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So this is my bike (don't laugh). I've had it for about 20 years, still rolls. Lately I've been seeing on Strava or Garmin Connect that I'm just too damn slow vs. everyone else and I don't think the problem is with me, but I'd like to confirm this with you. My average long-term speed is about 15 km/h and 140 BPM heart rate, I hardly ever go on unpaved roads, although I go uphill a lot. Some of my ideas behind the slowness:

  • 17 kg, I've changed its accessories but it's mostly the same thing still
  • 26" wheels, I believe 1.75" wide (current tyres are a bit less rugged)
  • 21-speed. I don't know much about ratios, but going down I miss the gears that would allow me to pedal above 30 km/h (unless I go very high cadence, it feels like my feet are free spinning).
  • No lockout on that front suspension.
  • Regular pedals and my shoes are skateboarding ones.
  • Posture is more upright than not. But I moved the seat to a correct height as I grew. Perhaps the frame matters, as I'm no longer teenage-sized?
  • My clothing while technical, looks nothing like road bike wear. It's more like skiing/hiking gear but not tight-fitting. So: wind resistance?

I think I'm a fit person (30-something guy with 13% BF, 20 BMI) - I'm moving every day for almost two years doing various exercises and like to do long distances (with this setup 50+ km is long). However, I think I'm missing something. On level ground, 20 km/h is easy, 25 is a bit unsustainably tiresome, 30 is considered sprint. Yet I see for some people average 30 including uphill. For them, on level ground 30 seems like a casual conversational tempo, even a minimum under which "you are no cyclist" while I'm busting my rear with 170 BPM and 60 cadence... Due to this speed my excursions are mostly just about fun and sightseeing and not what you'd call training.

Here are two of my fastest rides, both in the summer, nice weather, around lakes so relatively flat, low wind, evening or at night, no traffic, very few stops and show 22.1 km/h:

my bike


The picture is like 15 years old, but it's the same bike. I was smaller back then. Now the saddle sits pretty high, I can barely reach the ground with my feet. However, the cadence remains :) I have cadence sensor and the average is 56 over an 1500km period. I like to turn the pedals slowly "from muscle" and sail away.

Recently I tried higher cadence, 70-80 but I can only do that by easing up on the gear/ratio and I end up going slower, at a higher heart rate, and my legs don't become sore after rides like that. I guess high cadence is more cardio, while my approach is for muscles.

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    Have you ever tried riding with other people ? Seeing how other riders approach things can be educational.
    – Criggie
    Jan 16 at 21:53
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    TL;DNR - you're not slow, the data you are comparing to is skewed. The speeds you achieve are fairly typical of a 'weekend warrior' on that kind of bike. Public data on strava is skewed towards faster riders.
    – mattnz
    Jan 16 at 21:55
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    @shoover I would be surprised. Some riders are just damn fast. Not just just somewhat faster but they really just pass me like if I stood still. I was able to do 26.5 kph on a sportive (30 kph for the first 80 km) and many reasonably sporty looking people did similar, but the real road cyclists were more like 40 kph (140 km, 1600 m) in a peloton. Jan 17 at 8:45
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    Two things that stand out to me: your saddle looks really low (but I haven't seen you), but really really check this. This can be amazingly heavy because you will be using less powerful muscles. And "60 cadence"? You may be in a too heavy gear to efficiently build speed.
    – ontrack
    Jan 17 at 9:41
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    I had a similar problem and realised after a long process of elimination the culprit was ALCOHOL. Stopping after 10km for 3 beers was killing my performance.
    – Frank
    Jan 17 at 13:51

11 Answers 11

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Since no-one else posted this as an answer (Vladimir touched on it in comments) i'm going to add it. Please don't take this the wrong way, its not designed to be insulting.

Simply put, you are slow because you are not bike fit (general fitness is not the same as bike fitness).

You are right about all of the things that make your bike inefficient and slowing you down, but the biggest factor is the 'engine'. Your answer contains several indications that you are not bike fit.

