Are you contemplating joining the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta a España, or other major cycling races? Before you can start dreaming about these world-class competitions, it would be wise to consider how fast can you go on a bike.
Knowing your biking speed will help you determine the steps you must take to improve your cycling performance. It can get you nearer to your goal, whether it is in the international scene or a local race. Let us find out now!
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How Fast Can You Ride a Bike
The ordinary, untrained person can pedal a bike at an average of 10 to 14 miles per hour (MPH). A few weeks of training can see this person improve his speed to about 15 to 20 MPH. Give it a few months of intense conditioning, and he can get to within 25 MPH or even 30 MPH.
Some factors can affect your capacity to ride your bike at the maximum speed possible. We will have a more detailed discussion about that and what you can do about them later.
How Fast Can Professional Cyclists Go
Professional cyclists can achieve a 45-MPH top speed on a bike using only raw power to propel themselves over the road, facing the wind.
Todd Reichert is the world record-holder for unpaced bikes or bicycles that rely only on leg power, setting a top speed of 82.82 MPH.
Competitive cyclists are a different breed. For example, a Tour de France professional cyclist has an average speed of about 25 MPH, encompassing hill climbs, flats, and sprints.
A well-trained TdF cyclist can go up to 34.5 MPH on the French flats, although the average speed is 26 to 29 MPH.
Climbing the Pyrenees section of the Tour de France will see cyclists reduce their speeds to about 12 MPH, peaking at 14 MPH.
On the other hand, Tour de France sprints can see cyclists breaching the 40-MPH barrier.
Professional cyclists competing in velodromes or speed arenas are faster than their outdoor counterparts.
The velodrome’s unique structure, shape, and 42-degree bankings allow cyclists to go 60 to 70 MPH. There are no winds and other obstacles to worry about, giving cyclists the advantage in pushing themselves and their bikes to the hilt.
However, the fastest speed on a bike is 183.932 MPH, established by the then-45-year-old American mountain bike, road bike, US national track champion Denise Mueller-Korenek, in September 2016.
Of course, one can argue that the world-record-setting feat is impossible without mechanical assistance from a dragster and capitalizing on the race car’s slipstream before pedaling her way to the record books.
It remains an incredible feat because the speed is equivalent to a Boeing 747 jumbo jet a few seconds away from taking off.
What Factors Can Affect Biking Speed
Achieving a top bicycle speed depends on three critical factors namely strength and endurance, weight, and resistance.
Strength and Endurance
Leg and thigh muscle strength are two of the most crucial factors affecting cycling speed. The more powerful you pedal, the faster you go. Over time, pedaling becomes a regular part of your routine, allowing you to exert less effort for the same job.
Endurance also plays a role in cycling speed. Your leg and thigh muscles require oxygen, fatty acids, and glucose to produce the energy they need for pedaling. If your muscles run out of oxygen, they will use other substances to create power.
That is why it is essential to improve your stamina to increase your lung’s oxygen capacity.
We are not only talking about your weight, but also that of your bike. Weight is a function of gravity. The heavier you weigh, the greater is the gravitational force pulling you and working against you moving forward.
Let us say you weigh 200 pounds, and your friend tips the scale at 150 pounds. Even if you have the same pedaling strength, your friend will still be faster than you.
This effect is also evident on the bicycle. Professional bicycles are premium-quality, super-lightweight materials you can easily lift with a few fingers. I have seen racing bikes that barely weigh four pounds.
On the other hand, ordinary road bikes can weigh up to 20 pounds, although the average is about 18 pounds.
Resistance, friction, or drag can slow you down.
Air density and wind speed are excellent examples of resistance forces that prevent you from achieving the top speed on a bicycle.
Your biking stance also matters. If you look at competitive cyclists, they crouch low on their bicycles to reduce their body profile and create a more streamlined form. Their riding position allows air to flow over their curved bodies instead of hitting them on the chest.
The choice of clothing and helmet is also essential. Wearing a loose or baggy outfit may be comfortable, but the excess fabric can create resistance and slow you down.
Other bike elements can also create resistance. For example, the water bottle shape, handlebar stem extension size and shape, and wheel profile can differentiate between fast and slow cycling.
How Can You Improve Your Biking Speed
Here are a few tips on how you can improve your biking speed.
- Consider high-intensity interval training, focusing more on lower body strength and stamina development.
- Invest in a good-quality cadence meter and heart monitor to help you in strength and endurance training.
- Try to improve your weight by exercising regularly and eating a well-balanced diet.
- Check what items you can remove from your bicycle to reduce its weight. If you have the budget and are serious about competitive cycling, you might want to ditch your road bike for a high-performance racing rig.
- Learn the correct posture when speed biking.
- Wear only the correct clothing and protective gear to reduce drag and improve speed.
How fast can you go on a bike? Ordinary folks can pedal their bicycles at a respectable rate of 10 to 14 miles per hour. With proper training, ideal weight, and resistance-reduction techniques, you can push yourself to cycle up to 30 MPH.
Of course, it is always possible to aim for the highest accolade any cyclist can ever get: beat the 183.932-MPH world record for a motor-paced bike.