Some hints and tips for surviving and enjoying cycling when it’s windy.
Us cyclists have something of a hate-hate relationship with wind. It is the worst sort of weather. We can deal with rain. We can deal with snow. But there’s no hiding from the wind. And for every bit of tailwind we experience, we seemingly experience twice as many headwinds – at least.
There’s no hiding from the wind. Well, there is. You can stay at home and get your turbo trainer out. You can possibly even race complete strangers and robots on an imaginary island whilst wearing your denim jeans.
But there’s no replacement for the joy/misery of real world windy cycling.
What’s good about cycling in wind?
You can get loads of PRs and KOMs on Strava. Check the weather forecast (or look out of your window and see which way the trees are bending if you want an actually useful indicator) and then plot a bike route that takes in some Strava segments that will have a tailwind.
For mountain bikers, one of the most intense experiences is to be at the top of a mountain in high winds. It’s dangerous. It’s harsh. It’s stupid. It’s hilarious. It’s memorable.
Another MTB bonus about high winds is that it’s an excuse to ‘wimp out’ and go to a trail centre. Stay in the trees out of the gales (watch out for any trees being blown over, mind). Have a quick lap of the blue or red route and then chill out – or warm up – in the cafe. How very civilised.
For road cyclists it’s an excuse to break out/purchase some aero kit! Why not buy an aero bike? (okay, apart from the fact that it’ll cost you a fair bit of money). Truth be told, aero kit is only really going to help deal with straight-on head winds. A lot of aero kit is arguably more prone to crosswind issues. Ah well.
How to cope with the wind
Aero hardware and bikes may be a dubious benefit in blustery weather but aero clothing is a good idea. Close fitting clothing will be faster, quieter and more comfortable.
If it’s just windy and not rainy then lightweight windproof jackets are a must have. They breathe better than waterproof jackets and are usually more supple and comfy too.
If you’re riding in a group you can have an easier – and even strangely rewarding – experience when riding in the wind. It’s the ideal time to practice your drafting and slipstreaming technique.
Ride about six inches behind the rider in front’s rear wheel. If it’s really unpredictable weather then ride slightly to the side of the wheel in front too – just in case. Never overlap!
Take it in turns to be at the front. But also keep an eye on anyone else who may be really struggling and maybe allow them to forego or shorten their turn up front.
If your group is feeling up for it you can try to shape your little peloton to deal with crosswinds too. Yes, this means I now get to show the famous ‘cyclists in sidewinds’ graphic from Kraftwerk…
What else can you do?
Get on the drops. This makes you massively more aerodynamic. It’s what the drops are there for really.
Keep your elbows in.
Plan a lower level and/or shorter route than you would perhaps normally do. Riding in wind is much more arduous so it makes sense to reduce the burden. You’ll still be just as knackered!
Embrace it. Get out there. JFDI.
Check out this excellent video of Dutch headwind cycling. The ‘death whimper’ and drool at 1m02s is brilliant.