Dealing With A Headwind While Bicycle Touring
As someone who has a bit of experience in bicycle touring, I can say that dealing with a strong headwind is one of the biggest problems that I have faced while being on the road. It can actually seem cruel to be faced with a headwind that is so strong and persistent that it constantly tries to push you back to where you had started. If you are bicycling in an area that has a particularly strong headwind, then I advise you to have a set of “things to do” in your head on how to counter it. The idea is not to let it ruin your day.
The following pointers I have learned on my cycle touring trips:
1 ) Keeping your stuff as low to the ground as possible is one of the first things you should do when you are faced with a headwind. The force of the wind increases with height. If you have ever seen a sailboat out in the sea on a calm day you will know what I am saying. You will see that the wind seems to push the sailboat’s top part more than the bottom. Use this principle for your own benefit and try to keep the rear rack of your bicycle as empty as possible. It will make a significant difference to your speed.
2 ) Honing your riding position to suit the headwind is another tip you can use. Keep an eye on your bicycle computer while riding into a headwind and you will notice that small postural changes affect your speed. Try to make your back almost horizontal, but don’t hunch it. Try to keep your elbows in instead of spreading them outwards. Keeping the head still will reduce the side- to- side motion of it. Try all these postures one by one and see which one gives you the maximum speed. Keep to it when you have to deal with a headwind.
3 ) This point is obvious but I will repeat it. Pack as light as you can and reduce the horizontal bulk on your bike. Heavy saddlebags will give the wind a much larger area to work upon and thus decrease your speed and make your progression a lot slower.
4 ) Opt for more than one small saddlebag instead of a big one. When you are fighting a headwind, you will find that it is a lot easier to carry a load of 50 pounds than it is to carry a load of 100 pounds.
5 ) It is a mistake to keep up a set speed when travelling in a wind. Pushing too hard will make you tired a lot earlier and when you wake up after a rest, you will feel the sore muscles pinching. Instead, go down a gear or two and just maintain your normal cadence.
6 ) On the days you know that it’s going to be windy, start on your bike as early in the morning as possible. The reason? Well, the wind is usually at its calmest and slowest during this time of the day, which will help you bike with ease.
7 ) Try to avoid biking during the afternoon between 2 pm and 5 pm. The wind is at its strongest then. Take a break and relax during that time. It will refresh you up a bit and keep you away from the headwind.
8 ) Do not wear a loose- fitted jacket while biking as this will make it more difficult to deal with the headwind. It will act like a sort of a chute, flap loudly and eventually slow you down. Bad idea.
9 ) You can follow the above tips OR you can opt out; i.e., not bike while there’s a strong wind. Either way, you will be good.