How fast have you gone?

This evening after work, I hit the Veloway for my usual Tuesday night ride.  My friend David was waiting at the entrance, and we started a small ring ride, not particularly aiming for any speed.  We kept up a steady pedal cadence, passed a few bikers, and got passed by more.  It’s a ride I’ve built into my weekly schedule, and I look forward to it.

A Blackburn Delphi 2 from the Nashbar catalog.
A Blackburn Delphi 2 from the Nashbar catalog.

But the ease of the ride got me thinking: What about really trying to go fast?  I’ve found myself in situations on nice downhill grades where I try to wring every last tenth of a mile per hour out of my bike.

For me, anything over 30 mph is fast.  I know I’m on an interesting stretch of road when my speed tops 36.  But once I get to about 38, things get a bit problematic.

My Specialized Allez is a terrific bike, but it can be a little twitchy.  At high speeds, it feels a tad unstable, although that often has something to do with the condition of the road surface.  Oddly enough, getting down in the drops doesn’t seem to help.  I find myself trying to relax as much as possible, and let the bike take over.

The highest speed I’ve ever hit is 39 mph.  I’ve done it twice.  The first time was on an organized ride, and I can’t remember where I clocked that number.  It just registered as the top speed on my cyclocomputer, and I discovered it when I checked it at the end of the ride.  The second time was on a Sunday morning club ride.  We were on a rolling hills section through a nice residential neighborhood.  The street was wide and smooth, and gave us a view far ahead in the distance.  I saw no traffic ahead, and cranked the bike as fast as I could.  I saw the 39 come and go, and thought it was pretty cool.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the fastest I ever go.  For me to attack the speed barrier, I think I’ll need a more stable bike.  My old steel Raleigh was a joy to ride on a quick downhill — it was rock solid.  But I never did get that bike up above 35.  

I’m also at the point where speed is not an important goal.  Hey, I’m no spring chicken anymore, and we tend to get a little more cautious — er, prudent — in our old age.  A blowout last spring on a high speed downhill will do that to a guy.

I’ll continue to enjoy the sensation of speed.  But breaking the 40 mph bar is not on my radar.  How about you?  Do you make a conscious effort to go as fast as you can on descents?  What’s the fastest you’ve ever gone?  What did it feel like?  Is there an even higher speed somewhere inside you?


  1. says

    When it comes to downhill speed, my main concern is feeling under control…don’t really care about breaking any speed records, personal or otherwise. But…that’s not to say I don’t have any “speed” goals. For instance, I’d say I’m much more interested in uphill than downhill speed. Once the season is in full swing, I’ll pay a lot of attention to monitoring my progress on increasing my speed up certain hills…like the one-miler leading up to my house that finishes several of my riding loops.

  2. says

    I enjoy going fast downhill but I don’t necessarily seek out big hills. If they happen to be there then I’ll ride down them :-) The fastest I have gone is 52mph. This was going down 2222 from 620 to 360 here in Austin. I’ve always found that when descending at high speeds it helps to grab the bar with your knees, this tends to “lock” you onto the bike better.

  3. says

    I also have a Allez frame and find it twitchy at high speed. I have found that the bike fit makes a huge difference. By raising my handlebars and moving the seat forward I have gone from complete fear of going downhill on the bike to just feeling the need to be cautious.

  4. says

    Pretty much, the downhill segment is what makes working on my mountain climbing suck less. I love going fast and my bike doesn’t seem to mind.

    The problem is that I don’t trust my cyclecomputer too much. I kinda want to upgrade it, but I’m getting the feeling that there’s some major geek-friendly cyclecomputing on the way out. But my top descending is somewhere over 40mph.

    I was pondering the merits of passing the minivan in front of me on my latest descent. Driver was going 30mph and that was just too sloooow. Totally unfair after all my climbing work. :(

    One thought, however… It’s good to be comfortable with going faster, even if you don’t do it all the time. If you rely on brakes instead of technique to descend hills, if your brakes start getting marginal, you will crash.

