I recently bought a bike (never rode one real one before, only ever used the gym ones) and became quite comfortable with it so I ride it everyday around my city.

Here's the thing, I'm a 19 year old girl (if that's relevant) and I exercise almost daily (plus the cycling) so my leg muscles are fairly strong, but my average cycling speed never got over 8 km/h, I was wondering why? Does the bike use muscles I usually wouldn't train?

My city is uphill/downhill almost no flat terrain, but when I looked up even average cycling speed for uphill it was 12 km/h, am I doing something wrong?

  • 10
    Can you please describe your bike, or add a photo. How are you measuring your average speed ?
    – Criggie
    Jan 26 '19 at 7:17
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    Where can you look up 'average cycling speed'? Jan 26 '19 at 11:40
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    I'm guessing that either the bike is a single-speed one or you're not using the gears correctly. Jan 26 '19 at 12:57
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    Do you feel like you're labouring, or that your legs can't spin fast enough to make you faster? Or neither?
    – Chris H
    Jan 26 '19 at 17:54
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    I would be interested in your maximum speed, and the speed you ride along the flat in no wind. How are you working out Average speed? Bike computer/GPS Watch of something else.
    – mattnz
    Jan 26 '19 at 19:14

Average speed depends a lot on various factors. But, having said that, 8km/h is very slow for a fit young person: it's not a whole lot more than walking pace.

Where you're cycling. In cities, it can be hard to cycle quickly. Cycle paths often have lots of pedestrians on them; roads often have lots of junctions, stop signs and traffic lights. If you're constantly having to stop and get going again, that will bring your average speed down a lot.

You say you're in a hilly city. Going up-hill is, of course, slower. However, on average, you'll go down as many hills as you go up, so that should balance out to some extent. If you mean that you average 8km/h up the hills, that might not be at all bad, depending on how steep the hills are!

How you measure speed. If you just compute distance travelled divided by time taken, then you're including all the time you're stopped in your average: if you cycle at 15km/h for ten minutes and spend five minutes stopped, your overall average would be 10km/h but, when you were actually cyling, you were doing 15. If you're using a cycle computer or GPS app, you should set it up to only compute average speed over the time you're actually moving.

How you cycle. Obviously, if you don't try to cycle fast, you won't be fast. Are you working quite hard when you cycle, or are you just drifting along? Do you get out of breath? Are you using your gears properly? A lot of beginner cyclists turn the pedals very slowly in much too difficult a gear, and it's hard to go fast that way (and very hard to accelerate away from a stop). As a rough guide, if you're pedalling at less than 60rpm on flat ground (i.e., pressing your right leg down once every second), you're pedalling very slowly and you should probably aim for something more like 75. Use an easier gear to compensate and, crucially, if you feel yourself slowing down, change into an easier gear. The point of the gears is that they let you keep the pedals spinning at a good rate whatever speed you're actually going at. A good way to measure how fast you're pedalling is to use the internet to find out how many beats per minute there are in some songs you know, and compare that against how often you're pressing down your right leg.

How well your bike is set up and maintained. Many beginners have their saddle much too low. An easy rule of thumb is that, when you're sat on the saddle with your foot on the pedal at its lowest point, that leg should be almost straight. If your saddle is much lower than that, it's really hard to generate any power. Is your bike well maintained? Do the wheels spin freely? Are the brakes rubbing? Is the chain properly lubricated? Does the bike make noises while you cycle?

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    Is the cycling meter correctly set up regarding wheel diameter or circumference?
    – Carel
    Jan 27 '19 at 9:16
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    @Carel Good point -- the asker should check whether the distance it reports for a ride is roughly the same as what, e.g., Google maps says is the length of the same route. Jan 27 '19 at 9:29
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    Most likely, the problem is due to a combination of a) the way speed is measured, and b) the fact that it's the lowest speed that dominates the average. If you do 1km uphill at 10km/h, that's 6min. If you go down the same 1km at 60km/h, that's 1min. Total: 7min, or an average of 2km/7min = 17km/h. That's much, much closer to the uphill speed than the downhill speed, simply because the uphill dominates the total time. Add in a few traffic lights at 0km/h and, ..., well, you get the idea... Jan 27 '19 at 20:24
  • Many computers, such as the one I use, make a difference between total average and moving average. Other might just give you total time and moving time from which one may calculate moving average. Also a city ride is quite bad at giving realistic data on average speed because of stop & go traffic.
    – Carel
    Jan 28 '19 at 13:26

You don’t provide much information in your question so it’s impossible to give you a specific answer, but it basically boils down to: either you're not as fit and strong as you think you are, or something is holding you back.

Addressing the latter:

Your bike may be a slow bike. Is it heavy? inefficient? in poor shape? A rusty, worn out chain or low tire pressure can slow you down.

If the bike does not fit you very well it will hinder your ability to put power into the pedals.

Is your bike simply not designed to go fast, such as a beach cruiser or a hybrid with a very upright riding position?

Are you using the gears correctly? Are you pedaling too fast in a too-low gear or grinding along in a too-high gear?

What are you wearing? Regular clothes or lightweight cycling clothing that does not restrict movement?

Maybe you have just got into the habit of riding slowly? Do you concentrate on keeping your effort and speed up?


I recently bought a bike (never rode one real one before, only ever used the gym ones)

Nobody seems to have paid attention to that crucial bit of information.

It likely comes down to technique, which will not be very good if you never rode an actual bicycle before. It will improve with practice.

  • 2
    Right. In a gym 30+mph. In stop and go traffic : 2mph...
    – Mazura
    Jan 27 '19 at 13:47
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    What specifically could OP do to improve their technique? what should they practise?
    – Swifty
    Jan 27 '19 at 14:58
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    This answer is, basically, "You're doing it wrong", which isn't very helpful. Jan 27 '19 at 17:06
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    I thought they were just using a gadget wrong. If it is stop and go traffic, sounds like they don't know how to use a gear shift yet.
    – Mazura
    Jan 28 '19 at 3:47

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