Riding into the teeth of a headwind for a prolonged period can be a nightmare-like experience. Here’s 6 tips to fight headwind hell.
Forecast & Planning
If strong winds are forecast, plan your route to minimise their effects: Rather than riding an unsheltered road straight into the wind, look for an alternative route traversing the wind direction, preferably with hedge or tree cover. A longer ride with cross winds might be preferable to a shorter, harder (and slower) ride into the wind. If a strong block headwind is unavoidable, try to start with the headwind, reverse your route if necessary. Getting the worst bit out of the way first, while you are fresh is always better.
Grab a Wheel
If you have to ride in to the teeth of a head wind, try not to face it alone. A problem shared is a problem halved… Sharing the headwind with another rider is a great way to lessen the pain and increase the speed. Taking turns to shelter behind is the most effective way for two or more riders to ride into the wind. If you are stronger than the person you are riding with, sit up and give them a bit of extra shelter.
Resistance is Futile
Just like riding up hills the headwind is giving you more resistance and can make you stronger, if it doesn’t kill you… Don’t fall into the trap of being over-geared, pedalling a smaller gear at a higher cadence will keep you fresher and in better shape for the tailwind. A higher cadence will also allow you to be able to overcome gusts of wind easier too. Just like the bonus of a cracking view from the top of the hill, the end of a strong headwind section often offers the reward of a decent bit of tailwind or cross-tailwind to cheer you up.
Wear closer fitting clothing, this can help cut through the headwind more effectively. Use the conditions to think about your riding position. It’s not a headwind – it’s your own personal wind tunnel! So get down on the drops, flat back, tuck your elbows in and crack on. Being more aerodynamic will increase your speed for any given power output. Only one third of the aero drag created by a cyclist is their bike, two-thirds is the rider.
Half Empty / Half Full
Don’t let the headwind break you mentally. Stay strong, the headwind is not the enemy – you can’t defeat nature so work with it. Remember back to your last really good tailwind and remember – what goes around comes around. The headwind won’t last forever…
Headwind V Tailwind
So if you ride a straight road into a headwind, then turn and return with a tailwind – is it best to try harder into the headwind or the tailwind? The experts reckon that going harder into the headwind is the best overall use of power. One reason why is that if most of your time is spent riding into the wind – because you are riding slower. Reducing the amount of time where you are travelling slower is the best use of power. Former World Hour Record Holder and original thinker, Graeme Obree, commented “It’s often not the person that goes the fastest that wins, it’s the person who slows down the least.”
Graeme Obree on his Human Powered Vehicle – The Beastie
Get stuck in and think ‘aero’ as you cut through the wind. It could be worse, check out the Dutch Headwind Championships held each year on the coast in Holland. The race usually attracts a smattering of Dutch pro’ road and MTB riders. All riders have to ride a regulation single speed traditional Dutch bike. The event is held at short notice so organisers can ensure a strong wind, usually gusting up to around 100kph.