When you get into cycling, it’s common to want to know where you rank and how you’re performing. If you’re new to cycling it’s hard to perceive how fast you can actually ride a bike. Pro cyclists are on another level. They can ride at and maintain speeds that most would think only cars can do. On downhills, pro cyclists can ride over 60 mph and on flat ground, they can hit speeds upward of 40 miles per hour.
If you’re just getting into cycling I wouldn’t try to compare to the pros. Even among beginner or average cyclists, it’s difficult to truly compare your performance. Yes, you can compare speed, but unlike most pro cyclists which have very similar body builds and training, average cyclists have a variety of body types, previous fitness ranges, age ranges, bikes, etc.
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Proper Cycling Performance Comparison
While you can compare your speed, that isn’t necessarily the best comparison for your performance. A better comparison of performance would be your power to weight ratio. Your power to weight ratio is your power output in watts in relationship to your body weight but measuring this requires extra accessories such as bike computers or smart bike trainers.
Accuracy of Data
When it comes to pro cyclists, it’s easy to find data on the average speed in different scenarios, average power, etc. but with beginner and intermediate cyclists, there’s no centralized place to pull cycling data other than on Strava. Even with Strava, beginner cyclists probably don’t use it, so, the data would still be skewed.
Rather than acting like I found the holy grail of data, the average speeds used for beginners and avid cyclists come from my first-hand experience with cyclists in group rides, riding with friends, and my Strava friends. Each of these groups has cyclists of varying experience levels.
Average Road Cycling Speed for Beginner Cyclists
Beginners have a wide range of cycling speeds due to body types, previous fitness experience, age, and quality of their bikes.
Flat Ground Speed | 10-15 mph
Riding on flat ground is where most beginners start and from my experience, when people first get on a geared road bike, it’s a lot harder than they’re expecting. The resistance is a lot higher than the normal bikes they’re used to riding unless they do indoor cycling for cardio training for other sports.
Yes, there are gears but as you start going faster you shift up gears which also increases resistance. It makes sense to shift up but it can still be an intense leg workout for a beginner cyclist.
Climbing Speed (5-8% Incline) | 6-8 mph
Climbing on a road bike isn’t as hard as you would expect, but for a beginner cyclist, it can still be a challenge.
Downhill Speed | 25-35 mph
Downhill speed, especially at the beginner level, has a lot to do with comfortability on a bike and your risk level. It’s very easy to go downhill at 30+ mph but if you aren’t comfortable on your bike yet, it is likely that you’ll use your brakes pretty often while bombing the hill. This brings down your average downhill speed by a lot.
I’ve seen complete beginners hop on a bike and take a downhill at 40 mph and I’ve seen beginners take a hill at 15-20 mph because they weren’t comfortable riding on a bike with skinny road tires. So, it really depends on your comfort level on your bike.
At the beginner level, it’s better to err on the side of caution rather than get in an accident that could keep you from riding. Go at your own pace and only speed up when you’re comfortable doing so.
Sprint Speed | 22-27 mph
Sprint speed and how long you can actually hold that speed will vary greatly with the fitness background of each cyclist. If you come from a track and field sprinting background, it’s very likely you’ll be able to hit fast sprint speeds with limited technique. However, if you aren’t coming from an athletic background your spring speed could be under 20 mph. Which is perfectly fine, you’ll get faster over time.
Average Road Cycling Speed for Avid Cyclists
I consider an avid cyclist someone who rides multiple times/week and just enjoys being on their bike. They don’t have to be doing time trials but they ride consistently which makes them faster over the long haul. Even if they don’t realize they’re getting faster, they’re gradually growing day by day, week by week.
Flat Ground Speed | 17-22 mph
Avid cyclists in my sphere, ride at about a 17-22 mph pace over a good length of time. They may not be able to keep that pace on a Gran Fondo, but they can keep a similar pace on a typical 25-50 mile group ride.
Climbing Speed (5-8% Incline) | 9-11 mph
As you continue to ride on a regular basis, you’ll definitely get faster at climbing, but a lot of what makes people faster at climbing is weight reduction whether that is on their bike or their body. In order to make climbing easier, you need to lose weight. That is the secret to faster climbing.
There’s technique and strength required too, but it’s unlikely that 2 people who both ride the same amount would be equally as fast up an incline if 1 person weighs 30 lbs more than the other.
Downhill Speed | 40-50 mph
Typically avid cyclists will be way more comfortable on their bike than a beginner, so, their average downhill speed will be considerably higher than a beginner.
Sprint Speed | 30-35 mph
Sprinting can be very difficult and draining. If you’re out on a long ride and you decide to go into a sprint, if you aren’t in great shape, it’ll most likely slow down the rest of your ride or make you burn out in way less time than you normally would.
Average Road Cycling Speed for Pro Cyclists
It’s insane when you look at the speeds that pro cyclists can maintain. At first glance, the pro speeds may not seem too impressive, but when you realize that they maintain these speeds over the course of 100 miles and they can climb at those speeds even after riding for 4+ hours pushing their bodies to the limit, it’s pretty crazy.
Flat Ground Speed | 25-28 mph
On flat ground, professional cyclists maintain a speed of between 25 and 28 mph and can quickly increase that speed to pass or catch up after a break and still be able to drop back down to that pace at ease. This pace is a pro cyclist’s comfortable pace.
Climbing Speed (5-8%) | 12-15 mph
Pro Cyclists are able to climb at speeds on average of between 12 and 15 mph on a pretty decent incline. On smaller hills say a 3-4% incline a pro cyclist’s average speed would be faster than most avid cyclists’ flat ground speeds.
What’s even crazier is that they are able to climb at these speeds after riding for hours!
Downhill Speed | 65-80 mph
At the pro level, you have to be 100% comfortable on your bike and their downhill speeds really show that. A pro may not be able to take corners at 65-80 mph going downhill but some can come pretty close. I’ve seen some pros riding a curvy downhill at speeds over 50 mph. They go so fast that cars could barely keep up, so they use drones to follow them in order to film.
Sprint Speed | 40-45 mph
Pro cyclists can also be amazing sprinters although not all pro cyclists are the best at sprinting, some are just good at endurance. Pro cyclists can typically sprint between 40 and 45 mph.
Fun Fact: Although it wasn’t on a standard road bike and they drafted a vehicle, Guy Martin holds the world record for fastest to go on a pedal bike on flat ground at 112 MPH.
The levels of cycling ability vary drastically between experience levels, fitness levels, age, and body type. So, really you shouldn’t be comparing speeds with the cyclists around you, but we understand it’s a good metric for whether or not you can keep up with someone. If you’re riding to compete, then yes, you’ll have to get faster but if you’re riding for fitness what’ more important is your actual power output and how hard you’re working. A great workout for 1 person may be at 15mph while a great workout for someone else might be at 25 mph. Cycling speed isn’t a good indication of the quality of the workout.