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What Is The Average Bike Speed?

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The question of speed is often on the minds of us cyclists.

We ponder the big issues. How fast can I ride? What is the average bike speed and how does my speed compare to others?

For many riders, speed is a big part of the thrill of cycling. Others don’t care so much, but they might want to know what speeds they can expect from certain bikes.

In this article, we’ll explore the lot and help you ride faster if that’s an aim.

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What Is The Average Bike Speed?

Most people can expect to ride at between 10-18 mph on a smooth surface like asphalt. The range is wide because there are many variables in play.

The type of bike you ride plays a significant role in potential speed, as will your level of fitness. A fit rider on a slow bike may ride faster than an unfit one on a fast bike.

Based on Internet research blended with personal experience, the kinds of speeds you can expect from different bikes are outlined below.

Road Bikes

Cyclist riding downhill on a road bikePin

Many people ride a road bike at average speeds between 14 mph and 18 mph over several miles or more. Certain factors we’ll explore later may make you faster or slower. It’s hard to ride fast for long periods, so distance is one consideration.

Road bikes are designed for speed and efficiency over smooth riding surfaces, so they’re ideal for anyone who wants to ride fast or far by road. They’re perfect for long commutes or touring.

The design of road bikes varies greatly, especially in geometry. An endurance road bike has a more relaxed geometry so that the rider is comfortable over longer distances. It will promote a more upright posture in the rider.

A more aggressive racing geometry is for faster speeds over shorter distances. This places the rider in a lower, more stretched-out position. In recent years, the rider’s position has been predicted by the stack and reach measurements of a bike.

Stack defines how high the front of the bike is, which directly affects your posture, and reach defines how stretched out you will be. For ultimate speed, you’d need to get low and long, so a degree of flexibility in the rider helps.

Gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes are off-road variations of road bikes. They have a more relaxed geometry, wider tires, and a longer wheelbase that makes them a touch slower on paved roads. They’re also stable, albeit with less responsive handling.

Road bikes with flat handlebars (quite rare) are also likely to be a tad slower than those with the more usual drop bars.

Read more: Drop bars versus flat bars

Mountain Bikes

Mountain bikes are usually ridden at about 10-12 mph on a flat singletrack surface. If you ride one on the road, you can expect to ride at about 10-14 mph. This figure will vary, largely depending on the type of MTB you’re riding and the tires fitted.

A hardtail with slicks is generally the fastest MTB to ride on roads because it’s lighter than a full-suspension bike. It’s also more efficient in transferring the rider’s power, especially if it has lock-out on the front suspension fork.

While it’s possible to ride mountain bikes over long distances on a road, the design of the road bike and your position on it (more directly over the pedals) is superior to an MTB for this task.

The wider tires and lower tire pressures of an MTB make it faster than other bikes over rough surfaces. In those environments, the pure road bike becomes the slowest bike because of its thinner, harder tires, which cannot easily absorb bumps.

Off-road bikes in general tend to have a wide gear range with a lower or easier gear bias than road bikes. That’s because they’re designed to overcome rough terrain rather than glide at speed over asphalt.

Video: Gravel Bike Vs Hardtail MTB – Which Is faster?

Hybrid Bikes

You can expect an average speed of about 12-16 mph on a hybrid bike. The hybrid is a cross between a mountain bike and a road bike. If you record an average of 16 mph on a hybrid, you can probably do 18 to 19 mph on a road bike.

Predictably, the speeds a hybrid reaches on a road or trail fall short of the ones you’d reach on bikes dedicated to those surfaces. As well, hybrids aren’t designed for rougher, more technical mountain bike trails.

Most hybrid bikes come with 700c wheels, which gives them a road pedigree. And yet you’ll often find the gearing lower than that of a road bike, which gives a hybrid more off-road capability.

Closely related to hybrid bikes, at least in geometry and looks, are other types of bikes labeled as city bikes, commuter bikes, or sports bikes. One of the few clues that give away the true hybrid is a wide gear range and very low lowest gear.

Commuter bikes and city bikes are unlikely to be faster than hybrid bikes because they tend to be heavier with less versatile gearing. A more upright posture is also likely.

Read more: What Is The Average Commuter Bike Speed?

