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franl 09-26-05 01:18 PM

Average Speed for Rec Riders
This past weekend we rode 67 miles with an average speed of 16 mph; some others in the group told us they rode an average speed of 20+ mph for the 67 miles and said it wasn't even a workout. They laughed at us after the ride and told us not to feel bad! Trust me, this was still a workout for us. This was not a race; but an organized, recreation ride in Grafton, WI. We left a real sour taste in my mouth with regards to the members of this group and wondering what other think of this. My husband and I are in our mid 40's and are in above average condition. This same group also were bragging to us that on one of their rides in Colorado, they went 60 mph on their tandem.

woodcycl 09-26-05 01:30 PM

Too many variables in my opinion to consider, etc.

I think an average speed of 16mph on a 67 mile ride on a single or tandem is respectable ... all else being equal. However, how often is all else "equal"?

So far, I've averaged everything from 15 to 18.5 on my new Cannondale Tandem. The 18.5mph average was pretty easy compared to one of the 16.8mph averages ... due to the route and terrain on the route. In addition, the 18.5 was our 6th ride together ... and the 16.8 was our first.

I wouldn't worry one IODA about what the others cyclists were saying, etc. at that event. Just ride and have fun. Over time, especially if you and/or your stoker are new to cycling and/or riding a tandem, your overall amount of effort will reduce and your results will improve.

That is my experience. Have fun!

va_cyclist 09-26-05 02:40 PM

Anyone who laughs at your average speed is a complete a$$hole and doesn't deserve your time.

Remember that there is a huge spectrum of cycling abilities out there, and to many, just completing a 67 mile ride is a herculean task. I personally think a 16 mph average is respectable for any ride, any type of bike.

rule 09-26-05 02:56 PM

Congratulations, it sounds like you have successfully identified a group that is well worth avoiding. Now move on to the next one. ;)

cornucopia72 09-26-05 03:32 PM

We agree, 67 miles @ 16mph, sounds very good!! Congratulations to you two. We can't believe that the whole gruop of ridders would make that kind of comments. If so, certainly a group to avoid.

If they reached 60 mph two conditions would be necesary: a steep downhill grade and a complete disregard for personal safety. The fastest I feel safe is 45 mph. My wife/stoker does not want me to go any faster than 40 mph, 35 mph if sharp turns are involved. If we go over 40 mph is only briefly and beacuse y choose to pay attention to the road and not the computer.

stapfam 09-26-05 03:34 PM

Colorado? that means some steep hills to me, and any one can go fast downhill, even us. Our best is 53.8 down Butser hill on the South Downs way. It could have been faster, but we had to check our speed to see if the gate was open on the offroad trail through the undulating grass halfway down. Yes it was offroad, and only lasted 1/2 mile. (That is fast, but We were trying to prove a point to a bunch of solos that were taking the mickey out of us)

Many things to consider as to why you were slow. Perhaps you were enjoying the ride, and taking in the scenery, Perhaps your bike is not set up to race against the 30 year old, 150lb whippets, and perhaps you did not push yourseves hard enough to finish the ride in a sweaty worn out condition. Only thing to consider is Did you enjoy the ride? Providing you did, why worry?

franl 09-26-05 03:44 PM

Thank you for your support! You're all the quality of people I wish we could ride with.

Retro Grouch 09-26-05 04:56 PM

Golly! What are you trying to accomplish? Personally, I'm just in it for fun.

If they really rode the 67 miles @ 20 mph, they rode for about 3 hours and 20 minutes. At 16 MPH you would have taken 4 hours and 10 minutes. That means, for the same entry fee, you got 30 more minutes of fun than they did. Unless, of course, they weren't having any fun.

Can you think of any other recreational activities in which the objective is to get the fun over with as quickly as possible?

TandemGeek 09-26-05 07:09 PM

Warning: I'm in a "mood" tonight.

OK, let me play Devil's advocate.... Why do you care? How did the subject of comparing average speeds even come up, never mind top speeds in Colorado? Were these other teams otherwise your peers or were they cut from a different cloth, either in age, fitness, or temperment? If they weren't your peers or someone you already knew why would you expect to "fit right in" on your first encounter?

