How to increase your average cycling speed

10 tips to ride faster: How to increase your average cycling speed

In the world of cycling, where precision and performance intertwine seamlessly, one metric stands as the supreme ruler: average speed. It’s the yardstick against which every cyclist measures their prowess, a universal language of achievement on the open road. But, as any seasoned cyclist will tell you, that seemingly straightforward number is far from a mere statistic; it’s a complex dance of variables that can perplex even the most dedicated riders.

Average speed, though crucial, is far from an absolute measure of your cycling abilities. Factors ranging from wind resistance to terrain gradients ensure that comparing your speed to that of another rider, or even your own performance on different days, is a subtle art in itself.

Nonetheless, the fervent desire to push the boundaries of your cycling speed is a shared aspiration that unites riders of all backgrounds. So, how can you embark on a journey to not only understand the nuances of your average speed but also enhance it? How do you transform your cycling experience from a casual ride into a powerful quest for newfound velocity and personal achievement?

Today, we delve into the 10 tips to ride faster, as we explore the strategies, insights, and techniques that can elevate your cycling performance and unlock new realms of speed. Whether you’re a passionate enthusiast or a seasoned pro, we invite you to embark on a journey that will transform your relationship with the open road. So, gear up, synchronize your breathing with the rhythm of your pedals, and let’s delve into the world of cycling performance and the quest to unlock the need for speed.


What is a good average speed?

Let’s commence with a question that frequently crosses the minds of many riders: What constitutes a commendable average speed?

As always in the realm of cycling, the answer isn’t as straightforward as one might hope. A multitude of factors comes into play.

Firstly, your choice of bike plays a substantial role. It’s common knowledge that a road bike, equipped with a sleek drop handlebar and slim tires, will generally propel you faster than a flat-bar hybrid bike, fitted with robust tires, or a mountain bike engineered for off-road adventures.

Where you choose to ride holds significant sway over your average speed. Riding through hilly terrain often leads to a decrease in your average speed, much like combating headwinds, navigating wet weather, or contending with challenging road conditions.

Moreover, the road’s surface itself can influence your speed, with professionals accustomed to the smooth roads of continental Europe noting how the coarser tarmac and gravel of UK roads can impede their progress, especially during events like the Tour of Britain.

However, the most pivotal factor at play is undoubtedly your personal fitness level. A novice cyclist may find it demanding to sustain an average speed of 10mph/16kph over an hour or two on a road bike.

Consistency and an ongoing commitment to fitness are key. As you ride more regularly and improve your fitness, you should be able to maintain an average speed in the mid-teens, approximately 15.5mph/25kph, over longer durations – a figure often considered the benchmark among Strava users.

Yet, the leap to a 20mph/32kph average speed requires substantial and systematic training. Achieving this level of performance demands a significant increase in your power output, considering that it requires eight times as much effort to overcome air resistance at 20mph as it does at 10mph.

To gain a perspective, the victor of the men’s Tour de France consistently maintains an average speed of 25mph/40kph while covering over 2,000 miles/3,500km during the arduous three-week race. It’s important to note that they benefit from the support of teammates and the drafting effect of riding in a group, which contributes to their exceptional speeds.


How to increase your average cycling speed?

Cycling pace hinges on a combination of factors: the timing and application of your power, your adeptness in bike handling, your chosen route, and the quality of your equipment.

In the following sections, we will delve into these aspects and offer additional insights to further enhance the overall speed of your cycling endeavors.


1. Optimize Your Energy Utilization

While safety remains a top priority, efficient energy usage plays a significant role in increasing your average cycling speed. Timing your pedal strokes is crucial. There’s no point in expending tremendous effort to reach a red traffic light only to come to a halt, put a foot down, and then start all over again. A more strategic approach could allow you to seamlessly ride through with less exertion.

