On a road bike what is a good target solo speed for someone who wants to be a better than average cyclist?

Like is there a certain speed where you know as a cyclist you are doing pretty good like 20 MPH+ for an extended period of time?

What is the speed and duration in time/distance one would need to be able to sustain in order to consider semi-pro racing (male rider)?

  • 11
    Faster than the bear who's chasing you. Jan 26, 2021 at 1:05
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    Question is much too broad for a good answer, so many things can have an impact. Road surface, altitude, hills/flat, bike/wheels, all out effort or easy.
    – Andy P
    Jan 26, 2021 at 9:12
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    Get a power meter. Above ~4W/kg FTP you’ll probably get a podium in local races, assuming you have good material (and setup). Above ~5W/kg you are in pro territory.
    – Michael
    Jan 26, 2021 at 9:16
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    @DanielRHicks Faster than the bear who's chasing you. Naaah, you don't have to be faster than the bear. You just need to be faster than at least one other rider. Whack 'em in the leg with your frame pump! Jan 26, 2021 at 13:32
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    On a flat course, try to ride 37-40km in an hour solo. That's nothing to sniff at 👍 Jan 27, 2021 at 6:18

2 Answers 2


I agree with Criggie's answer, but there's another way to look at it. Speed is mostly a function of power output. And you can quantify a cyclist's fitness in terms of their power-to-weight ratio, that is, W/kg.

This article shows what cyclists of different levels can produce in terms of W/kg, how long they can maintain different levels of output, etc. There's a lot there.

You can take that information and plug it into this calculator to estimate speed based on power and other conditions. You'll note that it takes a lot of additional power to go just a little faster.

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    ...and noone should feel that they have to perform at any specific level, before entering a race. A beginner's event is full of all sorts of riders.
    – Criggie
    Jan 26, 2021 at 7:20
  • @Criggie I'll have to disagree with that some. If you can't hold a good line, don't know how to corner in a pack, and don't have much experience riding in fast groups, please don't show up for an actual sanctioned-by-your-national-authority-under-UCI road race. If you can't ride safely in a tight pack at speed around sharp corners, you're an actual danger to yourself and everyone else riding. 10 riders eating pavement and bike parts at 40 kph because some !(*&%!#@ adrenaline-hyped noob thinks dive-bombing a corner is faster is not a good thing. Jan 26, 2021 at 13:46
  • Certainly there is a lot more that goes into success in bike racing than raw power—reading the course, reading other riders, willingness to suffer, bike handling, optimizing your training, etc. But I think those are beyond the scope of this question.
    – Adam Rice
    Jan 26, 2021 at 16:08
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    @AndrewHenle while I agree that a complete newbie shouldn't enter a cat1 race and get in the way of experienced riders, there's definitely a need to learn those skills either by casual group rides or entry-level races. Noone should feel they can't start racing, and OP implies they want to do well on their first race.
    – Criggie
    Jan 26, 2021 at 20:27
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    @AndrewHenle: a UCI sanctioned race isn't going to let a newbie in such a race to begin with, regardless how fast the new racer is or claims to be. They'll have to start in Cat5 like everyone else. Jan 26, 2021 at 21:24

There's no one fixed answer.

In racing, there are categories, around 5 normally. A category 5 racer is someone who is entering their first couple races, possibly has a road bike though its not unknown for MTBs to be used.

Once you have some race completions, then you can be placed in the next category. Depending on the body organising races, you may need to achieve a top 3 place in 2 of your last 5 races, or something similar.

To win or place, you have to finish the race course faster than most of the rest of the competitors (in your category). Its common for several categories to run at the same time, to get the best use of daylight.

If the race is a 20 minute sprint/crit, then the speeds needed will be higher than a 10 hour/200 km endurance race.

If you want to participate in a race, just do it - is that simple.

If you want to win a race, you have to enter, and if you've never raced before then simply crossing the START line is an achievement. Aim to cross the Finish line too, even if you're dead-last its still better than a DNF or a DNS/scratch.

Since you really seem to be asking for a target number, I'd estimate that a flat ride of 24 km should take you no more than 1 hour in neutral winds, ergo an average speed of 24 km/h (15 mph) would be a good target.

If you need a rest in that hour, you're pushing too hard and need to work on your endurance. If you're wrecked after that hour's effort then that's okay, aim for shorter races. Also, that same 24km/h effort will get you at least 20% more, or 30+km/h in a bunch. That's a weird but neat feeling.

For more local advise, try searching for cycle races near you. I see that https://localraces.com/ returns about 4 relevant clubs. Just call and ask about events or group rides.

If you've never ridden in a group, its probably wise to get some practice in before trying a race. Being able to ride in a paceline, smoothly and safely is a skill in itself. This is another area where a club can be useful.

  • 1
    If you're of the mindset that "I'm only going to enter a race when I can win it" then you'll never feel up to starting.
    – Criggie
    Jan 26, 2021 at 1:33
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    Seems like you have much better entry level racing than we do here in Scotland. Our entry/beginner level races can be pushing 40km/h
    – Andy P
    Jan 26, 2021 at 9:08
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    @AndyP yep that's a barrier-to-entry right there. Also called "gatekeeping" Here's my first real race strava.com/activities/520613679/analysis with an average speed overall of 20.8 km/h AND I got beaten to the end by a middle age guy on a 3 speed upright bike. My final time was ~3/4 of the way down the list. But I achieved the primary goal of finishing, and the secondary goal of being not last. My next year's effort was slower at 20.2 km/h average but I got a better overall time, which was that year's goal. Frankly the hardest thing about your first race is starting.
    – Criggie
    Jan 26, 2021 at 10:37
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    OP might also like to consider the kind of race that doesn't involve riding in a group and won't involve getting dropped if you can't keep up the pace... no barriers to entry whatsoever (and I think are popular for "trying out racing" for exactly that reason) and allows you know find out EXACTLY where you stand in relation to other riders...
    – Judy N.
    Jan 26, 2021 at 11:12
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    To give you some idea, the peak of my cycling performance was only as a mediocre Cat 2/3 rider in the 70s and 80s. At my best i could survive within a bunch on a 80 km race, more usually i got dropped and rode on solo until either the finish or a convenient place. So I took up time trialling instead in England and Australia. As a mid 20s to mid 30s guy I could achieve 16 km in about 25 mins, 40 km in 65 mins, 80 km in 2 hrs 20, and 160 km in 5 hrs 5 mins. I wasn't usually last, and was beaten by both men and women, some aged in their 40s and 50s. That is one snapshot of mediocre!
    – Henry S
    Jan 26, 2021 at 11:20

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