Anyway, never forget that tandem teams are cyclists and there are three different types of cyclists: faster, slower, and everyone else in between. Moreover, from time to time and with a few exceptions most cyclists and tandem teams will eventually fall into each category depending on when, where, and whom they're riding. If you ride enough, it's fair to say that most fast riders know who they are, as do most slow riders, and your average recreational rider will usually come to realize they are "in-betweeners". In-betweeners include teams who aspire to be faster and who often get frustrated when they can't "keep up with" whoever it is they can't keep up with. Other "in-betweeners" often times have the ability to keep up but, instead, choose to ride with friends who are terminal "in-betweeners" who ride at a more leisurely pace or who just can't otherwise hang with the faster riders on that particular day or terrain. Also included in the in-betweener class are the energizer bunnies who can keep going, and going, and going at a controlled pace... well up to and over 100 miles at a pop, particularly for randonneurs. Frankly, they are hardly marginal or average riders but if average speed is the yardstick... oh well. In-betweeners also include the folks who are riding as hard as they can because that's the way they ride and they really don't care who passes them because they're riding their ride, as do the folks who always stop to smell the roses, to enjoy a cup of coffee, or to have a destination integrated into their ride plans: perhaps a nice breakfast at a neat little town just a few miles from home.

The bottom line is: Ride your own ride to achieve your goals and don't fall victim to using people who have vastly different goals (or capacity) as your benchmark unless you aspire to achieve their goals.

Our goals:

1. Spend time together... check; the tandem does that for us.
2. Have fun... check; we usually have fun (excluding run-ins with morons)
3. Stay fit... check; the tandem & cycling do that for us.
4. Get outside more often... check; we don't ride inside.
5. Meet new friends... check; we have found folks with whom we can ride and have been doing so for going on 8 years now.
6. Ride hard.... check; but we still get dropped.
7. Travel... check; if it wasn't for the tandem we might never take vacations.
8. Do things that we enjoy... check. I've always loved cycling and the tandem has allowed Debbie to rekindle her love of cycling after some 27 years of being off the bike.
9. Have fun... it's that important.
10. Stay married and in love forever... check; the tandem has really helped to cement our relationship.

Average speeds? It depends. We've finished flat centuries in our prime in 4 1/2 hours... once! We can knock out most hilly to moutainous rides at speeds that vary from an average of 14 mph to 19 mph, dependent on how we feel and who we're riding or chasing. Top speeds? 63 mph coming off a very short & steep descent in the Talladega National Forest, with several other high 50 mph plummets to our credit, noting that the high 40's and low-50's is the norm for many mountain descents in North Georgia and Western North Carolina. Note: Going blazingly fast downhill on a tandem when big money, fame, or glory aren't at stake takes four things: 1. a steep hill, 2. a willing stoker, 3. a captain who can tuck, and 4. less common sense that it takes to get out of the rain.... Crashing at 50+ mph on a bicycle is ugly and doing it on a tandem is twice as ugly: I'm an idiot for bombing the hills but at least I recognize it. What I can't figure out is why Debbie lets me do it...

What does all this mean? Absolutely nothing. They're just numbers and, frankly, we could be fibbing too, which reinforces the notion that it really doesn't matter. I would also note that there are some REALLY fast tandem teams in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois who smoke just about everyone except for the really elite, hardcore riders. For these folks -- whose looks can even be deceiving -- 20 mph over 60 miles on a rolling route would be a "spirited ride" if they all got together and rode as a pack. Again, not sure how y'all ending up comparing average speeds but I wouldn't let it bother you.

kw0712 09-26-05 08:35 PM

My average speed is never any good. But I do manage to make it where I want to go and still walk when I get there. This is the goal is it not, being able to enjoy the destination as much as the ride and not slip into a coma at the end. Or is it?

