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Average speed: my frenemy

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Average speed: my frenemy

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Old 09-02-18, 09:43 PM
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woodcraft
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Average speed: my frenemy

I like to monitor average speed, to gauge fitness, performance,

and as a check on fit with other riders & group rides.

Formerly, the number would show up after the ride, but earlier this year I changed to a different head unit

and now it's at the bottom of the main screen.

It is interesting to see how the number changes with hills etc. but I kill myself on rides to bump the speed up a tenth of an mph.

Similar to competing with a buddy or a group & good workout, but also getting kind of compulsive.

Thoughts?
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Old 09-02-18, 09:48 PM
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Mark VerMurlen
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How do you account for different wind speeds and direction? A tail wind vs head wind skew my results quite a bit.

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Old 09-02-18, 09:53 PM
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It's a question that largely answers itself. We can't know what you want out of your rides or training. From some perspectives, it's an absolutely stupid thing to obsess over. Unless you are time trialing, riding the same route repeatedly, the comparisons not that meaningful. People who really care bout measuring their performance generally have power meters and training plans, and the average speed is secondary. In group rides, your speed might chiefly depend on the abilities of the stronger folks who are spending most of the time in front. Put it on a secondary screen if it's getting in the way of your fun. On the other hand, if it pleases you or if it helps you push yourself, then it's your ride - do what you want.

But whatever you do, don't start running stop signs to keep your average up.
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Old 09-02-18, 10:03 PM
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I think that average speed is a pretty unreliable indicator of fitness unless you are comparing rides under identical conditions. That definitely does not include group rides. In my experience, average speed on the same group ride can vary significantly from week to week depending on the weather, the time of the season, and mostly who happens to show up to the ride.
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Old 09-02-18, 11:58 PM
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i like to do a consistent route in between other rides , i have gained a few koms at lower average speeds than the previous holders , i personally like to focus on total time or at least moving time from start to finish , so if im in the winds i get a consistent range that's about 3 minutes difference , also sometimes i get caught at a light so i try to remember i was at the light for like 2 minutes , but usually i know when i have done good work and got a good time , my average speed is just a bonus , plus its way easier to manipulate avrg speed than your time ..
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Old 09-03-18, 02:34 AM
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I ride the same couple of loops pretty regularly and find average speed to be a reasonable indicator of my fitness levels. There are a few things that I try to take into account when riding, such as how much sleep I've had the night before, what MPH the wind is blowing (from weather.com) and how heavy the traffic is. Is it a perfect system? Of course not, but I'm only doing this for fun and some exercise and I am not not willing to invest the $ on a power meter.

Heavy winds, traffic and minimal sleep can seriously affect my speed. When all of those things are favorable, I say "the planets are in alignment" for a great ride.
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Old 09-03-18, 03:23 AM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
I like to monitor average speed, to gauge fitness, performance,

and as a check on fit with other riders & group rides.
Wouldn't it be better to monitor power?
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Old 09-03-18, 03:23 AM
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Average speed is for average people.
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Old 09-03-18, 04:24 AM
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A small piece of black electrical tape over the average speed display will solve the compulsion problem!

I use a Wahoo Elemnt and can customize the display in many ways. On most rides I no longer monitor all the various parameters, I just have the route map up - unless the ride is specifically just a training ride. I've found my recreational rides to be more enjoyable if I'm not constantly looking at heart rate, what % of the ride is left, gradient, etc.

But, the Wahoo has a set of vertical LEDs on the left hand side that you can have show current parameter status vs. running average - I actually do use that with average speed. It doesn't show the number but it does gives me enough feedback about actual effort vs. perceived effort to push a bit harder. Others use it for heart rate, or if you have a power meter, power. Nice way to monitor whatever parameter you think is important without enabling "digitus fixatatus"...
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Old 09-03-18, 05:04 AM
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I think using average speed is fine. I do have power meters on my bikes, but once in a while I go out on a route and see how fast I can go. Power is all well and good, but if it is not translating into speed, then something is wrong. And yes, when I am fitter, my rides tend to have higher avg. speeds. "But how do you account for hills/stops/wind?!?!?" Well, I account for them by accounting for them. I know that a hilly ride will be slower than a flat ride. It can still be faster or slower than other hilly ride.
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Old 09-03-18, 05:12 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
But whatever you do, don't start running stop signs to keep your average up.
Just learn to brake harder and later.
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Old 09-03-18, 05:17 AM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post

Thoughts?
Don't stop pedaling during the ride. Pedal everything, even the downhills.

Bet your speed will increase another couple of tenths without really having to kill yourself much more.
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Old 09-03-18, 05:36 AM
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I don't really monitor average speeds to a fraction of a MPH. But, for a couple of my typical commutes, I have a general ideal of what a good speed is, and the sensation of personal effort to achieve those speeds.

