How to cycle faster and increase your average speed

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When looked at over a period of months, your average speed can tell you a great deal about how you’re improving as a cyclist. Here’s some top tips to get your mean looking meaner

It’s a natural urge as soon as you start pedalling a bike to wonder how fast you are going. A simple bike computer will allow you to see your max, current and average speed for each ride. Once you have that information the questions start to roll — how do I compare to other riders? How much faster can I go? Keeping an eye on your average is a good indicator of your fitness and development.

We’ve come up with a few ways that you can instantly go faster and a few that need a bit more practice and patience. Whatever your starting speed, follow these tips to see your average increase.

First – what speed does the average road cyclist ride at?

This is a really hard question to answer – it depends where you live (is it hilly? windy?), and of course your base level fitness will have an impact. However, it’s a question a lot of beginners ask.

To satisfy your curiosity, the answer is that according to Strava data, the average male UK cyclist rides at an average speed of 25.61kmh (15.9mph), whilst the average UK female hits 19.84kmh (12.32mph).

Compared to the rest of the world, UK cyclists do quite well. The fastest riders are in Holland, with men averaging 26.92kmh (16.72mph) and women 21.36 km/h (13.27mph).

Want to improve your average? Here are our tips…

Bend and tuck elbows

The biggest thing slowing you down when you cycle is wind resistance. Many of these tips concern ways to reduce your frontal area and your drag so you slice more easily through the wind.

The simplest of all is to slightly lower your body position on the bike. Instead of sitting up straight in the saddle and catching a lot of wind, try lowering your body closer to the bars by bending and tucking in your elbows. You’ll immediately feel a difference.

Listen to music

This is a tricky one because here at Cycling Weekly we think you need all your senses to cycle safely and that riding with music reduces your ability to hear the traffic around you. However, the National Cycle Training Standards has actually recommended trying it in the past, so that you become aware of the need to check over your shoulder at frequent intervals — something that is reduced when riders think they can hear cars. There are also several headphone brands out there which promise to let outside sound in, too.

Safety aside, there is plenty of research that shows listening to fast-paced, uplifting music reduces your perceived effort levels. Dr Costas Karageorghis, a researcher in sports psychology, says this is because “music blocks out fatigue-related symptoms such as the burning lungs, the beating heart and the lactic acid in the muscles. It can reduce our perception of effort by as much as 10 per cent.”

You’ll be pedalling harder without even noticing. Using music that has a beat similar to an optimal cycling cadence will help you to pedal faster if you can match your cadence to the rhythm.

If you don’t want to plug in when on the road, you can do so when cycling indoors – and reap the benefits with a few structured training sessions.

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