  1. Your 15km/h average is very typical of an 'active' person that likes to ride, but is very much lower than a cyclist that commits to even basic training
  2. You consider 50km a long distance - its not, its a typical training ride.
  3. The assertion that your 21 speeds only allow you to reach 30km/h, when it more likely allows you to reach 40-50km/h with a relatively normal cadence (it is normal for untrained cyclists to use a low cadence)

Other riders you are seeing on Strava/Garmin that appear to be so much faster ARE that much faster. Some of it is about the bike, but a huge part is because they are training regularly, following training plans etc.

To give a little personal context, I was averaging around 21km/h on my MTB on off-road routes last year - on flat routes or taking the MTB on road this was closer to 25km/h for rides of up to 120km. I'd consider myself fit, but still not anywhere close to an elite level of performance.

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    So the gist is that what the OP sees in the app are more serious (bike) athletes, basically a different category of riders (and on top with more serious equipment, of course). Jan 17 at 11:19
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica yes, absolutely. Whilst Strava/Garmin do have a great many casual/leisure cyclists signed up, the very fact they require a gps recording device and the enthusiasm to upload the files somewhere already skews the data towards a more serious rider. For every 30km/h rider on strava there will be many 15km/h riders that have never heard of strava
    – Andy P
    Jan 17 at 11:28
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    Good points. But a bad bike (especially cheap MTB tyres at low pressure) and bad seating position (too low saddle) can definitely make a big difference. Once you are in road bike territory the difference between a 2k€ road bike and a 4k€ road bike is indeed relatively negligible and it’s mostly about fitness.
    – Michael
    Jan 17 at 13:56
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    This seems to be the most personalized answer. I have to agree. Biking is my only exercise what one would count as cardio. I only get high heart rate from hiking uphill. I don't run. So I need to bike more and put myself out there and don't ride like a commuter, have some kind of plan, right? On Garmin Connect's Insight now that I think of it, people have Garmin devices on the bike itself, while I have just the watch, Fenix 6. Those that invest into biking computer that costs more than my bike better be faster :D Jan 17 at 21:35
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    @AndyP That's what I concluded as well. Look at Strava's "Fitness & Freshness" graph it really shows that yoga and walks don't have much benefit cardio-wise, however the impulse is really visible whenever I go on rides. I guess I should go for 1-2 hour rides that don't "take all day" (for me) and make them less campaign-like. That'll really help collecting the kms. I accepted your answer because I felt you highlighted a really good point to take responsibility for the engine and stop looking for excuses in the equipment. BTW I added two of my rides to the question (that I'm kinda proud of). Jan 18 at 11:15
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For riding on the flat on a sealed road, bike weight isn't that important. It just takes you longer to get to your steady-state speed.

  1. Tyre air pressure - for a MTB on the road I'd aim for 40-50 PSI (270-340 kPa, 2.7-3.5 bar, 2100-2600 Torr, 80-100 inHg) I was over 100 kg when riding something like this and 60 PSI (410 kPa) was needed in the back.
  2. Bike fit - are you getting your power out? As an initial start point, your saddle should be "as high as it can go so that any higher makes your hips wiggle while pedalling" without exceeding the "minimum insertion" mark on the seatpost.
  3. Losses from friction, brake rub, chain rub, etc - do the wheels free-spin for a while when the bike is off the ground? Do the pedals turn over a couple times when spun on their own axles?
    • Tyre knobs contribute to rolling resistance too - if you purely ride on-road, a smoother tread is helpful. 26" smooth tyres are rare but do exist - Continental has a "Grand Prix" with no numbers, that does the job.
  4. Suspension losses - actuating the springs/elastomer/oils takes power away from your forward motion. If there's a lockout that helps. No "fast" road bikes have suspension.
  5. Aerodynamics - as you get up above 20 km/h or so, the air stream can take a disproportionate amount of your available power.
    • Try less-baggy clothes, so shirts and pants that conform closer to your skin.
    • Bring your hands closer toward the center of the bars (though this makes it harder/slower to get to the brakes/shifters)
    • Lower your head and put your backside further aft
    • Keep your knees in-line with your feet and hips.

