Average speed is meaningless. 30 days of biking, #22

We’ve been calculating average speed all wrong.

Some people say you divide mileage by time to arrive at average speed.

You rode 100 miles in eight hours? You may have struggled on a climb at 3.5 mph, you may have bombed downhill at 40 mph, but if it took you eight hours to complete a century, your average speed was 12.5 mph.

Maybe you don’t count your total elapsed time; instead your calculation includes only time spent in motion.

If you stop four times to rest and refuel, and each stop lasts 15 minutes, the same ride takes seven hours, and your average speed jumps to 14.3 mph.

Years ago, a friend of mine crowed about completing 100 miles in five hours—that’s 20 mph. Quite respectable. Except he didn’t include rest stops in his calculations.

He didn’t care for my own claim of a four-hour century comprising a season’s worth of 10-mile time trials.

Was I cheating? Or was I doing the same thing he did: selecting segments of time that I felt worthy of inclusion?

Who knows? The argument will never end. Unless…

Unless we go another step and include all possible time in average speed calculations. How would that work?

Glad you asked.

First, you calculate your lifetime mileage total. If you’re not dead, a guess will do.

Second, you add up all time. This includes 1) the time you’re alive, 2) all the time before that, and 3) all the time that follows your death.

Round your age at demise to the nearest 100. And don’t mess around with infinity for all the rest of time; figure 14 billion years before your arrival and another 14 billion years following your departure.

Now divide your lifetime mileage by 28,000,000,100.

Congratulations: Your all-time average speed appears to be a non-zero amount. It’s also pretty much the same as anyone else’s average speed, including everyone who died before the invention of the wheel.

Which means it’s pointless to distinguish one rider from another on the basis of speed.

Now if you want to talk about who has the best bicycle, that’s something else again.

Just as pointless as average speed, but way, way harder to calculate.

April 22. 12.5 miles.

About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
This entry was posted in #30daysofbiking, Bianchi and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Average speed is meaningless. 30 days of biking, #22

  1. Julian Westerhout says:

    Sam, I am enjoying your saddle philosophizing this month! Thanks! 🙂

  2. Pingback: The Kenny advantage. 30 days of biking, #25 | 16incheswestofpeoria

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