Reader Question: What kind of average speed should I expect as a beginner road cyclist?
Stan Purdum replies:
Many beginning road cyclists ride at average speeds between 10 and 14 mph on the road. It’s certainly possible to sustain a higher speed, and some new riders who were already runners or some other type of endurance athlete may pedal at 15-18 mph or even higher. Professional bicycle racers can usually maintain 25-28 mph on flat ground. But for a beginning road cyclist, an average of 13.5 mph is very respectable, especially on a longer ride.
That said, your average speed is determined by factors including your age, fitness level, weight, the capacity of your cardio-vascular system, and, to a lesser degree, the quality and efficiency of the bicycle you are riding.
On any particular ride, your average speed is also affected by traffic, route chosen (number of traffic lights and stop signs), terrain (hills), distance, road surface, and weather conditions (riding into a stiff wind, for example, will bring your speed down).
Whatever your average speed when you first undertake cycling, it will likely increase as you continue to ride regularly and gain fitness. Getting a better bike may help, but losing pounds off your body is likely to increase your average speed more than just switching to a lighter steed.
Preexisting health issues could also affect your average speed. I know a man who has a minor congenital heart defect. While it is almost no hinderance in his everyday life, it does serve as a kind of “governor” when he cycles. He rides regularly, but he says that no matter how much he trains, he cannot ride faster than 14 mph for more than a short burst.
That doesn’t matter, he says. He enjoys his rides, and the pedaling has an overall positive impact on his health.
Want to learn more about improving your average speed on a road bike?