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16 Tips to Increase Your Cycling Speed

How to Increase Your Average Cycling Speed: 16 Tips to Increase Your Cycling Speed

Cycling Speed
Cycling Speed is a key number for cyclists – it’s easy to understand and use as a benchmark to measure your performance on the bike.

However, there are a lot of variables that affect your average speed, so comparing one rider’s speed to the next, or even comparing your own speed from one day to another, isn’t always accurate. Still, cycling faster is what many of us want to achieve, so what can you do to increase your average bike speed?
Let’s start with a common problem that many riders have. What is a good average speed? As always, it depends on a lot of things. This includes the bike you ride. In general, you’ll go faster on a road bike with drop-down handlebars and narrow tires than on a flat-bar hybrid bike with thick tires or a mountain bike designed for trail riding.

Where you ride also matters, as mountainous terrain often reduces your average speed, as can riding in headwinds and wet weather or tricky conditions. Even how slippery the tarmac makes a difference – professionals accustomed to racing on the Continent will complain that the UK’s tar and gravel roads are much slower for the Tour of England.

What matters, though, is your fitness level. Beginners may struggle to maintain an average speed of 10mph/16kph for an hour or two on a road bike. Ride consistently and get fitter, and you should be able to hit 15.5 mph/25 km/h for a few hours — which Strava considers to be the average speed for a recorded ride.

To reach an average speed of 20mph/32kph, you may have to do a lot of system training. Since the effort required to overcome air resistance at 20 mph is 8 times that at 10 mph, the power output is greatly increased. Tour de France winner consistently averages 25 mph/40 km/h over three weeks and rides over 2,000 mph/3,500 km, though he does help – read on to find out why he rides in a group Lines are important.

1. Pedal

An easy 10-person starter, this one. But the truth is that seasoned cyclists spend more time riding than beginners. This is partly due to fitness, but also being able to read the road ahead and feel confident on the bike. That’s thanks in large part to getting out and about riding more — and Coppi isn’t wrong.

Knowing when to pedal is also important. There’s no point in hitting a traffic light and then having to stop, put your foot down, and start all over again, when a better timing would allow you to ride with less effort.

2. Less brakes

Another obvious one. Again, it depends on experiencing and reading the road ahead. Riding downhill faster will come with practice and increased confidence. We have advice on how to safely descend on a road bike.

On bumpy roads, a quicker descent will give you more power, allowing you to take a stretch on the next uphill as well. Measure it correctly and you can probably get to the top of the next ridge without descending onto your little sprocket and the speed won’t drop too much. It will be more difficult and slow to climb from a low speed.

Learning how to corner faster will also improve your average speed. Again, it depends on practice, but steps are also needed to improve your technique, how to get through corners and how to use drops to lower your center of gravity. Read our advice on how to turn with confidence.

3. Team riding

Group riding is a surefire way to increase your average speed. If you’re with other riders, you’ll have the motivation to keep up, so even if you start marking, you’ll stick with it and keep going. Likewise, if you’re feeling fresh, you can set the pace and help your rider stay faster.

However, the main benefit of riding in groups is the drafting effect. Hiding in the back, it is estimated that the rider can save up to 40% of the effort required to move forward. Drafting effectively and safely takes practice, so more miles will make you better.

Drafting is why, if you watch a road race, even if the driver at the front obviously puts in a lot of effort, the drivers behind often do as they please. That’s part of the reason why the winner of the Tour de France is able to maintain such a high speed.

That’s why sprinters have lead lines – they spend a lot of time riding behind their teammates, saving energy for the crucial final sprint. Clubs are a great way to find cyclists to ride with. Most people organize group rides at different speeds, so you can choose a group that you can keep up with and upgrade to faster as you gain speed and experience. If you’re new to group riding, we’ve got advice on how to do it.

4. Adjust your rhythm

It’s not just pedaling more, pedaling faster can also help you ride faster. Your muscles are under less stress, and once you’re more efficient, pedaling faster shouldn’t be as tiring. If you’re not familiar, Cadence is the number of times you turn the pedals per minute.

There is no “perfect” cadence, but trained amateur riders typically ride at 80 to 90 rpm, while some pros may ride at a cadence closer to 100 rpm. Chris Froome would be known for that number, even at the end of the uphill. It’s also about developing ‘souplesse’ – a smooth, efficient way of riding that reduces power through more pedal travel, not just when pedaling.
Cycling Speed 

5. Get more aerodynamics

Getting more aero is a major factor in riding faster. About three-quarters of the drag comes from you, not your bike, so that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on a new aero bike or deep-section wheels. Once you get over 10 mph/16 km/h, wind resistance, not friction, will be the main factor slowing you down, so this is important even at lower speeds.

The main way to improve aerodynamics is to reduce the frontal profile. In simple terms, that means dropping more on the handlebar, riding on the drop and possibly lowering the stem, if you can do that and stay comfortable on the bike.

However, if you’re uncomfortable with more aggressive positions, lowering the bar might not be a good idea. Top coaches have found that if triathletes and time trial runners are too short and cannot maintain an aerodynamic position at all times, their overall speed may be slower. Even the position of the arms can make a difference: studies have shown that an arm at a right angle on top of a bar is almost as aerodynamic as riding in a drop of water.

