I've previously used a very old, not maintained single speed bike, and after my father having recently brought a hybrid bike, it's been about 20 days since I've been riding it more or less daily, durations being upwards of an hour, at least. Sometimes even two. The single speed, I'd ridden for maybe a fortnight before the new bike came, but before that, it was more or less collecting dust.. So you know that I haven't been riding for too long now..

I average a speed of about 22-23kmph (~ 14mph) now, compared to a previous average of 15-16 kmph (~ 10mph). My previous recorded max speed was 31kmph and now on the new bike it's 56.5 kmph. The speed approximates are from whatever strava has told me. These approximates are on roads that are relatively flat, but don't allow too long for you to accelerate or keep your pace, I need to slow down for turns that I take so I'm of the belief that my average speed would otherwise be higher, if not for the turns. The roads also have embedded stone studs all over, the kind that ate put up on roads to allow motor vehicles to have a better grip.

Now, I ride with the saddle a little lower than it needs to be for my height (because my dad is shorter and I don't want to fiddle with it). I also can't make any structural changes or change the bike at all.

The bike is a Riverside 120. It has flat bars, a 36t single chainring and 11/34t cogs. It also has 35c tyres that are advertised as fast rolling.

Is there any way for me to be able to increase my overall average speed without changing parts? Any changes in posture? Should I try getting the saddle to my level and keeping the handlebars low to get a more natural riding position or would that be a problem because the bike doesn't have drop bars? Any other suggestions? I currently ride in the open chested posture that a hybrid is "supposed to be ridden in".

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    "Ride lots" Oct 29 '20 at 14:42
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    You didn't ask about proper training, but it's worth mentioning. It might seem counterintuitive, but don't focus on that average every ride. There are whole books and websites devoted to training regimens, so I won't go into specifics here. Generally speaking though, they tend include a mix of different types of riding: LSD, intervals, rest days, etc. Find a plan that appeals to you, start there, and adjust as needed. Your average speed will trend upward over time.
    – jimchristie
    Oct 29 '20 at 15:12
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    I'd recommend you look for a road-oriented bike for yourself, that can be left set up for your dimensions. Even an old steel road bike will be more fun than the hybrid. And your dad can have the saddle at his preferred height rather than a compromise.
    – Criggie
    Oct 29 '20 at 23:27
  • @Criggle, the demand for bicycles has increased manifold right now, due to the pandemic.. I think good second hand bikes will be available a few months from now, for cheap prices because a lot of people will realise that they don't like riding bikes as much as they thought they would when they brought them. Getting a road oriented bike for myself isn't even an option currently because well, nobody would let me spend so much!
    – Timon
    Oct 30 '20 at 9:56
  • maybe pedal faster Oct 30 '20 at 13:37

First of all I’d fix the saddle position. A low saddle will decrease your power output and can cause knee problems. As a rule of thumb your leg should be fully extended with your heel on the pedal in the 6 o'clock position.

Keeping the handlebars low or even lowering them further will generally improve your aerodynamics.

Make sure the tires are inflated to a relatively high pressure (depending on your weight and road surface, probably around 4–5bars) to reduce rolling resistance. Make sure the chain is lubed properly to reduce friction.

Wear tight fitting clothes to improve aerodynamics.

Regarding turns: Here I disagree with Adam Rice, a lot of turns will certainly decrease your average speed, especially if you have to brake. Good brakes and technique can allow you to brake stronger and therefore later, thus improving your average speed.

Since it sounds like you are using average speed as a benchmark of fitness or power: It’s relatively useless for that, even if you only use it to measure your own progress. Even on the same roads different wind or traffic conditions can cause a lot of variation.

  • I doubt the tyre pressure will have a large effect. I normally ride on tarmac with my 38C gravel tyres pumped to 35 PSI. And still I am able to break PRs previously achieved on a road bike (albeit with the cheap 25C Luganos) where I use 90 PSI.
    – Vladimir F
    Oct 29 '20 at 15:28
  • If you're sharing the bike, mark the lower seat position with tape, then know how much higher the upper position is - perhaps a thumb's width between tape and clamp, or some similar measure. QR seat post clamps and the borrower doing all the adjustments make it quite easy
    – Chris H
    Oct 29 '20 at 17:23
  • Setting the saddle height is quick and easy. If it bothers your father, mark his position and return it afterwards. If you close the clamp properly (tight but not with excessive force) it can be done as often as one likes.
    – gschenk
    Oct 29 '20 at 17:29
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    @michael the Lugano and Durano are among the worst road tires.
    – ojs
    Oct 30 '20 at 5:03
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    @Timon: Seat post adjustments (especially with a quick release lever) are completely harmless and won’t cause any problems. People on folding bikes are often doing it multiple times per day.
    – Michael
    Oct 30 '20 at 6:54
  • Being in the correct position will allow you to use your legs more efficiently. Raising the seat will help. If you're sharing the bike, make marks on the seatpost so you can quickly and consistently change between positions.
  • Aerodynamics are very important in cycling, and the faster you go, the more important they are. There's not a lot you can do to change your aerodynamics on this bike—hybrids put you in an un-aerodynamic position.
  • As you might imagine, getting stronger as a rider will make you faster, so keep riding.
  • Turns don't lower your average speed that much. I wouldn't worry about that.

