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13 Tips To Help You Increase Your Average Cycling Speed

If you have ever wondered how fast you were pedaling, know that you are not alone. Kids and adults, when riding their bikes, often wonder this. It’s only natural. After all, people are competitive by nature. Thankfully, you can purchase a bike computer that will provide you with information on your current speed, maximum speed and average speed.

However, for some people with a highly competitive spirit or are interested in their physical fitness, they may want to know if they’re doing better than other cyclists and if they have the ability to go faster? 

Now, it’s hard to discern what the average road cyclist speed is, as there are an array of factors to take into consideration such as weather conditions, road conditions, physical fitness, etc.  Based on information from Strava, the average UK male cyclist has an average 15.9 mph speed. For the average female cyclist, it’s 12.32 mph.  UK cyclists, compared to others around the world, do extremely well. Holland males and females tend to do the fastest cycling.

·      Holland – 26.92km/h (men), 21.36km/h (women)

·      UK – 25.61km/h (men), 19.84km/h (women)

·      France – 24.36km/h (men), 20.74km/h (women)

·      U.S. – 24.35km/h (men), 20.51km/h (women)

·      Germany – 23.28km/h (men), 19.94km/h (women)

·      Spain – 22.31km/h (men), 19.86km/h (women)

If going faster is important to you, regardless of what your starting speed is, you’ll be glad to know that it is highly possible to do. How can you do this?

13 Tips That Can Increase Your Average Cycling Speed

Tuck In Your Elbows

Wind resistance… that’s the biggest factor affecting your speed. Most people, when riding a bike, will sit up in the seat and pedal. This is fine for casual riding. However, if you’re aiming for a faster speed, it doesn’t work. Instead, lower yourself to the bars and tuck in your elbows. This reduces the amount of wind you have to cut through, allowing you to ride faster.


Listening To Your Favorite Music

Research has shown that listening to music that’s fast and upbeat can help reduce the symptoms of fatigue like a fast heartbeat, burning lungs and muscle aches. Music can lessen a person’s effort perception by nearly 10 percent.

Most people won’t even realize how hard they're pedaling when they listen to their favorite songs on the smartphone or mp3 device. Use music that lets you match the cycling rhythm, as this helps increase your pedaling speed.

Many people are discouraged from listening to music while riding their bikes – for good reasons though. It’s harder to hear traffic when you have headphones on. You can’t easily hear a car or truck coming up on you or their horn, especially with a lot of the new headphones that eliminates noise.  If you plan on riding outdoors with your headphones in, get ones that still allow noise in and constantly look back over your shoulder (watching the traffic).

If you’re not comfortable with this idea, then you can use an indoor cycle to give you the same benefits after several sessions.

Ride With Other People 

It may seem odd that riding with other people would give you the stamina you need to push yourself to go faster, but it can. How so? By taking turns riding in front, sharing the work to reduce the wind, you pedal faster. It also inspires you to increase your speed if someone is pedaling faster than you.  This also helps to boost your physical fitness.


Ride The Drops

Do you ride a drop-handled bar sports bike? If so, then do you use the drops? In the majority of cases, most people don’t ride the drops as much, but if you lower yourself on the bike, you decrease the aerodynamic drag and can corner a bit easier. By riding the drops, you reduce the wind resistance by nearly 20 percent.

There are two reasons people tend not to ride the drops – they can’t reach the brakes, and they don’t like the uncomfortable feeling it can bring. You can address these issues by focusing on the bike setup. If the bike is fit for you, you can ride in that position for a good portion of the ride. Be sure to stretch your hamstrings and lower back muscles to reduce the strain you put on them while riding the drops.

Use The Wind Direction

Most people don’t give much thought to wind speed or direction, but as a cyclist, it can work for and against you. Headwinds make it harder to pedal your bike, making the process feel slower. Tailwinds help increase your speed. 

Be sure to use the wind direction to plan out your route. When you first go riding, you should feel fresh and ready to tackle the headwind. On the ride home, the tailwind will be your best bet in boosting your speed.

