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I am starting road bike riding at 62 after 25 years off the bike. I have just gone on first ride , with average pace 23 km/hour over 25 kilometres. What should I aim for after say 1 month riding?

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    Enjoy your new pastime, get a Strava account and watch your speed increase. Basically, you tell us! Apr 30, 2023 at 4:22
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    One of the many advantages of cycling is that police don't care how fast or slow you go. Go slow to enjoy the scenery, go fast when you feel like it, and realize that numbers are meaningless made up nonsense
    – user59165
    Apr 30, 2023 at 13:19
  • a) it does not matter, you do you! 2) Also, 23km/h up a very steep hill is very fast iii) also, 23 km/h on a very rough downhill descent can also be very fast! d) it does not matter! do what you like, enjoy the ride!
    – trailmax
    May 1, 2023 at 12:20
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    Alternative viewpoint: don't get another account, turn off the phone, and use the bike as a getaway from all that crap. There are simple, self-contained devices that measure bike speed, not connected to anything. Magnet on the bike spoke that closes a fork-mounted reed switch every revolution, kind of thing and similar.
    – Kaz
    May 2, 2023 at 8:03

8 Answers 8

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I would say don't bother about your speed.

Instead, work on consistency. Make sure you get on your bike every couple of days at most. Make it a habit.

Speed and power and all that is not worth focussing on at this point. Instead aim to make riding part of your usual daily life and let the rest come later.

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    Exactly this. Unless the goal is specifically to ride competitively in the immediate future, quantitative performance is secondary to riding regularly and getting used to handling a variety of terrain. Once you’re comfortable riding, you can focus on improving relative to your own numbers. Apr 29, 2023 at 20:00
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    @AustinHemmelgarn Unless the goal is specifically to ride competitively in the immediate future And even if that is the goal, focusing on speed isn't going to be the most effective way to train - focusing on and learning specific technical details of racing would pay off a lot more. Depending on the cycling discipline, improving aerodynamic position, cornering, bike handling in rough terrain, drafting, and a lot of other technical skills would probably pay of a lot more in the short term for a novice than a handful more 60-90 min sustained efforts of trying to go as fast as possible. Apr 30, 2023 at 0:25
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    @AndrewHenle That’s an excellent point I had not considered. The few friends I have who actually cycle competitively put a very heavy focus on metrics like course times over purely qualitative skills (IOW, for them it doesn’t matter as much how you get your peak performance as long as no rules are broken), and that exposure has definitely had an influence on how I think of competitive cycling. Apr 30, 2023 at 0:44
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Long distance runner, part-time biker here. My mantra for both is the same: If you aren't able to hold a conversation (not mono syllables) during the activity, you are pushing it. Which leads us to a follow-up statement: Unless you are in it for an event, it is not worth it to forgo joy for speed. Speed will come later, be patient because one injury at this age can put you back by months :)

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  • Exactly this. Especially in the beginning, when you first get your new "body feels", err on the side of caution. It's no use to do a 45km/h average run to impress people on these internets if you're unable to walk up the stairs to your appartement for days afterwards.
    – arne
    May 2, 2023 at 16:27
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I also think that consistency and frequent practice is much more important than speed. But if you do better with a specific measureable goal, I sugggest you time yourself on a specific course once every few weeks under similar circumstances. The course should be low traffic, no stop lights and you should have the right of way as often as possible because otherwise if you ride responsibly traffic will influence your time too much.

Or if you have plenty of disposable income and like spending time with tech gadgets, then a power meter and bike computer / watch can be nice. It can tell you if you are improving and how you compare to people in your age group (or the subset of this group who also likes to spend money on tech gadgets). But frankly, a stop watch goes a long way and costs around one hundred times less.

