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Cyclist Average Speed Progression?

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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

Cyclist Average Speed Progression?

Old 12-06-19, 03:42 AM
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NicklesnDimes
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Cyclist Average Speed Progression?

Hey there, was wondering if there was some sort of chart or spreadsheet out there that logs the progression of beginner cyclist to becoming pro cyclist. Like with average speeds and time markers. I'd like to get an idea of how long it might take to get from say a Cat 5 to possibly a Cat 1. I think this would be a great tool for training that I can reference.
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Old 12-06-19, 05:05 AM
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Originally Posted by NicklesnDimes View Post
Hey there, was wondering if there was some sort of chart or spreadsheet out there that logs the progression of beginner cyclist to becoming pro cyclist. Like with average speeds and time markers. I'd like to get an idea of how long it might take to get from say a Cat 5 to possibly a Cat 1. I think this would be a great tool for training that I can reference.
The many charts and tables I’ve seen are all expressed in power output/body mass over various time intervals, rather than speed, which is not a very useful parameter for comparison, bikes being different and the world being a lumpy, windy, friction-ridden, and otherwise complicated place. Google “cycling power chart” or words to that effect.
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Old 12-06-19, 05:18 AM
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Andrew Coggan's well know chart is here and a good related article is here.

Basically, if you measure the maximum power you can put out for 30 minutes straight, you can calculate your Functional Threshold Power. If you divide that by your weight in Kb, you have the W/Kg figure you see in the columns (under FT is the 30 minute/FTP value). If you train to increase your FTP, or lose weight, or both, you move up and you can roughly see where you would fall.
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Old 12-06-19, 08:36 AM
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I'd be careful with that, I have a 4.8 w/kg FTP (tested to the full hour), 5.5 w/kg 5-minute power (actually held that for 7 minutes in a recent zwift race) I'm only a cat 4 whose best placement was 2nd in a small cat 5 crit.

It takes a lot more than an arbitrary number to dictate what makes a particular category, Andrew Coggan's chart simply shows averages for people in those categories, but it doesn't show the race smarts you have to have. When it comes down to it, super talented people can achieve Cat 1/2 pretty easily, I've seen some go from cat 5 to cat 3 in a year, then cat 3 to cat 1 the following year. I've seen others who have been trying to move from 4 to 3 for 5 years, spending enormous amounts on coaches, all the best gear, training constantly, and being fearless.

If you want to see where you stack up, go out to your local A ride, if you can hang in the group but get dropped when the hammer goes down expect to probably survive in the pack for a cat 5 race, but not actually contend for a podium. If you're never in fear of getting dropped, you consistently pull and make the occasional attack, you'd probably make a decent cat 4 or even pack fodder cat 3. If you're the guy that no one wants to show up because he'll tear everyone's legs off, make it a "hard" A ride, and probably already owns half the KOMs on the course people have been doing for years, you're in the cat 1/2 territory.

So, that's my opinionated, egotistical, 2 cents answer.
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Old 12-06-19, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by firebird854 View Post
I'd be careful with that, I have a 4.8 w/kg FTP (tested to the full hour), 5.5 w/kg 5-minute power (actually held that for 7 minutes in a recent zwift race) I'm only a cat 4 whose best placement was 2nd in a small cat 5 crit.

It takes a lot more than an arbitrary number to dictate what makes a particular category, Andrew Coggan's chart simply shows averages for people in those categories, but it doesn't show the race smarts you have to have. When it comes down to it, super talented people can achieve Cat 1/2 pretty easily, I've seen some go from cat 5 to cat 3 in a year, then cat 3 to cat 1 the following year. I've seen others who have been trying to move from 4 to 3 for 5 years, spending enormous amounts on coaches, all the best gear, training constantly, and being fearless.

If you want to see where you stack up, go out to your local A ride, if you can hang in the group but get dropped when the hammer goes down expect to probably survive in the pack for a cat 5 race, but not actually contend for a podium. If you're never in fear of getting dropped, you consistently pull and make the occasional attack, you'd probably make a decent cat 4 or even pack fodder cat 3. If you're the guy that no one wants to show up because he'll tear everyone's legs off, make it a "hard" A ride, and probably already owns half the KOMs on the course people have been doing for years, you're in the cat 1/2 territory.

One more edit - Power, power, power... Now keep in mind that power alone isn't an indicator of what you can do on a bike. What you need is to keep accurate training logs over time and work on developing your power output and your ability to maintain power over time AND recover. There's lots of racers out there capable of achieving 300 watts. There's not that many who can maintain that level over a long period of time, or maintain that level, rest at the back of the group for a minute, then attack at an even higher level and then settle back into a 300 watt sustained effort. I personally believe that power training can be extremely effective if you know what you are looking at and can develop it over time.

