A headwind need not sabotage your ride if you know how to handle it...
Motivation is your biggest must have when you set out for a ride, and nothing will slam that out of you faster than pointing into a headwind.
While the weather is something a little out of our league to tamper with there are some ways we know to reduce the effects of riding in windy weather or even seize the moment and turn it into an advantage (that will get your motivation back!).
Wear the right gear
Spring and Autumn are the most common seasons for strong winds. These are also the most temperamental of seasons for sudden showers, sudden drastic temperature changes and squalls that come out of nowhere.
A base layer is your best protection from sweat and cold winds.
You are best to choose a lightweight kit and wear or pack leg and arm warmers in case things take a turn for the worst.
Embrace the advantage
A strong headwind can really boost your training ride benefits. Think of it like a hill climb, only without the hill. It will give your core a bigger workout and have you subtly correcting your balance often. You won’t be slacking off on this ride…until you turn for home.
Speaking of which, a bit of research will allow you to plan a route where you can give yourself a good chance of picking up a tailwind on the return leg so you can rest easy after that intense slog.
Roads that are steep, winding or busy with traffic can be a hazard if there are high winds. You can be caught off-guard if a blocked wind suddenly is released on you, jutting you sideways or even knocking you off or over into potentially harmful situations.
- Check ahead.
If your ride is difficult or there are wind hazards always check the weather forecast before you ride. There are some really accurate online weather information sites or apps like Dark Sky. From there you can see what the wind conditions are like and what the estimated duration might be.
Once you are armed with the knowledge you can determine the best course of action:
- Continue as planned
- Change your route to something less treacherous
- postpone or delay until the worse of the wind passes
The most important thing with weather warnings is to take them seriously. It’s better to play it safe and have it fizzle out than to hope for the best and be caught in a dangerous situation. This is especially the case if you are riding alone and know you will be travelling through spots where phone reception is dicey.
- Stay alert
If you do choose to ride, stay in tune with your environment and check for places where wind changes might catch you. This is especially important on twisty roads but can be equally dangerous when riding through a high-rise CBD.
Keep your focus on the road and know that crosswinds might be waiting for you when you change direction or enter a cleared area.
- Ride safe, not fast
High winds are no time to be breaking records, or you might find you are breaking other things instead so leave the aero wheels at home, that means both of them, riding with just the back aero hoop is still a big risk as deep section rims are especially susceptible to getting knocked by crosswinds and sudden wind gusts.
On the flats
- Step up your cadence.
High cadence means lower energy output. Peddling quickly also gives you more rapid momentum so when those gusts of wind hit you, you won’t be stopped in your tracks.
- Duck and bunch.
Getting into a good aerodynamic position will help you punch a hole in the wind and slip through more easily. This is great advice if you are riding solo or if you are rising in a group and it’s your turn at the front. It’s important that you find a position that is comfortable for you but overall, the best method is to ride in the drops, tuck into the bar and flatten your back.
- Gather your riding buddies.
Group riding in windy weather is the perfect way to take the bluster down a notch. Non-windy drafting reduces drag by as much as 30 percent, although this amount is even higher when you are cycling into the wind. It’s also a great way to practice and perfect your drafting techniques ready for events.
Make sure you have a big enough group so you can switch up the lead often. Short turns are essential for keeping the energy levels of everyone nice and high.
- Switch to turbo
No matter what you ride it’s always okay to switch to a stationary bike and get your pedal on that way. It’s better than taking unnecessary risk that can strain your muscles or cause injury through accident or stress.
Not on a training ride? Then you’re going to have to tough it out.
In severe weather race organisers won’t allow the event to go ahead. They will always have rider’s safety in mind and make clear calls on what is acceptable weather for racing.
You’ve seen enough bike races to know how this works. If you’re up front tuck in behind the riders ahead of you. You want to be about three rows back. If another team is doing the hard work there is no need for you to help them out, get yourself in the back and rest your legs in the bunch if you can.
Enjoying the ride in any conditions? That’s freedom!