Question about gravel events? What’s the real average?

Hi Guys
I’m a Brit who is very interested in the gravel events that take place over in the US.
I assume that the average, non racer, rider can take part in the likes of Unbound & STMBT

My question is what sort of average speed is the ‘average’ rider doing on these rides. I’m a fairly competent road rider and can average about 18mph on the road, but the gravel we have over here is awful, and I’d be lucky to get to about 13.

So what are you guys seeing over there?

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Depends on the course, but the ones I do, are usually around 14-16mph for most. Similar area on pavement I do about 3mph faster on the road bike.

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Very course length and profile (and gravel type) dependent….I finished SBT GRVL in just under 9 hours @ ~16 mph (just inside the top 50%)

A few weeks earlier, I did the Dustbowl 100, which had significantly less elevation gain and I averaged ~18mph. The race also had more pack dynamics due to the flatter course.

So like most things, the answer is “it depends”. :man_shrugging:

I’d recommend looking at previous results of whatever race you are considering…especially if you know people that did it. You can then use their results as a gauge of how you might do.

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I guess, one of the questions is what you guys consider gravel, looking at some of the YouTube videos your gravel is less severe than the more off-road style ‘gravel’ in the uk

Uk here. I typically average 30kph on road solo, about 32kph in a group. On gravel, I’m looking at much more like 20kph (averaged 21.4 in a semi-competitive event). I always bank on losing about 1/3 of my speed off-road. But it’s hugely terrain dependent.

Indeed, while I’m generalising and can’t speak from experience, there seems to be a lot more of what I’d call ‘good quality dirt road’ in the US events, where a loss of more like 20% would seem more expected.

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My road average would be similar. I looked up past gravel events in the 100-160 km range, including Unbound 100 and my average speed is about 23 km. The events I have done have reasonable but not “western USA” elevation profiles that you see in Utah, Colorado or California. The average speed would likely be higher but most courses have some tricked out/gimmicky hike a bikes or mud slogs that drop the average speed.

Western US events…
Wild Horse 75 miles 100% gravel with about 4,700 feet elevation gain 16.4 mph
Crusher 70 miles 80% gravel with about 9,200 feet elevation gain 13.1 mph

I don’t think average speed is a good metric; its too dependent upon the following factors:

  1. surface type, large rocks, deep sand, washboarding, etc are all much slower than hard pack dirt, yet all quality as “gravel”

  2. elevation gain and the length and grade of climbing.

  3. Group dynamics. The draft is real. Get yourself into a group of riders stronger than you are who are willing to let you skip your tuns at the front, and you’ll go really fast.

If you want to have a sense of the competition, I’d try to compare w/kg.

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Gravel is considered anything that is not paved. I have done gravel races primarily on gravel roads where a road bike would have been fine. I have also done gravel races with sectors where you can hardly discern where the “road” is (picture is not mine). I generally average 19-20 mph on road, I averaged 14 for this race. I would say if you are trying to only finish the event, its more about whether you can bike for the time necessary to finish. In that sense, if you can ride for 10 hours, an event that takes 10 hours for the average person should be fine. Also, if you do any racing you will most likely be in the top half of fitness at any given event. A lot of people sign up for long gravel events to test themselves.


I’ve done Heck a couple of times (photo above). Those unmaintained snowmobile sectors are on the extreme end of what I’d do on a drop-bar bike. That withstanding, I think 12-16 mph is the norm for that race (the majority of it is good gravel and rough forest service road).