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Moreover, avoiding unnecessary braking is equally vital. You don’t have to hit the brakes every time a car passes on the other side of the road or when approaching a roundabout with a clear path where you can maintain a straight line.

Safety, of course, takes precedence. Every time you apply the brakes, you negate the energy you invested in attaining that speed, so conserving it is essential.

Being judicious with your use of brakes becomes easier when you possess confident cornering skills.

Frequently, maximum speeds are attained during descents, making the most of gravity’s assistance to elevate your overall cycling speed.

On undulating terrain, a brisk descent grants you added momentum, helping you ascend the subsequent uphill stretch with less deceleration. Properly timed, you might conquer the next ridge without a significant drop in speed. Initiating an ascent from a low speed, on the other hand, can be more laborious and sluggish.

On long descents, assuming an aerodynamic tuck position might be more advantageous than continuous pedaling. This approach not only boosts your speed but also conserves energy for the climbs, where your watts will yield more significant gains.

So, when the terrain is less favorable, such as during uphill segments, against headwinds, or on rough road surfaces, push on. Conversely, capitalize on opportunities to recover when you encounter favorable conditions to harness your energy most effectively and achieve higher speeds.


2. Ride in a Group

Joining a group of fellow cyclists can serve as a highly effective method for elevating your average speed.

When riding with others, there’s a natural incentive to maintain pace. Even if you begin to feel fatigued, the camaraderie within the group encourages you to persevere and keep the momentum going.

Conversely, when you’re feeling fresh and energized, you can take the lead and contribute to the group’s overall speed.

Nonetheless, the primary advantage of group riding lies in the drafting effect.

By closely following the riders ahead, it’s estimated that you can conserve up to 40 percent of the energy typically required to ride at the front. Mastering the art of drafting safely and effectively necessitates practice, so accruing more miles will enhance your proficiency.

Staying near the wheel in front, which can lead to considerable energy savings. However, in crosswind conditions, the most sheltered position may be found on either side of the rider ahead. For instance, when the wind is blowing from left to right, positioning yourself slightly to the right of the rider in front can provide the best protection.

She also suggests the practice of taking turns at the front and exerting greater effort when riding into the wind. Upon moving to the back of the group, you can recuperate while benefiting from the sheltered environment.

Cycling clubs are excellent avenues for connecting with fellow cyclists for group rides. Most clubs organize rides at various speeds, allowing you to select a group that matches your current capabilities. As your experience and speed improve, you can progress to a faster group.


3. Improve Your Pedaling Cadence

Boosting your cycling speed isn’t solely about increasing your pedaling frequency; it’s also about the way you pedal. Pedaling at a higher cadence not only conserves your leg muscles for intense efforts but can also enhance your overall riding speed. As you become more adept at this technique, it becomes less physically taxing.

For those unfamiliar with the term, cadence refers to the number of pedal revolutions per minute (RPM).

There isn’t a single “perfect” cadence, but well-trained amateur cyclists typically maintain a cadence in the range of 80 to 90 RPM. In contrast, professional riders might pedal at a cadence nearing 100 RPM.

The key also lies in developing “souplesse” – a refined and efficient riding style that transfers power throughout the entire pedal stroke, not just during the downward push. This holistic approach to pedaling can significantly impact your cycling speed.


4. Enhance Your Aerodynamics

Improving your aerodynamics is a significant component of achieving higher cycling speeds. Surprisingly, approximately 75% of the resistance slowing you down comes from your body, rather than your bike. This means you don’t have to invest heavily in a new aero bike or deep-section wheels to gain speed; focusing on your aerodynamic posture can yield considerable improvements.

Aerodynamics are crucial even at lower speeds, as wind resistance surpasses friction as the primary force affecting your speed once you exceed 10mph/16kph.

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The most effective way to boost your aerodynamic performance is by minimizing your frontal profile and optimizing your arm positioning.

Adopting a more streamlined posture, with your upper body forward and low on the bike, while keeping your elbows close to your sides and tucking in your head, will enhance your speed.