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  • a power meter and bike computer / watch can be nice Compared to how much many people are already paying for their bikes (never forget N+1...) and all the gear, a power meter isn't that much of a marginal difference in total cost. Apr 30, 2023 at 0:27
  • @AndrewHenle Within the subset of bike-obsessed people, yes. But within the general population, there are plenty of people riding plenty of distance on a budget of $150 per year.
    – Nobody
    May 16, 2023 at 16:35
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You ask "what should I aimm for" but that is a question you should ask yourself. What do you want to achieve riding your bike? Why do you ride? You ride to enjoy the landscape, or to improve your physical condition, or you want to ride competitively, or you want to keep up with your friends who ride? After you answer those questions, you can figure out what the best goals are for you. I'd look at power and heart rate more than speed.

I am 69 years old, I have been riding competitivly decades ago, now I am regularly training as if I'm still riding competitively. Just for the fun of it.

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Speed is a bad metric for training (or accomplishments) since it depends on so many factors. Average speed on real roads is especially bad. A single yield sign or waiting to overtake a tractor can make your average speed drop considerably.

Power (Watts) measured with a power meter is a much better metric. With Watts per kilogram of body weight (W/kg) you can even do fairly good comparisons between different cyclists or when you are trying to gain or lose weight.

All that being said, I think 30km/h on flat terrain is a fairly typical speed for a solo road cyclist on average equipment riding at moderate intensity. For pros and higher intensities it can go all the way up to 40km/h and beyond. Keep in mind that aerodynamic drag increases with velocity squared. Riding 40km/h instead of 30km/h is a lot harder than it looks. Any slow sections will also have a huge impact.

I’d compare riding a road bike at 30km/h average speed for an hour to being able to run 10km in 50 minutes or rock climbing a 6a route. Even assuming perfect conditions these things are probably impossible for a complete beginner. Even if said beginner is at normal weight, in good shape and doing other sports. However, with a few weeks or months of training it should be easily possible.

As an example, I’ve had 3 surgeries in the last year and still can’t cycle properly. I’m otherwise in decent shape, 1.8m, 66kg, male, 30 years old. I’m riding a Rose X-Lite 4 2018 carbon road bike (good bike, but the frame and wheels are not aerodynamically optimized by any means) equipped with a power meter. This is me on a recent low-to-medium intensity ride (i.e. would have been able to have a casual conversation) along a section of the Danube (i.e. almost completely flat) with a slight tailwind on the first half before turning around: Strava screenshot

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    Strava's a great tool here, as long as you're comparing yourself with your previous rides. I climb like a brick so getting a top-3 time is a good ride. But I'm a third the speed of some wiry wee mountain-goats and that can be disheartening. MapMyRide and runmeter are somewhat-similar tools. Point is-self improvement not competition.
    – Criggie
    Apr 29, 2023 at 5:59
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    30 km/h is very fast speed already! At least for a solo cyclist. The pros are doing those speeds mostly in a pack. Saying to most people, that they should be riding 30 km/h puts completely unrealistic goals to them. In L'Étape Czech the longest routes can only be joined by those who did 30 km/h previously and it is a quite high bar. Last year only 413 of the 711 finishers managed that. And it is in a peloton and includes very fit cycling enthusiasts. A hilly stage, but by no means was it mediocre intensity (my Strava relative effort 677)! Apr 29, 2023 at 7:32
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    The pros are easily averaging above 40 km/h in a pack and doing sprints after hours of that speed. 30 km/h is considerably easier, I'm not pro in any sense and I didn't have any problem with that average speed even on a bike that would not get any kind of approval from this group.
    – ojs
    Apr 29, 2023 at 9:56
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    @WeiwenNg: Okay, I guess “mediocre” sounded too negative. I just wanted to point out that a high-end aero bike with aero wheels, well fitted clothes and a good, aggressive seating position can make quite a difference compared to an entry level “endurance” road bike.
    – Michael
    Apr 29, 2023 at 15:04
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    I still think that this is a message to people coming to cycling that they suck if they do not manage to ride 30 km route in one hour in a few weeks or months. To many, this is unachievable unless they came to cycling already pretty fit and could make them stop cycling due to disapointment. Don't forget that many lack perfectly flat routes and may still think they have to achieve that number. Similarly for running. Usually, the goal for novices is 10 in one hour, not in 50 minutes. At least for the first months. For youth athletes aiming high it is different, but the asker is already above 60! Apr 29, 2023 at 21:38
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23 km/hour plenty fast for someone who has not developed their bike legs. More important is having spurts of higher speed, tackling modest hills, etc. -- vary your workouts.