  5. CR1 Rider says

    Here in Caifornia I live near the Santa Monica Mountains and some serious climbs, from Westlake Village over the 23 to Mullholland or Decker Canyon to name a couple, and of course the famous Pacific Coast Highway. I ride a Scott CR1, about 15.5 pounds. I mention that because it seems a lighter bike might be twitchier. Descending in strong wind is a little tricky for me. When I get up to about 40 I start getting nervous. The fastest I have gone is 41. A buddy of mine that races schooled me, I used to get out of the saddle and in the drops while descending, he taught me to always stay in the saddle thus distributing weight, it really helped me. I know alot of it is confidence, but none the less I usually like to keep it about 35 tops. Some of the guys I ride with on the Sundance Cycles Saturday group ride easily get up to 50 or so, infact most of them.

  6. says

    Looking at my ride stats it appears the fastest I’ve gone is 47 mph down Ladera Norte. The other notable is 46 mph down the Sisters on Limecreek when I had the blowout. The fastest I’ve clocked without the aid of gravity or wind was in this weekends race in Fayettevill, 38 mph, I spun out my 50×11.

  7. tracywilkins says

    My top speeds have all come on the tandem. That thing is a joy to ride….it’s rock solid and seems like it could cruise at 30 mph all day. We’re not particularly into speed but we’ve broken 50 a couple of times and gotten into the upper 40’s more times than I can count. We consider the upper 30’s to be maximum of what is fun. With my sweet wife on the back of the bike, prudence is good. At speed, things can happen way too quickly!

  8. Dana says

    The fastest I’ve topped out at on a downhill was 42. I’ve only done that once. That was on an aluminum bike with a carbon triangle & fork. Now that I have my Aegis Victory (full carbon), it’s much more stable and I feel more confident on the descents so I hope to break that this year. At least I think I want to break that – I’m a big chicken when it comes to fast descents, which I can probably attribute to my age and my low tolerance for pain.

  9. says

    The Allez is a spectacular bike, a race bike at that, and I would not worry at all about the Allez bike being any more problematic than other bikes at those high speeds. It’s not like the wheels are going to pop off. Like any bike, maintain it well and you’ll be fine. The terrain will certainly feel different, you just have to maintain confidence and control.

  10. says

    I’ve been over 50 mph several times. Once, in a terrific downhill tailwind, I had a California Highway Patrol car pull up beside me and yell at me to slow down over his loudspeaker. I was doing 57 mph. He scared me more than the speed did.

  11. bob says

    fastest I have gone is 39.1 in a residential neighborhood. There are some roads where I know I could reach 45mph, but I will only do that with little to no traffic.

  12. steven says

    my top speed on a flat surface is 64.3 kilometers per hour, or 39.9 mph.

    though i was riding behind a car which probably would have reduced air resistance, without cars infront of me, 62.something.

    the path i go on to work theres no long downhill stretch, but there is a long flat one, so i find i can go faster on the flat than downhill on the path i take.

  13. mark says

    been riding cannondale r900 for 4 years – mostly to get off my feet once in a while between marathons. Always a little nervous above 40mph due to handling/vibration. Became the owner of a new Cervelo R3 SL, SramRed, Easton EA90 (ceramic) SLX wheelset and hit 47mph (yes… downhill but not a big one) and didn’t even know it until i got home and downloaded the coputer…. same engine driving the bike – but much less vibration makes you a little unaware at times just how fast you’re going……

  14. ChronoFish says

    I just hit 41.5mph this past weekend in a triathlon. I’m riding a “Chinese factory direct” carbon TT frame. It’s the fastest I’ve gone on it. In high school I would ride a Schwinn LaTour touching 50mph coming down Cottonwood pass in Buena Vista, Colorado. Low 40s is about as fast as either my Cannondale R600 or Quintann Roo Kilo ever saw.

    I’m much slower going uphill……


  15. John M. says

    I hit 72.3 yesterday on Folsom st. in San Francisco coming off Bernal Hill. I had drunk 4 beers overlooking the city and sort of just let go the whole way down. I guy on a crotch rocket pulled up beside me at the bottom and said “that was sick!” I didn’t even think to look at my computer until later. I suppose I believe it though. More than a 20 % grade for well over 1000 feet and I had speed going in. I’m mad at myself for this, way to reckless. Previous ‘record’ was 48 mph but that was 15 years ago.


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