Why cycle so fast?

All I keep hearing from the street cycling bunch is how wonderfully people cycle in Amsterdam and the rest of Europe. Yet I don’t think that people in the US that point at them know what is going on.

People in the US like to go fast. If they aren’t doing 20 mph, then they are not happy.

As Mighk can attest, I ride slowly. I like to ride that way and it was my observation that people in Europe ride that way, too. There is no concern about speed, no pace to keep up, no worry that my RPM isn’t right and no damn computer. Carbon Fiber, aluminum, weight isn’t an issue.

In fact, when I was a teenager, I read about the famous Century Ride. If you don’t know what that is, it is 100 miles in 8 hours. So one day I decided to try it.  Gosh, it was way too easy. I had time to stop and eat lunch and then take a nap under a tree and still had time left over. Run the math and the Century Ride requires a whole 4.8 mph average.

People in Europe generally cycle less than two miles. So what if it takes them 20 minutes to go that 2 miles?  They don’t care because that isn’t the point. The point is to enjoy themselves.

So try it. Slow down, take it easy, no rush and enjoy yourself. It’s a whole ‘nother way to do things.

10 replies
  1. rodney
    rodney says:

    Good point. Many of my errands around town are at slower speeds. My primary reason for going fast by bicycle is getting to work and back.

    I commute at night and like to give myself a few extra minutes just in case. I really enjoy being able to slow down on the “back roads”, er, I mean side streets. Helps to recharge my batteries for the higher speed arterials.

    Family cycling (going to the park, DQ for ice cream, etc) is done at much slower speeds 10-12 mph. Makes for a much more enjoyable ride.

  2. AndrewP
    AndrewP says:

    Not to mention that going faster produces volumes of sweat, especially here in sunny-hot Florida. As I observe European riders, I see them riding with their “day clothes” — they don’t seem to be into wearing technical clothing just to ride a bike somewhere. The climate in Europe may also help, as it is easier to ride slowly in the coolish weather and be warm (but not break sweat), as opposed to riding in the heat and trying to stay cool and not sweat …

    Eric has made a good point about the US mindset and speed. Which all ties back into motorists seeing cyclists as “slowing them down” or “bottlenecking traffic” …

  3. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    Variety is the spice of life.

    I absolutely love going fast. I’ve done 55 mph down Sugarloaf on a tandem. Cruised at 32 on the flats with the A riders way “back in the day.” Had a blast sprinting for green signals on my commute home. Done 40+ on a dirt road in the Rockies on a mountain bike.

    But I don’t make it my life’s purpose. Check out http://theslowbicycle.blogspot.com/

  4. Keri
    Keri says:

    In the winter, riding slow does help with the sweat factor. In the summer, I sweat standing still.

    I love being able to ride in regular clothes. I love taking it easy when I ride. My preference is to dawdle along a quiet street (and greet people walking their dogs or kids playing on their bikes). But the ability to do that depends on trip distance and time available.

    Speed is fun, too. I enjoy a good sprint, or a fast-paced group ride. But more and more, I do prefer riding slow and just enjoying being out there on the bike.

    Moving to a location that is within 3-5 miles of anything I could possibly need is going to enhance my life in that way.

    Another thing worth mentioning… Using assertive lane position is not dependent on speed. Many people think it is. Most of us have an impulse to amp it up when we’re claiming a narrow lane. Relax, it’s not necessary. When you go slow, you’re actually easier to pass.

  5. ChipSeal
    ChipSeal says:

    I have a single speed fendered bike for wet weather rides. I found that about half of my crashes were on that bike even though I ride it about 10% of the time. Too much speed in the wet!
    So I have now changed it to a smaller gear to slow myself down on it.
    I just have to go as fast as I can on a bike.

  6. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    I’d like a refresher course on the math. Eight hours and one hundred miles comes out to 12.5 mph on my calculator. I may be missing something?

  7. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    “In fact, when I was a teenager, I read about the famous Century Ride. If you don’t know what that is, it is 100 miles in 8 hours.”

    Centuries don’t usually have time limits, except perhaps to get in before dark.

  8. MikeOnBike
    MikeOnBike says:

    Mighk said “Centuries don’t usually have time limits, except perhaps to get in before dark.”

    More importantly, get to the rest stops before all the food is gone. 😎

  9. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    What? My calculator indicates that 100/8 = 12.5 MPH. How does the 4.8 MPH come up? 100/4.8 comes up with an answer of – 20.83 hours! What can I say – I’m an engineer…

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