6. Use your bike’s gears more efficiently

Improper use of gears can also reduce speed. If you find yourself spinning before changing gears, or grinding down a low gear when climbing, you will be using more effort than you would if it was suitable for the terrain. So learning how to use your bike’s gears, read the road ahead, and be prepared for what’s ahead can help you ride faster. Cross-chaining, where you run the big sprocket with the largest sprocket or the smallest to smallest sprocket, is less efficient than riding in a cog near the middle of the cassette.

7. Tracking

On longer rides, it’s easy to slow down, and if you’ve just climbed a hill, it’s easy to relax a bit until you feel recovered. A bike computer will help you keep an eye on your current speed and average speed to see if they are starting to drop. Just showing numbers can subconsciously encourage you to speed up, and features like Garmin’s Lessons will tell you if you’re going slower or faster than usual on a particular route.

Strava is also a great way to see how you’ve performed in the past and how others have performed. You can choose a specific segment and use it to measure your health. The Strava Live feature, which is compatible with some GPS cycling computers, can also indicate how fast you are riding on a particular section compared to your previous best time and KOM/QOM.

8. Indoor training

If you don’t have much time, cycling indoors is a great way to train effectively. pixdeluxe/Getty Images
A great way to get rhythm, fitness, and speed outdoors is to ride a turbo trainer and ride indoors.

There are many benefits to indoor cycling. First, it’s a more controlled environment than riding on the road, so you can train more efficiently without worrying about the weather, traffic or terrain. If you use a smart trainer, you can also use the power to track your training, and there are now various indoor training apps, such as Zwift, to provide motivation and workouts, so let’s get started…
Cycling Speed

9. Try Intervals

Interval training is a great way to increase your fitness when you’re on your turbo, especially if you’re short on time. You can also ride at intervals on the road, but make sure to choose a safe place and be alert to other road users.

10. Off-road riding

If you’re a road cyclist, off-road riding can improve your pedaling efficiency and technique. Hit the pedals on mud or gravel climbs and you’ll get nowhere, but drop the power smoothly and you’ll keep going. Off-road riding improves your balance and bike handling skills, and these efforts tend to be stronger than road riding, which can improve your fitness in an interval-like fashion.

Top mountain bikers have proven to be the most efficient riders, and many road pros come from MTB backgrounds. Rising road stars Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert also have extensive off-road experience, both being multiple motocross world champions.

11. Practice climbing

Many people have a hard time climbing, which can reduce your average speed considerably. Repeated climbing is a great way to improve your climbing ability. Pick a hill that will take you a few minutes to climb, and try to climb it, trying to stay as seated as possible. If necessary, take a break at the top, ride to the bottom and repeat a few laps until you’ve had enough.

Keep practicing and you’ll find that your climbing strength and speed increase, and once you get to the top of the uphill section, you’ll need less recovery time.

12. Tailwind home

It’s obvious, but a tailwind can have an amazing effect on the relaxed feel of a ride. This is especially true if you’re nearing the end of your ride and are feeling a little tired. Battling strong winds for hours when you’re low on energy and trying to get home can be very frustrating.

It’s worth checking the weather forecast and planning where to ride on a breezy day so you can ride a headwind when you’re fresh and a tailwind on your way back.

13. Reduce Feeding

It is important to maintain proper feeding and watering while riding. In the worst case, you could have a horrific crash where you completely run out of energy and crawl slowly. But losing even 2% of your body water can reduce your efficiency, so staying hydrated is important.

The rule is to eat less and drink more, often to maintain energy and fluid levels. On long rides, stopping at a coffee shop or store for a proper rest, or filling up a bottle under the tap, may be more effective than moving on as your energy and hydration levels drop.

14. Upgrade your tires

We’ve mostly focused on free (or low-cost) ways to increase your average speed, but making small changes to your equipment can have a big impact. Faster tires are surprisingly efficient and cost-effective; the best road bike tires will ride faster than cheaper alternatives. Some brands design tires to cut tire costs, so switching to faster rubber can be an easy way to upgrade your road bike.

Many of the latest bikes will come with tubeless wheels and tires. Running tubeless is more efficient than using a tube due to the elimination of friction between the inner tube and the outer tube. Latex tubing is more efficient than standard butyl rubber tubing if you can’t run tubeless.

Tire pressure is also important, so it’s important to keep your tires properly inflated. The right tire pressure for your bike will balance speed, comfort, grip and puncture resistance. Want to know more? We have road bike tire pressure and mountain bike tire pressure guides.

15. Go to Lycra

Aviation clothing is also a factor. A close-fitting lycra garment doesn’t blow in the wind like a baggy suit, it slows you down like a sail.

Cycling apparel brands are increasingly emphasizing the aerodynamic advantages of their pricier products, but even with entry-level kits, there are gains to be made. You’ll feel more comfortable, too, with a technology suite that provides better heat and sweat management.

At the marginal benefit end of the performance spectrum, clothing can make a big difference. Time-trial runners will wear tights to ride through the wind, while the best riders will test its effect on drag in the wind tunnel. Other kits, like aero helmets and shoe covers, can reduce drag without spending a fortune, and aero socks are even a thing.

16. Take care of your bike

Cleaning your bike might not be a particularly fun job, but it can have a real impact on your efficiency. A clean chain with the right chain lube will have less friction than a dirtied chain. Friction brakes or kinked rims will slow you down, and worn pads will be less effective, so you need to gradually slow down and slow down again.

So keep everything good and you should find extra free speed in your rides.

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