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Old 08-07-06, 11:32 AM   #1
HopedaleHills
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The Great Average Speed Myth

Saturday Ms. HH and I rode the East Bay path which goes from Providence, RI to Bristol, RI, 15 miles each way. On the way down I felt like I was having one of my best rides yet. My legs felt strong and everytime I glanced at my cyclocomputer I was doing between 17 and 19mph. So we get to the end and I check the Avg reading and it says 12.9mph, WTF.

So I got thinking, there are at least 10-12 intersections to cross in which of course you are slowing and then starting up again. That coupled with the occassional slowdown for other riders and the avg is blown to hell. So what's more real, the 17-19mph that I was doing when I actually had open space or the reading on the computer. I think it's all rather meaningless. Even if you measured always on the same course, conditions would change from ride to ride. I think I'm going to just ignore it from now on..

On another note. On the way back we came upon this chunky young girl probably 13-14 years old riding an xmart mountain bike that probably weighed 30 lbs. She was having some trouble shifting as I could hear the constant clunking of the rear cassette as she shifted. She was paying so much attention to her shifting woos that she was all over the path. We finally got around her and for whatever reason she decided to hammer and stay on my tail. I pushed my speed up to about 18-19mph for over a mile. When I looked back, damn she was still not that far behind. It took another mile or more to lose her.

Get that kid a road bike
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Old 08-07-06, 11:57 AM   #2
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Average mph? I've tried all kinds of ways to figure it & finally decided that 1) if I know the distance relatively accurately and 2) knowing there are always many reasons why, on any given day, I'll slow down, stop (for a light, the train, etc) then 3) I'll just time from when I roll out my driveway until I roll back in. That's accurate enough for me considering, as you stated, conditions change from ride to ride even on the same course. The HRM provides more useful info about my conditioning challenges than any 'average mph' statistics, at least for me.
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Old 08-07-06, 11:58 AM   #3
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I have always said that average speed is is a false reading, along with "I never got out of the big ring"

Too many variable can occur on a ride and other traffic- the amount you have to slow down for junctions and wind are just a few that can affect average speed. I used to do several 100 mile rides a year and there is one called the Havant 100. Most of the 100 milers were signposted but not the Havant. Every junction you came to you had to slow down and check the route notes and the slowing down and the acceleration afterwards made this the hardest- most tiring ride I can remember. It was all on back roads that I did not know and although I looked at the notes and picked out the big landmarks- It was hard work having keep checking.

I never got out of big ring is a comment I often get by one of my riding partners. The fact that he has a cadence of 60 and Mine is around 90 is probably one factor in this- but wheras I will go up a slope in 34/16 and he will be in 44/24. probably has a lot to do with it aswell.

I take every ride as it comes and I have one memorable ride I like to do. 65Miler in October and If the weather is Right- I have done it in 4 hours on a mountain bike with slicks fitted. I no longer do it if the weather is remotely nasty though due to 5 hours and 45 minutes in torrential rain and a force 9 gale that was always in the face and a body that almost gave out with hypothermia.
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Old 08-07-06, 11:59 AM   #4
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How long did you ride time wise? How far did you go? Do the math and that is the average... Now if you feel that someone/something was either messing with time or space during this ride... then perhaps it was "meaningless."

On the other hand, if you want a true reading of how well you can maintain a pace over a specific distance... use an uninterrupted distance. (i.e. can you maintain 18MPH for 10miles... best to use an uninterrupped test track... like Merckx's 30MPH. )

Frankly I use average time/speed simply as a metric against other rides on the same route. I average 16.1 one day, and 15.5 on another day... and nothing has changed, then I know, inspite of how I felt... I rode slower.

"Feeling" is an odd thing... one can feel fast but be riding slow... depending on health, how fast the background or others go by, or how one feels at the end of the ride... But the numbers don't lie.

I don't rely on average to tell me that I held 25MPH for a mile... only to tell me that what I did overall.
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Old 08-07-06, 12:16 PM   #5
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I only use avg as gross indication on how well my daily ride was. I have 6 lights on this route and the wind direction and speed has a big affect on avg speed. The nice thing about my Garmin is that I get mutliple track points with location, speed, HR, Cad etc. I can then using software to look at various split averages compare mutliple rides over the same split etc. It is an expensive toy but I can spend hours playing with the data and being a scientist by occupation I can never get enough data. It also has the ability to set the timer to stop measuring at a specific speed rather than at 0. So you could set it to stop a 5mph and it would not include those periods in the calculations.
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Old 08-07-06, 12:20 PM   #6
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Quote:
So what's more real, the 17-19mph that I was doing when I actually had open space or the reading on the computer. I think it's all rather meaningless. Even if you measured always on the same course, conditions would change from ride to ride. I think I'm going to just ignore it from now on..
What is this post about? What's the myth?