In general, riding with your hands on the brake hoods and your elbows forming right angles is likely to be more aerodynamic than holding the handlebar drops. However, when descending at high speeds, it’s advisable to grip the drops for enhanced stability and more effective cornering.

Previously, riders would lower their handlebars drastically to achieve a more forward-leaning position, believing it would result in greater speed. Yet, as Lowden points out, this isn’t necessarily the case.

A higher stack height, on the other hand, could potentially increase your speed. It provides greater comfort, enabling you to maintain a flat back and keep your elbows at right angles more effectively.

In fact, physiotherapists frequently recommend riders experiencing hip discomfort to raise their handlebars. This adjustment helps open up the hip angle and alleviates hip joint impingement, a common source of hip pain.


5. Use Your Bikes Gears More

Inefficient gear usage can have a detrimental impact on your speed. If you discover yourself pedaling too rapidly before shifting up a gear, or laboring in a lower gear when ascending a hill, you’ll expend more energy than necessary for the terrain.

Hence, mastering the art of managing your bike’s gears, anticipating the road ahead, and preparing for upcoming conditions can significantly enhance your cycling speed.

Furthermore, maintaining a straight chainline is a vital aspect of efficiency and speed. It’s advisable to steer clear of cross-chaining, which occurs when you utilize the largest chainring with either the largest or smallest cassette sprocket. To maintain a straight chainline, it’s generally better to select a gear from the middle of your cassette.

To optimize your gearing, align it with the specific terrain you frequently encounter. For those who primarily ride on flat terrain with the large chainring and a lower gear from the cassette. This adjustment allows you to spend more time in the middle of the cassette, enhancing your efficiency.


6. Keep Track of Speed / Power

On lengthier rides, it’s common to gradually lose pace, and after conquering a hill, the temptation to ease off until you’ve fully recovered can be strong.

One effective method for maintaining your performance is to utilize a bike computer or power meter, which keeps you informed about your current and average power/speeds. This tool allows you to monitor any diminishing speeds/power. The most advanced power meters offer consistent and dependable data that can aid in pacing intervals and gauge your exertion during extended rides.

Moreover, the mere display of such data can subconsciously motivate you to increase your tempo. Advanced features like Garmin’s Courses can even provide insights into your ride’s comparative speed, indicating if you’re completing a particular route at a faster or slower pace than your usual.

Strava offers an excellent platform for assessing your performance relative to your past achievements and those of other cyclists. You can select specific segments to benchmark your fitness and even compete against your own previous records. For users of GPS bike computers, Strava’s Live feature provides real-time feedback on your speed compared to your previous best time and the fastest recorded time for that segment, commonly referred to as a KOM (King of the Mountain).


7. Ride Indoors on a Indoor Trainer

An effective approach to enhance your cadence, overall fitness, and speed in an environment that offers more control is to opt for indoor cycling using a turbo trainer.

Although it may not be the ultimate solution, indoor cycling offers numerous advantages. To begin with, it provides a highly controlled setting in contrast to outdoor road cycling, eliminating concerns related to unpredictable weather, traffic, or varied terrain. If you choose to utilize a smart trainer, you can harness the power data to meticulously monitor your training progress. Furthermore, contemporary indoor training is complemented by a diverse array of training applications, with options like Zwift, designed to deliver motivation and structured workouts.


8. Do Under/Over Intervals

While cycling on your indoor trainer, incorporating interval training can be an excellent method to enhance your speed when you are short on time.

Try the ‘over/under interval training method. This involves alternately elevating your power output above and then slightly below your Functional Threshold Power. To make this session more engaging. You can ride at a high intensity for two minutes, followed by riding steady state so your power output decreases slightly. This pattern should be sustained for a duration of 12 minutes. Afterward, engage in a recovery phase within zone 1 of your training zones, lasting four to five minutes, and repeat one or two more blocks this type of session.

