You might consider yourself a recreational cyclist who goes out to exercise the muscles and get a breath of fresh air. But how far would you go on an ordinary bike ride, and just how long will it take you to bike a mile? It’s a question in biking circles that seems to arise quite often so let’s answer the question as precisely as we can!
So how long does it take to bike a mile? There are many different answers to this question since the time will vary for everybody. However, we can estimate the average duration taken, then look in more detail, while considering various situations:
- Normal everyday ride: 6 minutes
- Flat road: 3-4 minutes
- Downhill race: 1 minute
- Professional rider: 2.14 minutes
In this article, I am going to highlight the average time a person takes to ride a bicycle over a distance of 1 mile. I am also going to consider the various factors that affect your riding speed and hence the time taken to cover this distance.
There is no single accurate answer to this question as differences exist dependent on the number of variables. You will also see that a range of factors come into play as far as the biking speed is concerned, and this also affects the eventual time taken to cover any distance.
We have to consider:
- The terrain you are riding on
- Your physical state of fitness
- The type of bike
- The incline of the road you are biking on
- The wind conditions outside, etc.
All these things will have a big say on the levels of speed that you achieve. But, for the sake of sensibility, if we were to hold everything constant, these would be the average biking times over a mile for the average person: –
Normal Everyday Ride
A mile for a normal everyday ride would take you around 6 minutes. Just about anybody who can get on a bicycle and pedal will comfortably manage 10mph, which is also the average speed for a rank beginner.
Remember that you are just out for a casual ride so there is no need to put pressure on yourself. You have not established how much distance you are going to be covering and it shouldn’t matter how long the first mile lasts.
When everything is perfect, a 10mph speed would be ideal for a leisurely everyday ride which allows you to enjoy the scenery around you as you cycle.
A Mile in a flat road race takes about 3 to 4 minutes. On a flat surface, the ride is relatively smooth with no significant hurdles, hills or tricky manoeuvers. This will easily enable you to manage an average speed of between 17 to 18 mph; or, about 30 – 40 minutes to bike 10 miles.
You could possibly double the time you would need (6 to 8 mins) to cover the same mile on hilly terrain. The drop of speed on a mountainous environment compared to a flat one is much steeper for an ordinary biker than it is for a professional.
Professionals such as those competing in the Tour de France, for instance, will be much faster given their skill, fitness, and endurance levels.
A downhill mile ride will take you approximately 1 minute or just a little less to complete a road race. Downhill racing is one of the fastest types of bike riding competitions. Remember the goal here is to reach the bottom of the descent first, meaning racers move as quickly as possible.
The speeds reached in such circumstances are quite staggering given that you have gravity to propel you down even faster. It will even be faster if you are descending in the direction of the wind which pushes you from behind.
Downhill riding is an extreme sport that is mostly performed by professional riders. It will blow your mind to learn that speeds as high as 80-100 mph can be achieved in downhill racing (not for the faint-hearted).
A professional rider takes about 2.14 minutes to cover 1 mile. While cheering roadside at a cycling tour event, it is amazing how the spandex-clad professional cyclists will whiz past you at neck-break speeds!
It’s actually quite hard to gauge the speed that pro road bikers can get to. These riders are aptly skilled to make difficult maneuvers and fit enough to kick out high energy outputs.
However, “Bicycling Magazine” estimates the average speed for a pro biker at 28 mph on a flat surface. This is approximately 10 minutes taken to cover a 5-mile distance. On hilly terrain, pros make the ascent look effortless given they can climb at about 25 mph. They take about 12 minutes to cover 5 miles.
What Factors Cause Variations in Time taken to Bike a Mile?
The above estimates are a great way to get a rough idea of just how long it would take to bike a mile. Nevertheless, there are a number of other factors that bring about even more variations in speed and subsequently, the time required to cover the mile.
Taking into consideration the following variables will give you even more answers to the question – How long does it take to bike a mile?
The Fitness of the Biker
The overall fitness of a biker will have a significant impact on the amount of time it takes to cover any distance.
For a beginner, even 10 miles would seem a struggle to ride. If you’ve been a couch potato for the past few months, biking longer distances will be a strain until you gain your fitness again.
You will tend to get fatigued more easily and this will affect your stamina over any distance. Naturally, you are bound to take things slow and steady to be able to cover more ground.
