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I am relatively slow road rider. My avg speed is usually around 24km/h around the town. When I ride flats I go around 30-35 km/h. On the downhills I can go up to 45 km/h but I tend to start braking because I feel scared of loosing control.

I know some guys go about 50-60 km/h just fine. I saw a few guys passing me on the downhills pedaling. They were much faster.

I have a good bike and shouldn't have any problem on the tech side. Is there some sort of training on how to ride faster?


I want to be able to eventually participate in the entry level races. But also I want to reach 60km/h going downhill. I think this is totally possible with tailwind and some training. I do track my activity. You can check it out here strava.com/athletes/16353758 if you are interested.

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  • Am I right in thinking there are two issues: speed on the flat (how hard/fast you can spin the pedals); and downhill speed (how fast you dare go)? 2 problems would probably need 2 solutions
    – Chris H
    Nov 26 '21 at 21:58
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    You're mentioning all but uphills, which definitely impact your average speed negatively. In case you log your rides I suggest you look into how much you spend on different gradients and you should be hit by the importance of pacing uphills to complete your long rides faster. Nov 26 '21 at 23:05
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    There’s no need to go that fast if you’re uncomfortable/unwilling to do it. Everyone rides at the same speed in the hospital.
    – MaplePanda
    Nov 26 '21 at 23:34
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    @zoonman I don't know how to overcome psychological barrier of going faster. You need to ride more. You'll get used to going faster as you ride more. Remember - you're just riding a bike. But also I want to reach 60km/h going downhill. I think this is totally possible with tailwind and some training. With a good tailwind, you can go that fast on level ground... Nov 27 '21 at 16:33
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    Well I ended up writing more than I planned to address just the descending speed point. One thing I'll add, though, is that if not actually racing or training for one, descents are a good chance for a rest and a stretch.
    – Chris H
    Nov 27 '21 at 16:49
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If you’re able to average 30-35 km/h on the flats, that’s a respectable speed. The key to getting faster is A. Improving your aerodynamics, and B. Improving your power.

Improving your aerodynamics is mostly about your position on the bike, the right clothes, and the right bike.

Improving your power requires dedicated training. There are numerous books and articles on the subject. It’s a deep rabbit hole to explore.

In either case, you won’t see huge speed increases. If you could get up to 40 km/h, you’d be approaching pro levels.

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    If you could get up to 40 km/h, you’d be approaching pro levels. 40 km/h is about how fast pros go when you average in the climbs up Alpe d'Huez. Pro individual time trials go down at 50+ kph. Add 5 km/h to that for team time trials. Pro sprints routinely reach 60 km/h. Or more. On level ground. 40 km/h gets you into "decent amateur racer" status. Maybe - depending on the level of competition in your area. If a decent, non-racing recreational cyclist is 40% of a TdF-level pro, a decent amateur racing cyclist is 50% of a TdF-level pro. Pros are crazy !*&T!*@ FAST. Nov 27 '21 at 0:35
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    @AndrewHenle I agree. Even the lowest levels of racing still manage to hold 40km/h or so in the peloton.
    – MaplePanda
    Nov 27 '21 at 1:13
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    Don’t forget that people are much faster in the peloton or on a time trial bike.
    – Michael
    Nov 27 '21 at 11:45
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    It also depends on the duration. Even untrained people should be able to reach 40km/h for a few seconds on flat terrain with a road bike. Riding at >35km/h for an hour or more on a normal road bike is a whole other story.
    – Michael
    Nov 27 '21 at 11:47
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Uphill it’s all about your (sustained) power output in relationship to your total weight (bicycle+rider) i.e. Watts per kilogram (W/kg). Assuming you are already at a healthy weight, your bike is relatively lightweight, you have the right gears for optimal cadence and good pacing, then your only real option is to increase your (sustained) power output.

That means training, training, training. In bicycling a lot depends on total training volume i.e. how much time you spend on the bike. Not every ride has to be all-out, especially because that means you won’t be able to ride the next day. However, interval training is still beneficial. A structured training plan with an endurance period at the start of the season and more and more shorter but intense training sessions before races (or whatever you train for) can also help a lot. Of course getting enough sleep, carbs (during and after training), protein, rest and so on is also important.