The easiest thing you can do to make a hybrid faster is change the tires. Narrower, higher pressure tires with no tread roll faster (on flat, smooth surfaces). If you already have relatively narrow tires (32mm) with minimal tread, inflate them to the maximum pressure.

If the roads in your area are rough, wider tires at lower pressure will be needed.

Regarding turns, stops at junctions etc. Strava/bike computers will pause if you stop and will give you an average moving speed. You can compare average speed for rides on similar roads with a similar amount of stops. When you are making frequent stops average speed will reflect not just your general moving speed but also your ability to accelerate back up to that speed after stopping or slowing down.

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    The OP mentioned 'embedded stone studs' on the road surface. Narrow tyres tend to be slower on rough ground. Nonetheless, better tyres are the easiest upgrade (after proper fit).
    – gschenk
    Oct 29 '20 at 17:25
  • I'd guess that "embedded stone studs" are a form of chipseal, where gravel is embedded in bitumen/asphalt . Its common here in NZ, and it is a little slower than smooth tarmac.
    – Criggie
    Oct 30 '20 at 3:52
  • @Argenti Apparatus the turns round here are nasty, and most of them have road that's broken so one needs to slow down significantly (under 8-9kmph or ~5mph). So you're still moving... Also, some roads don't even allow you to go at speeds beyond 10kmph or about 6mph.. Yes, they're still bitumen roads!
    – Timon
    Oct 30 '20 at 4:52
  • @gschenk for the embedded stone studs on roads, they're fairly big round here, lain in straight lines... So if you can ride between two lines, you will find the road to be smooth, else you experience continuous vibrations.. The areas of road (on the side) where motor vehicles travel more, they're relatively okay to ride on, but the parts where motor vehicles haven't rubbed them off as much, i think i can take the liberty to call the vibrations as jarring.
    – Timon
    Oct 30 '20 at 4:55
  • I'll try taking a picture of the road tonight if my phone's camera allows for a clear one.
    – Timon
    Oct 30 '20 at 5:03

Based on the assertion you do not want to change the saddle height, aerodynamics remain the single biggest factor in speed improvement on flat ground that you have available to you. A good graph here shows the effect. If you are riding at 30km/h in an aerodynamic position, doing nothing except getting into an aerodynamic position will increase you speed to 35km/h - not a bad gain for free*. Above about 15km/h aerodynamic drag has a bigger effect than is the biggest item in the equation.

To improve your aerodynamics tuck elbows in, move hands inward on the bars (Maybe move the grips and brakes/shifters inboard to make if more permanent), tuck in low to the bars. Only so much you can do and be comfortable on flat bars, and too much will loose power. Experiment with various degrees of tucked in positions to find one that is comfortable and efficient and safe (e.g. can you get to the brakes if needed). You could go to the extreme and bolt on some aerobars.

Already mentioned - raise the saddle to the correct height. Ignoring your 'No parts' request, a quick release on the seat post so you can quickly and easily adjust the seat height between what you and your father like s would be a very valuable investment.

Lowering the bars would make a small difference, but given its a shared bike (and not yours), I would not recommend it until you have done other things.

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    I disagree with your first sentence: The OP is riding at typical commuting speeds where aerodynamics are far less important than a suitable saddle height. When you are going faster than, say, 30km/h, I would agree that aerodynamics are probably the biggest factor in speed improvement. But at 22km/h the power loss to air resistance is still much lower (factor 2.5 lower than at 30km/h) and thus less important. Less important than saddle height in my experience. Oct 29 '20 at 22:57
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    Fair point - have edited.
    – mattnz
    Oct 29 '20 at 23:23
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    @cmaster Typical commuting speeds of motor vehicles where I live is probably lower than 20km/h because of how bad the roads are and how slow the traffic is!
    – Timon
    Oct 30 '20 at 5:03

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