Two other things can help

  • Have a working speedometer. Seeing the number in front of you can be motivational. Something wired like a Cateye Velo will be under $30 and batteries last years. Cheap chinese ones eat batteries.
  • Use a tracker like Strava. Seeing your own progress over time is massively reinforcing. Seeing your own progress over time is handy.
  • Hydration - there's no bottle cage on your bike. Having a sip of water can help your airways work better, getting more oxygen in resulting in more power. Kinda like porting the air pipes in a car's engine (kinda, no, not really)
  • If your helmet has a visor/cap/brim/peak, try removing and storing it. This can let you see ahead easier while bent forward.

Those people averaging 30 km/h are probably on a road bike, which are probably half the weight of your MTB and 8-10 kg can make a huge difference when riding up a grade, or when accelerating. And they're possibly just more fit.

ULTIMATELY, you're riding a bike because you want to. Other cyclists are irrelevant to your riding and your enjoyment of that riding. Strava defaults to showing the "top 10" times for a segment - change the options to show your own top 10 times and make it about your improvement, not about competition.

Most of the suggestions above are free or cheap. Let us know how they work out for you.

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    It’s impossible to overstate (2), (5), and hydration — most cyclists don’t realise the difference both make until they try some changes. I have a similar 20+-year-old MTB (with very smooth bearings, but with the front derailleur stuck on the middle chainring), but it’s the right size and I have a far more aggressive position, and my long-term average is 24kph. “Tucking in” gives me +5kph but the position isn’t practical (same difference on my road bike in a time-trial-style position). Jan 17 at 8:45
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    With respect to aerodynamics: The saddle seems low and the handlebar high (perhaps a matter of perspective though). For speed I think the hands would be below saddle height. In my book that's not exactly comfortable, also because I'm wearing glasses and need to crane my neck upward too much in a low-riding position. But ducking into the wind is the single most important aerodynamic measure. Jan 17 at 9:30
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    The bit about no fast bikes having suspension is incorrect. Here is one example, but there are others pinarellostore.co.uk/dogma-fs
    – Andy P
    Jan 17 at 13:37
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    Aerodynamics!!!!
    – Frank
    Jan 17 at 13:53
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    Other cycles are irrelevant, but a poor fit can hurt not only speed but also motivation.
    – gerrit
    Jan 17 at 15:51
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You are a cyclist if you’re riding a bike and enjoying yourself.

Who is averaging 30km/hr ? You can’t hope to compete with road bikes on that bike. 15km/hour is not a bad average for a 26” bike with knobby tires so don’t beat yourself up.

Factors that will contribute to your speed are:

  • The weight. 17kg is relatively heavy compared to a modern trail bike and especially to a road bike.
  • The wheels. 26” will limit the amount of speed you can carry.
  • Aggressive Off-road tyres. Lots of friction there. Maybe consider faster rolling tread patterns or even slicks.

Unless you’re race focused, your fun and sightseeing rides are perfect training for keeping yourself fit and healthy. Accept that this bike is not for going fast and long. If that’s your desire look at buying a different machine.

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    I cannot agree. In my experience, I can get quite close to speeds of my road bike on a 26er (on cheapest Racing Ralphs). The difference is like 38 or 39 vs 36 kph on a short time trial segment. It is nowehere close to 30 vs 15 ratio. Jan 17 at 8:52
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    It’s one of the elements that limits speed, not all of the equation. If you only ever rode on tarmac would you prefer a 700c road bike or a slicked 26” MTB. Jan 17 at 14:35
  • Tyres are smoother since I took that picture, but not very slim. While road bikers tend to go super fast, I hear they have lots of flats and can fall more easily. I never had a flat or skidded in a turn, ever. I like the feel of how the wide tyres grip, and would not feel so safe on a road bike with ultra slim tyres nor would I want to service it in the middle of nowhere if I can avoid. How much of a negative impact does the 26" size have? Jan 17 at 21:09
  • Not much, as @VladimirF said, in an all out effort about 10% less probably about the same over the course of a long ride. All I know is that my 27.5 bike rides on 2.4” tyres rides consistently faster than my 26 on 2.1” . Bigger hoops and fatter tyres roll further per rotation. Jan 17 at 22:36
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    @Firsh-justifiedgrod.com You appear to have some serious misconceptions. Ultra thin tyres have fallen out of fashion on road bikes. Today 25 mm is already thin and 28 mm the common. Puncture protected tyres are available for either MTB or road. And no-one likes to fall because we know it is dangerous. I have never fell on a road bikes but multiple times on a MTB (including two fractures, one on a road and one on a flat forest trail). The bike does not make you fall, your riding does. Jan 18 at 6:41
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The easiest upgrades would be:

