This post may contain affiliate links, which help to keep Discerning Cyclist rolling. Learn more.
Cycling speed is a very subjective topic. No two riders are alike. No two journeys are the same.
You can’t consistently time your commute to the nearest second. A range of factors – environmental, physical, psychological and material – affect you and all the other road users and pedestrians around you.
This selection of internal and external factors influence your daily journeys. However, you should be able to estimate your arrival time within a certain window. So you have an idea of the average cycling speed you can reach. And then you can compare it with the time Google expects you to make the journey in.
Bicycling Speed: Factors
There are forces which determine your average speed on a bike. Some of them are uncontrollable. Some are within your control via practice, willpower and good maintenance of your ride.
Nobody should overthink or over-analyse an average speed – nor compare them with anyone else. You must think safety first. Don’t go through red lights or risk injuring other road users to increase your average speed. It’s not worth it.
Taking your bike to and from work or study and taking on the urban environment requires a different skillset to using your bicycle on open roads for sporting endeavours, fitness, or exercise. Don’t confuse these when looking at average speeds.
Riding a bike on different types of terrain affects your speed. Every type of bike is designed for an optimum surface. Average speed on every bike will alter significantly as the surface changes.
Riding on roads and bike lanes will usually generate a higher average speed than riding on grass, mud or dirt trails. The firmer and more compact a surface is, the greater traction is generated and the lower friction increases your average speed.
Your average speed will be influenced by the changes to that same terrain. A dry canal towpath made up of grit and compacted mud one day will alter after a prolonged shower. The same terrain will then become spongy, lowering your grip and stability.
Freezing conditions overnight might cause an untreated cycle lane to become dangerous and too difficult to negotiate, both of which will affect your average speed.
A five-minute journey through the city will include navigating traffic-lights, potholes, static vehicles, crossings and crosswalks. Then there’s tourists, people stopping to take photos, vehicles criss-crossing all over as well as other cyclists on the same route. Your average speed will be influenced by all of these.
A sensible commuter will be planning for these obstacles and taking the right decisions very early. They have time to make decisions when the unexpected happens.
Commuting or any form of urban cycling is a regular stop-start business. Most forms of exercise and sporting activities on the bike are usually done in prolonged efforts with occasional stops.
You can choose to use your commute as a workout. Hundreds and thousands of us do. If you have no choice when you get your exercise then you might make more effort than someone who can get some quality miles in at the weekend.
It’s harder to commute and be in the ‘zone’ or ‘bubble’ of intensity than it is when riding only for exercise on more open roads or surfaces. Intensity and commuting are not ideal bedfellows. The number of variables around you change with each ride.
Compromising safety for an intense, five minute period of activity is not recommended. Your average commuting speed will improve as you do more riding.
Age, fitness, skill and experience
Your average speed increases as you get fitter. Your muscles tone and strengthen with more exercise, your joints loosen and become more flexible. Repeated levels of exercise increase the blood flowing around your body, feeding it with oxygen-rich red blood to improve stamina and reduce fatigue.
As your skill in handling the bike improves, you’ll become more relaxed and aware of your new riding style. This reduces stress and tension which feeds into improved performance and higher speeds. Most of this happens gradually.
You are likely to ride faster in your twenties and thirties before falling away into your fifties and sixties – however, you’ll probably plateau without fading away entirely.
After about 10 days of riding your bike, even as little as 30 minutes per day, you will become more skilled and comfortable. Your experience and confidence will grow and you’ll notice just how much faster you are travelling.
Your speed will increase naturally without having to do much else and after that, you can decide how much more you want to achieve. At this stage, you’re still just riding and remember, it should still be fun.
Time of year and environmental factors
People ride quicker when the weather is nicer and there is more natural daylight. Again, we’re not referring to sporting rides. Commuting is safer and faster when you can see more around you and are able to make directional decisions earlier.
The chances are that riding in the summer will mean you have fewer layers of clothing and the surfaces you are riding on are more suited to faster riding because they are dry. However, warmer conditions might bring more people out into the city, including tourists who don’t know their way around. These unsuspecting people may get in your way and affect your average speed.
