5 reasons why cyclists should care about average speed

Cyclists often fixate on their average speeds, and many of us are guilty of doing everything we can to keep them as high as possible, like shortening a ride record before tackling a speed-sapping final hill.

Although average speed is not the most important thing, there are several reasons why you should pay attention to it.

Here are five reasons why average speed matters.

Read more: Medium Speed ​​Challenge: How hard is it to drive at 30 km/h?

It provides a benchmark

According to Strava, cyclists average around 17-20 km/h during a ride. This number is affected by many variables, whether it’s terrain or weather, so it will vary greatly for each rider.

However, by looking back over past rides, you should be able to get a good idea of ​​the general average speed you tend to fall into and the kind of speeds you achieve for different terrains.

These speeds will then act as a useful metric or tool that can be used for a number of things, starting with route planning.

Read more: 8 Strava Features Everyone Should Know About

You can use average speed to plan routes

If you are planning routes on unfamiliar roads or taking a set distance and want to get an idea of ​​how long it will take, your average speed will provide a good estimate.

Of course, you can compare your average speed from other routes that cover similar terrain and distances, or you can make your life easier by using an app. When planning a route on Strava, for example, it will provide an estimated average time that is evaluated against your previous uploaded rides.

So you’ll be able to leave safe in the knowledge that you’ll be back in time to watch a leg of the final Grand Tour.

You can gain confidence before group trips

When you join a new cycling club, it’s natural to feel a little apprehensive. After all, no one wants to find themselves on a group ride that is beyond their level, becoming the laggard in a fast-moving pack.

Most clubs categorize group rides by their average speeds, so you’ll need a good idea of ​​what speeds you typically average to find the right group.

Likewise, some races, sports events or gran fondos require an estimated time to complete when you enter. This helps organizers to stagger the starts by placing competitors of a similar pace in starting blocks together. Having a good idea of ​​your average speed will make estimating that final time much easier.

Average speed can help you gauge your fitness

There are many ways to track fitness, such as the dreaded FTP test.

These tests should only be run at staggered intervals, with the average speed providing a good estimate of fitness between tests. Most cyclists follow similar routes, so they should have a good idea of ​​the kind of speed they can usually maintain. If it’s higher than usual for a similar amount of effort, you’ve probably made some improvements in fitness.

There will be other factors that can affect this speed, such as traffic and strong headwinds, so don’t rely too much on it.

For a more scientific approach, you can create short loops to run every now and then and record your average speed each time.

Read more: 10 ways to improve your average speed on a road bike

It can help guide you toward improvements

Average speed can also provide a strong indication of any of your weaknesses. If, for example, your speed starts to decrease after a certain distance, that’s a good sign that your aerobic fitness needs some work. Or you may find it difficult to maintain a higher speed for shorter efforts.

Test yourself on many different terrains and distances to build up an idea of ​​the average speeds you can achieve and use these to inform your training.

Of course, if you’re happy to just enjoy the ride without worrying about average speed, go ahead. If it’s something you’re interested in, these steps should help you maximize its use, though you should avoid getting too fixated on it.

Check out more cycling tips on the GCN website.

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