How You’re Trashing Your Average Speed and Does It Actually Matter?

If you’re a data junkie like me, you probably know all your Strava stats, Garmin gab, and any other metric you can imagine, including your average speed. And we probably all have that one friend or twenty who will do crazy stuff to keep that average speed up, even if it means pulling crazy stunts to avoid going slow. But does average speed actually matter? 

Your average speed is a nice metric to keep an eye on because it can tell you if you are getting faster or slower, it can help you plan your routes, and it can help you choose the right groups of people to ride with. If you know the bad habits that bring your average speed down, you can work on safely increasing your average speed over time.  

In this article, we’ll talk about why average speed is important to your ride and how your riding habits might decrease it. First, let’s take a look at how average tells you if you are getting faster or slower. 

Average Speed Matters Because It Tells You If You Are Getting Faster or Slower

Your average speed can tell you if you are getting faster. If you notice, over time, your average speed is increasing, that will probably mean you are getting faster! If you notice it going down, it might mean you’re going slower. 

There are tons of factors that affect your average speed, but one of the biggest factors is the terrain. You’ll likely go much faster on a flat route than you will on very hilly terrain. When  you look at your average speed on Strava (or whatever app you choose), make sure you’re comparing rides with the same type of terrain. Then you can see if your average speed is going up (yay you’re getting faster!) or going down (uh oh maybe you need to work out a little harder).  Let’s face, we all wanna get faster, don’t we? 

Average Speed Matters Because It Helps You Plan Your Routes

Average speed will also help you plan ahead. If you know you can go 15MPH on a rolling course for 2 hours, then you’ll have a good idea how long it will take you to ride a similar route. Knowing how far you can go in a set time period might be essential if you have a limited time to ride before work or if you need to know how long you’ll be gone so you can tell the babysitter. 

If you’ve done enough riding, Strava will give you an estimate of how much time it will take you to complete your ride, but you should always double check the math, just in case. 

Average Speed Matters Because It Helps You Choose Your Riding Mates 

If you’re looking for folks to ride with, you’ll probably want to choose people who can ride at a similar pace. Knowing your average speed will help you choose the right people to ride with. If you need a recovery ride, you can choose a ride pace that is a little slower than your typical pace. Or if you want to get a hard workout in, you could choose (at your own risk!) a ride pace that is just a little bit faster than you would normally go.

Average speed isn’t everything. In fact, riding safely is far more important than riding fast. And for some folks, riding at a social pace so you can catch up with friends is just as important as being fast. But here are ten reasons you might be slowing your average speed down. 

10 Things That Affect Your Average Speed 

Average speed is sort of an imperfect science, because so many different things can affect it. Here are a few ways you might be trashing your average speed:

  • You aren’t wearing a cycling kit. Of course, you need to ride in clothing you are comfortable in. But cycling kits are designed to be more aerodynamic and cause the least amount of wind resistance. Extra coats or clothes flapping in the wind are going to slow you down and decrease your average speed. 
  • You slowly roll up to stop signs and traffic lights instead of coming to a quick stop. Safety first, always! But if you tend to slowly roll up to stop signs and traffic lights so you can roll through without unclipping from your pedals, you might be slowing your average speed. 
  • You slow down to eat, drink, or talk. You may not realize it, but you probably slow down to grab your bidon, pull a snack out of your jersey pocket, or chat with your riding mates. Again, safety is critical, but you probably don’t need to slow down to take a sip. 
  • You don’t know your route. If you are unfamiliar with your route, you might be slowing down to figure out which way to turn or where to go. Once you practice your route a few times and get more comfortable with it, you might speed up. 
  • You slow down too much when cornering. If you slam on the brakes before every turn, you might be slowing your average speed. Practice your turning and cornering to get a little bit faster, but of course, always go around turns at a safe speed for you. 
  • You’re carrying too much stuff. Packing too much stuff on your bike is going to slow you down! You should always bring along whatever you need to fix a flat, maybe a few tools, water, and ride snacks, but if you bring every tool you own and the kitchen sink, you’re packing too much. Lighten up to speed up. 
  • You don’t have the right tires or tire pressure. Tire pressure is a very personal thing, depending on bike type, tire type, tube, and rider weight. But using the wrong tires for the type of ride you are on or putting the wrong air pressure in the right tires will slow you down. 
  • You’re riding into a headwind. If you are riding into a headwind, you might FEEL like you’re pedaling hard, but you’re going nowhere fast. There probably isn’t anything you can do to get rid of that headwind unless you go the opposite direction and turn it into a tailwind. But at least you’ll know why you’re going slow. 
  • Your route is hillier than you expected. It happens. In spite of your best efforts, sometimes the expected elevation is just wrong. If your route isn’t what you were expecting, you might end up going slower than your typical speed.

Always remember that safety is more important than speed. But for more tips on improving your average speed, check out this video by GCN. And remember, no matter what your average speed might be, just get on a bike and ride.

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