Cruiser Bikes

Woman riding cruiser bike to workPin

Most riders will average 8-12 mph on a cruiser bike. This type of bike is generally heavy and has a relaxed geometry that promotes an upright riding position. The tires are often wide “balloon tires” that are built for comfort rather than speed.

A cruiser is not sold to anyone who concerns themselves with fast riding. However, you could still travel to work on one if you left home a little earlier. It’d be great for restful vacations, too.

Because of its slow speed, a cruiser is not ideal for long-distance bike rides. As well, the upright riding position may begin to jar over distance. On a road bike, your forward position over the pedals and the act of pedaling help support your weight.

Cruisers are not ideal for off-road riding, either, though you might be able to ride one on light trails. They tend to be modestly geared, so a hefty cruiser would slow you down on a hilly route.

This type of bike is most at home when rolling casually around a park, campsite, sandy beachfront, or boardwalk. It works well for shopping trips.

E-bikes

In the EU and the UK, the top pedal-assisted speed of an e-bike is 15 mph (25 km/h). In the US, Canada, and New Zealand, the limit is 20 mph (32 km/h).

A Class 1 or Class 2 electric bike in the US has the above 20 mph speed restriction. A Class 3 e-bike, known as a pedelec, has a 28 mph top assisted speed but is more restricted than the lower two classes.

It’s illegal to ride a pedelec on bike paths or trails in many places, for instance. Also, riders of Class 3 bikes have to be at least 16 years old.

One notable difference between 15 mph and 20 mph e-bike speeds lies in the way they’re perceived by manual cyclists.

In the EU, the UK, or Australia, a reasonably fit road cyclist is likely to catch and overtake an e-bike rider on flat roads at the top pedal-assist speed. In the US and other countries, this would need a considerably higher level of fitness.

It takes a lot of power to manually ride up a hill at 15 mph (e-bike speed), too. For instance, a 176 lb rider (80 kg) would need to sustain around 470W on a 5% gradient. E-bikes are especially fast at climbing hills or mountains.

The type of e-bike you’re riding affects the average speed you can achieve on it in manual mode. A lightweight electric road bike wouldn’t slow you down much, but the 60 lbs+ weight of some e-bikes would be hard to push over hills without using the motor.

Factors That Affect Average Speed When Riding A Bike?

Fitness & Genetics

Nothing makes you faster or slower on a bike more than your fitness level. If you ride a lot, even slowly, you’ll boost your aerobic fitness. And then you can ride faster when you want to.

The mistake many cyclists make is to ride as hard as they can for an hour or two every ride. Your fitness quickly plateaus doing this unless you inject some structure into it. Intervals are one way for time-crunched cyclists to get faster.

It’s widely accepted in cycling that genetics play a part in how fast you can ride a bike. If you’re less physiologically “gifted” than another rider, you’ll have to work harder to compete. You can view case studies in physiology for evidence of natural ability.

Greg Lemond, for instance, had one of the largest VO2 max rates (92.5ml/kg/min) ever recorded in cycling. Although this metric can be increased through training, top athletes tend to start at a higher base level than “normal” people.

V02 max describes the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilize during hard physical exertion. This has a direct bearing on athletic performance. An average sedentary male has a V02 max of around 35 to 40 ml/kg/min.

Despite the above, it’s also true that most of us don’t get anywhere near exploring our full athletic potential. Life gets in the way. What you can do is get a glimpse of your best self by training in effective ways or just riding more.

Bike Type

If speed is your priority, regardless of terrain, you’ll go faster on a bike that is designed for that terrain. That’s why the versatile hybrid bike is not the fastest either on the road or off it. Off-road bikes can be very nuanced in purpose.

Anyone craving pure speed needs a road bike or TT bike. A TT bike is a road bike with adapted geometry and a “tri” handlebar for aerodynamic gain.

There’s also the distinctive “aero bike”. This is a type of road bike with a frame and parts that are shaped to slice through the air. It’s usually heavier than a standard road bike, but in recent years this type of bike has become more comfortable and versatile.

Any bike that has you sitting upright with arms splayed out will create a lot of drag. Thus, bikes designed for casual riding are naturally “slow”.

It’s the bike type that largely influences your frontal shape and size as you ride. The more surface area you present to the wind, the slower you’ll be.

Video: Why Is A Time Trial Bike Faster Than A Road Bike?

Wheels

The wheels you put on a bike directly affect the average speed you’ll achieve on it. The difference won’t usually be huge, but it is often appreciable.