Nachoman 09-26-05 09:06 PM

I'm impressed with your avarage speed. In order for me to go that fast for any extended period, I'd need a third person on my tandem (preferably very light weight) to sit behind my wife whipping her like a chariot rider.

flipper 09-26-05 09:50 PM

Not that it matters but there are several factors that contribute to recorded average speed, some of which are:

1. The way your computer counts stops.
2. Riding "solo" or in a pack
3. How the pack is working together
4. Terrain
5. Wind
6. Mood
7. Health
8. Sleep
9. Elevation

You get the idea. It's all very subjective.

I usually figure 15mph for water planning. That way I know how many bottles to bring and where to fill them. A nice round number that's easy to work with and close enough for water planning.

It's more fun to beat someone in a sprint, or pull them when they're dying than talk about average speeds.

zonatandem 09-26-05 10:33 PM

Oh well, let's chime in!
Currently in our 70s, we average 12 to 13 mph. No, we no longer do centuries; Have over a hundred of those under the belt on tandems; including a 3-day back-to-back -to-back centuries (well the last one was 125 miles) with 22,000 ft. of climbing and finishing at 104 degrees.
Yes, covered 43 miles of rather hilly terrain in 2 hours even; have
done 53 mph on a downhill, have also climbed at 4 mph on same hill!
Kay won the trophy as the 'oldest woman' riding on a metric century . . . but she was the first woman to finish (but it did not count as she was on a tandem . . . she didn't pedal??) and we were the first andem to finish, but . . . you guessed it, there was no such category! Dids we have a great time? Absolutely!
So who cares, but you, what speed you average?
We tend to put conditions by others, on ourselves, that are not necessary.
Go out and have a great ride . . . enjoy!

Pedal on TWOgether!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

ElRey 09-27-05 04:10 AM

You described it yourself: this was still a recreational ride. If these folks are so good, ask to see their palmares (cyclists' speak for medals, trophies and stuff). 60mph going down Alp d'Huez says nothing about power, and may only illustrate their brakes were'nt working well. Cycling is full of local yokels who run their mouthes in the small pond but never get it together to get out into the deep water. You're doing fine so long as your workout is a workout.

TandemGeek 09-27-05 05:53 AM

Some food for thought: There are always two sides to a story and perceptions are always just that: perceptions.

While I'm sure franl and her captain's experience is being accurately described, it only speaks to one side of the story and leaves out a lot of details which is not unusual. However, given the extent of the missing information I'd be hard pressed to "dis" the other riders outright, would extend the benefit of doubt to them, and remain neutral at best. Yeah, they may have been full of themselves, but then again we hardly have all the facts...

merlinextraligh 09-27-05 06:38 AM

As stated, your average speed only matters if going fast is your goal. And your average speed in comparison to anyone else's only matters if its a race. That being said, I'm not sure your friend's average speed was necessarily that much faster than yours. If others in the group were actually 4mph faster than you over 67 miles, they likely would be long gone from the parking lot before you got back to talk to them.

Average speed means different things to different people. It can be calculated over the total elapsed time (including rest stops, stop lights) It can be only riding time. (our computer only is running when the bike's moving). This makes a big difference in average speed. And some people say there average speed is 20 mph if they were riding 20mph most of the ride. Of course if you ride 20 mph 75% of the ride, and slower for 25% you aren't really averaging 20mph. And then some people just plain exaggerate. It may well be that you're not as much slower than the others as you think.
One other point, were they working in a paceline. 20mph with a group is a lot easier than 20 mph by yourselves. In fact if you can average 16 mph by yourselves, that's not that far off from 20mph in a good sized group.

tornadobass 09-27-05 07:10 AM

I'm feeling like a wimp after reading this. We usually average 14-something mph, unless it's really hilly...then it's even less. OTOH, my wife is usually sitting up on the back, riding no hands, snapping away with her digital camera. She'll usually take more than 100 pics on a day's ride :-)

So, 14 mph with a "human drag brake" engaged and putting extra effort into balancing equals what speed with a rider hanging onto the bars all the time?

ElRey 09-27-05 07:18 AM

dude, it's how you want to ride. Be happy.

galen_52657 09-27-05 07:58 AM

This is funny....