  • Tyres without knobs, and good tyres at that. I think Conti Grand Prix are the only kind-of road bike tyres you can get for 26" (559mm) but even a Schwalbe Marathon would have much less rolling resistance. You should also run them at a suitable pressure.
  • Get some less baggy clothing
  • Is the saddle really high enough?
  • Hard to tell from the perspective in the photo, but is the stem pointing upwards? You should be able to flip it 180° to have it point downwards for better aerodynamics.
  • Find some way to lock the front fork. Or get a rigid one.

Regarding average speeds: They can be deceiving. 30km/h average speed on a road bike for an hour or more on public roads with elevation changes is quite good, especially for a training ride. To reach those kinds of averages your “normal” speed on flat terrain has to be in the ballpark of 33 or 34km/h. You’d really need a power meter and compare W/kg to get any indication of real fitness. The typical road bike speed is 30km/h, the MTB equivalent is around 25km/h.

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    Flipping the stem? Never heard of that, but that sounds interesting. So I remove everything from the handlebar, flip the stem and put everything back? So that the stem points down and in front of the bike instead of up and away? That could be a way to lower the bar vs. saddle, since the latter is already almost uncomfortably high (current setting not pictured). Jan 17 at 21:14
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    Yes. Just make sure to reassemble correctly (handlebar nice and centered and aligned with the front wheel, get the headset bearing preload right, don’t put too much torque on the bolts, they are only made for 4 or 5Nm). If I’m not mistaken there is also at least a 5mm spacer below the stem. You could move it to above the stem to lower the stem by another 5mm.
    – Michael
    Jan 17 at 21:24
  • Most backstreet shops will sell you a road tyre for a 26", if you don't make a fuss about branding. The only times I had trouble was when I was looking for Gatorskins specifically.
    – Separatrix
    Jan 19 at 10:47
5

What you’re saying about your typical speeds sounds exactly like what I typically get on the hybrid 3-speed I use as a commuter. 15-20km/h is actually reasonably good for someone who is not cycling like a competitive cyclist and not using a high-end road-bike.

Things I would change though:

  • Don’t use Strava as a point of comparison. Data there is inherently skewed towards more competitive and more athletic cyclists. You wouldn’t compare yourself to people leading the Tour de France, but comparing yourself to people on Strava is essentially the same thing on a smaller scale. Unless you specifically want to be competitive or want to ride in a group, just don’t worry about anybody else, and simply focus on maintaining or improving your own performance.
  • Make absolutely certain you get the seat height correct. Either as high as it can go without being above the ‘minimum insertion’ mark on the seatpost, or just high enough that your leg is at full extension at the bottom of the pedal stroke, whichever is shorter. This is seriously important for making sure you can put full power into each pedal stroke. This is also totally free.
  • Use sensible tire pressures. For road cycling on a mountain bike or gravel bike, you want the max rated pressure for your tire. Higher pressure equals less rolling resistance, which means less power lost to friction. Just like seat height, this is totally free, and it’s also a pretty noticeable impact (though you will likely notice it more as being easier to reach a given speed than being able to go faster).
  • Proper hydration. At minimum, get a bottle cage (these are something like 10 USD a pop and can be easily installed by hand without needing to go to a mechanic) and a decent cycling bottle (also inexpensive), and make a point to hydrate while cycling. Doing this without stopping takes some practice, but it will likely have a big impact on how well you perform, and also how you feel after a ride.
  • Get better tires. Even the least rugged MTB tires have a pretty high rolling resistance on hard surfaces, which eats into your effective power output. I would recommend either commuter tires (like road tires, but better designed to safely handle wet roads) or hybrid tires (kind of like commuter tires, but designed to work acceptably (but not optimally) almost anywhere). Acceptable tires can usually be gotten for less than 50 USD each, and this will also have a very noticeable impact.
  • Look into a new fork. Suspension may sound nice, but in practice it eats into power output as well (when you go over a bump, some of your forward momentum is lost as energy put into compressing the suspension springs or cylinders). In practice, if you’re just doing road cycling, then you will not actually be dealing with significant enough bumps to make the suspension worth it anyway. This will be potentially expensive, but probably cheaper than a whole new bike.

