Living in rural Pennsylvania, I often see families in their horses and buggies out for a Sunday drive or heading to church. When the horse is gently cantering, I can easily pass by on my bicycle as everyone smiles and waves. However, horses are certainly much larger than I am on my bike. So, can they go faster, or…
Are bicycles really faster than horses?
The average horse is faster than the average cyclist on a short sprint. However, when riding long distances, the cyclist has greater endurance and faster speed. In addition, a horse may be faster over flat terrain, but a cyclist has a great advantage riding up and down hills.
That’s the general answer, but getting into the details is more fun 🙂
So make sure you check out the specific speeds and horse vs. cyclist scenarios we’ll cover below.
Can a Cyclist Outrun a Horse?
A cyclist might be able to outrun a horse, but they might not! It all depends on the horse, the cyclist, and the type of terrain, as well. For example, can a cyclist outrun a horse…
Over a Short Distance?
A professional cyclist sprinting against a professional racehorse could be a fierce race which tops out at speeds of 40 to 50 mph in a short sprint. However, an amateur horse could gallop at about 25 to 30 mph for a short distance, while a well-trained amateur cyclist could probably only achieve speeds of 20 to 25 mph.
In summary, over a short distance a horse and a cyclist would be either a close race, or would lean in favor of the horse.
Over a Long Distance?
Both professional and amateur cyclists can outpace an average horse over long distances. According to my research, horses typically don’t go further than around 40 to 50 miles in a day, and they’ll keep their speed closer to 8 to 10 mph. An average cyclist, though, should be able to keep their pace over 12 to 15 mph for this long of a ride.
On Flat Terrain?
Flat terrain is anyone’s guess as to who is faster, a horse or a cyclist, because it depends on the conditioning of the person or animal and on the length of the ride. An average cyclist riding at a speed of about 15 mph can keep pace with a healthy trotting horse.
On Hilly Terrain?
Cyclists really shine on hilly terrain. Whereas horses have a much harder time on hilly terrain due to their anatomy. Therefore, they must go slower, and it is a rider’s responsibility to help their horse go slower, as well.
For example, a horse must carefully walk down a steep descent, while a cyclist can easily fly down at over 40 mph.
How Fast can Horses Run?
The fastest horse, named the Quarter Horse, was clocked at a record-breaking top speed of 55 mph. However, in racing, thoroughbreds have been recorded at 44 mph. These are exceptional speeds, though, and the average horse’s gallop will be somewhere between 25 to 30 mph (40 to 48 km/h). Even though a horse can reach speeds of 30 mph, it can only sustain it for 2 to 2.5 miles.
On the other hand, a horse will canter between 10 to 17 mph (16 to 27 km/h). Horses can canter a longer distance than they can gallop. For example, between 1 and 5 miles at a time.
At a slower trot, horses can move about eight mph and keep that speed for about 5 hours in one day.
Horses should never run up or down hills, because of how their legs and bodies are shaped, it is more difficult for a horse to walk downhill. Also, a person can run faster than a horse on a descent!
|Fastest horse||55 mph||Short distance|
|Racehorses||44 mph||Short distance|
|Average Gallop||25 – 30 mph||2 to 2.5 miles|
|Canter or Trot||10 – 17 mph||1 to 5 miles|
|Walk||8 mph||5 hours|
How Fast are Bicycles
The cyclist’s speed depends on a variety of factors, including their fitness level and the type and weight of the bike they are riding. However, most people, even beginners, can easily ride at 10 to 12 mph for a distance of 10 to 15 miles.
With just a little experience, you might find a cyclist can go for 20 to 30 miles with an average speed of 15 to 16 mph. Once a cyclist has more experience, they will find they can ride for a distance of 40 miles at a pace of somewhere between 16 to 19 mph. Eventually, someone who trains hard could probably average 20 to 24 mph for a longer distance of 50 to 60 miles on flat or rolling terrain.
For instance, a good cyclist looking to ride 100 miles would take 6 or 7 hours of riding if they sustained a pace of about 15 mph. If you want to learn more, read our separate article about long bike rides.
And as a side note about hilly terrain: cyclists, even amateurs, can reach speeds anywhere from 30 to 50 mph on a steep descent.
Now, if we’re talking about the pros, we’re on to a different story altogether. In the pro-peloton, pro cyclists can easily hit and sustain speeds of 25 to 28 mph on flat ground. For example, in 2019, Egan Bernal (Columbia) won the Tour de France with an average speed of 25.2 mph – for 2,091.4 miles!
Professional cyclists can reach sprint speeds of up to 40 to 50 mph for 10 to 20 seconds on flat terrain.
|Type of Pace||Speed||Distance|
|Egan Bernal at 2019 TDF||25.2||2091.4 miles|
|A Level Rider||20 to 24 mph||50 to 60 miles|
|B Level Rider||15 to 17 mph||30 to 40 miles|
|C Level Rider||14 – 15 mph||10 to 20 miles|
|D Level Rider||10 to 12 mph||10 miles|
How Far Can a Horse Travel in a Day
A well-trained horse that is an endurance competitor could travel 100 miles in a single day. On the other hand, more typical trail horses could travel up to 50 or 60 miles in a day at the fast walk speed, as long as they break for food, water, and some cooldown time afterward, but they could not do it this day after day.
According to animalhow.com, an average well-conditioned horse could travel about 5 hours at 8 miles per hour, so about 40 miles in one day.
On the other hand, the record for a horse and rider traveling 100 miles is a fantastic 5:45:44. Yousuf Ahmad Al Belushi accomplished this feat with his 11-year-old gelding, Jayhal Shazal. Their average was 17 mph!
How Far a Bicycle Travel in a Day
How far a cyclist can travel in a day depends on a couple of factors. First, it depends on the amount of daylight you have. It is much safer to ride a bike during daylight hours than at night! So, in the summer, you could travel much longer than in the winter because more daylight is available.
Next, you need to know the speed of the cyclist. If an average cyclist were to ride for 8 hours in a single day, they could probably cover around 120 miles or a little more. Of course, this depends on conditioning and how long the athlete can stay on the bike.
In November 2020, an amateur cyclist named Jonathan Shubert set a 100-mile cycling record with a personal best time of 2 hours, 57 minutes, and 58 seconds. He rode from Milton Keynes to Norwich at an average speed of 33.8mph.
Do Horses Like Bicycles?
Every time I have passed a horse and rider or a horse and buggy while riding my bicycle, the interaction went smoothly, the folks were friendly, and the horses were unconcerned with my presence. Horses are beautiful and amazing creatures. However, some horses can spook very easily.
The last thing you want to do when riding a bicycle is to spook a horse or have a bike spook your horse. This can cause the horse to throw its rider, take off running, or even run into the cyclist.
Never attempt to race a horse on a bike! If you are riding and you must pass a horse, gently greet the rider as you approach behind. Only pass if you can do so carefully, giving the horse and rider plenty of room. Good manners and mutual respect will go a long way to keeping the horse, the bike, and riders safe and happy.