5 reasons why cyclists should worry about average speed

Cyclists are often fixated on their average speed, and many of us are guilty of going out of our way to keep it as high as possible, such as pausing a ride recording shortly before tackling a speed-sapping final hill.

While average speed isn’t the be-all and end-all, there are a few reasons why you should pay attention to it.

Here are five reasons why average speed matters.

Read more: Average speed challenge: how difficult is it to drive 30 km/h?

It provides a benchmark

According to Strava, cyclists average between 17 and 20 km/h during rides. That number is affected by many variables, whether terrain or weather, and so will vary significantly from rider to rider.

However, if you look back on previous rides, you should be able to get a good idea of ​​the general average speed at which you usually fall, and the types of speeds you reach on different terrain.

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

Read more: 8 Strava features everyone should know

You can use the average speed to plan routes

If you’re planning routes on unfamiliar roads or traveling a fixed distance and want to get an idea of ​​how long it will take, your average speed provides a good estimate.

You can of course compare your average speed with other routes that cover similar terrain and distances, or you can make your life easier by using an app. For example, when you plan a route on Strava, you’ll see an estimated average time that’s assessed against your previously uploaded rides.

So you can hit the road safe in the knowledge that you will be back in time to watch a stage of the latest Grand Tour.

You can gain confidence before group rides

When you join a new cycling club, it is normal to be a little hesitant. After all, no one wants to end up on a group ride that is beyond their skill level and end up being left behind in a fast-moving peloton.

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

Likewise, some races, sporting events or granfondos require an estimated finish time when you enter. This helps the organizers to spread out the starts, by placing riders with a similar pace in the starting blocks together. If you have a good idea of ​​your average speed, estimating this finishing time becomes much easier.

The average speed can help you gauge your fitness

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

These tests should only be performed at staggered intervals, with the average speed giving a good indication of fitness between tests. Most cyclists follow similar routes, so you should have a good idea of ​​the speed they can typically maintain. If it’s higher than normal for a similar amount of effort, you’ve probably made some fitness gains.

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

For a more scientific approach, you can create short loops that you complete occasionally, recording your average speed each time.

Read more: 10 Ways to Improve Your Average Speed ​​on a Road Bike

It can help you make improvements

Average speed can also be a strong indication of your weaknesses. For example, if your speed starts to drop after a certain distance, it’s a good sign that your aerobic fitness needs some work. Or maybe you struggle to maintain a higher speed on shorter efforts.

Test yourself on many different terrains and distances to get an idea of ​​the kind of average speed you can achieve and use this to inform your training.

Of course, if you just want to enjoy driving without worrying about the average speed, you can continue. If it’s something you care about, these steps should help you maximize its use, though you shouldn’t fixate on it too much.

Discover more cycling training tips on the GCN website.

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