I do believe that speed can be a training tool, but it is a major hassle to set a Strava PR with wind, then try to match it later without the aid of wind.
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Old 09-03-18, 05:41 AM
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I'll also add that average speed isn't useless, and over the same routes over long amounts of time can certainly be indicative of several things. My average speed when I was 20 to 21 years old was rarely over 19 mph, however now it's rarely under that and my yearly avg speeds are over 20. Technical changes like position and equipment show increases over time. I'll do many, many rides over 20 on wattage that used to get me 19 to 19.5. For any specific ride it won't mean much, but there are certainly visible trends with enough data.
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Old 09-03-18, 07:11 AM
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If using a garmin, perhaps enable the Virtual Partner function instead..
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EXPLAIN !!
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Old 09-03-18, 08:41 AM
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I have to admit that I'm always aware of my average speed during a ride. But, if I'm riding in a group I ignore it. If I'm on a ride with my gf, who shares my basic attitude, we will try to keep a good pace without riding like a TT. When I'm riding solo I tend to be on more of a TT pace. Sometimes I just ride focusing on spin and "suplesse" but TT is my "go to" attitude on a solo ride.
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Old 09-03-18, 09:04 AM
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I too have the dissonant relationship with my average speed-- I know that a big part of it is outside my control, but I still kill myself on some rides trying to keep that number up. If there are a lot of intersections you have to cross, your average speed is going to suffer. It doesn't take more than a couple of stops to really bring the average down. I have numerous lap-routes I do around town that never turn left. I play a game with myself (thanks to a head unit with an excellent map) called "red light, turn right," where I go as long as possible without stopping/unclipping. Even with the slowing for intersections and going into unknown territory, average speed will usually increase ~1.5mph.

Also, speed up hills is far more important than the speed going down them. Say you're climbing a 1 mile long hill (say a 5-6% grade,) and it takes 10 minutes (6mph.) But when you turn around and come back down, it takes 2 minutes (30mph.) That 30mph descent can't make enough of a difference-- it still took 12 minutes to go 2 miles, for an average speed of 10mph. If you held onto a car and did the descent at 60mph, that wouldn't even get you to an 11mph average. Now say you hammered your guts out and got to the top of the hill in 6 minutes (10mph) and coasted down at 25mph. That's 8m24s to go 2 miles, an average speed of 14.3mph. Coasting down the hills takes no energy, and is really only "losing" a few seconds.
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Old 09-03-18, 09:09 AM
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How far did you Go? How long did it take? that is your average speed .


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Old 09-03-18, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Bob Ross View Post
Average speed is for average people.
chalk me up as average then.
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Old 09-03-18, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
I too have the dissonant relationship with my average speed-- I know that a big part of it is outside my control, but I still kill myself on some rides trying to keep that number up. If there are a lot of intersections you have to cross, your average speed is going to suffer. It doesn't take more than a couple of stops to really bring the average down. I have numerous lap-routes I do around town that never turn left. I play a game with myself (thanks to a head unit with an excellent map) called "red light, turn right," where I go as long as possible without stopping/unclipping. Even with the slowing for intersections and going into unknown territory, average speed will usually increase ~1.5mph.

Also, speed up hills is far more important than the speed going down them. Say you're climbing a 1 mile long hill (say a 5-6% grade,) and it takes 10 minutes (6mph.) But when you turn around and come back down, it takes 2 minutes (30mph.) That 30mph descent can't make enough of a difference-- it still took 12 minutes to go 2 miles, for an average speed of 10mph. If you held onto a car and did the descent at 60mph, that wouldn't even get you to an 11mph average. Now say you hammered your guts out and got to the top of the hill in 6 minutes (10mph) and coasted down at 25mph. That's 8m24s to go 2 miles, an average speed of 14.3mph. Coasting down the hills takes no energy, and is really only "losing" a few seconds.


Agree with this. In contrast to Rubiksoval's suggestion, I've been pushing it up (especially shorter) hills, & allowing myself a bit of recovery coasting or soft pedaling on the downhills.

This makes for some good intervals and works the situation where I get dropped on rides that I try & fail to keep up with.

Generally, yes it's not accurate, wind, etc., and I do primarily look at power.

Here's a shot from yesterday- was stomping for glory as my FTP is about 230-235w

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Old 09-03-18, 11:30 AM
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That is Precisely why I show myself Zero data while riding. if I am more interested in a number than in riding my bike, i should stay home and do math.

For competitive athletes, people on development/trianing programs---for Anyone who wants to ride to a number---that's fine. Some folks do that.

I hate what it does to My riding, so i don't let it.
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Old 09-03-18, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
Agree with this. In contrast to Rubiksoval's suggestion, I've been pushing it up (especially shorter) hills, & allowing myself a bit of recovery coasting or soft pedaling on the downhills.
That's not really contrary. Push the uphills and then keep pedaling the downhills. No reason to ever coast on a training ride (aside from safety concerns regarding descending or intersections) if you're training for performance.
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Old 09-03-18, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs View Post
That is Precisely why I show myself Zero data while riding. if I am more interested in a number than in riding my bike, i should stay home and do math.

For competitive athletes, people on development/trianing programs---for Anyone who wants to ride to a number---that's fine. Some folks do that.

I hate what it does to My riding, so i don't let it.
Ha. Yep. If my garmin battery dies or my powermeter dies, I go home. If it's dead at the start, I'll just skip the ride until it's charged. I hate the thought of riding for no reason.
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Old 09-03-18, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
That's not really contrary. Push the uphills and then keep pedaling the downhills. No reason to ever coast on a training ride (aside from safety concerns regarding descending or intersections) if you're training for performance.


There's aero tuck downhill, but

also intervals require recovery periods, yes?

Otherwise it's a 3+ hr interval which is just one kind of training.

I aspire to keep up with these guys

https://www.strava.com/activities/1815260445

& it's the rollers, especially later in the ride, where I fall off the back.

In my area, everything is at least 50'/mile climbing so hiding in the group only goes so far.
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Old 09-03-18, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
There's aero tuck downhill, but

also intervals require recovery periods, yes?

Otherwise it's a 3+ hr interval which is just one kind of training.
Recovery doesn't require coasting.
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