So, that's my opinionated, egotistical, 2 cents answer.
I'll add three cents to this so we have a full nickel. FTP, output, ability to recover, drive & determination are all factors. Body type, muscle type, lung capacity (all genetic factors that you can't really change but can develop) are factors too. Bike handling ability, cornering, and the ability to ride in a pack is crucial. There is so much involved in being a good enough athlete to ride in the Pro/1/2 fields. The key is to work on developing them all over time and not only ASK for feedback, but LISTEN to it as well and decide what to do about it. You don't absolutely have to have a coach, but you must have a structured training program and set goals and objectives based on your strengths. People write entire books on this subject. I've been racing since 1991 and I'm still utterly dismayed at how much I still have to learn - and over my entire racing career from Crash 4 to USPro to Masters (now 50+) I have probably won 60 races or more - yet I'm still trying to figure out how to be a better rider.

Oh - and forget "speed" - it's a worthless factor. In Lawrenceville GA I would do a 36 mile (World Championship) training shop ride and average 22-23mph at around 250 watts. In Utica NY I can do a (World Championship) training shop ride and average 15-16mph at around 275 watts. The difference is - they build much bigger hills here. Then there's wind, road conditions, strength of the group... Speed isn't even worth a hill of beans on the exact same course since weather conditions will always have an impact, as well as fitness and training load.

Last edited by tgenec86; 12-06-19 at 09:14 AM.
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Old 12-06-19, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by firebird854 View Post
I'd be careful with that, I have a 4.8 w/kg FTP (tested to the full hour), 5.5 w/kg 5-minute power (actually held that for 7 minutes in a recent zwift race) I'm only a cat 4 whose best placement was 2nd in a small cat 5 crit.

It takes a lot more than an arbitrary number to dictate what makes a particular category, Andrew Coggan's chart simply shows averages for people in those categories, but it doesn't show the race smarts you have to have. When it comes down to it, super talented people can achieve Cat 1/2 pretty easily, I've seen some go from cat 5 to cat 3 in a year, then cat 3 to cat 1 the following year. I've seen others who have been trying to move from 4 to 3 for 5 years, spending enormous amounts on coaches, all the best gear, training constantly, and being fearless.

If you want to see where you stack up, go out to your local A ride, if you can hang in the group but get dropped when the hammer goes down expect to probably survive in the pack for a cat 5 race, but not actually contend for a podium. If you're never in fear of getting dropped, you consistently pull and make the occasional attack, you'd probably make a decent cat 4 or even pack fodder cat 3. If you're the guy that no one wants to show up because he'll tear everyone's legs off, make it a "hard" A ride, and probably already owns half the KOMs on the course people have been doing for years, you're in the cat 1/2 territory.

So, that's my opinionated, egotistical, 2 cents answer.
It's very regional dependent also. A Cat # in one region might be a somebody or a nobody in another region.

Power doesn't necessarily mean squat, but, for your #'s unless you weigh 55 kg I'd seriously check my power meter. Again, maybe regional, but you could probably TT for a win in our local 4/5 road race.

I've heard of people being eye watering strong on the bike, but not winning, but your #'s seem really really off for a 4/5 not being consistently top 5 or on the podium.

I could see a 4/5 having an hour power of a 4.3 or so hour power not winning. But not 4.8. I'm 70kg so that'd nearly be 330 for an hour. You could TT our local RR with that and they'd let you go.

Local guy lives a few houses down from me when he isn't off at college, he was a 4/5 super briefly with similar figures to yours and would just TT the local crit for the win. I didn't believe it, but checked out the Strava and sure enough........there's the finisher pic of him hammering solo across the line. Pan flat too.

But, for the original poster..........just suffer the workouts, do the hammer group rides, and go race. The charts and stuff are pointless.
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Old 12-06-19, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by firebird854 View Post
I'd be careful with that, I have a 4.8 w/kg FTP (tested to the full hour), 5.5 w/kg 5-minute power (actually held that for 7 minutes in a recent zwift race) I'm only a cat 4 whose best placement was 2nd in a small cat 5 crit.

It takes a lot more than an arbitrary number to dictate what makes a particular category, Andrew Coggan's chart simply shows averages for people in those categories, but it doesn't show the race smarts you have to have. When it comes down to it, super talented people can achieve Cat 1/2 pretty easily, I've seen some go from cat 5 to cat 3 in a year, then cat 3 to cat 1 the following year. I've seen others who have been trying to move from 4 to 3 for 5 years, spending enormous amounts on coaches, all the best gear, training constantly, and being fearless.