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The only speed truly important for training purposes is heart rate!

Bluetooth HRM straps are cheap enough nowadays and a far more affordable option than power meters. Figure out your desired HR based on age/conditioning. Monitor during ride. There you go that's your desired speed!

Except when it isn't... hills, elevation, wind, road surface, even the PSI of your tires will alter the speed you travel at 'X' BPM. Therefore strive to keep to your target HRM and there's your consistency in training. If you feel your performance is lacking do brief sprints to get some HIIT during every ride and watch your numbers improve over course of a few weeks.

Used this exact method to prod myself out of hibernation on more than one occassion. Works at 17. Works at 70. The accuracy of most algorithms these days using heart rate is pretty much within 10-15% of actual power meters so accurate enough for you purposes.

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    The only speed truly important for training purposes is heart rate! Not really. Heart rate is too variable. Temperature, hydration, fatigue, and quite a few other factors can significantly impact heart rate at a given effort. The accuracy of most algorithms these days using heart rate is pretty much within 10-15% of actual power meters so accurate enough for you purposes Not a chance. You've all but explicitly said you've never actually used a power meter when you posted that. And nevermind there's no way that heart rate will ever accurately measure all-out short-term anaerobic efforts Apr 30, 2023 at 0:17
  • The heart rate is a good relative measure of personal effort, and measuring it is cheap and accessible with HRM straps that talk to a cellphone via BT or ANT+ Downside is heartrate lags behind effort by quite a lot compared to a power meter.
    – Criggie
    Apr 30, 2023 at 0:54
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    No, it is not. HR alone is a terrible metric for an inexperienced rider as there are many factors influencing it for both short (e.g. lag) and long (e.g. HR drift) efforts, not to mention day-to-day variability. I'd hit much lower HR in all-out sprints to the finish line at 1500+ watts than VO2max efforts lasting a couple of minutes.
    – Paweł
    Apr 30, 2023 at 14:59
  • I sometimes wonder if blood pressure is a useful metric for effort/fitness under load.
    – Criggie
    May 1, 2023 at 2:08
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OP is 62 and making a comeback. For those commenting that HR is a "terrible metric" compared to power meters please go ask your doctor if a watt rating is more important than cardiac effort.

This isn't pro level training. We don't need micrometrics on a ride. Also expecting a newbie to drop $700+ on a power meter early on is silly. Eventually sure...

I know that bike nerds like to eschew simplicity and argue endlessly to justify their unobtanium gear. But the reality is none of you will ever be competitive without doping. And you don't need any gear at all to train productively. In fact training "naked" is all the rage with the cool kids these days.

I'm pretty sure we had bike racing long before we had bluetooth. And I'm also positive that all the gear in the world is trumped by consistent effort.

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  • You make a good point, but I would suggest writing it as an answer to the question and NOT as a criticism of other answers. This is currently just a comment, not an answer.
    – Ted Hohl
    May 1, 2023 at 1:06
  • Welcome to the site - Stackexchange is a bit different to a common chatty forum. Here it is a Q&A structure, and answers have to answer/address the question. Answers are not intended to challenge other answers - instead use the downvote to show you disagree, and potentially comment directly on the answer when you build a bit more Reputation. You can also read the tour to learn how the Q&A works. As it stands your answer reduces to "make a consistent effort" which is a totally valid point, but was already mentioned. You an also edit your post to make it more of an answer.
    – Criggie
    May 1, 2023 at 2:05
  • Please don't be put-off by this, but its how we keep the quality and signal:noise ratio high.
    – Criggie
    May 1, 2023 at 2:06

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