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There are a plethora of reasons why someone (you?) might not want to join a cycling club and often, for women, it’s the fear of being too slow. The idea of riding with more experienced or faster cyclists and the fear of not being able to keep up, is off-putting.
One discussion that comes up again and again in regards to cycling clubs is around average cycling speed. Lots of clubs use average speed to categorise the levels of their group rides. For example, they might say… “On our Chat Group rides the average speed is around 11-13 mph“, which gives you an idea of what to expect.
However, there are quite a few factors that go into average speed and often you’re comparing your commute rides with traffic lights and busy roads, to a weekend ride on country lanes.
One thing to note though – as highlighted in the 2022 Strava Year In Sport Data – is that you’re gonna ride faster than you think you will, in a group.
“Cyclists also rode faster in groups than solo – though anyone who’s watched the pro peloton chase down a breakaway (or gotten half-wheeled on the coffee ride) might not be surprised.”
Understanding Your Average Cycling Speed
Average cycling speed is basically a way to measure how fast you can ride your bicycle and is typically measured in miles per hour (mph) or kilometres per hour (kmph). I’m definitely a kilometres person, you?!
Average speed on a bike can depend on many factors, including your fitness level, age and experience. External factors can also have a large effect on your average cycling speed, such as the type of bike you ride, the route length, the weather, and the terrain you’re cycling on.
“I can average anywhere between 15mph-20mph, depending on the terrain, length of ride, weather, which bike I’m on.”
A recreational cyclist might have an average speed of 12-14 mph, while a competitive cyclist might average 20-25 mph or more. I remember when I rode London to Paris with friends, we decided to aim for an average speed of 12mph over the trip, which then helped us to figure out what distance we were going to cover each day, and therefore what distances to train for.
It’s important to note that average speed is different from maximum speed, which is the highest speed that you can hit while cycling.
How To Work Out Your Average Cycling Speed
“I feel like I just don’t know my average speed. London is so stop start that I just can’t judge what my average is and also it depends on how confident I’m feeling, what the road/route is like and who I’m with.”
For the mathematicians in the house, Average Speed = (Total Distance) / (Total Time). For the rest of us, there’s Strava or whatever other software you use to track your active endeavours.
So an example is, if you rode a total distance of 20 miles in 1 hour and 30 minutes, your average speed would be:
Average Speed = (20 miles) / (1.5 hours) = 13.33 mph
Is Average Cycling Speed Important To Know?
Personally, I don’t think you should worry too much about your average speed. Try not to use it as a benchmark to compare yourself to others, as it just doesn’t take into account the different factors that can influence it.
However, figuring out your average cycle speed can help you to find other people to ride with, if you’re thinking about joining a group ride.
“I wish I had more biking buddies as it makes it easier to get going and fit my ride into my day.”
Benefits Of Joining Group Rides / Club Rides:
As well as accountability and motivation, riding in a group comes with many other benefits such as:
- Safety: it’s much safer to ride in a group than on your own, as there are more eyes to watch out for hazards and also to call for help, if needed
- Meet new people: Riding in a group can be a great way to meet new people who share your interest in cycling
- Improve your cycling skills: Whilst drafting your riding buddies (lol) you’ll learn things like hand signals, and generally improve your riding. usually more experience riders are super supportive and keen to help less confident riders
- Variety: you’ll get to explore new routes and maybe even new cafe stops
Does Average Speed Matter When Joining Group Rides Or A Cycling Club?
Even with all these benefits, all the talk of average cycling speed can put women off from joining group rides or cycling clubs.
“My slower speed is putting me off joining a club, but it’s lonely on my own and I’m not pushing myself.”
And it’s not only the idea of being too slow that puts many women off. For some more experienced or faster cyclists, the idea of having to slow down and wait for others can also be off-putting.
“I hate the feeling of hanging on, makes me feel physically sick and I’m so tense I go slower than I would normally. Too stressful for something I do for enjoyment.”
The best thing to do is ask the group you’re thinking of joining what their policy regarding drops is:
- No drop: as the name indicates, the group stays together even if someone is slower.
- “average speed” group: this group aims for a certain speed / pace, and if you can’t keep up you drop back and make your way back on your own. No shame in this at all! These groups are great to build your own stamina and speed: the aim is to get dropped later and later until you can stay on
- “racing style” groups: these groups deliberately try and spring to drop people, and practice other race techniques. Great as a complement to race clinics.
Most clubs have several groups with various policies, and they almost always have a “no drop” group, or an intro ride that caters to (potential) new joiners.
“The average speed of the groups at my club ranges from ~10mph to ~18mph so it was simply a matter of finding one I was comfortable with.”
Knowing your average speed and a cycle clubs average speed can give you confidence to join group rides.
“I found it gave me the confidence to join my first group ride, because I saw the average speed they planned, saw it was similar to my average speed on my regular hilly route by myself and then realised I could do it after all.”
If you’re looking to become a stronger cyclist, then cycling with others or joining a cycling club can help push you to gradually increase your average cycling speed. Here’s the best quote which I hope encourages you to feel the fear and do it anyway…
“The only way I got faster was riding with other people and pushing myself. Initially I couldn’t keep up but that was fine because I’d pushed myself as hard as possible and could just enjoy the solo ride. Sometimes I’ll go ride laps with much stronger friends and just hang on for as long as possible. It’s daunting at first but everyone just wants to ride bikes!”
Have you worried about being too slow to join a club?!