On flat terrain power output is still the most important factor. Weight is less important. Aerodynamics play an important role.

When descending it’s mostly about experience, aerodynamics, good brakes and good tyres. High (hard) gears and/or being able to sustain a fast cadence can help you to keep applying muscle power. On a straight, good road with little wind and good visibility there is nothing inherently dangerous in riding 70km/h or more, as long as you brake early enough before an oncoming turn (or other dangerous section). For turns you just need experience and a basic idea about the optimal path (look at videos of bicycle races or F1 or motorbike races). Avoid braking in turns (it reduces your total “grip budget”), brake before turns. Avoid riding over manhole covers or paint, especially when it’s wet, they can be extremely slippery. Get an idea how much distance you’d need to come to a full stop from e.g. 70km/h (it’s about 60m or so). Practice hard braking from all riding positions. Here in Austria we have reflector posts every 33m along roads, those can be a good indicator for when you have to start braking before a turn.

A few words on average speed: Average speed can be misleading and it’s usually a bad performance metric. A few slow sections (e.g. through a city, at intersections, behind a tractor etc.) can completely ruin your average speed. Even if you compare the same course it will still depend on wind (and to a small extend temperature). To really measure your progress you need a power meter to measure your power output in watts. Comparing your all-out 20 minute average W/kg (pick a route where you can really ride as hard as you can for 20 minutes) with previous efforts or other riders is much more meaningful.

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How to ride faster?

Without getting too technical about training methods or overthinking it, just ride with people a bit faster than you, but not so much faster that you get dropped in 20 or 30 minutes.

Find a local group ride that's at a level that you'll get dropped from in about an hour or 90 minutes. Then keep doing that ride until you don't get dropped. Move up to the next faster group. Repeat.

Do rides like that once or twice a week - no more. Because they're hard on you, and if you do them day-after-day you never recover, never really get stronger. You'll only get good at being mediocre if you go hard day-after-day-after-day.

During those rides, don't think - just ride. Learn how to pay attention to your body so you know how to control your efforts so you don't blow yourself up.

Get a cheap bike computer that has a cadence meter - work on keeping pedaling all the time, and pedaling at 80-90 RPM constantly. It'll probably seem hard at first, but in the long run that will really help your endurance.

2-5 times a week go for easier rides, where you ride for an hour or 90 minutes at a decent but not really hard pace, but trying to never stop pedaling - the purpose here is to build up both your muscular endurance and aerobic power levels, and taking breaks to recover defeats that. Maybe once a week throw in some three to five 5-10 minute-long hill repeats where you go up a hill at a relatively slow but steady pedaling RPM, say 50-70 RPM, to help your climbing. Or maybe three or four 5-10 minute intervals where you pedal at a high RPM (100-120 RPM - this is harder than you'd think if you've never done it...) with no breaks - that builds and widens your effective "torque band", helping you to respond to changes in pack speed without killing yourself, and also improving your top-end sprint speed.

Bottom line: don't overthink it. It's just riding a bike.

If, after you get some more experience, you want to do things like buy a HR monitor or power meter and get into a more structured training program, then you can start worrying about details.

But until you can do something like a 2- or 3-hour ride at a good speed without stopping and without feeling like your legs are turning into cramp-filled pretzels, you don't really need to overthink things.

As someone once said, "Ride lots".

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Trying some mountain biking is another possible solution. I know that for me at least, the massive increase in bike handling skills make road descent seem very, very easy in comparison. Even at 80km/h, the road bike is a dream to ride compared to the constant mental attack that a mountain bike trail poses.

It may be too much to ask to buy a mountain bike for the sole purpose of overcoming this hesitation, so see if you can rent/borrow and go for a few rides. Who knows, maybe you'll find you enjoy mountain biking too!

As I commented though, the risk increases dramatically the faster you go. Careful out there, especially when you go faster and start to push the limits of grip.

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  • I have some entry level MTB. I used to ride up to 130km per day on it. I still ride my MTB as commuter. All decent trails are far away from me and I don't have a car to drive up there.
    – zoonman
    Nov 29 '21 at 21:05
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I'm going to address the downhill aspect here, as others have addressed the power and flat/uphill speed. I've always been a bit of a nervous descender myself, but that got worse after a crash a couple of years ago, so I had to get better again.

