The average urban cyclist will attain speeds of between 19 to 26 km per hour or if you are American that would be between 12 and 16 miles an hour. The speed will significantly be impacted by a variety of factors including traffic, distance covered, intersections, stop signs and relights on the average daily commute.
Using data from Strava which aggregates information from more than a million users, you can get anything from the duration of rides to the speed and the most popular times when you should expect cyclists to be out in force. The following is some data from Strava Insights that has some very interesting conclusions.
According to the data, the fastest city in the world is Amsterdam.
Average Cycling Speed of a Bike Commutter
Sitting on a brand new bike going to work usually surprises a lot of people at how fast it can go. It is very easy to top speeds of between 20 and 25 miles an hour and even beat vehicles that have to deal with traffic jams. However, it is not possible to sustain very high speeds over long distances. It is fairly easy to hit the high speeds but it is not advisable to stay at that speed. As such the highest speed has nothing to do with the average commuting speed which is impacted by all manner of factors that include:
Your fitness level
This is the greatest determinant of how fast you can ride as more fit riders are usually able to ride faster and sustain those speed making for a better average bike riding speed. Since the rider is the engine on the bike an unfit rider rising a super bike will be slower than a fit rider on a junk bike.
If you are just starting out and have never ridden bikes for sport or as a commuter, you will be on average slower. As your fitness levels improve, your speed will improve alongside it. In the initial days you should expect muscle fatigue and this may persist for between one to two weeks. This is a critical moment and it is important to not give up as it is the adaptation period when consistency is very important. Once you become adapted the riding will become faster and more enjoyable.
Type of bike
The type of bike used for commuting will also make a significant difference on the average speed. The different bike designs are made for different speeds, riding styles and terrain. Their accessories, riding positions and weight will determine how fast and comfortable a bike will be. Nonetheless people do commute on any type of bike just like you can get from home to the city on any vehicle. Still, if you are serious about commuting on a bike, it is important to get a bike that is built for commuting.
Dutch Style Bikes
These are upright bikes with a hub gear, fenders, rack and lights. They are usually heavy durable, sturdy and low maintenance bikes best for short distances and in cities with relatively flat terrain such as Amsterdam. It is important to note that these bikes are slower than other commuter bikes as they focus more on practicality and comfort. These bikes average between 8 and 14 miles an hour on average.
People have been commuting on mountain bikes for a long time. These bikes usually have a wide range of gear selection and lower gear ratios. This makes them excellent for tough terrain and climbing steep hills even though one would have to pedal more to attain the same speed as that of a road bike. They usually have greater rolling resistance due the less aerodynamic design, wide tires and heavier components and hence they average a speed of about 10 and 15 miles an hour.
These are the fastest bikes for commuting even thought they are the least comfortable of all the bikes. They are designed for a low riding position and since they do not come with racks or fenders they are not the best for commuting as you would need to bring along a backpack. They are also less maneuverable as compared to the flat handle bars of a fitness or road bike and this can make one uncomfortable in heavy traffic. However, they are really fast on pavement and for long distances nothing beats a road bike which can attain speeds between 12 and 18 miles an hour.
Hybrid bikes are one of the most popular choice fro bike commuters. They are a combination of a road bike, a Dutch style bike and a mountain bike and come with different features and a variety of shapes: Some will come with fenders, racks and front suspension while some will be simple and bare bones bikes.
Given how wide the category is anyone from seasoned cyclists to beginners can find a hybrid bike to suit their riding style and their needs. Most hybrids will be very fast and approximate the speed of the road bike while still having the convenience and comfort of a Dutch style bike or a mountain bike since they have an upright riding position and many other accessories. Most hybrids will reach speeds of between 11 and 17 miles an hour.
Other types of commuter bikes that are relatively fast include gravel and cyclocross bikes that have a speed between that of road bikes and hybrids.
Road Conditions and Terrain
The average speed will be significantly impacted by the type of road on which you ride. Straight paved and flat roads make great conditions fro attaining and maintaining high speeds. If you are riding in the city you may have to stop or slow down for pedestrians, traffic lights, traffic and road signs. Even if you8 can attain very high speeds outside the city, your speed and average time for the commute will drop once you are in the city.
The average loss of speed is usually between 2 and 3 miles an hour in a European city such as Budapest. If you riding in a very busy and congested city such as New York the average speed may drop to 5 miles an hour or less particularly during rush hour traffic.
In addition to the extremes of a busy city and good conditions on country roads you can have very varied speeds. These may be influenced by things such as road conditions, elevation and uneven or unpaved road surfaces.
Unluckily, there is nothing much you can do about the weather and you will have to combat wind and rain all of which alter road conditions and reduce the efficiency of the bike.
Wind accounts for a significant part of aerodynamic drag and will sap up to half of the energy you expend on the bike. The percentage only increases the faster you go and this can make one tired fast and reduce their average speed. At speeds greater than 20 miles an hour you would need to work very hard to gain any extra speed due to higher drag.
For instance if you are riding at 15 miles an hour and have a headwind of 12 miles an hour, the aerodynamic drag will be as high as 27 miles an hour in speed. On the other hand, if you have a tailwind, your aerodynamic drag is significantly reduced and you can get to higher average speeds.
Event though rain will not have as much impact on average speeds as wind it can still impact it as it influences safe braking distances and visibility. Rain also gets into your face and irritates your eyes thus reducing visibility. You could always use glasses to protect your eyes but you will still have to deal with water droplets.