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Echelons and you: How to ride in crosswinds

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Headwinds are tough, tailwinds are great, and crosswinds are tricky. Here’s a guide to mastering them and turning them to your advantage.

The principle of an echelon is based on the fact that when the wind is coming at you from the side, the best place to get a draft from the rider ahead of you is diagonally behind him on the leeward side.

One of the challenging aspects of riding in an echelon is that the crosswind makes it difficult to hold a straight line as you head down the road.

When riding in crosswinds make sure you keep a firm grip of your handlebars. You might even want to adopt a more stable riding position by dropping down deeper over the bars and coming a little further forward on your saddle.

If you are riding into a headwind and you know there is a left hand corner coming up, you know it’ll be a crosswind in a second so make sure you put yourself in the right spot to avoid being caught on the outside.

When you’re riding with others, and you’re not leading the group, try to ride behind and slightly off to the sheltered side of the rider in front of you – left or right depending on the wind direction.

Changes in the width of the road also present serious challenges for the riders in an echelon. In a normal paceline through a headwind or tailwind, the width of the road doesn’t affect the number of riders who can benefit from the draft. But in a diagonal paceline, the width of the road dictates the number of riders who can hide from the wind.

If you’re in a perfect echelon on a wide road, where everyone is getting a good draft, and then the road suddenly narrows, the riders who were on the leeward side get stuck riding in a straight line behind the echelon.

Crosswinds can cause a lot of chaos for a group of cyclists. It takes careful and smart positioning to stay out of the wind. In addition as wind direction changes, re-positioning accordingly is equally important. As a consequence strong crosswinds are the perfect opportunity for an attack.