Riding in and around a city that has more rainy days a year than another will slow you down. You might also decide to ride in anticipation of a shower and any additional wet-weather clothing might mean a slower average speed. Other road users will be travelling more cautiously which will have a knock-on effect on your speed.
The wind strength and direction will play a part in determining your average speed. Most of us will usually rely on a prevailing wind part of our regular rides. Where I live this is usually south to north and so I organise my training rides to come back home with the wind behind me.
Wind strength, on the other hand, can play havoc with your average speed and also, unsurprisingly, your mood. Riding into the teeth of a head wind will inevitably slow you down. It requires more effort simply to move forward and also there will be a knock-on effect when the wind dies down.
Total distance and aim of the ride
Average speeds are likely to be higher if the distance you have to travel is shorter. Of course this depends upon the effort you are prepared to put in. Comparing a 3 mile trip to a 30 mile trip purely in terms of distance will lead to a higher average speed. In addition, the longer the journey, the more things can get in the way, or influence your average speed.
Speed will be influenced by your motives or aim for the ride. Compare a short journey to the supermarket for milk and bread with a straight route to work or study on a dry early morning. Then consider a mountain bike ride along a single trail with some friends and a hole in your Instagram account waiting to be filled by some eye-catching landscapes. Your reason for being out on the bike will decide your average speed.
Bike set-up and maintenance
Before looking at some of the different speeds you can expect from different types of bikes, pay attention to the position you adopt on the bike, how the machine is set and how you look after it.
You can expect to improve your average speed if you are able to adopt a riding position which is efficient for you. You can pay for a professional bike fit and talk to the specialist about what type of riding you like to do, including commuting and you’ll be measured up to match how you ride.
The major benefit of this – like having a tailor-made suit – is comfort. You’ll be able to ride without niggles or pains and of course, limit the chances of more lasting damage.
With these levels of efficient pedalling you’ll soon see an increase in your smiles and miles. And your average speed too.
Taking a bike computer and recording your speeds will undoubtedly lead to an increased focus on top and average speeds. Many apps now also include segment specific results so you can easily chart your progress. Just remember not to tire yourself out for the remainder of the journey!
Keeping any bike in good condition is vital to maintaining a good average speed. Simple tasks like keeping your chain lubricated, stopping your brakes from rubbing on the wheels or discs and ensuring your tyres are in good condition. Running tyres to the right pressure is necessary to achieve the best speeds you can. If any one aspect mentioned is not performing, your physical effort will be compromised and you’ll travel more slowly.
Average Speed on a Bike
Strava gives us an annual assessment of average speeds. In 2021 it measured 10 billion miles ridden for an average distance of 16.7 miles in an average time of 77 minutes and 59 seconds – so 12.54 miles per hour.
Of course, one athlete driven riding app, covering all ages, genders, disciplines, mountains and surfaces is not representative of us all. So we have had a look at some academic studies from Denmark, Sweden and China, plus some well-known cycling sites.
Then we looked at a handful of trusted and well known forums of road-bike users, mountain-bikers and gravel riders. We’ve even examined some ebike results. Around eighty or so different sources have contributed to our results.
Average Speed in City
City riding should be done at lower speeds than rural riding. There are many more distractions and even if you are blessed with cycle lanes, they might be full of users who have different intentions to you. Many of us take short cuts through urban areas which require us to lower our speed as we share tight space with other users, or negotiate what is known as road-furniture.
I cycle in Manchester along a two-hundred year old canal towpath network. I can get into the town centre (a three mile ride) and not touch a road until the last half-mile. It’s safer but I have to slowly negotiate six large wooden lock gates, joggers, walking commuters and other users. It takes around 20 minutes. But I’m at eye-level with everyone and they are all travelling at low speed.
If I did the same journey on the straight main roads (2 miles) and obeyed all the laws of the road, with intensity, I could do it in around 8-10 minutes, but I’d have to dodge so many vehicles travelling at speed and constantly have to be looking around me.
Average Speed by Bicycle
We’ve said that different bikes are designed for optimum use on different surfaces. Their weight, riding position, wheelbase, geometry, tyre choice and pressure, electric support and even accessories all influence the average speed you can achieve. They key aspects really are weight, riding position and tyre choice and pressure.