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9. Focus on Hill Climbing

Climbing can pose a significant challenge for many cyclists and often leads to a noticeable dip in their average speed.

One effective method for improving your climbing abilities is to incorporate hill repetitions into your training regimen. Select a hill that requires several minutes to ascend, and strive to climb it while remaining seated as much as possible. If needed, take a short break at the summit, then descend and repeat the climb for several more repetitions, continuing until you’ve reached your desired training volume.

Consistent practice of hill repetitions will yield notable enhancements in your hill-climbing strength and speed. As a result, you’ll find that you require less recovery time upon reaching the top of an uphill segment.


10. Focus on Nutrition

Properly maintaining your nutrition and hydration during your rides is of paramount importance. The worst-case scenario is experiencing the dreaded “bonk,” leaving you utterly depleted of energy and reducing your pace to a crawl. Even a minor loss of just two percent of body water has been demonstrated to decrease your overall efficiency, underscoring the significance of staying well-hydrated.

It’s crucial to calculate the appropriate carbohydrate intake for your training session and fuel your body accordingly. A moderate session may require approximately 60 grams per hour, while a more strenuous one might necessitate up to 80-90 grams per hour. Many of the top energy bars and gels on the market contain around 20-25 grams per serving.

Fueling correctly on a ride can also facilitate recovery in preparation for your next session.


Final Words – How to increase your average cycling speed

In conclusion, cycling’s world is one where precision and performance seamlessly merge, and the supreme ruler is none other than the average speed. It serves as the universal benchmark against which all cyclists measure their prowess, transforming a mere statistic into a complex dance of variables that challenges even the most dedicated riders.

However, average speed, while crucial, is far from an absolute measure of cycling abilities. An intricate interplay of factors, from wind resistance to terrain gradients, makes comparisons a nuanced art form.

Nonetheless, the shared desire to push the boundaries of cycling speed unites riders across the spectrum. This journey delves into the ten tips to ride faster, exploring strategies, insights, and techniques that can transform your cycling experience into a quest for newfound velocity and personal achievement.

Whether you’re an enthusiastic enthusiast or a seasoned pro, these tips invite you to revolutionize your relationship with the open road. So, prepare to embark on a transformative journey, synchronize your breath with your pedal strokes, and let’s explore the world of cycling performance and the quest to unlock the need for speed.

1. Optimize Your Energy Utilization: Conserving energy is vital for maintaining speed. Wise braking and strategic riding can help you avoid unnecessary energy wastage.

2. Ride in a Group: Group riding offers incentives, camaraderie, and the drafting effect, making it a surefire way to increase your average speed.

3. Improve Your Pedaling Cadence: Pedaling at a higher cadence can save your muscles and reduce fatigue, ultimately enhancing your speed.

4. Enhance Your Aerodynamics: Tucking in, streamlining your posture, and reducing wind resistance can be a game-changer in boosting your speed.

5. Use Your Bike’s Gears More Efficiently: Learn to use your gears wisely to match the terrain, thus conserving energy and maintaining speed.

6. Monitor Speed and Power: Bike computers and power meters keep you informed about your performance, motivating you to maintain tempo.

7. Ride Indoors on a Trainer: Indoor cycling provides a controlled environment for focused training, allowing you to work on speed and cadence.

8. Do Under/Over Intervals: Interval training, such as over/under intervals, can push your speed and endurance to new levels.

9. Focus on Hill Climbing: Hill repetitions can boost your climbing abilities, helping you maintain speed even on challenging ascents.

10. Focus on Nutrition: Proper fueling and hydration are vital. Calculate your carbohydrate needs for each session, ensuring you recover well after each ride.

These ten tips encompass the wisdom, knowledge, and techniques that can transform your cycling journey into a thrilling pursuit of greater speed and excellence. So, gear up, take to the open road, and let your cycling adventures set a new standard for velocity and achievement.

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