How to make cycling into a headwind easier
All cyclists dislike riding on windy days but you make cycling into a headwind easier with a few techniques. I’m lucky that my hometown of Sydney does not have a lot of windy weather but there are days when it’s blowing hard and I still choose to ride my bike.
Here are some tips to help you that I’ve borrowed from the now sadly defunct website Total Women’s Cycling.
Use other riders and draft
Unless you’re taking part in an organised time trial or triathlon, and there are other riders around you, there’s no reason not to utilise the strongest cyclists to beat the wind.
Sitting behind another rider shelters you from the worst of the wind, and makes pedalling much easier.
A single paceline is the simplest option to adopt. It’s best to agree with fellow riders that you’re going to work together – just sitting on someone’s wheel without communication first is generally not considered polite! The rider on the front will be using significantly more energy than those behind so if there is a difference in ability, the strongest riders should spend the most time on the front.
Get low and small
The main problem when cycling into a headwind is an increased wind resistance. The key way to reduce this resistance is to cut down on your wind drag. Anything you can do to reduce your frontal area is a bonus – if you’re on a road bike, get onto the drops, and if you’re not, keep your body low and your elbows in.
Another way to reduce your frontal area is to reduce any excess material that will otherwise be flapping in the wind.
It sounds insignificant, but in a severe headwind, you will really notice the difference if you allow a jacket or gilet to blow around. If you know it’s going to be windy, opt for closer fitting kit. If you find you get blasted whilst out, zip up the zips right to the top and remove any clothing you don’t need.
Use your gears wisely
If you’re already struggling with a headwind, riding your normal gear is probably not a good idea. If you have a long slog into the wind ahead of you click into a gear that is easier to pedal. And when you turn for home with a tailwind you can use a bigger gear than normal to feel like you’re flying!
Plan your ride
Check the weather forecast including wind direction before you leave home and plan accordingly. If you’re riding a loop, you’d probably rather start out riding into a headwind, and then enjoy the easy push back of a tailwind on the way home.
Adapt your expectations
Half of the battle when you’re faced with a long stretch of headwind is in your head. It can be disheartening to be riding twice as hard as normal, yet going twice as slowly.
Remember that the problem is the wind, not you. Don’t expect to ride as far or as fast as you would on a still day, and keep working towards small milestones – the next telegraph pole, street sign or a particular parked car. Keep calm, and keep pedalling.