So did you need help with your computer? Maybe you should have a mechanic check your bike? My computer works, even if I make stops. Try a "Cateye".
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Old 08-07-06, 12:49 PM   #7
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I think 'average' comes into play only when long, uninterupted rides can be accomplished in a manner that allows one to track the average over time. The wind out here will kill an average or make it look like you're ready for the TDF if it happens to be on your back. I'd stick with tracking time-spent on bike and smile when the average looks better than 'average'...
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Old 08-07-06, 12:56 PM   #8
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I think what most of us are concerned with is our "cruising speed" for whatever sustained amount
of time we are setting our goal for. Of course we have to stop for obstacles, and that really messes
up the numbers. What I like to do to keep me pedaling hard and fast is set the computer to show
the average speed of the trip at all times. Of course its many MPH below typical speed, but seeing
that low number makes me try as hard as I can to raise it.
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Old 08-07-06, 01:00 PM   #9
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I use a Garmin 305. I have it set to autopause at 3mph so when I slow to 3 or less then it autopauses the system. Starts back up when I start moving again. I can set it to anything but I figured I do not get down below 3 without a stop and that gives me a few cranks on the pedals when I start up again before it starts counting.
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Old 08-07-06, 01:13 PM   #10
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On daily stop-and-go rides, average speed is meaningless to me. Once I'm up to cruise, I use the speedometer to tune my output.

On "long" rides, where I don't stop except to get water & saddle relief, I use the total miles at end of ride and total time to calculate "average speed."
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Old 08-07-06, 01:31 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baggsy
I think 'average' comes into play only when long, uninterupted rides can be accomplished in a manner that allows one to track the average over time. The wind out here will kill an average or make it look like you're ready for the TDF if it happens to be on your back. I'd stick with tracking time-spent on bike and smile when the average looks better than 'average'...
On organised rides- Other road users are normally aware of your presence, but on a normal ride out on the Roads or paths- You have to slow down a lot more- and then accelerate again.
Did a ride earlier in the year- only a 40 miler- knew the route- Was 98% fit and blasted the ride- Only one long drag of a hill but the rest were just a few short sharp slopes- AND I did it on the Tandem. Highest speed attained on the flat was 35mph ans we were pushing all the way for 2 1/2 hours. Hold on= that is only a 16mph average- Come on we must have been faster that that- Even up the drag we were flying. Problem was all the right and left hand bends where we had to slow to 5mph and then pick up speed again. Ever gone across a flood plain and the Dykes are never in your favour?

Now if we could have had that route- That traffic and the legs we had that day without a Corner or slope in it- How fast would we have gone? Only thing I can tell you- The Smile factor was very high when we finished and found out that the only people to beat us were club racers and they had a 15 minute start on us to only finish 10 minutes before, or behind us.
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Old 08-07-06, 01:49 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenal0
I use a Garmin 305. I have it set to autopause at 3mph so when I slow to 3 or less then it autopauses the system. Starts back up when I start moving again. I can set it to anything but I figured I do not get down below 3 without a stop and that gives me a few cranks on the pedals when I start up again before it starts counting.
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That is interesting that you can do that with a Garmin 305......I've been on some hills and seen 4.8, 4.9, 5.0 mph on the speedometer and wonder what 3 mph would feel like. I know I can walk the bike at 2.5 mph up a hill so it sure would not be much faster than walking!!!!
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Old 08-07-06, 02:52 PM   #13
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10 mph

I've said before that I learned from experience that I know the length of my rides door to door will be 10 mph. 45 miles on Saturday was 4 1/2 hours. This includes rest stops to add water to my bottles, bathroom breaks, stopping to admire a view, slowing down on hills, stopping at red lights, and yes, jamming down the downhills at 30+ mph.
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Old 08-07-06, 03:05 PM   #14
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If you ride consistant routes, with fewer variables, as in NO traffic lights, than it does become of value. What i have learned from a few years and almost 20,000 miles of various riding conditions is that average speed basically tells me how windy it was. Or possibly how cold it was in the winter. Also in the winter it might remind me that i have studded tires on.