Things I would specifically not worry about:

  • The wheel size is not ideal, but not bad either. Larger wheels would probably be better, but would also require a new bike (that is definitely a frame designed for 26-inch wheels), and the improvement would not be as drastic as most of the stuff I listed above.
  • 17kg is not horrible in terms of bike mass. Yes, it’s not light either, but unless you’re racing it likely does not matter, and in practice you will get better results for cheaper by worrying about other things first (and also, worrying about mass translates to a new bike before any other improvements, which is potentially very expensive right now).
  • Flat pedals are just fine, and skateboarding shoes are actually a reasonable option for use with flats (because they’re designed to provide a good grip on a flat surface). Just like mass, clipless pedals are not likely to matter unless you’re racing, and they are a potentially expensive (and recurring, because you need new cleats as the old ones wear out) investment when you can improve other things for cheaper. Also, for certain types of cycling, flats are arguably safer (for example, if you’re cycling in the winter on an icy road, you probably want flats).
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    Strava has an option to show "my results" rather than defaulting to the top 10 times for each segment. Changing that makes it more about the rider and their improvement over time and less about competition. I believe subscribers can set "show my age/weight bracket" times by default too.
    – Criggie
    Jan 17 at 21:11
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    I'll eventually get a new bike, but I like this one for my current use. I want to get into the habit of biking regularly and prove to myself that I can train and max out what my current equipment offers before spending $$$$ on a new one. Too many times I've seen friends buying fancy bikes then going for two rides a year and that's it. Hydration is my strong suit, on longer rides I take a backpack with 2 liters of extra water + isotonic tablets. There are no taps/fountains in the woods :) Jan 17 at 21:28
5

Lots of answers, but I also see a lot of common bicycle myths in the answers, so let me add some gas to the fire.

17 kg, I've changed its accessories but it's mostly the same thing still

Cyclists vastly overestimate the effect of weight on speed. However, that's a fairly heavy bike! Assuming where you live is moderately hilly but nothing too extreme (say, 300m of climbing per 30km), and that you're an average weight, this decreases your average speed by about 1kmh compared to a 7kg racing road bike, calculated using BestBikeSplit. However, it only really affects your speed on hills, not on flats.

26" wheels, I believe 1.75" wide (current tyres are a bit less rugged)

The actual diameter has practically no effect on speed itself. However, tire construction is a major factor in bike speed. Since the performance market has somewhat-arbitrarily decided on 700c wheels and to some extent 650b wheels, most available high-quality performance tires are only available in those sizes and not in 26".

I am a fast cyclist, regularly averaging over 32kmh if not 35kmh on solo rides with hills, on a road bike. My commuter bike though has fast 26" tires and it rolls along just fine -- pretty much the fastest 26" tire you can buy, which is the Continental Race King Protection. However, I occasionally ride bikes like the one you posted and the decrease in speed due to the tires only is noticeable.

Your tires could easily have 40 watts of rolling resistance each at 30kmh. Scaling down to 22kmh, that's about 30 watts each. Compare to a nice road tire at about 9 watts each at 22kmh. 2*(30-9) = 42 watts, which is massive. Popping that into BestBikeSplit, that's worth about 3kmh.

