When you first get into cycling, you may think you can just hop on the bike, pedal like crazy, and zoom off into the sunset at lightning speed.
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What most people don’t realize is that cycling is a challenging sport that requires years of dedication and training to get highly efficient at it. However, with a few easy tweaks, you can boost your average cycling speed almost immediately and be well on your way to a faster ride.
What’s A Decent, Average Speed?
When you first pick up cycling as a hobby you are bound to wonder how your speed compares to other amateurs or professionals. This is a difficult question to accurately answer, since there are a ton of variables that go into determining what a good “average” is. Do you live in a flat or hilly area? What is your base fitness level? While these numbers can vary, according to one of the most popular cycling apps, Strava, the average woman cycles at just over 12 mph (or 19 km per hour), and men at almost 16 mph (26 km per hour).
Adjust Your Posture
When cycling especially at higher speeds, the biggest factor in slowing you down is wind resistance. Making some simple adjustments to your posture can make a huge difference in your average cycling speed.
On a road bike, you want to get as low and as streamlined as possible. The best way to achieve this is to lower your body as close to the handlebars as you’re comfortable with, and be sure to tuck in your elbows. This will dramatically reduce your wind resistance and increase your speed right off the bat.
Pump Up The Tunes
This is a controversial topic for a lot of cyclists. Cycling is a sport that requires a large amount of situational awareness to stay safe. However, listening to music can help improve your ability to push yourself. You can wear headphones and still stay safe when you get into the habit of being more visually aware of your surroundings. If you want to ride with headphones, make sure you check behind you often, check mirrors, and generally be more more alert — and as a rule, don’t wear headphones in heavily trafficked areas or off of designated bike trails and paths. If you do all of these things, you can cycle with headphones pretty easily. You can also cycle with one earbud out to continue listening to the outside world while enjoying some tunes in the other ear.
If you’re still hesitant, there are certain headphones on the market that are designed using bone induction technology to help you stay aware of passing cars and other cyclists. These headphones essentially use vibrations on your bones to send sound to your inner ear. Traditional headphones are nothing more than a micro-speaker placed directly in your ear. With bone induction headphones, you can continue to hear most of your surroundings while also listening to your favorite tunes.
Ride With A Group
Riding with other people can help increase your speed in a variety of surprising ways. Some improvements you make riding with a group may be considered “cheating,” but for the most part, riding with other cyclists can help boost your individual performance.
Going back to the issue of wind resistance: riding closely behind another rider will make it so that they cut most of the wind away for you (kind of like geese flying in a V formation). This will make keeping up with them that much easier.
Riding with people who are faster than you can be motivating in itself, as they’ll encourage you to keep up and go longer and faster than you normally would alone. This will help you not only increase your average speed for that ride, but it will also help you improve you overall fitness level. So make some friends and go ride!
Fill Up Your Tires
One of the biggest mistakes I have seen beginner cyclists make is not refilling the air in their tires before every single ride. While some may argue this is going overboard, if you’re serious about improving your cycling performance, it’s an essential step that can make a big difference. With road bikes, proper tire pressure can mean the difference between flying and lugging behind.
You’d be surprised at how quickly some tires lose air. Just like with cars, cycling tires that are slightly flat will grip the ground better giving you more traction, but will reduce your power transfer and speed.
Invest In The Right Gear
Now, don’t think I’m telling you to go out and buy the most expensive bike, tires, shoes, and cycling jersey, but there is something to be said for the improvements having the right gear can provide.
Your bike is obviously the most important piece of cycling equipment, and having the correct frame size for your body will make all the difference. You’ll notice an immediate improvement between a bike that is either too big or too small, verus one that fits you just right. The right-sized bike will allow you toefficiently transfer power from your legs to your pedals and tires.
Second only to your helmet, your cycling shoes are one of the most important pieces of wearable cycling gear. Cycling in a pair of running shoes is a no-no if you’ve got a need for speed. Bike-specific shoes are designed to clip into your pedals and have much harder soles, which help take the energy from your legs and transfer them to your pedals without losing any power.
Additionally, cycling specific jerseys and shorts play a role in reducing wind resistance and should be considered if you are thinking of cycling competitively or want to improve your personal time.
Cycling enthusiasts will tell you that becoming a great cyclists takes time — and they’re absolutely right. Getting truly good at this sport won’t happen overnight, but there are things you can do to improve immediately improve your performance and give yourself a boost. So remember these tips next time you jump on your bike. Before long, you’ll be riding like the wind.