Don’t Brake As Often

If you’re going to increase your speed, you don’t need to keep braking. By braking, you “break” the momentum you have, and you have to pedal harder to get back to the speed you were at. How can you quit braking as often?

The first thing to stop yourself doing is relying on “comfort braking.” This is when you roll quickly down a hill, faster than you’re used to and fear that you’re going too fast.  While you don’t want to push the comfort boundaries too much, you do want to push them a slight bit. Be sure to take a good look at the road. Is it free of potholes and obstructions? If so, then there’s no reason for you to slow down. Allow the bike to ride like it’s doing.

After that, focus on your confidence while cornering. If you brake later, you maintain your speed for a longer period of time. Be sure you brake in a straight line, ensuring you’re at good cornering speeds before making the turn.

Track Standing

How many times have you seen bike couriers balancing themselves with very little effort at a stop sign or traffic light? This is a technique known as track standing, and it takes practice to master. Don’t do it during morning or evening rush hours – you’re only going to anger a few drivers.  Practice it when you’re waiting for friends to show up for the ride or when you’re getting something to eat.

Start on a slight incline, as the gradient will help you to find a balance point. Change up on your ride. Go slowly and in tight circles, making sure to use smooth movements. This gives you an idea of how to balance your weight.

Once comfortable, slowly stop making sure the wheel is faced uphill. Your head should remain up. Choose a spot to put your eyes on. With the lead foot, turn the wheel into the incline, making sure the lead foot as enough pressure to maintain balance but not so much that you move upward.

With the same ratcheting technique used while riding cycles, slightly ease the pressure, allowing the wheel to roll back. Apply it once more, and it’ll go forward. This gentle rocking back and forth motion ensures you maintain your balance. You can always grab a railing or post when you stop. However, you should still pedal slightly before you let go, so you have some momentum when you need to start pedaling.

Speed Intervals

The quickest way you’ll boost your average speed is training at speeds more than the average. There’s no way to ride faster than you normally would – that would lead to an injury, running out of energy or both. The best thing you can do is interval training where you cycle for in short bursts at a speed faster than your own, slowing down to recover before quickly pedaling again.

The technique can be tried at any time, not just a set training time. A Swedish coach designed the Fartlek training method, meaning you play with speed. You could decide to ride as quickly as you can to a certain point and then slow down for a certain period of time before going fast once more.

Your start and end points can be anything you like – parked cars, bridges, road signs, trees, etc. The idea is to choose a target and pedal as quickly as you can until you get to it and then slow down.  Make sure to do this when the road is clear and be mindful of any particular dangers in your way.

You could also do this inside – on a stationary bike – where your concentration is focused just on the efforts.

If you’re looking for something structured, try this. You have an average of 14mph on a flat surface, warming up to 15 to 20 minutes before unleashing a faster pace of 16mph for two minutes. Now, increase the gear and try to maintain that same pace instead of pedaling faster. After two minutes of pedaling hard, go back to an easier gear, slowing down for about five minutes. Your feet should continue pedaling, as this eases the recovery process.

Repeat the above steps multiple times, which creates an interval training. If, the next time, the gear feels easy, increase it again by another two or three miles per hour.

After several trips, you’ll have a greater understanding of what does it for you. The average speed on your rides may actually be less than the normal average speed. This isn’t an issue. The obstacle to overcome is getting the legs used to riding at a higher than your normal speed.

Drop Some Weight

Believe it or not, your weight can factor in how quickly or slowly you bike ride. If you lose weight, you can pedal faster and don’t have near as much of a struggle when going uphill. Weight loss will also decrease the drag and how much air you need to push through.

There’s no reason to be diet or exercise obsessed here. Just reduce your sugar consumption by a teaspoon a day can help you drop 0.5 pounds of fat a month. If you ride 30 or more minutes a day, three days a week could help you drop one pound in a month.

Gain Muscle Strength

Certain exercises can help you build muscle strength. However, increasing your cycling muscles and efficiency takes time. And, when you’re trying to improve your overall fitness for cycling, there’s no alternative to spending more time on the bike.