It’s the wheel’s stiffness that partly affects speed. This is influenced by factors such as the rim material, the depth of the rim, and the types and number of spokes used.

A stiff wheel transfers your power more efficiently to the riding surface. Ergo, it makes you faster.

The only drawback of a stiff wheel is that it tends to reduce ride comfort, which becomes more apparent over distance. And comfort is not a trivial factor in average speed unless you’re only riding around the block. You can offset this in other ways, though.

Another way a wheel influences speed is with its aerodynamic quality. A deep-section wheel (one with a rim of, say, 40mm depth or more) is more aerodynamically efficient than one with a shallow box-section rim.

The way the wheel interacts with the tire is also important in the aero equation. Anyone paying attention to this will avoid a bulbous tire that exceeds the width of the wheel rim.

Accepted wisdom in tire pressure and aerodynamics says the rim should be 105% the width of the tire.

Finally, the diameter of a wheel has some bearing on speed. All bicycle wheels have a “moment of inertia”, which describes how difficult it is for them to start or stop moving. Larger wheels hold their momentum better, while smaller wheels accelerate faster.

Read more: Our guides to wheels, tires and tubes

Tires

Your choice of tire is arguably as important as your choice of wheel in achieving speed. If you can’t afford to upgrade your wheels, upgrading the tires is a close second best. So, what makes a fast tire?

The rolling resistance of a tire is one of the chief elements that makes it fast or slow. And rolling resistance is mostly affected by the compound used in the tire, the number of compound layers, thickness, suppleness, width, and tire pressure.

It’s often wrongly said on the Internet that wider tires roll faster than thin ones. This isn’t true as a blanket statement. Wider tires on smooth surfaces create a larger contact patch at their normal pressures, thus increasing rolling resistance and lowering speed.

However, wider tires have a greater air volume and allow more leeway for reducing tire pressure. On rough surfaces, whether it’s the road or singletrack, a wider, softer tire rolls faster than a hard thin one.

A hard tire wastes energy by bouncing up and down as it hits obstacles. This may also cause rider fatigue if prolonged, potentially lowering average speed as a result.

You also need wider tires for difficult surfaces like snow, sand, or mud, where thin tires would quickly grind to a halt. This is where fat bikes excel with 5” tires.

There is a crossover point where the lower rolling resistance of a wider road tire is not enough to compensate in speed for its aerodynamic disadvantage. This point is usually estimated at around 18-22 mph (30-35 km/h).

The fastest tires on the market tend to be supple hand-made road tires with a high TPI count per casing layer. What does TPI mean for bicycle tires? More “threads per inch” in each layer makes the tire more flexible, comfortable, and faster.

With some bike types, the speed of tires is a moot point, because the bikes aren’t designed for speed in the first place. It’s mainly road-bike riders that obsess over tire speed, though many prefer a thick, slow tire that doesn’t easily puncture.

Aerodynamics

Nearly everything related to cycling and bike speed has an aerodynamic element. Why is this so?

When you ride a bike, the biggest obstacle to overcome is the wind. That’s true even on a still day because you’re still pushing through the air. (That’s also why cyclists are quicker on the windless Zwift platform.)

If you can reduce drag by altering your position on the bike, installing aero components, or wearing aerodynamic clothes, you’ll often notice a small uptick in speed.

Holding an aerodynamic position on a bike isn’t the easiest thing to do. It’s uncomfortable. So, it takes a conscious effort and willpower to do it.

An aero bar or tri bar on the front of a bike makes an aero position more sustainable. That’s one way you can buy speed and increase your average by around 2 or 3 mph. This level of benefit is hard to achieve any other way.

Weather

If you want to record a fast average bike speed, particularly on a looped route, you need the calmest day possible. Wind speeds need to be low. That’s because a tailwind never gives you back the speed you lose in a headwind.

Of course, if you’re blasting between points A and B in a straight line, a tailwind will make you faster by some margin. You may even be fooled into thinking you’re on top form, at least until you turn around.

The weather also affects your speed in other ways. Air density influences how fast you can go. This is one reason people ride slower in the winter. Cold weather makes your tires harder and slower. Thicker, looser clothing makes you less aero.

If you ever want to beat the weather, alter your route to shield yourself from it. For instance, a trail or bike path that is lined with trees will cut out crosswinds and some head wind.