People are competitive by nature (maybe more so the males than females??? - whack me for being sexist). I am competitive. I have to work on reigning in my instincts when on the tandem because I will beat myself and my stoker to a pulp if I'm not careful. Personally, I think its fun to beat myself to a pulp. But, my stoker does not always appreciate it, so a compromise is in order. For instance – we traveled down south for the Georgia Tandem Rally. Friday and Saturday we mixed in with the ‘A’ teams. Saturday we infiltrated an eight-team front group that was pacelining hard and fast. The terrain was almost dead flat and we had to slow down for the last couple mile to keep from getting to the lunch stop before lunch! We covered the 40 miles before lunch in less than 2 hours. But… Nancy and I were so beat up, we could barely get off the bike! After lunch we took the shortest way home – 18 miles at about 11 MPH with several rest stops for food, water and Elvis. Me? I had fun. Nancy had fun too but she maybe would have had more fun if we had backed it off about 5 MPH.

So your 'friends' diss'd your 16 MPH average? Maybe you were bragging and then they had to counter-brag? There are so many variables to average speed that the number is meaningless. I don’t even have a computer on the tandem so I have to guess.

I like to go fast, but I have to remember its all relative and I get plenty of speed workouts on my single.

robmitchell 09-27-05 03:49 PM


On charity rides we usually average 17-20 depending on wind and hills. I am 42 and full on race trash, (train and race masters). My wife is a little older and does not race, just rides for fitness. We usually ride with the group at the start and then bail off the back and reform our own group making lots of friends who like to draft us at a slightly slower pace than the lead group. Charity rides have a lot of people that don't race, but think they are in a race, so be careful at the start.

Group rides and tandem rally's can be more fun with less ego. If there are to many jerko, ego people in your group find a new group or ride solo.

67 miles on a tandem is a hard ride. You can work on your speed if you desire.

Anyone that says 67 miles was not a workout is probably a liar.

As far as fast descents, I try to keep it in the low 40's also. We have done low 50's, but had a rear blow out once in Colorado when the rim brake got the rim to hot. We did not crash, but came real, real close. It was enough to buy a disc brake and realize both people are on the bike, both incomes, and both of us would be busted up.


AndyGrow 09-27-05 06:26 PM

Our first long tandem ride together was 45 miles. We averaged 15 miles per hour for 3 hours.

I agree...67 miles is a hard ride, no matter what you are riding (except maybe a motorcycle!). Think about starting friendships with other riders...ones that are a bit more supportive!

JohnnyCool 09-27-05 06:34 PM

Time to find a new group! This one has too many [email protected]@4oles. Either that, or commit yourself to the required training to ride @ 20MPH for 67 the others have said, it's about fun and togetherness. FWIW, my wife and I have yet to do more than 40 mi in a single ride - you're way ahead of us!

rrepp 09-29-05 01:53 PM

my wife and i bought the tandem so we could have some fun together, and get a little excersise at the same time. we tried lots of different tandems and ended up getting a da vinci so we can peddle independent of one another. its been a blast so far. we average around 14 to 15 mph on the flats, and i have been able to keep her on the bike for as long as 2 hours at a time, which is much longer than i thought she would last. we take breaks often and just try to enjoy the whole thing. the bike is very comfortable for both of us. and i still get as much of a workout as i need because i can just up my workload whenever i feel like it. i think the important thing to remember is that it should be enjoyable for both riders.

HngUpNDrv 10-02-05 01:03 AM

I'm glad that we didnt go to that ride, they would have laughed at us so bad they would have wet their pants. My wife and I are recreational riders. I thought we were doing good at 15 to 16 mph. I guess we will ride by ourselves then we can laugh at each other. Hope to see you two out there. You are close to us.

George Handy 10-03-05 07:02 AM

Our average speeds on 30-50 mile rides here in North Texas (not too hilly!) are 13-14 MPH. If the cycle computer did not count the 10 seconds before and after a stop I'll bet it would be a bit higher.

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