Cycling into wind starts with realising that in most cases EVERY bike ride you’ll ever do will be affected by the wind to some degree. On a bike ride the wind will most likely be:
- A headwind – cycling ‘head-on’ into wind.
- A tailwind – cycling with wind ‘on your back’, i.e: pushing you along
- A cross-wind – when wind buffers you from one side or the other, usually with a headwind or tailwind bias!
If you live in a windy region – just like here in Scotland, where most days it’s windy, then you have to think about planning your bike rides appropriately. What I do is check the wind direction before I go out on the bike. I then plan my route to be cycling INTO wind for the first half and cycling with the wind on my back on the second half.
Cycling the first half of you bike ride into wind has some key benefits:
1. Helps tired legs on second half of the bike ride.
2. Helps prevent you getting ‘cold’ on the return leg home. Most times when cycling into a headwind it’s a lot cooler and in winter this could be critical to whether you even get home or not!
3. Helps you conserve energies when tired – cycling straight into a headwind all the way home can sap a huge amount of energy from you. For this reason, if you’ve got a long ride planned, it is best to ‘think ahead’ about the wind direction.
4. Helps you mentally get through a long training ride by knowing the wind will turn at about half way and things ‘should be’ a little easier!
I have a sportive or bike tour and there’s no way of controlling the route vs the wind direction:
In which case, think about the wind direction before setting off. Think about where the wind will aid you on route and where it will be against you. By thinking ahead like this you will know what to expect and can tailor your energies to meet the extra demands.
How best should I cycle through a headwind?
1. Get your head down low by getting into the drop position: be mindful that you can still see where you are going but your aim is to be as ‘aerodynamic’ as you can. Remain seated as much as you can, even up steep hills – standing up is only going to set you up as a ‘sail’..!
2. Change up to a bigger gear and keep pushing through it. The natural tendency is to change down to a lower gear, but this will only cause you to lose more speed.
3. Keep mentally strong by focusing on the moment you’re in! Try not to react to the situation by getting negative, just know that to keep moving forward at a goodly pace you need to ‘keep going’ – so keep positive!
4. Shelter behind other riders if you can. In cycling this is called “drafting”, although in windy conditions it can also be called “sheltering”.
5. If practical, ride as close as you can to hedges along the roadside. For example, if the wind is a cross-wind buffering you from the right, then ride up close to obstacles along your right side as you ride. You can save much ‘buffering’ by riding like this as the obstacles give you a partial shelter.
Cycling hills and descents when it’s hilly:
When you are faced with a gale force wind up a hill, it makes cycling particularly tough! Hang in there and keep going, even if it’s slow. Sometimes cycling under these conditions can be ‘quite the worst’ – but can actually be some of the best biking experiences you’ll ever have – embrace it!
Descending a hill needs the utmost care when cycling with a wind. The faster you descend with a ‘cross-wind’ the higher the probability you can be blown off the road with the bike! Descend much slower than usual when there’s a wind – even a headwind or a tailwind.
When not to cycle when it’s windy…
Windy conditions need caution obviously if the wind is too strong. You have to watch for tree branches falling or lying in the road…and the risk of being pushed into traffic as you cycle. I remember cancelling some of my early morning commutes due to high winds – common sense prevails.
Don’t get demoralised riding your bike on a windy day! Instead, think about how to get the most out of the ride by planning ahead and checking the wind direction. If you are caught in a screaming headwind in an event just get your head down (within safe reasons) and always remind yourself that you are experiencing what every other cyclist is experiencing – so embrace and enjoy your windy experience!
Remember if you enjoyed this post to share it with your cycle pals and I look forward to reading your comments or answering any questions.