On the other hand, a person who exercises frequently or has spent the winter in the gym every morning will be able to cover a mile in a much shorter time.
Take for instance the professional athletes in the Tour de France; these guys have the ideal fitness of a biker. They have conditioned their bodies to endure biking over long distances at a fast and almost steady pace. Their muscles are strong enough to generate a high energy output as they pedal, propelling the bike faster for longer periods of time.
Type of Bike
They type of bike you are riding will also influence the speed you are able to reach and as a consequence the time taken to bike a mile.
Remember that there are various kinds of bikes available, some of which are designed for specific reasons. We have mountain bikes that are meant for rough terrain and road bikes that people use to race on flat surfaces.
As such you will find cruisers that are suitable for leisure riding and touring bikes that will take you long distances while carrying your all your travel kit.
All these various bikes have different features that affect their performance. Some are built using lighter material like carbon and aluminum, making them faster than bikes with heavier components made from steel.
You’ll also have to consider the type of tire. Soft tires will be much faster on a flat, tarmac road but unstable on a wet laterite or murram road with an incline. Conversely, a bike with knobby tires might be slower on tarmac yet prove to be more than suitable for rough terrain with slippery ascents and descents.
Additionally, the type and number of gears on a bike will also affect the effort required and the speed you ride through various distances. If you have many gears, it can make life easier as you switch gears to help you navigate different slopes. Meanwhile, for a generally flat road you don’t need gears, but if you have them you can increase your speed significantly.
The Gear and Clothing you have
The type of clothes you wear and the equipment on your bike can also influence the time taken to ride over a specific distance.
Consider a professional biker wearing spandex; his overall weight is relatively light compared to a person riding in a pair of jeans ad a jacket. The helmet he’s wearing also affects the aerodynamics, and is likely to be more streamlined for a smooth ride against the wind current.
The total amount of gear carried on the bike will affect the overall bike weight and thus the energy needed to cycle.
If you are carrying, a water bottle, tool kit, first-aid kit, etc. You will definitely be slower than someone with a bike free of any extra gear. At the end of the day, the main difference comes from efficiency.
A biker who uses his gearing on hills and flats efficiently is said to add about 50% to his speed.
It is quite obvious that a flat bit of tarmac is far easier to ride on that the mountain bike terrain in the woods near your house.
The woods may have numerous obstacles such as sticky mud, fallen branches, and slippery leaves that can make it a nightmare to navigate. This kind of terrain will require a few extra minutes to get through.
Another aspect about the ground you are riding is the incline you are on. No matter the terrain, you will always be faster when cycling downhill than on a flat surface or uphill.
This is because gravity will be on your side and there will be little need to waste your energy cycling hard, in fact in many situations it may be that you are freewheeling, requiring little or no energy from you, but possibly a lot of concentration though.
This is quite the opposite of going uphill whereby because gravity is pulling you down you may have to expend considerably more energy because you are constantly pedaling the bike, possibly wearing yourself out over a very short distance or period of time.
Weather is another possibly significant factor that will influence the average time to bike a mile. If the conditions outside are windy, this could mean that you are practically flying along the road thanks to a nice tailwind propelling you from behind.
Contrary to this though, it could also mean that you are barely gaining any speed as you battle with the horrible headwinds that are pushing against.
Furthermore, if it has been raining all day and the ground is muddy or slippery; negotiating this may take you more time to bike a mile compared to when the weather is sunny and the ground is dry and more stable.
The Skill of the Rider
An experienced biker will obviously have an edge over a novice rider when it comes to covering certain terrains or long distances. He/She will know how to navigate different terrains better and how to use the gears on the bike efficiently.
Probably due to greater stamina they may also be able to maintain a steady top speed when reached, by managing the amount of energy being spent while pedaling. Meanwhile, a novice rider will have many problems handling mountain bike terrain and on flat surfaces find it difficult to sustain certain levels of speed.
So, how long will it take you to ride a bike mile? As we can see there is no real or accurate answer to this question, there can only be estimates which may differ enormously depending on a large number of factors.
However, you are welcome to have a try and test your time for yourself. Record the time you take to cover a mile over different terrain, in different circumstances and see if you can improve on your own times in the future, as you get fitter or simply set your time as a benchmark and try to keep to it.
Whatever your time to bike a mile try to enjoy the experience.