Tire pressure is complicated. Blindly pumping up tires to their max pressure, despite the belief of many beginners, often decreases speed. And in addition to the possibility of decreasing "raw" speed, it also decreases your comfort level, which in turn decreases your power output on long rides (both mentally and physically). However, in your case with relatively large tires on paved roads, it's fairly safe to pump them up high to get free speed. Though personally I wouldn't go above 50psi with 1.75" tires.

21-speed. I don't know much about ratios, but going down I miss the gears that would allow me to pedal above 30 km/h (unless I go very high cadence, it feels like my feet are free spinning).

The number of speeds doesn't really matter, but the ratios do matter. However, your cadence is also pretty low. 80-90rpm is probably the average cadence for moderate to fast cyclists these days.

So, either pedal faster, or get a larger chainring/crank.

No lockout on that front suspension.

Little to no effect on speed. Videos testing/explaining it: here and here, both strong cyclists.

Regular pedals and my shoes are skateboarding ones.

Little to no effect on speed. Video explaining it here.

Posture is more upright than not. But I moved the seat to a correct height as I grew. Perhaps the frame matters, as I'm no longer teenage-sized? My clothing while technical, looks nothing like road bike wear. It's more like skiing/hiking gear but not tight-fitting. So: wind resistance?

Multiple things here. First, are you sure you have the correct saddle height? The majority of casual cyclists run their saddle far too low. This hampers power production. As a baseline I would suggest using the Competitive Cyclist fit calculator to make sure your saddle height is roughly where it needs to be.

Second, yes, generally wind resistance increases if your position becomes more upright or you wear loose clothing. Wind resistance is the main thing you're working against when you ride your bike at higher speeds. You don't necessarily have to change anything on your bike; it might be as simple as articulating your elbows so that you can lower your torso. But you might benefit from a longer stem to increase your handlebar reach.

140 BPM heart rate

It's hard to tell too much from this, because some people naturally have a low heart rate. However, this could also be a sign that you could be riding harder. An average 35 year old male can probably sustain ~170 bpm for an hour at max effort, for example. Granted, you should't ride at that intensity all the time, but try bumping it up to 150 or 160.

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    Fantastic answer and well supported too!
    – MaplePanda
    Jan 19 at 3:47
  • "However, it only really affects your speed on hills, not on flats." >> I disagree: you lose all the kinetic energy (0.5*mvv) each time you brake, and therefore have to make up for it when you accelerate. Even on flats it makes a significant difference.
    – kabZX
    Jan 19 at 7:43
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    @kabZX By "really" I meant small, especially in OP's context Let's say you're starting from a complete stop and get up to 22kmh, comparing 82kg vs 92kg bike+rider. 0.5*(92-82)*(22*1000/(60*60))^2 = 186J. Let's say they average 150w over a one hour 22km ride => 540000J. If they come to ten complete stops in that time, ((10*186J+540kJ)/540kJ) = 0.34% increase in power to maintain the same average speed, or ~0.5 watts, or ~0.04kmh. So not very significant in this context, I think. Weight also decreases your speed on flats by increasing rolling resistance, but that's also relatively small.
    – Andrew
    Jan 19 at 16:18
4

Very good answers already say what I would, but a I'll add correct maintenance matters.

From the picture the bike seems to have been taken care of. But, just in case: make sure the drivetrain, bottom bracket, hubs and pedal axles are cleaned and lubricated correctly.

In the drivetrain, excess oil, specially if it's thick, will retain dirt and gum up to a thick paste (edit:)if neglected for too long or cleaned only superficially and new oil added on top of dirt. That makes the drivetrain less efficient and you get more tired traveling a the same speed.

For hubs and non sealed bottom brackets, if the grease gets too old it can also degrade, get dirty and thus produce too much resistance. (I have used some grease that lets solvent evaporate and turn into a thick paste after one year or so. using bad, cheap stuff from the hardware store). At least in my case, using non sealed hubs nor bottom bracket, on a bike used on dry roads/streets with only ocasional exposure to rain/mud, requires disassembly and cleaning and adjust about once a year. (For generic parts).

