Thursday, December 12, 2013

updated annual trends in Low-Key Hillclimb turnout

Part-way through the 2013 Low-Key series, I did a blog post on the downturn in attendance versus last year. For completeness, with the series done for the year, I wanted to update that plot.

Here's the numbers through end of 2013. I plot a trend line from the 2009 peak through 2013. There's a loss in average finishers of 6.5% per year, with the rate of loss visibly accelerated the previous two years:

But one change the past two years has been the GPS timed events. These have started out a bit slowly, with Kennedy Fire Trail last year attracting only 45 finishers, still above expectations and still what I'd consider a great success.

Then this year we extended it to two GPS timed events: Portola Valley Hills, week 4, had 69 finishers. Montara Mountain, week 8, had 51 finishers, despite a somewhat remote starting location (at the coast) and a quite challenging dirt climb (too hard for most cyclists to do on a road bike).

So the GPS climbs dragged the numbers down a bit. I plot the turnout for non-GPS climbs here:

The decline is less, down to 4.2% per year.

As enjoyable as the lower stress associated with smaller numbers may have been, with a schedule for next year which is less top-heavy on grade, I'd expect to see the numbers rebound a bit, barring regions trends in the popularity of road cycling.

One relatively constant in the series has been Mount Hamilton on Thanksgiving. There was additionally an October Mt Hamilton to open the 1998 series. Mount Hamilton is a better example than Montebello, perhaps, because we've always been willing to relax the 150 rider limit at Mt Hamilton.

Results from Mount Hamilton also peaked in 2009, but have held fairly steadily since. Finish rates are dependent on weather, however, This year the weather was excellent.

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