If you want to see where you stack up, go out to your local A ride, if you can hang in the group but get dropped when the hammer goes down expect to probably survive in the pack for a cat 5 race, but not actually contend for a podium. If you're never in fear of getting dropped, you consistently pull and make the occasional attack, you'd probably make a decent cat 4 or even pack fodder cat 3. If you're the guy that no one wants to show up because he'll tear everyone's legs off, make it a "hard" A ride, and probably already owns half the KOMs on the course people have been doing for years, you're in the cat 1/2 territory.

So, that's my opinionated, egotistical, 2 cents answer.
That sounds pretty accurate from what I've seen. I'm in that middle category that could prob be a good Cat 4, or even Cat 3, but I have no desire to do crits. lol Some of the guys I ride with tell me all the time that I should be racing. I might do some next year, but having now been in a high speed crash, I really don't care to do that again. But even with some good power, there's a lot more to racing, as I've found out in some of the more serious group rides I've been on (basically turned into a road race lol).
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Old 12-06-19, 09:17 AM
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I posted this in a different thread, but the information is the same. Average speed means almost nothing, and is waaaay down on the list of "usable data" to gauge performance.

I plucked three solo rides from my data that show three different average speeds in increasing order. A newer rider might think 15.8 to be easy, 19.5 would be iffy and 22.2 to be out of their reach. The thing is, the normalized power data is almost identical for two of the rides (261W/260W), but the ride with the lowest NP (245W) was the hardest. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but a newer rider wouldn't have been able to keep up on any of these rides, especially the 15.8 mph average.





If someone rode the same route every day for a year they'd notice that on the same route with the same windspeed, a headwind on the wrong sections can pull 1-2 mph off of an average. Even the difference in air density due to temperature can knock 0.5 mph off of an average. When I get asked "what's your average?" when someone is considering riding with me I'll just say "I can go whatever speed you want. Let's ride."
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Old 12-06-19, 09:21 AM
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Those w/Kg charts are funny to me. I apparently have a mid-Cat 3 level FTP, but my best 1 min power puts me almost at the amateur level. Having actually raced in 3/4 fields, I do tend to struggle with surges but do fine when the pace is high but steady, so maybe there is some truth to that.
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Old 12-06-19, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Cypress View Post
I posted this in a different thread, but the information is the same. Average speed means almost nothing, and is waaaay down on the list of "usable data" to gauge performance.

I plucked three solo rides from my data that show three different average speeds in increasing order. A newer rider might think 15.8 to be easy, 19.5 would be iffy and 22.2 to be out of their reach. The thing is, the normalized power data is almost identical for two of the rides (261W/260W), but the ride with the lowest NP (245W) was the hardest. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but a newer rider wouldn't have been able to keep up on any of these rides, especially the 15.8 mph average.

If someone rode the same route every day for a year they'd notice that on the same route with the same windspeed, a headwind on the wrong sections can pull 1-2 mph off of an average. Even the difference in air density due to temperature can knock 0.5 mph off of an average. When I get asked "what's your average?" when someone is considering riding with me I'll just say "I can go whatever speed you want. Let's ride."
The most difficult ride I've recently done was a hill sprint tour of our city. 3 hour ride, 245w NP. Only 150w AP. One KOM and a few top 10's and some very sore legs. Average speed? Lol, about 17mph.

Goes to show how malleable nominal power and average speed are. That NP is very inflated due to the many high power hill sprints. The average speed very low, again, hill sprints.

Also, though, how big a dong a person has on WNW or Strava segments doesn't mean anything for racing. It's WNW. A mix of a couple racers and a bunch of A-rider joes. I'm a good example of this one. A few pretty solid local KOM's and top 10's, can mix it up on most hammer rides............won't be sniffing a podium anytiime soon. Pack fodder.
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Old 12-06-19, 09:40 AM
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Cat 5: hey guys, what’s your average speed?
Cat 4: hmm, my average speed is going up but I never place
Cat 3: hmm, I’m beginning to place but my average speed is going down
Cat 2: average speed is meaningless
Cat 1: WTF does average speed have to do with anything?
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Old 12-06-19, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Cat 5: hey guys, what’s your average speed?
Cat 4: hmm, my average speed is going up but I never place
Cat 3: hmm, I’m beginning to place but my average speed is going down
Cat 2: average speed is meaningless
Cat 1: WTF does average speed have to do with anything?
You just gotta make sure your average speed is .0001 mph faster than 2nd place!
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Old 12-06-19, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Dan333SP View Post
Those w/Kg charts are funny to me. I apparently have a mid-Cat 3 level FTP, but my best 1 min power puts me almost at the amateur level. Having actually raced in 3/4 fields, I do tend to struggle with surges but do fine when the pace is high but steady, so maybe there is some truth to that.
I'm sure you know this, but individual performance potential can only be captured by looking at the entire power/duration curve. Time trial specialists have flat ones, sprinters steep ones. When I was "racing," before the advent of power measurement, mine would have been pretty flat and I would only post my current one without the y-axis.
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Old 12-06-19, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Cypress View Post
I posted this in a different thread, but the information is the same. Average speed means almost nothing, and is waaaay down on the list of "usable data" to gauge performance.

