Science Questions

What would it be like to cycle on the moon?

Sun, 19th Apr 2009

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Alex asked:

What would it be like to cycle on the moon?


Dave - There are a couple of differences between the moon and the Earth.  One of them is that there’s no atmosphere so you could cycle far faster and wouldn’t get slowed down by air resistance.  The other big difference is gravity.  Gravity on the moon is about a sixth as strong on the moon as it is on the Earth.  As far as I can work out basically that means if you’re cycling on the moon at 20 miles an hour it’s the equivalent to cycling on the Earth six times faster but in slow motion.  So it would be the equivalent of cycling on the earth at 120 miles an hour but in slow motion.

Chris - I don’t get that, what do you mean?

Dave - If you were cycling on Earth at 120 miles an hour and hit a small bump you’re going to fly up into the air.  The same thing would happen on the moon but at 20 miles an hour if you hit any bumps you’d fly up into the air.

Chris - You’d do that thing like in ET where he bicycles in the air.  You’d just have your feet going round on the pedals?  But you’d go farther for quite a while?

Dave - For quite a while, the same sort of distance if you were doing 120 miles an hour.  Also if you’re doing 120 miles an hour and you’re trying to turn around a sharp corner you wouldn’t have as much grip so you’d slide and fall over.  The same thing would happen on the moon: there’s less gravity so there’s less friction so if you tried to go round a corner at 20 miles an hour you’re going to have to do it very gently otherwise you’d slip and fall over.


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Alex W asked the Naked Scientists: I would like to ask the naked scientists how would cycling on the moon be different to cycling on earth? Best regards, Alex What do you think? Alex W , Mon, 6th Apr 2009

Considering the space suit you'd need to wear, it would be rather taxing, not to mention, very dusty. Ethos, Mon, 6th Apr 2009

You'd bounce around and probably skid a lot too (not enough weight to give good grip).
techmind, Tue, 7th Apr 2009

There'd be a lot less traffic and you wouldn't have to worry about the weather. LeeE, Tue, 7th Apr 2009

You would probably find yourself floating up off the ground after a moment of traction, and having to wait to come back down again. I had a similar experience riding around shoulder deep in floodwaters when i was a kid, good fun Madidus_Scientia, Wed, 8th Apr 2009

You'd never need to use low gears for a start.
The tyres would need very little air in them.
The bike would never go rusty but you might get a lot of dust in the bearings.
On a smooth road it would be pretty agreeable, once you had learned to adjust your technique. lyner, Wed, 8th Apr 2009

MOONtain Biking Emily Taylor, Wed, 26th Aug 2015

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