The 'Goldilocks' temperature for riding

We all love a nice bike ride in the summer sun. But how hot is ‘too hot’?

It’s a question that’s been on our minds for some time. As you would imagine, the number of people riding bikes tends to drop during the cold and rainy winter season. And if the temperature rises a bit during the winter season, we tend to see more riders seizing the moment and popping back on the pedals.

But what about summer? We decided to investigate if there is a ‘goldilocks’ temperature where we see the most riders out and about. Not too cold, not too hot.

And the answer appears to be… yes!

What we did

We analysed electronic bike counter data from a bridge on the Gardiners Creek Trail in Melbourne. The data was collected across the summer between January 1st-March 31st in 2021.

We then compared the number of bikes counted with the recorded temperature for that day.

We chose to separate the ‘holiday period’ (Jan 1st-Jan 10th) from the ‘working period’ (Jan 11th – March 31st), as we anticipated many people would be out of town for the holidays.

What we found

In the graph above, you can think of each data point as a single day. Data points above the line represent a day where there were more riders than average, and points below the line are a day where there were less riders than average.

If you follow the grey arrow in the graph, you can see that there more riders than usual when the daily temperature climbs towards 20 degrees.

When the daily temperature is above 30 degrees, we start to see less riders than usual.

There is a sweet spot in between these up and down trends. The 'Goldilocks temperature', where we see the most people riding, is when the temperature is between 22.5 and 27.5 degrees.

You will see that there are days where the number of riders are way down. For example, there are two days where the temperature is 35 and 40 degrees, and the number of riders drops by half the average! It is likely that a combination of high temperature and possibly associated storm activity dissuaded people from heading out for a ride.

You can also see that during the ‘holiday period’ the numbers are way down. This is probably because many people were indeed out of town on holiday, or doing other non-bike activities.

So there you have it! There does appear to be a relationship between the daily temperature and people's riding habits, a ‘Goldilocks temperature’. Of course, there are other environmental factors that may influence the choice to ride, such as wind, cloud cover, and of course rain. Nevertheless, our data above paints a interesting picture of how riders are swayed by the sun.   

Stay safe this summer

Remember, when you are out in hot weather you need to take care of yourself.

  • Stay hydrated
  • Apply (and reapply) sun screen that is SPF50+
  • Cover as much of our skin as possible
  • Opt for white or light-coloured clothing, which is most effective at blocking UV rays
  • Wear a bike cap under your helmet
  • Plan out your ride, noting where rest areas and toilets are along the route.
  • Have your mobile phone handy in case of an emergency
  • Be sure to check for fire danger ratings in the areas you plan to ride

You can find out more here.

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