I plucked three solo rides from my data that show three different average speeds in increasing order. A newer rider might think 15.8 to be easy, 19.5 would be iffy and 22.2 to be out of their reach. The thing is, the normalized power data is almost identical for two of the rides (261W/260W), but the ride with the lowest NP (245W) was the hardest. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but a newer rider wouldn't have been able to keep up on any of these rides, especially the 15.8 mph average.





If someone rode the same route every day for a year they'd notice that on the same route with the same windspeed, a headwind on the wrong sections can pull 1-2 mph off of an average. Even the difference in air density due to temperature can knock 0.5 mph off of an average. When I get asked "what's your average?" when someone is considering riding with me I'll just say "I can go whatever speed you want. Let's ride."
I'm that guy! I ride the same basic route daily for around 10 years now. Avg speed is greatly affected by temperature and wind and such. Much, much less by which of my thirtysome bikes I'm on. My PR for this route is somewhere at a mid 20 mph range. But that took 'perfect" conditions to get there. I can have normal days were I bust my butt the whole ride and still only pull off a 17 mph pace and then the next reel off a relaxed 19 mph paced ride on the same route. I don't train with power since it would be quite expensive to do with 30 bikes but would like to one day set up at least one bike with a power meter and then dedicate to that bike for a couple of months to see what the logs would show.
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Old 12-06-19, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Cypress View Post
You just gotta make sure your average speed is .0001 mph faster than 2nd place!
Exactly. And when you start doing some focused training you'll notice that some of your hardest workouts have the lowest average speeds.


13.1 mph avg. speed on a flat course with no wind. 111w avg. power.

And absolutely wrecked.
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Old 12-06-19, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Exactly. And when you start doing some focused training you'll notice that some of your hardest workouts have the lowest average speeds.


13.1 mph avg. speed on a flat course with no wind. 111w avg. power.

And absolutely wrecked.
Sup with that cadence though? Doing SFR work? Or just tend to spin really slowly after intervals?
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Old 12-06-19, 11:53 AM
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The progression of TT is so freaking weird. Suffering, research, maths, money, luck, tribal knowledge, local knowledge, fear.

I'm still working on the maths, luck, and fear parts. I can suffer, and I'm an engineer. So maths, research, and small expenditures aren't problems.

Now...luck, tribal knowledge, and fear.........
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Old 12-06-19, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Dan333SP View Post
Sup with that cadence though? Doing SFR work? Or just tend to spin really slowly after intervals?
Basically coasting and softpedaling between 1' all-outs.
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Old 12-06-19, 12:16 PM
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I can hold a 40+ mph average for half an hour coming down Loup Loup Pass.
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Old 12-06-19, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
I can hold a 40+ mph average for half an hour coming down Loup Loup Pass.
Here here!

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Old 12-06-19, 12:49 PM
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This forum needs a “average speed — it doesn’t matter so don’t ask about” sticky.
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Old 12-06-19, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by blazin View Post
This forum needs a “average speed — it doesn’t matter so don’t ask about” sticky.
Or didn't allow posters without 10 contributions to existing topics to post new topics.

I've argued this with the moderators before, and they don't get it. Most forums require at least 10 posts to existing topics before allowing starting new ones to prevent trolls, spam, promote self help (searching), and participation in the community not expecting an immediate handout.

But they won't do it.
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Old 12-06-19, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by blazin View Post
This forum needs a “average speed — it doesn’t matter so don’t ask about” sticky.
It gets asked a lot in General Cycling, too, only there it's not clear whether the OP intends to race: "Hey guys, I just started peddling this year and my average speed is 13.7 MPH. Is that good?"
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Last edited by ThermionicScott; 12-06-19 at 01:44 PM.
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Old 12-06-19, 01:28 PM
  #24  
MoAlpha
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How about a "standard conditions" forum for the theoretically minded?
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Old 12-06-19, 01:40 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by Cypress View Post
Here here!


Even for estimated, that is impressive wattage down a 6% grade at that speed! Did you have that 70t chainring?
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