Strong winds can make cycling incredibly tough – a headwind creates extra resistance, much like riding up a hill. The difference is that you can usually see the end of a hill, but the headwind will just keep on going until you stop or change direction, resulting in an endurance affair that can at times feel a little soul destroying.
There’s nothing you can do to change the whims of mother nature – even if she happens to blow at you on a day you hoped to achieve a personal best. How you deal with the wind, however, can impact the effect it has on your ride.
Here are some tips to help you – physically and mentally – when you’re riding into a headwind…
Use other riders and draft
Assuming you’re not taking part in an organised time trial or triathlon race, 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. There are various different formations you can use, the most common varieties being a paceline, where one rider sits behind another, and a chain gang where two lines of pairs rotate so that the front rider is almost constantly changing.
A 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 good practice!
The rider on the front will be using significantly more energy than those behind – and therefore if there is a difference of ability and you want to keep the pace as high as possible, the strongest riders should spend the most time on the front. For example, in a three-person group, Ms Mega Watts should spend 40 seconds on the front each time, whilst her friends should do 20 seconds each. On a more relaxed ride feel free to take longer turns, such as 5 and 3 minutes, but be aware that you’ll start to feel the bite of fatigue towards the end of each turn.