fast enough. If you didn't then you should leave earlier tomorrow. If you don't intend to race, then how fast you ride to work is less relevant than whether you enjoy riding to work and benefit physically and mentally from it. Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 21:53

9 Answers 9


Unfortunately, there is no single answer to this question. In my experience, every route is unique, and will have variables that increase or decrease the transit time for a particular commute.

Traffic, seasonal weather, time of day for the commute, rider's fitness, and your bicycle's condition will all play a role in determining the time for a given route.

If you are regular cyclist, and have an idea what your average speed is on a fitness ride, using that as a basis to gauge how long a route will take is a good start.

When I ride a route for the first time, I gauge the time by average speed, and then if there is a deadline for me to be at the destination (i.e. I have to be there and ready for work at 9 a.m.) I take my fitness time, and double it. That ensures that I have enough time to arrive, even with problems I don't foresee. Then I add 15-20 minutes, to allow myself time to clean up and be presentable for work.

The next step is to ride the route. If you are especially cautious, then informing your coworkers/employer that you are trying a new route to work and might be late, if you have unforeseen issues, is not a bad idea. Doing a test ride when you don't have a critical deadline, meeting, or even doing it the first time on your day off, is even better.

You will get used to traffic patterns, weather issues, and normal delays. Even once you are certain of the normal time a route will take, it is a good idea to allow a bit of leeway for a flat tire, or an unforeseen circumstance.

I know that the answer you want is something along the line of x kilometers or miles will take y minutes, but that is not possible to gauge for you. What we can offer, is ways to learn the time for your route, without causing damage to your life or your job.

I hope that is helpful.

  • Excelent points! I would add that there are way too many factors influencing the time to commute: fitness level, mood, weather (head winds can be brutal), traffic. All of these and many more can add or take time away from the time it takes to get from point a to point b.
    – Zeus A.
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 19:07

Something that has not been mentioned here is the two ends. One can easily spend 45 minutes on each end of a 60 minute ride, gathering stuff together before the ride and cleaning up after.

If you're going to commute regularly it's important to have this stuff "fine-tuned". You want to have all your gear ready to go (prepared the night before, if possible) and not have to search around to find everything in the morning (or, worse, ride off without some critical item, like the pants you were going to change into). And you want to work out a "clean up" routine on arriving at your destination that is effective and efficient. Eg, if you can't shower, have washcloth and towel and plastic bags to put them into, and always carried in the same pockets of your bags.

Effort spent here can trim more time off the length of your ride than effort spent training for the ride.

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    I started commuting again this week. Forgot my change of clothes the first day. Good thing we don't have much of a dress code.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 14:40

One could possibly look up the route on Strava. They break things up into segments so it might take some work to figure out your whole route. Also remember that most people on Strava are trying for best times and not commuting. However it still might offer a good starting point.

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    This is almost the only reasonable answer because while Strava does naturally attract people wanting to race over the segments, those segments allow you to track your relative ability too. The OP is obviously a competitive type wanting to mark himself against the crowd, so I'd whole heartedly recommend Strava for this.
    – Unsliced
    Commented Mar 11, 2013 at 12:33

Answer Your best time will likely be 75% of your average time, and you worst time will be about double your best time.

Supporting details: I have good records on strava - here's a private segment of mine and some stats from over 80 trips in the last 2 years.

enter image description here enter image description here

So my best time ever was a shade over 15 minutes. My worst time was 27+ minutes.

Note this route has ~20 sets of traffic lights, so getting a green wave is incredibly unlikely.

My "average" time on this segment is around 19min 45seconds.


My average speed on commute rides is usually between 14 and 18mph.

My average speed on training/exercise rides is usually between 18 and 20mph.

This is on the same bike (modern 105-level road bike). The difference in speed is due to a couple things;

  1. The number of traffic lights and stop signs on the route.
  2. My intensity/effort.

If you don't us Strava, give it a shot. Create segments on your route, and the app will let you know when you have 'accomplishments' in those segments, like "personal record on segment ABC", or "3rd best time on segment XYZ".

I'm not a competitive rider, but Strava makes it a little more fun, I find myself working harder when I enter a tracked segment. I'm constantly getting accomplishment notifications because I get faster/stronger the more I ride.

  • +! for Strava - love the ability to measure myself against myself!
    – Byron Ross
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 3:02

My experience:

Hybrid bicycle with accessories (fenders, lighting system etc.), so not too light.

A ride of 6km takes me 20-22 min (=16-18 km/h). That is with few traffic lights, but a height difference of about 60m (uphill). I am reasonably fit, but do not train, apart from my bicycle commute.

In general, to estimate how long a trip will take, I'd take my personal speed under "ideal" conditions (fit and rested, good road, no traffic lights or other obstacles, no height difference, good weather) - that speed will vary on how you ride, but you should be able to estimate it from past rides.

Then apply correction factors for less than ideal conditions. Again, you'll have to estimate e.g. times at traffic lights. That should give you a good rule of thumb.

  • My ride is about the same length and takes about the same time.
    – nightrider
    Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 11:48

My average riding speed when commuting to work is about 16 km/h.

I use electric bicycle on flat terrain, so this is likely limited only by the necessity so that the stopping distance must be safely less than the distance I can see.

In places near yard exits close to your path this distance can be short so you have to go slower.

  • I'm not quite sure what you mean by "travel on sight" in this context ? How else could you say that ?
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 10:16
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    @Criggie: I don’t know if “drive on sight” is correct English. I guess they wanted to say that their speed is limited by how far they can see (e.g. because of obstacles around turns/corners, fog, darkness etc.) and the need to be able to stop safely within that distance. At least in German driving license training „Fahren auf Sicht“ is a common term.
    – Michael
    Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 11:01
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    The stopping distance must be safely less than the distance I can see. In places like yard exits close to your path this is really near.
    – nightrider
    Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 11:02
  • @h22 thank you - I've edited that into your answer, if I messed it up at all please continue the edit
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 11:37

All I can say is how long it takes me. I ride the same distance as you - 11 km each way. It takes me about 30 minutes each way after a month or so of riding. When I start riding in the spring it will take about 40 minutes. I have less of an elevation change though.


What I do is use my stopwatch and timer. I would start my watch as soon as I leave, if there are any interferences, I'd stop the timer until I start back again and I'd do this for a couple of days and use the times I collected and estimate.

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    The thing about commuting is that it's the elapsed time that counts, not the riding time. The holdups are all part of the timing.
    – Chris H
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 16:38

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