Some weather conditions are simply not fun to ride in. As cyclists, windy days are one of the worst. Having spent plenty of days battling a headwind on a ‘get out for a spin’ type of ride, we put together a few basic tips which we use at AATR to help us through cycling in the wind either on solo or small group rides.
Plan your route!
If you’re heading out for a ride of reasonable length, check the weather forecast and wind direction for the duration of the ride you are planning to do. The sensible thing to do when possible, is to head into the wind for the outbound part of your ride whilst you are feeling fresh and your legs are strong. That way, assuming the wind doesn’t change, you can enjoy the tailwind on the return. This being said though, always use your judgement before heading out in the first place. Sometimes it’s just not worth taking the risk in high winds.
Appreciate the tailwind!
If you decide to ride out with the tailwind instead of an energy zapping headwind, make the most of it. Unless you are planning to go and smash segments on Strava, make the most of the tailwind. Find a mid-level gear and cadence and spin the pedals, don’t push them. Free-wheel where possible. Save your energy & legs for the headwind on the return.
Look! Don’t just listen!
Being alert and aware to what is around you is absolutely paramount when cycling in any weather conditions on the road and even more so if you are out riding solo. Listening out for traffic is almost automatic but on a blustery day, sounds will be hidden and distorted by the blowing wind, regardless of the direction. A regular glance over your shoulder will let you see if there are any vehicles coming up behind you or waiting to overtake.
Cycling into a headwind can be both physically and mentally testing. But adjusting your ride position could be helpful. Thinking along the lines of a time-trial rider, holding onto the hoods or drops, lean forward and down. Bend your elbows and tuck them in. This position will help you get low and narrow which will help reduce your wind resistance. It will also put more body weight over the bike and steady the front wheel.
Give yourself room!
Being caught out by a sudden crosswind can be scary stuff. If you are cycling in such conditions, you should not only be prepared for sudden gusts, but you should give yourself enough room for evasive maneuvers. We don’t mean you should be cycling in the middle of the road – just in case. But try not to cycle too close to the curb or hedgerow for example. Whilst hedgerows and buildings can provide shelter, a sudden gust of wind from the wrong direction could land you in a ditch or the gutter.
Keep it steady!
Choose a mid-range gearing that allows you to keep a steady cadence. A low gearing may be easier on the legs at first but you won’t get very far, very fast. In addition to this, you are likely to expend a lot of energy in the process. Similar is true of riding in a gear that is too high. In a headwind, the main thing is to keep moving and cycling in a headwind will drain your energy quickly – especially riding solo.
Chain Gang Rules!
If you are out on a social ride and riding in a small group, don’t just leave the biggest rider on the front like a windbreak whilst the rest of you tuck in on their wheel for a free ride. Share the load and take it in turns riding on the front. The stronger the headwind you ride in, the shorter your intervals should be on the front to save your energy. Also, if you are riding 2 abreast, make sure you give yourselves plenty of room to manoeuvre should a sudden cross-wind catch you or your wing man (or woman) unaware.
These tips may or may not help you. You may have your own ideas or riding techniques but these work for us. We would ALWAYS recommend you use your best judgement before setting out for a ride. However if you choose to ride, follow these 3 rules and you should get round:
Challenge the headwind, respect the crosswind and always appreciate the tailwind!