Garmin’s Bike Speed Metric- when does it make sense to use speed?

Garmin Cycling Speed MetricsGarmin Bike Speed Metric – when does it make sense to use speed?

I suspect that many cyclists with power meters have wry smiles on their faces when they hear other cyclists talking about speed. “So, what’s your average speed on this ride then? How fast can  you normally go?

We all ‘know’ that speed is irrelevant as it is oh so easily impacted by slope and wind. But is it really always irrelevant and are there any valid times to use it?

Group Riding

You’re pootling along behind someone at 250w and then when it’s your turn, you crank up the watts to 350w. After a minute or so or so you look behind to find that you’ve left everyone behind and promptly have to slow down.

A good use for speed is that it gives you a better indication than power about what effort level you need to maintain when it’s your pull. 30mph when following someone broadly translates to 30mph when it’s your turn to work.

Plus, as @Eric points out below, average speeds of local routes or average flat speeds are often used when organising group of rides for riders of varying abilities. Broad speed levels are a good way to indicate likely effort to a wider range of people who might have very different power abilities, weights and riding positions – it would seem churlish to talk to a casual group about their w/kg or normal cDa.

Doing A Time

I had a few cracks at my 10-mile TT PB/PR last year. I was doing it on a somewhat awkward route where grades varied quite a bit in places.

On my first attempt, I paced my efforts to average just under my current 20-minute power from an indoor test. I also tried and succeeded in keeping my NP within 5% of the average. From memory, I failed by about 15 seconds. Maybe the wind should have been better factored into my power calculation.

A couple of weeks later on the same course, I targeted an average speed. With a couple of miles to go and the harder bits polished off, my average was below where it needed to be. At the end of the 10 miles, I think I was about 45s faster than my previous effort and so 30secs under my old PR. #Result ! I’m still not quite sure how I managed that, the conditions were very slightly better but not 45 seconds worth of better. Maybe it was because I paced myself using speed but running the risk of blowing up.


Does anyone care what anyone else’s average Strava segment power readings are? Other than to check for someone cheating, I don’t.

Strava segments are all about time and, as the distances are fixed, this means it’s all about speed. As we all know, if the wind is blowing the KOMs are falling, which is partly why Strava is nonsense, albeit addictively interesting nonsense.

You Don’t Have A Power Meter

Hey, why not use speed? You need something to fill up the screen of your Garmin/Wahoo 😉

You Want To Obey Speed Limits

At least in the UK, cyclists almost always do NOT legally have to obey speed limits, the limits only apply to motor vehicles. If you are being nice then you might want to give fellow cyclists a good name and stick to them in any case as no one else realises that you are riding legally.

Richmond Park Speed Limit for cyclists
Image| via @Aston on Reddit

Richmond Park (one of the UK’s Royal Parks) used to be thought to be an exception as there was widely believed to be a valid bye-law that placed an additional requirement on cyclists to adhere to the motorised speed limit. However, the Park Authority rather cleverly wrote to someone (image above) and confirmed the speed limit does not apply to cyclists. Indeed the only speed laws that do apply to cyclists in the UK are based on ancient legislation around “wanton and furious cycling” which is probably equivalent to reckless/negligent/dangerous cycling (which doesn’t exist as a law). So there we have it, if you keep your cool and don’t get angry you can go as fast as you like anywhere.

Hey…be sensible. Check the speed as shown on your Garmin/Wahoo.

Garmin Cycling Speed Metrics

Garmin has a nice range of cycling speed metrics. They include various averages for the ride, the lap and your instant speed. There are also some nice charts and dial (see image at the top).

Take Out

Buy a power meter if you can afford one. Power is just better and almost always more useful.

A 4iiii or Stages G3 single-sided Shimano 105 crank PM is more than good enough for most people.

Perhaps think about adding back a speed data field to one of your secondary screens and/or your TT/PR profile

Stages Gen 3 Review | Stages Generation 3 Power Meter G3 PM LR Dual |




Reader-Powered Content

This content is not sponsored. It’s mostly me behind the labour of love which is this site and I appreciate everyone who follows, subscribes or Buys Me A Coffee ❤️ Alternatively please buy the reviewed product from my partners. Thank you! FTC: Affiliate Disclosure: Links pay commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

1 thought on “Garmin’s Bike Speed Metric- when does it make sense to use speed?

  1. Sorry mate, but this post was not what I thought it was going to be… I thought maybe you were going to talk about the benefits of using a speed sensor like the Garmin or Wahoo wheel sensors.

    Other than triathlon, I mostly ride my bike recreationally so I don’t hang with lots of crit racers and the like, but other than when I’m doing structured training or racing cyclocross I ALWAYS care about speed. Of course in a TT or triathlon I am following a power plan from BBS or other planning, but I have to believe that almost all cyclists except in a few specific situations care very much about speed and at least pay attention to average or lap speed.

    Power is a very personal thing as you indirectly indicate in the article. I guess W/kg is comparable, but that’s really more of a pissing contest. Speed (and strategy) wins a race. All of the group rides in my area list an average speed range for each group to be sure you don’t get dropped.

    Sorry, I realize my comment is a bit of a ramble, but I’m just trying to figure out who the target reader is for this article.

Comments are closed.