If you ride on a regular basis, you’ll see an increase in both your average speed and distance you are comfortable riding within. Of course, there are some exercises you can do to improve your muscle cycling strength.

Pedaling fast is highly dependent on your cardiovascular system than a heavy gear slow pedal. It also helps to be more efficient. Lance Armstrong is a prime example of this. Still, to better your average, you need to turn the big gear quick, playing with the small gear. It doesn’t matter how fast your legs turn; you don’t get somewhere faster. You have to do both kinds of training – big gears and fast legs – so they can be brought together to attain the speed you’re looking for.

If you push big gears at low speeds, it works the same as a weightlifter lifting heavy weights slowly. Rather than just one muscle fiber getting stronger, multiple muscle fibers are getting stronger.

Once you’ve warmed up, find a stable drag with a shallow gradient, choosing a gear that needs you to slowly pedal to ensure it stays turning. Do this around 50rpm or less if you feel a strain on your knees. While pedaling, you should feel your leg muscles getting a workout.  Do this for about a minute or two before switching to something easier and pedaling quicker. Once you feel up to it, repeat the above step.

It’s ideal to do this for up to 10 times during a ride, two times a week.

Pedaling quickly means your muscles are getting a workout and are making the right connection between the muscle fibers, nervous system and brain. Be sure to work on a flat stretch of road to get a gear you’re comfortable in to mark what your speed is. Reduce the gear to something easier and see if the same speed can be maintained when pedaling quicker. 

Turn your legs as quickly as you can, but, if you start bouncing in the seat, you need to stop. If you have a rhythm monitor, do intervals of 20 seconds of fast pedaling without bouncing to 10 seconds of recovery at various speeds.

Wear Tight Clothing

There are two key reasons to wear tight cycling clothes:

·      Cycling clothing ensures you stay dry and cool, keeping away the sweat and heat. This reduces the tired feeling you can get.

·      Baggy clothing adds to the drag, which can reduce your speed tremendously. 

Be sure to purchase clothing that is tight and don’t have any flaps to them. Invest in the zip up clothing to help you cycle even faster.


Air Your Tires Up

Your speed is also affected by your tire pressure. Check the pressure before each ride because temperature changes and air seepage could lead to soft tires. Look at the tire sidewall to get the suggested pressure amount. Get a track pump to attain the pressure you need and have a mini-pump on hand when riding.

Aero Bike and Wheels

When it comes to faster cycling, clothing can help, getting physically fit can help and so can airing up your tires. However, you can always purchase speed to give you the “speed” you’re looking for.  For example, you can buy aerodynamic tubing for your bike or choose deep-section rims and aero-profile spokes to decrease the drag.

Keep in mind though that 70 percent of a bike’s drag is the human body, so improving ride position, clothing and weight can do more wonders than an actual bike and its wheels.  Think about the benefits associated with losing weight, getting fit and riding more. While you can spend the money to ride faster, these things can help you to get the speed you want without spending a lot of money.

Of course, if you decide that spending the money to get the fastest bike in the shop and wearing tighter clothes is the way to go, then by all means… go for it!

How Important Is Average Speed?

Many people compare their average speed to other people – human nature. It’s not uncommon to scan the cycling forums to see if the average speed is even worth trying to enter a race or club.  The “importance” question isn’t easy to answer because of the many factors that affect speed – wind strength and direction, road surface, heat, terrain, physical strength, traffic, weight, etc. 

Plus, if you keep a mental idea of what your average riding speed is, it can take over your life if you’re not careful.  Minor changes in your speed could lead to obsessive-compulsive behavior and demoralize you from doing better. Never mind the fact that the speed change may be the result of factors out of your control.

Nobody should focus on getting faster every day. You’ll only feel aggravated and tired from not getting to your goal. You may also engage in risky behavior that can affect your ride. Average speed isn’t that big of a deal – it’s just a way to monitor your own progress.  The best thing you can do to increase your riding speed is to choose a route you know well, riding it once a month as hard as you can.