Also, make sure your brakes are not dragging (touching the rims slightly) and for that matter, that rims are true, as this allows for better brake adjustment.

If you want to upgrade your bike, I'd invest in tires first. Good slick tires are gold. They do not need to be the skinniest to have noticeable effect. On 26 bikes I use 26x1.5 slick tires (with very narrow channels, not entirely slick). This size works well for me, at around 60-70 psi, being that I weight close to 170 pounds. For commuting and confort rides I lower the pressure to 50-ish psi.

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    Though it's technically true that thick grease on the drivetrain incurs drag, this is one of the effects that are barely measurable in practice and only make a difference of seconds in racing. (Although that drag is in fact easy to feel when spinning the gears on a bike stand – but only because there's no other load then, and the grease drag does not increase with load and only linearly with speed, so it becomes essentially negligible when your weight is actually on the bike.) What's more relevant is the friction of a stretched chain or damaged bearings, because these do increase with load. Jan 17 at 20:56
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    Good point. Can you recommend an oil? I've had it serviced in a way that they took it apart, bathed the components in something that removes the oil, and then they re-oiled everything. Jan 17 at 21:23
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    @Firsh-justifiedgrid.com it's a big topic with many possible answers. Choice of lubicant is mostly a tradeoff between: sticking on the chain as good as possible to protect it while riding, and allowing the dirt to come off easily when cleaning the bike. Meanwhile, friction is less of an important consideration for chain lube, as I already commented – except inasmuch that poor lubrication and/or dirt will wear out the chain & sprockets quicker, and worn parts have inherently more friction. But as a rule of thumb: get 1 decent quality standard dry/wet lube each. Use them according to weather. Jan 17 at 21:38
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    @Firsh-justifiedgrid.com, that's a very good maintenance routine. Iv'e edited to reflect that I was trying to convey that bad maintenance, and not cleaning well before re-lubing is the problem. Iv'e tried a wide variety of lubricants, and in my view, the most important step is actually a good cleaning soon enough before adding new lube.
    – Jahaziel
    Jan 18 at 14:23
4

As a fellow "weekend warrior" type rider who also had a hybrid bike (with thicker tires) who also struggled with Strava numbers way higher than mine (note: still working on that - at least I'm no longer on the bottom of the leaderboards), I can sympathize with your situation.

Here's what I did for myself to make myself more "bike fit" and my bike faster (in order)

  • Decided to bike more regularly (and ignore others' Strava stats)
  • Replaced my hybrid tires with some road tires (28c700) - only possible with a hybrid that supports road bike tires.
  • Talked with my coworkers and bike-fit friends on what they'd recommend
  • Finally, I just purchased a starter road bike so I could ride (albeit slower) with some of my friends.
  • Bike had mountain bike pedals (one side with clipless, other flat) so I could also use the bike without committing.

Honestly with your bike, I wouldn't expect much better. I would upgrade the bike if you have plans (or already started) to take biking more seriously. You (like me) seem motivated by better Strava numbers, and if you can afford it I'd strongly recommend a road bike - after purchasing I got comfortable with all the little details: how to use clipless, getting fitted for bike clothes (to reduce draft and remain comfortable), planning rides, etc. A lot of fun with friends (biking is outdoors and COVID-safe).

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A point worth mentioning that seems to be missing from the other answers:
Hills kill your average.

Say you are riding up hill, 12km at 5% average slope (600m height difference). You take two hours to get up there, that's 6km/h. At the top, you turn around and ride back home in 12 minutes (60km/h).

Now, what is your average? (6km/h + 60km/h)/2 = 33km/h? No!
Your average is your total distance divided by your total time, so it's (12km + 12km)/(2hr + 12min) = 24km/132min = 11km/h. Because your total time is dominated by the ascent, the ascent controls your average. In this example, you simply cannot get an average of 12km/h and above by riding downhill faster because you have already lost two hours on the ascent. On flat terrain, you might have done the 24km in 1.5 hours at a leisurely pace, averaging at 16km/h, but the mountain killed your average.

