Am I slow? (Bicycle related; otherwise ... too easy.)

So in prep for my first ever bicycle focused trip (Bryce Canyon/Zion National Park) I am putting in more bike miles. Two days back to back of 45 miles each with 30 the day before and followed by commuting days of 15 to 17 round trips … a couple of half centuries … all well and good limited only by available time.

And on the bike paths and streets I have rarely been passed and then by those in serious competitive tri-style aero’ed rigs, otherwise I’m often calling the “on your left” hail. When I did my half Ironman years back the bike was my strong segment and while the elites had been waay ahead of me from the swim I passed up many of the swimmers who had swam over me.

But I read on line that 13 mph road bike is pretty slow, that a good road bike pace for average decent pavement flattish conditions for a commuter is over 15 mph, and that a decent road cyclist should be averaging something like 18.

I’m averaging (according to my app and it seems right by the distance) 13 to 14 mph on longer rides and a shorter (like half hour ride) that averages over 15 is me really pushing it. I could not keep up that speed all day and am breathing hard enough that I could not keep up a conversation.

I know that I am not in the advanced bicyclist league, happy that I am confident I can bike well and long enough to enjoy my trip, but I didn’t think I was all that slow.

Are those online averages full of it or am I much slower than I think just surrounded by those much slower yet?

An average club cyclist riding tempo (a moderate intensity long training ride) will do around 18mph, that’s about right.

But (I think), that’s not “traffic cycle”, it’s “freeway cycle”. Are you stopping for lights?

Is that solo or in peloton?

Mind you I don’t expect to be at club cyclist level. Mine is a road bike but nothing fancy or expensive and my standard (not prepping for a bike trip) regimen is cycle inclusive but not cycle focused. I’m only several weeks into upping the mileage since years and only have a month to go until the trip. Still ego would love to be able to describe myself as at least a low intermediate level cyclist! :slight_smile:

Stopping for lights and near stop for stop signs but still, long stretch uninterrupted lake front bike path going south from Chicago’s loop (the crowds are north mostly with the now beautiful south portion with many fewer) has me maintaining maybe 15ish … and again, only that one aeroed out guy that passed me.

That’s the disconnect. That I’m not so fast does not surprise me (and the trip is no race, I’m fine) but then why aren’t I getting passed on the paths all the time?

When you ride by yourself it takes a lot of concentrated effort to improve your average speed. I started riding when I was 18 or so. I almost always rode by myself. At that age I quickly progressed to having the ability to ride centuries. But what I didn’t realize was how SLOW I was. As I got older I met more people who rode. The majority were much faster than me. Much.

You can improve. Riding with others helps tremendously. Drafting alone adds 3-5 MPH without any additional effort, though it requires practice to become both safe and comfortable.
Like most sports, doing it with people that are better than you will increase how fast you improve.

I never got fast. I got a little faster but not much. The down side is I can’t always ride with the best. Centuries take me 7-8 hours instead of 5. But I’m OK with that.

In answer to the OP question, those numbers sound right.

18 would put you into the “B” ride, while 13 would probably be the “D” ride, at most the “C” ride.

Are you riding where the faster cyclists don’t like to ride? There’s a bike trail near me; crack of dawn/before work it’s great. 11am on a Sat, I avoid it like the plague. There’s lots of families (w/ little kids), & couples on dates with rented bikes. Throw in some walkers/runners & I can’t maintain the speed I could ride at because of the congestion so I won’t go there then. It is possible you’re seeing the same issue?

Based on the info you supplied, you qualify as an intermediate casual cyclist.
If you really want to find out how you stack up against others, there are several ways
to do so. The easiest is to find a friend or coworker who is more than a casual cyclist and go for a ride with them. Any regular Ironman competitor will probably do. I have friends who average 20 mph when they ride. And can carry on a conversation at that pace. They aren’t talking to me of course, because I’m miles behind.
Another way of comparing your ability is to go for a group ride. Most cycling shops do these and try to have different rides or groups for different abilities.

Like I said in the earlier post, I was surprised at how many of the people I met really were (are) much faster than me.

Yes. This is normal among people who ride a lot.

Still, realize that it took them a few years to get to that point. DSeid, how long have you been riding? If you are just starting, with only a few months, maybe even a year of riding under your belt, you are doing just fine. Here is the good news - cycling builds up over the course of a few years, not months. When I first started to ride, a 20 mile ride was an epic ride to me. Later, after a few years of competitive racing, 20 miles was simply a warm up. I’m not saying this to discourage you, rather I mean to tell you that if you keep it up, you will get there. You just won’t get there in a year. But the second year will be faster than the first and so on. So simply have fun riding, time in the saddle and miles in the legs will come to you.

That said, riding with a group that is faster than you will do wonders. Group riding tends to push you harder than you push yourself riding solo. I see that you did half-ironmans a few years ago, but triathletes tend to ride solo. The triathletes that joined my racing club rides gained valuable training due to the fact that road racers vary the pace, and can ride much faster in a group than someone who trains in time trial mode all of the time. Variety helps.

Another thing to check is to see if your cyclocomputer or app is calculating your average speed on total time or moving time. If it’s total time, that will definitely drag down your average speed.