My point is that far too often people use average speed as a statement of their riding abilities or lack thereof. In fact within a given rider, it really just measures conditions. It is very hard to do a lot to alter your average speed drastically.

If you ride at a brisk pace, you will be doing well to make even minor average speed gains, through physical effort. Even increasing 1 mph can be very, very difficult. Again, we are talking about increasing 1 mph on a course that has exact conditions. (again, pretty rare)

I think my average speed on my computers should just as well be an anemometer. In fact I can usually look at some of the flying flags that i see on my normal routes and guess within tenths as to what my average speed will be.

I have ridden so much that I can go on 40 mile rides and reliably tell my wife in advance what time i will be home. Often I am as accurate as within 1 minute with this method. Seldom I am off by more than 5 minutes.
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Old 08-07-06, 03:57 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HopedaleHills
everytime I glanced at my cyclocomputer I was doing between 17 and 19mph. So we get to the end and I check the Avg reading and it says 12.9mph, WTF.
E yup! Those nasty interruptions. I long ago found out that my average road speed was about 12 and I use it to plan riding times so I can know how long to allow for a trip. But beyond that, I never give it much thought. Moving to Little Rock has been terrible for my speed. It's all hills. I'm climbing or coasting.
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Old 08-07-06, 04:33 PM   #16
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I know there are stretches where I can run for extended periods at what is for me a pretty fast pace, but, I've almost stopped checking the average speed setting on my cyclometer, because, unless I limit the measurement to a specific stretch of road, it is almost always stuck at around 14 mph, no matter how hard I ride. I have one ride that I do where there is a 14 mile stretch where I can maintain in excess of 20 mph - and reset my cyclometer at the beginning of that stretch and read it after 14 miles, I can actually show an average in excess of 20 mph. But, no matter how hard I try (and, frankly, I've stopped trying these days), if I average the entire trip (usually 400 - 60 miles depending on my choice of route), my average always comes in around 14 mph. Obviously, 20+ mph over 14 miles does little to offset 10 - 11 mph on long climbs.

As for following routes, I think it's time for me to get some sort of GPS - I am terrible at following written directions, keep losing my place, can't keep the paper where I can get to it, sweat all over the darned thing so that I can no longer make it out. I'm very much the klutz when it comes to following a new route.

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Old 08-07-06, 04:58 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FarHorizon
On daily stop-and-go rides, average speed is meaningless to me. Once I'm up to cruise, I use the speedometer to tune my output.

On "long" rides, where I don't stop except to get water & saddle relief, I use the total miles at end of ride and total time to calculate "average speed."
Doesn't this calculated average correspond to the average of the computer?
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Old 08-07-06, 05:57 PM   #18
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My average spped generally rises gradually over time. My log keeps adjusting my month to date and YTD average speed as I enter each ride. I enter hilly rides, recovery rides and flat rides. I enter short rides and long rides. Intervals and hammering are in there too. Over the last 4 years, my avg speed has crept up from 11 to today's 14.5. My monthly average for July was around the 16 mark until my 10 day vacation.

My distance has crept up from 2.5 to 20 miles daily. My average time in the saddle has gone from 45 to 95-120 minutes daily.

I don't obsess on these numbers though. My cycling computer is set to read out current speed and elapsed time on any ride. It is only after the ride that I look at the other stats and log them.
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Old 08-07-06, 06:22 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HopedaleHills
Saturday Ms. HH and I rode the East Bay path which goes from Providence, RI to Bristol, RI, 15 miles each way. On the way down I felt like I was having one of my best rides yet. My legs felt strong and everytime I glanced at my cyclocomputer I was doing between 17 and 19mph. So we get to the end and I check the Avg reading and it says 12.9mph, WTF.

So I got thinking, there are at least 10-12 intersections to cross in which of course you are slowing and then starting up again. That coupled with the occassional slowdown for other riders and the avg is blown to hell. So what's more real, the 17-19mph that I was doing when I actually had open space or the reading on the computer. I think it's all rather meaningless. Even if you measured always on the same course, conditions would change from ride to ride. I think I'm going to just ignore it from now on..

On another note. On the way back we came upon this chunky young girl probably 13-14 years old riding an xmart mountain bike that probably weighed 30 lbs. She was having some trouble shifting as I could hear the constant clunking of the rear cassette as she shifted. She was paying so much attention to her shifting woos that she was all over the path. We finally got around her and for whatever reason she decided to hammer and stay on my tail. I pushed my speed up to about 18-19mph for over a mile. When I looked back, damn she was still not that far behind. It took another mile or more to lose her.

