What is a Good Average Bike Speed?

Q:  I am getting ready for my first triathlon, and notice a lot of focus on the average bike speed.  I don’t want to stress, but also want to do well.  What is a good average bike speed?

Ross, Denver

A: Thanks for the excellent question, Ross.  The short answer is that a good average bike speed depends on many factors.  We will get to answering your question below, but first we wanted to note some of the things involved in determining a good average bike speed.

  • Conditioning.  Your fitness level obviously plays a huge role into what your expectation should be around bike speed.  Someone who is just starting out should have more modest expectations than someone who has been cycling with a high-end club for several years.
  • Bike Type.  The bike you use will make a big difference on how fast you can go.  Generally speaking, a triathlon or time trial bike is a little faster than a road bike (but not much), and a road bike is going to be faster than a mountain bike or comfort bike.
  • Race Length.  The length of the course will impact your speed.  Many well-conditioned athletes are able to go all-out during the bike leg of a Sprint triathlon, whereas they would obviously have to pace themselves if they were doing a 56-mile HIM ride.
  • Conditions.  When it comes to cycling, conditions matter.  High winds, precipitation, and hills are all things that generally will make your average bike speed lower.

So with all of that said, we still haven’t answered your question.  What is a good bike speed?  We will give you some ranges, but know these are highly dependent on the course.  For reference, we looked up the recent results for a local sprint tri on a pretty flat course, and the average bike speed was about 19.5 mph.  We also looked at a more challenging, hilly course, and the average speed dropped to just over 19 mph.

  • Tri Bike.  A tri bike will give you the fastest speed, generally speaking, because you can crank harder and really pick up speed on the straightway.  Elites will be at 24 or 25 mph, with age groupers being around 19.5 to 22 mph.
  • Road Bike.  A good road bike is a little less aerodynamic than a tri bike, but the gearing is about the same.  You can go pretty fast.  Most age groupers will probably fall in a range of 18 to 21 mph.
  • Mountain or Cyclo Cross Bike.  The mountain bike design has lower gearing, so you just can’t crank as fast.  Plus, the posture on the bike and the heavier tires suggest that you are probably going to go a bike slower.  Expect a range of 15 mph to perhaps 19 mph if you have a lighter bike.
  • Hybrid or Cruiser.  You aren’t looking to win the race with a hybrid, but you will finish.  Expect a speed of 13 mph to perhaps 17 mph if you are quite fit.

Hope that helps!