It sure is nice cruising down your favorite road at 50km/hr with the wind at your back and barely breaking a sweat. But riding into a block headwind can be a dispiriting and lonely experience. It will sap your morale and, if not given the respect it deserves, your legs, too.
So, apart from spending thousands of dollars on the latest aero frame set, what else can I do to survive a headwind?
One of the first things to consider is position: “In the wind it’s a compromise between getting as long and as aerodynamic as possible but also being able to see the road,” says former pro Roger Hammond. Getting low will reduce your frontal area and tucking in your elbows and hugging into the bars will increase stability.
The next way to save yourself in a solid headwind is to drop down the gears. It is pointless trying to hold that big chainring and slowly grind away, pushing hard and suffering. The best way to ride into wind is spin as much as possible in a low gear. You’re not going to be moving fast anyway, whether or not you hurt yourself pushing a big chainring, so why not save yourself and ride a manageable gear.
Share the workload. Riding in a group, or sitting on a wheel, saves approximately 20 to 30 per cent compared to the effort required to ride at the same speed when exposed to the elements.
The bigger the group, the greater the advantage, as if you’re sharing the workload – as you should – you will have a longer break in the bunch after doing your turn on the front.
Make sure your clothing is tight-fitting and do up any zips so that your jacket cannot inflate and create even more resistance. You don’t want to create a sail effect, billowing in the wind.
Plan ahead. If you can, take the option to start your ride against the headwind so that you’re blown back towards home when you turn around. Alternatively, if you ride with the wind on your way out, you can get rather far with little effort. If you end up going further than you normally would, you don’t have any choice but to take the hard way home.