Riding in strong winds can be a big challenge. Besides slowing you to a snail’s pace, it can also become a safety hazard, making it hard to stay upright and steer your bike in a straight line. Use these seven tips for head and crosswinds to make your ride a bit more manageable.
ROTATE WITH YOUR RIDE PARTNERS
Even without a strong head or crosswind, cyclists can conserve up 40% in energy expenditure by drafting behind another cyclist. When winds are strong, riding in a pace line can make a huge difference and give you a big mental break from having to deal with the wind in your face all by yourself. If you have a few ride partners with you, take turns on the front of the pack. Each rider’s pull at the front should be short — 20–30 seconds a turn — to prevent fatigue or burnout.
USE AN ECHELON TECHNIQUE IN CROSSWINDS
Crosswinds can be especially tricky to deal with, and if the winds are strong enough they can be downright dangerous. If you’re riding with two or three (or more) other cyclists, riding in an echelon can help you block some of the wind and make it easier to pedal and steer your bike.
To ride in an echelon, you’ll need to move slightly to the side and behind the rider in front of you. How far behind depends on the angle of the wind, so you’ll need to do your best to find which position blocks the most wind as you ride. If the wind is coming from the left, you’ll ride on the right of the rider at the front and vice versa if the wind is coming from the right. When riding with several cyclists, you’ll rotate turns on the front in a circular pattern.
LEAVE YOUR AEROBIKE AT HOME
While you might not notice a big difference with a headwind, whenever the wind is coming at you from angles, aerodynamic equipment can actually put you at a disadvantage. Wider frames and deep-dish aero wheelsets can make things particularly difficult in crosswinds, giving the wind more to push against. This makes it harder to steer and control your bike, and can slow your speed down even further. For this reason, keep the 50mm and over aero wheels at home and opt for a 25mm set instead. If you’ve got a bike that has smaller, standard tubes as opposed to wider aero tubing, this can also be a better option.
LOWER YOUR CENTER OF GRAVITY
The more upright your position is, the more exposed to the wind you’ll be. A high position with your hands on the bar tops exposes more of your head and chest, slowing you down and forcing you to fight a little harder. To make things a bit easier while also improving your ability to steer and control your bike, lower your center of gravity. Ride with your hands in the drops, bend your elbows to 90 degrees and lower your head toward the handlebars. If a gust of wind starts to push your front wheel around the road, put more downward force through the handlebars to improve your stability. You’ll be surprised by just how much difference these small adjustments can make.
USE A LARGER GEAR AND IGNORE YOUR SPEED
When climbing or pedaling long distances, a high cadence can sometimes be useful to conserve energy and lessen the fatigue in your legs. However, in the wind, a high cadence can make you feel less stable and make it easier for you to lose control of the bike. For this reason, it’s best to use a harder gear and a lower cadence. This also makes it easier to pedal through a hard gust, since short accelerations in a big gear can give you a bit more control.
EXPECT GUSTS OF WIND IN EXPOSED SPOTS
Trees, buildings and other cars can provide some shelter from the wind. The bad news is, whenever there are breaks from these sheltered spots, you’ll become more exposed. The sudden surprise of a big gust in an unsheltered spot can be the most dangerous and has the potential to cause an accident. Awareness of becoming more exposed to the wind in certain areas is essential, and preparing yourself by lowering your position and adjusting your cadence can help keep you safe.
CHANGE YOUR ROUTE WHEN IT’S DANGEROUS
Sometimes no matter what you do, the wind can make it too dangerous to ride. In these instances, pulling off to the side of the road and checking the weather conditions is the best course of action. You may be able to wait it out, or if it is too severe, arrange a ride home. If you’re near the coast or another area that’s exposed, adjusting your route to an area that provides more shelter is also a possibility. But no matter which option you choose, make sure safety is your number 1 priority. Not riding one day is surely a better option than not being able to ride for an extended period of time because you pushed through and ended up taking a tumble.