Bicycling is one of the most popular and versatile forms of transportation and recreation. One of the common specifications that potential buyers consider is the number of gears a bike has, as this can affect the bike’s speed range and versatility in different terrains. The 21-speed bike, with its broad range of gears, offers a variety of speeds suitable for different terrains, from flat roads to steep mountain trails. Let’s delve into the speed capabilities of a 21-speed bike.

Top Speed Based on Bike Type:

  1. Hybrid Bikes: These are versatile bikes designed for a variety of terrains. For a fit rider, it can reach up to 44 mph (70 km/h) on a downhill with the wind behind.
  2. Mountain Bikes: Typically heavier with knobbier tires, they are built for rough terrains. On a flat road, the top speed might be slightly lower than a hybrid, but with the right conditions, it can still be pretty fast.
  3. Road Bikes: Built for speed and efficiency on tarmac, these can achieve the top-end speeds among the three types, especially with a 21-speed setup.

Factors Influencing Speed:

  1. Fitness Level: Your physical fitness plays a vital role. A more fit and experienced rider can reach and maintain higher speeds.
  2. Bike Type: As mentioned, road bikes are generally faster on roads compared to mountain bikes or hybrids.
  3. Terrain: Uphill terrains reduce speed, whereas downhill sections can significantly increase it.
  4. Wind Conditions: Tailwind can aid in achieving higher speeds, while headwind can significantly reduce it.

Expected Speeds Based on Fitness Levels:

Beginner/Recreational Rider:

  • Top Speed (Short sprints): Up to 25 mph (40 km/h)
  • Average Speed (1hr+ rides): 8-15 mph (12-24 km/h)

Average Rider with Decent Fitness:

  • Top Speed: Up to 36 mph (58 km/h)
  • Average Speed: 17-23 mph (27-37 km/h)

Athlete/Seriously Fit Rider:

  • Top Speed: Over 44 mph (70 km/h)
  • Average Speed: Over 28 mph (45 km/h)


If we’re discussing a typical 21-speed bike, like a hybrid one:

  • Most people might hit up to 36 mph if they try hard.
  • If you’re super fit, you might even go beyond 44 mph.
  • Remember, this isn’t like those fancy racing bikes. Those can go faster because they have extra gears.


Your speed mostly depends on how fit you are:

  • Newbies usually go between 8-15 mph.
  • A regular person might go between 17-23 mph.
  • Those who train a lot can hit 28 mph or even faster!


For mountain bikes:

  • Many can reach 30 mph for a short burst. But 15-20 mph is a more common average.
  • Mountain bikes are usually slower than road bikes because they’re heavier, have thicker tires, and you sit differently. I talked about this in my article called “Are mountain bikes good for roads?”.

Here’s a simple chart comparing the speeds of different 21-speed bikes:

Bike TypeTop Speed (Short sprints)Average Speed (1hr+ rides)
Hybrid Bike35 mph (56 km/h)17-22 mph (27-35 km/h)
Mountain Bike30 mph (48 km/h)15-20 mph (24-32 km/h)
Road Bike42 mph (67 km/h)22-28 mph (35-45 km/h)
the speeds of different 21-speed bikes

Remember, these speeds can change based on the rider and the road conditions. Always be safe when you’re riding!


Think of a 21-speed bike as having 3 big gears in the front and 7 smaller ones in the back. This design is common on more affordable or older bikes.

In simple terms:

  • The front 3 gears are for different situations: climbing hills, normal riding, and going fast downhill.
  • The back 7 gears fine-tune your speed within each front gear.

However, not all combinations give different speeds. Some feel almost the same.

If you’re curious about how these gears work in detail, check out Yellow Jersey’s guide on bike gears.

Nowadays, many new bikes use a 2x setup, with 2 front gears and up to 11 back gears, making them 22-speed. This newer setup gets rid of those nearly-identical gear combinations.


You’ve seen the potential speed of a 21-speed bike. But how does it stand against others?

Here’s the lowdown:

  • For many, a 21-speed bike is more than enough. However, they’re not always the speediest.
  • They’re versatile: good for city rides, uphill, downhill, and even some tours. Plus, they’re often cheaper than super-fast bikes.
  • Keep in mind, while you have 21 gear combinations, it doesn’t mean 21 different speeds. Your actual speed depends on how hard you pedal and the terrain.

If you want the fastest bike out there, consider a specialized road bike.

Compared to an 18-speed bike, a 21-speed is likely faster, unless you’re looking at a modern 2×9 setup.

How to Ride a 21-Speed Bike Easily

When you’re on a bike, you don’t want to pedal too hard or too easily. The solution? Change the bike’s gears! This lets you pedal just right, whether you’re going fast or slow.

The bike has a part called a “derailleur” that changes gears. You control this with “shifters” on the handlebars. Normally, the left shifter works with the front brake and gears, while the right one works with the back brake and gears. When you switch gears, the chain jumps to a different gear size. And remember, always keep pedaling when you’re changing gears!

For uphill rides, use the low gears (from 1 to 7). The easiest one is when you have the smallest gear at the front and the biggest one at the back. This lets you pedal smoothly without much push.

For downhill or fast rides, use the high gears (from 14 to 21). The hardest one is when you have the biggest gear in the front and the smallest one at the back. This will make you push harder when pedaling.

Also, over time, you might need to oil your gears to keep them working smoothly. And remember, always wear a helmet while riding for safety. Enjoy your ride!


a 35-year-old web developer and cycling coach based in Boulder, Colorado. Over the past ten years, my passion for cycling has transformed from a casual hobby into a way of life. As a lover of all things cycling, I am thrilled to share my journey with others who share the same enthusiasm for this incredible sport.