Finally, enjoy the Bryce Canyon/Zion ride. If it’s a tour and not a race, then there is no particular reason to go fast and miss the scenery. It’s a beautiful area.

Hi DSeid (and all). Despite my being pushing seventy years old, I’m a newbie on here. Anyway, I cycle about fifty/seventy miles a week on a multi-geared hybrid, which, especially with loaded panniers (it’s amazing how much you can get on a bike!) I ain’t too fast. I do about a recreational 10 - 12 mph average, but here’s the thing: just go as fast as you can IN COMFORT! OK, put on a burst every now and again to keep your cardio-vascular system tip top, but unless you’re naturally competitive and/or training for racing then there’s no rush. Just take it easy and enjoy the ride; stopping every now and again for lights, signals, things to do, things to see it all just flies by anyway :slight_smile:

As others have said, good club cyclists on a group training ride can maintain 20mph without too much effort (chatting pace).

At the mileage and speed that you’re going, no doubt you’re already fitter than 95% of the population, but it does sound like you’re a long way off even the lowest rungs of competitive cycling. Serious cyclists do a lot of miles, a “half century” is a recovery day! It’s an extreme endurance sport, where it takes a number of years to reach good fitness levels.

I’ve just joined this site and my enthusiasm has just been given a jolt! I feel a cycling burst coming on! Perhaps I should get a lightweight flyer to make a change from my tourer.

You’d be surprised how a few stops can bring down the average. Do you have a bike computer so you can see your speed in real time? I do 25 miles on a good day. The computer says I’m doing 14-15 mph on the (slight) uphill, 17-18 on the flats, but when I get home the average is in the 13-14 range.

What app are you using, by the way? I use Strava and it gives me an average speed for the whole ride, but it also divides it into segments. Find a segment where you had a good, uninterrupted ride and see what your speed was for just that segment.

To echo what others have said, it very much depends on whether we are talking ride average, or the speed you can do comfortably on a flat uninterrupted stretch. The former will drop waaay below the latter unless you are on a very free flowing, flat route where you basically never get held up by hills or traffic or whatever.

I agree with others that if you want to get faster, riding with a bunch that you struggle to keep up with will help. You will be tail end charlie, struggling to hang on, for a while but you will improve and it will alter your perception of an acceptable pace.

Having said that, if you are the type of person who can push yourself, riding solo as fast as you can will get you fitter and faster quicker, because you are doing the work all the time.

Most of the guys in my usual bunch basically always ride as a bunch. For a few years I’d do some rides with them and some on my own and it was really noticeable how when I was doing that I was one of the strongest riders, but when I was just riding with them I was mediocre in comparison, at best.

… but to answer your question, DSeid, yes.:smiley:

I ride > 1200 miles a year, and still average 12.5 MPH
Though I ride a steel touring bike (Trek 520), and usually ride semi-loaded (two panniers).
I can certainly ride faster for a bit, but on >20 mile rides this seems to be my speed.


I think this is part of why you aren’t getting passed. Serious riders will be on roads, not bike paths, where they can ride hard for long distances without needing to avoid recreational cyclists, roller bladers, dog walkers, etc.

Wellll. Once upon a time I was riding more. That peaked back in 2005, the year I trained and completed a half-Ironman at 46. As part of training for that I rode (as best I could) with the local serious cycling group. I had no cycling computer but they claimed cruising was 22+. At my best I was hanging on to their rear tires back of the peloton breathing hard while they often had long winded conversations but I only occasionally actually got dropped. In event my bike leg was in the top 20% for age bracket (swim pathetic and run lower half). Since then I ride but not seriously, commuting rides of 14 to 17 round trip mostly a couple of times a week with a few 30ish here and there, as part of a very broad/diverse fitness mix. Deciding to do this trip was the motivation to up my mileage so I could be sure I could ride whatever extended distance I wanted to with enjoyment.

The speed thing really is an ego thing and I am, very appropriately, humbled. “Intermediate casual”? I can live with that.

Maybe I’ll to try to hang onto that cycling group’s rear tires again, once at least, either just before or just after my trip, just see if I can push it up there as part of a peloton … but reality is that I’ll dial back down after this trip in any case.

You could also buy a recumbent and boost your speed without doing anything else…:smiley: As an added bonus you get to sit back and enjoy the scenery, especially if you go with under seat steering…

When you say ‘bicycle focused trip’, that just means you’re going to ride a lot from a base or car, right?

I’m just asking because if you’re touring with no support, the last thing you want is some injury, even if minor, nagging you out in the middle of nowhere, Utah (in which case maybe dial back the need for speed).

Sounds like some great riding!

Fully supported six day trip Bryce Canyon/Zion National Park, with lots of emphasis on the supported. They provide bike, food, quality lodging, and van if needed. Default mileage seems easy (35 to 55/d and net decreases in elevation most if not all days, with some hiking as well) but option to get routes with a bit more challenge, which I want to be able to do if I can enjoy it and it means I see more cool stuff by so doing.

My thinking about how my speed ranks me (so sad) came from thinking about how to describe my cycling “level” when it’s time to discuss possible appropriate route options upon arrival.