Crosswinds can be almost as detrimental to speed as block headwinds, as they’re not usually blowing at 90°. They’ll often be part headwind, and when they’re blowing across open fields, you’ll be slowed down a lot.

In professional cycling, you’ll sometimes see the peloton form an “echelon” that diagonally shields riders from crosswinds. The lead riders constantly switch because of the high workload required.

Ironically, one of the fastest times to ride a bike is just before a summer storm, owing to the low air density. A thin layer of rain on the road may also increase your speed, though in terms of safety and puncture risk it’s less desirable.

Video: What Are Echelons? Dealing With Crosswinds

Clothing

The last thing many people new to cycling want to do is “prance about” in tight-fitting Lycra clothes. It’s a common inhibition or disdain, whichever applies.

However, purpose-made bike clothing makes a big difference in speed, especially on fast road bikes. You’ll notice this right away if you dare to don the tight gear.

In terms of their aerodynamic benefit, “race fit” clothes are usually best (i.e., tight). Recently, lengthy aero socks have been shown to make cyclists a bit faster. Shoe covers have a similar effect, and shoes themselves may be more or less aero.

Rider Weight, Routes, & Terrain

If you want to record fast average speeds, consider your weight and the types of routes available to you. A heavy rider who includes a few hills in a ride will never match the average speed of a lighter rider of equal fitness.

When climbing, watts per kilogram (W/kg) of body weight decide who is quickest. The lighter rider has a big advantage. A rider who is 40-50 lbs heavier but equal in fitness cannot produce enough power to cancel the gravity penalty.

(The power of cyclists is recorded in watts, which are a measure of torque x pedaling cadence).

On flat terrain, absolute power trumps watts per kilo. This is the total amount of power a cyclist is producing, rather than the amount divided by body weight.

Bigger riders will produce more absolute power on a bike than smaller riders, and on flat roads, that makes them faster. One thing that narrows this benefit is the extra drag larger riders have to overcome.

Choosing a clear route with less traffic and fewer junctions or traffic lights will also boost your average speed.

Drafting

In cycling, “drafting” is the act of riding directly behind other cyclists or a vehicle to reduce drag and ride faster, or with less effort.

If you ride behind a large group of cyclists, drafting lets you attain the same speed as the front riders whilst using up to 40% less power. Thus, you can record a higher average speed than when riding alone.

The problem with doing this if you’re less fit or heavier than the rest of the group is that you’ll be dropped (left behind) on the first notable hill. Drafting is not greatly beneficial uphill, especially at amateur speeds. It helps if you’re on a “no-drop” group ride.

Riding close to other cyclists’ rear wheels requires a lot of attention. It can be hazardous if the rider in front is not accustomed to group riding or is unaware of your presence.

Average Bicycle Speed: FAQs

How to Increase Your Average Cycling Speed?

The best way to get faster is to improve your aerobic fitness by increasing the amount of time you spend on a bike. Low-intensity long rides are the core feature of “polarized training”, as adopted by many top racing cyclists and athletes.

How to Calculate Your Average Speed on a Bicycle?

You have to divide the distance traveled by the time spent, which is easier with a calculator unless you ride in perfect hour increments. For instance, 20 miles in 1 hour and 45 minutes would make an average speed of 11.42 mph (20 divided by 1.75).

How Many Calories Do You Burn Riding A Bike At The Average Speed?

This depends on the intensity of the ride. You could burn 750-1000+ calories in an hour if you were going flat out, regardless of bike type. Casual cyclists at slow speeds might only burn 250-300 calories per hour. Rider weight and fitness play a part.

Pedal to the Metal: Average Bike Speed Conclusion

Average speed is something many cyclists regard as an indicator of fitness. And it is an indicator, though various other factors like the weather affect it.

Ironically, one way to get fitter and faster is to disregard your average speed for much of the time and go for long, slow rides. Augment that with intervals on other days.

Mixing up your ride intensities and distances works better than riding hard all the time, which also hinders recovery.

We hope you found this article informative. Please feel free to share it with your bike-riding family and friends.

Read more: How fast are folding bikes?

Glenn Harper
Glenn Harper
I'm Glenn. When I’m not contributing articles to Bike Push, I can often be found cycling on the rural roads around me. If I can help you benefit from bicycling in some small way, I’ll consider it a win.

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