I have a number of health issues (including heart) but love cycling and am determined to train for a long distance ride. I am 68 years old and a beginning cyclist. I have worked up to a distance of 20kms at an average speed of 10-12 km per hour, which feels as though I am really pushing myself, especially if there is wind. My question is: Is it possible for me to improve on this speed over time and with more riding practice? If so, how would you recommend I proceed?

  • Are you using a heart rate monitor and has your doctor given you target heart rate ranges and cleared you for training? Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 3:20
  • No I'm not using a heart rate monitor. I have high blood pressure controlled by medication and natural methods and use a home testing machine to keep it in check. I have had several heart 'events' since having open heart surgery to remove a tumour about seven years ago, but after lots of testing, doctors were unable to find a cause. I'm therefore pretty much on my own as far as clearance is concerned, since no one knows how far I can push myself. I play the bagpipes, so must be reasonably fit and whenever I feel any chest discomfort, I take a break. That is the best I can do :)
    – user13919
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 3:58
  • Sorry, I can't be of any help as this is beyond my knowledge and probably beyond the scope of the site. There are monitored cardiac exercise programs that would let you know what you can do safely. At the very least I would use a heart rate monitor to see what "pushing" yourself looks like on your heart rate. Good luck. Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 4:29
  • @BackinShapeBuddy ...thanks for your advice. I will get myself a heart rate monitor so I can see what is happening when I ride. I really just wanted to know whether more riding practice at my current levels would lead to improved speed and endurance over time or whether I would need to change something for it to improve.
    – user13919
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 4:38
  • In a hospital it is possible to do a stress test. That would maybe be a good idea because you are constantly being monitored by doctors and they can find out how much you can push yourself. With a heart condition, i don't think that is something you should be doing by yourself.
    – s3v3ns
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 9:33

2 Answers 2


It's not really possible to hand out a speed to you and say "this is how fast you should ride".

If we're talking about a competitive level cyclist, I think you'll find that most riders are comfortable holding a ~32km / 20mph pace for several hours at a time, on flat surfaces. In fact if you look at the RAAM (Race Across America) you'll see average paces frequently crossing over 15MPH, and that's riding 8 days pretty much consistently. So a bit slower than a training ride, but that's averaging in big mountain climbs and obviously an incredible distance (2,000+ miles).

In the RAAM male 60-69 age bracket, the speed drops to ~11.5 MPH (again, for 8 days straight).

In 1989, Greg LeMond did a 24km time trial at an average speed of 54.545 km/h, or 33.9 mp/h.

Three things I'd recommend for you if you'd like to increase your speed:

  1. Make sure you have a good bike and you're properly fitted to it. Once you know how you're supposed to fit on a bike you'll see that most people riding around are either scrunched up or too spread out, and usually their seat post is far too low.
  2. Train with faster cyclists. As you can see from the links above, there are plenty of fast riders in every age group. In any good size town there are bound to be some group rides that will give you better bike handling skills, plus force you to maintain a pace that you might not otherwise hold.

2.5. Also in a group setting you'll benefit from drafting, where you'll be riding in the wind shadow of people ahead of you, getting you more comfortable with speed.

  1. Consider getting a pair of rollers. Rollers, with a fan in front of you and a mirror to your side will help you a lot in riding fast and getting your form dialed in. Rollers in particular are a great way to get rid of hobby-horse-hips and smooth out your strokes. Rollers are also one of the preferred ways to warm up before a race because you can ride 20 feet from the start line, and toss them in your car with a couple of minutes before the gun.

Yes, it's possible to get faster. Initially, all you have to do is just keep riding, and you will improve, and that is what I recommend to start.

Also make sure that you know how to use your gears effectively. Many beginners ride in a gear that is very hard to push and get tired easily. Generally, you want to be turning your feet at 80-90 RPM.

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