I suggest you get confident at descending good stuff first, and don't worry about speed on tricky descents for now.

There is a little bit of technique that may help you, if it's steep enough that you're not pedalling, and especially for any bumps you might spot:

  • Get your weight back
  • Unweight the saddle for bumps

These mean I tend to prefer descending on the hoods, also I can see better being that bit higher, and I get a bit of aero braking unless I tuck into an aero hoods position (which is a good option, so overall body position also contributes to speed control). On some road descents round here I descend like I'm on my mountain bike, standing only the pedals, heels down, hanging off the back of the saddle. That normally because of poor surfaces. Others find descending in the drops better - perhaps because of more secure grip, better leverage on the brakes, or finding it easier to shift their weight around.

The flip side of this is sitting rigidly on the bike getting bounced around by the slightest crack in the road; gripping the bars for dear life doesn't help either.

To get more confident descending fast, you need a good hill:

  • Not too steep. Anything over about 10--12% sustained will feel like the bike is running away with you at first. The local example I link below is 6--9% on the main descent. Another advantage of this sort of gradient is that you can still pedal to boost your speed - or not if you're not happy.
  • Local so you can get used to it. But also ride some less familiar hills.
  • A reasonable surface. This may also mean picking good weather so the road is dry.
  • Also in terms of weather, ideally pick not too windy and not too cold. You don't want to get blown about or start shivering from the wind chill. I have had descents that I had to take slowly because going too quick in wet gloves my hands started to go numb.
  • Not too tight on the bends, not too narrow, and with decent lines of sight. Daylight at least until you're used to it.
  • Preferably with acceptable traffic, though my local fast hill (Strava, OpenStreetMap, Street View) attracts the sort of drivers who like to pass close.

I don't normally ride up the same way as there's very often a much nicer ascent on quieter roads, but going up the same way allows you to check it out a bit.

The last time I did that hill I've linked was with a friend who had never done it before, so we only hit 64 km/h. I've reached over 70 km/h there and in a few other places. Riding with someone who knows the road can help - either you can follow their line or you can know someone is following you with an eye out for passing traffic. But spread out compared to on the flat fast descents aren't the time to get used to bunch riding.

A final suggestion: see if you can find a local TT course with a bit of a descent and time yourself. The route should be picked for being decent to go fast on, by someone who knows what they're doing. My local 10 mile route has a rise then a drop of about 20m peaking at about -8%. When competing against my own time I want to go fast and that desire acts as encouragement to go for it. (That's not to say I'm quick BTW. I still haven't done 10 miles much under 28:30 - but also I'm on a 20kg steel tourer)

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    Imho on a road bike descending on the drops is much better. It gives you more braking power, makes bracing against the deceleration easier and improves aerodynamics. It also makes it easier to get your ass behind the saddle.
    – Michael
    Nov 27 '21 at 17:03
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    @Michael I'm not short of braking power in normal circumstances (cable discs) and my levers are optimised for the hoods, where I spend long days. You're undoubtedly more aero on the drops than in a standard hoods position, but aero hoods is better still, though tiring for your triceps and/or back. I like and suggest staying on the hoods for the versatility in position.
    – Chris H
    Nov 27 '21 at 17:24
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    As for getting behind the saddle, that's a matter of fit and geometry. For me it's much harder from the drops, unless I hold the drops so far back I can't get to the brakes
    – Chris H
    Nov 27 '21 at 17:24
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    @Michael: Downhill on the drops with one or two fingers touching the side of the brake levers, is also much safer than on the hoods. Any invisible bump or pothole can easily throw your hands off the hoods especially with smaller hands that can't close around the rubber.
    – Carel
    Nov 28 '21 at 14:53
  • @Carel I have long, quite strong fingers so getting bounced off the hoods really isn't an issue. I'd be covering the brakes from the hoods with 2 fingers descending, which would be plenty for stopping. On the sort of downhills we're discussing I wouldn't take a hand off the bars for long - enough to signal or point out a hazard, certainly, but I'd want a good line of sight of clear road to have a drink, and slow down first. I'd still be secure with one hand but it eats into the margin for error. My hand positions, pics and description
    – Chris H
    Nov 28 '21 at 19:28

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