Get that kid a road bike
The average speed shown on your computer is the true average of your speed. Mo myth involved. Just confusion.

If you understand average speed it can be useful. It's great for knowing how long it takes to get somewhere. Or how hard to you need to ride to finish in a certain time. Like a long stage.

The time you spent going 17-19 was averaged in with the time you spent slowing down and speeding up for the cross roads and the stop lights at the main roads. If you understand it, you can do a lot with average speed. If you want to know how long it takes you to get somewhere you use your average speed, not your riding speed. I know my mileage from the old train depot (red brick, tanning salon now) on the path to the ferry a few blocks past the end of the path is 11 miles. To be on time for the ferry I had to keep my average over 11 Yesterday morning to get there in under an hour. Just ride with the average showing and keep your average up to what you need. You ride as fast as you need to keep the average where it needs to be, the heck with the indicated current speed. If you used your observed speed you saw you would have been way off if you wanted to know how long it takes to get somewhere. That would have made the indicated speed useless, not the average.

My neighbor says he wants to get to the ferry in 30 minutes without any other thoughts. I tell him you need an average speed of 22 miles an hour. If there is much traffic on the path he's gong to have to be riding way over 26-27 almost all the time. You saw the Saturday traffic, does he have a chance? No way.
Knowing the results of average speed on that path let me explain to him he's not gong to make it on a weekend day. If I said I can ride the whole path on a Saturday in an hour can I make it? What about 2 hours? Now you can figure it out. No way can I do that in an hour on a nice Saturday. Some people will say " I can go 17 all the way, sure I can". Can we put money on that? I could have told you before your ride about how long you could have spent on your ride.

During the week, there is very little traffic, I can keep my average within 2 mph of my riding speed because of less delays on that exact same route.
You just need to understand average speed, it's not useless, just surprising to the new user. It can be more important than the indicated speed.

I use my average speed to calculate how far I can ride in the dark, so I won't be stuck without light. I know where I need to be at dusk. I know what time I'm getting home from a century.
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Old 08-07-06, 06:23 PM   #20
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One thing I look at in average speed is by the month.
In a month a lot of the variables will average out.
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Old 08-07-06, 07:00 PM   #21
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Quote:
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Doesn't this calculated average correspond to the average of the computer?
Yes, it does, but I got in the habit of calculating manually before I had a computer & haven't broken the habit yet!
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Old 08-07-06, 07:17 PM   #22
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Sometimes for "grins" I'll set my cyclometer up to read out "average speed" when I'm going out on a high speed training ride of 30 to 50 miles. At first it is pretty low with warming up and stop lights/stop signs getting out of town. Then I watch it steadily creep up when I get into rural areas where I can "motor" along for many miles between stops and turns. On a really good day my average speed when I get back to the outskirts of town will be in excess of 21 mph, but then the cool down starts and the starts and stops of traffic begin and I'm lucky to keep it above 20 mph average by the time I get home. So, what is my average speed for the ride? Do you average over the whole ride or only until you start to "cool down"? A better question is to ask me if I care. (I don't!)

One of my riding partners had a cyclometer where you could start and stop it for the duration of your training period, i.e. start it after warm up and stop it before cool down. That, I think, is much more useful.
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Old 08-07-06, 08:18 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FarHorizon
On "long" rides, where I don't stop except to get water & saddle relief, I use the total miles at end of ride and total time to calculate "average speed."
Interesting thread, I didn't think there was any other way to calculate average speed other than the way FarHorizon calculates it. I'm still new to this road thing, but that's how I calculate my road rides and MUP rides. If I have to stop for water, I'm not as efficient as the other rider. On a timed MUP ride, I take my Camelback so that I don't have to stop for water.
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Old 08-07-06, 08:44 PM   #24
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The Great Average Speed Myth is your average speed was most likely slower than what your cyclocomputer showed. Your cyclocomputer does not count time for breaks and stops. The true way to figure the average is total miles by total time. If you rode a 100 miles in ten hours then your average is 10 MPH even if you were going riding at 20 MPH most of the time.

Sometimes I put my cyclocomputer on AVG to watch how slowly the average increases when going fast or how quickly it decreases during my cooldown.
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Old 08-07-06, 08:57 PM   #25
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Most of my longer rides are group rides. My ability to hang with a particular group and not get dropped is more important than average speed. Average speed is too dependent on terrain and weather conditions.
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