Average Speed on a Road Bike (MPH)
Road bikes are ridden at an average of 13-17mph. They are designed to be ridden quickly over smooth surfaces. They can be used for commuting but they are the thoroughbreds of the cycling stable and don’t like going up and down kerbs or stopping too often. The riding position is aggressive and may intimidate other road users.
Average Speed on a Gravel Bike (MPH)
Gravel bikes are ridden at an average speed of 10-15mph. They are a kinder, if sometimes heavier version of road bikes and a good commuter. They can be ridden quickly over smooth surfaces but are very adaptable for negotiating the urban jungle. The softer tyre pressure and knobbly tyre compound might slow your speed slightly. The riding position is slightly more upright.
Average Speed on a City Bike (MPH)
A city bike could be a fixie, or a low-ride, or a mish-mash of jumbled up parts from other types of bikes. Or even a dutch-style which I’m delighted to see more of on UK roads. They’ll have accommodating wheels and tyres and maybe baskets and racks, along with mudguards and lights. They are so utilitarian (even though single purpose) that you might see an average speed of 8-12mph.
Average Speed on a Hybrid Bike (MPH)
Hybrid bikes are ridden at an average of around 11.5-13mph. They have flat handlebars and thin wheels with slicker tyres than gravel bikes. They can be a little heavier than road bikes because of built-in accessories like mudguards / fenders. They are easy, friendly commuters.
Average Speed on a Mountain Bike (MPH)
Mountain bikes average out around 10mph. Their specialism lies in the open countryside, with trails, negotiating tree roots and steady slogs up and down dales and through meadows. The gearing is lower range and they tend to be the heaviest of all the bike types we are looking at.
They are the least aerodynamic and their broad, knobble-rich tyres are not necessarily at home on the commute. The width of the handlebars and riding position also make for tough negotiation of traffic-lights and car wing mirrors! However, on a good cycle path or towpath, they do offer a comfortable and adaptable journey.
Average Speed on an Electric Bike (MPH)
We’ll focus here on pedalecs, which are designed only to offer pedal-assisted power when the cranks are turned. The average speed of an electrically-assisted bike is between 11 and 14.3mph.
If we enter the darker realms of pedalec-s bikes or even throttle-assisted bikes which need to be registered as motorbikes, your eyes would water – literally! The top speed of some of these machines is over 60mph, with their 3000 watt motors.
The pedelec style offers assistance only up to 15.5mph. Most pedelec users ride for leisure and simply ‘top-up’ their own performance as hills or effort dictates.
Remember that ebikes are quite heavy and therefore can be hard to negotiate but they are great commuters. Almost any type of bike can be converted or adapted as an electric version.
Tour de France Average Speed
Road racing’s premier event for male riders has circled around Europe’s third largest country by area each summer since 1903, save for world wars. It is usually made up of 21 gruelling stages and takes in the mountains of the Alps and Pyrénées.
The average speed has increased from 16.05mph in the inaugural event to 26.27mph last year – the fastest edition in history.
Specialist bikes are used for time-trials in the event and the fastest average speed recorded over one of these stages was 34.65mph by Rohan Dennis, the Australian rider, in the 2015 edition of the race.
Fastest Bicycle Speed [RECORDS]
|Speed||Type of record||Name and year|
|207.9mph||Pedalling on fixed rollers after being ‘towed’ to 100mph||Bruce Bursford – 1996|
|183.9mph||Flat surface (outdoor) – motor-paced behind a moving vehicle – gearing 62 teeth on the front – 12 on the rear||Denise Mueller-Korenek – 2018|
|35.495mph||Men’s World Hour – 60 minutes unsupported around a 250m indoor velodrome||Filippo Ganna – 2022|
|30.784mph||Women’s World Hour – 60 minutes unsupported around a 250m indoor velodrome||Ellen van Dijk – 2022|
|26.569mph||Men’s 24 Hours record – Hinterstoisser Air Base, Austria||Christoph Strasser – 2021|
|21.35mph||Women’s 24 Hours record – Florida, USA||Amanfa Coker – 2021|
How Fast Does the Average Person Ride a Bike?
From all the evidence of over 80 different sites and data points we’ve looked at, the average person rides a bike at 12.6mph. Let’s hope they’re doing it with a relaxed smile on their face.