As such, average speed in hilly terrain is useless without also considering the elevation profile. You cannot compare the speed of another cyclist to yours unless you've both done the exact same tour. If they've circled the mountain while you went over the top, they will very likely have a significantly higher average than you, no matter how fit you are.

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    Excellent point. Undulating roads are also difficult in the same way, because one's downhill momentum can carry on the next uphill, if you can conserve momentum and maintain higher speeds for as long as possible.
    – Criggie
    Jan 21 at 10:17
  • Haha yes, good point. It's also exacerbated by the fact that I don't pedal downhill :D I just glide and enjoy, so it's like sitting on a motorcycle. As long as the bike rolls I avoid pedaling, it's like a little game of mine to plan hilly routes that have a long stretch of unbroken descent so I can do this. Jan 22 at 10:06
  • Too bad Strava doesn't seem to have grade adjusted pace for bike rides, only for running. Maybe I just haven't found it. Jan 22 at 10:10
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You can't compare speeds and distances between a knobby tire heavy bike like that and road bikes on paved surfaces. End of story. Get a basic road bike and feel the difference. It's not your fitness. In fact your fitness will go up on a road bike on paved surfaces doing the same basic training. You'll get a better workout with the road bike. Just make sure its fitted well. Get cleated shoes too after you get used to the road bike in general.

You can't go fast on paved surfaces with that bike compared to a road bike. I know this from personal experience when I switched from mountain bike to hybrid to aluminum road to carbon road to carbon time trial.

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    How come I'm not getting the same workout if I work just as hard and don't mind being slower? All things being equal, I'm getting similar heart rate and I could match the cadence, at a more comfortable riding position. Yes I'll be slower for the work I've put in, but workout-wise isn't it the same thing? If you don't count the length but calories burned or heart rate or muscles used. Jan 22 at 10:09
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    That's a good question. It's because of the body position on the road bike. On a road bike you will be in a more athletic position. The handlebars on a normal road bike give you more flexibility in positioning. You'll be leaning forward more which will allow you to engage more of your muscles. Also, and this may sound strange, it's easier to get a better workout on a road bike if you're on paved roads. It's more fun than riding the mountain bike. Trust me on this. When you're going much faster for the same effort, you'll be enthralled and want to take your riding to the next level.
    – Adam Bruss
    Jan 24 at 2:50
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Nice bike mate! To achieve that speed of an average of 30km/h on level ground, I would recommend you avoid braking. Yes, instead of slowing down try to devise faster ways that will ace your personal skills. Pedaling faster can help you ride faster as well. Less muscle strain, and faster pedaling should be less tiring once you get used to it. Cadence is simply the number of pedal rotations per minute.

There is no ‘perfect' cadence, but trained amateur riders typically ride at 80-90rpm, while pros may ride at 100rpm. Even on an uphill finish, Chris Froome will pedal at around this number.

Souplesse is a smooth, efficient riding style that puts power down through the pedal stroke rather than just pushing down.

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    Why do you think the OP is dragging their brakes on flat ground? That comment makes no sense. Jan 17 at 6:59
  • I like the points about cadence, but yeah, there’s no reason to believe that OP is purposely holding the brakes down on flat roads.
    – MaplePanda
    Jan 17 at 9:47
  • Advice not to brake may bring you into accident however. Nobody slams the brakes in straight empty road with perfect visibility just for fun.
    – nightrider
    Jan 17 at 10:30
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    Not sure how not braking would help me be faster, but coming from an electric car experience, going for a steady speed and anticipating traffic flow does help. It (and I guess the body too) consumes the most when accelerating. Since us humans can't recuperate while braking it would make sense to try to avoid it. But the benefit would only be longevity and less fatigue due to not accelerating. But I kinda have to stop at red lights. Outside the city I rarely stop. But if I let rolling slow me that results in lower average moving speed. Jan 17 at 21:50

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