That Demoralizing Wind

windyI really enjoyed my ride to the air show several days ago, except for the stiff headwind I found myself fighting on the way back. I hate wind even worse than I hate hills. Actually, I don’t hate hills — I just don’t do very well with them. But the wind is another story.

Part of my problem with the wind is my size. People in my bike club, even riders much faster than me, love to draft me on group rides, because I do such a great job of shielding them from the wind. That, of course, is what causes me big problems when I’m on my own. I’m just this human sail who finds himself slowing rapidly when I’m riding into the wind.

The problem was worse on the weekend ride, because I had miscalculated and picked a route into the wind that was at least twice as long as it would have been had I just retraced the route I took on the way out. It seemed like it would never end. Other riding-related maladies popped up as well. My bum started to pain me, and I was wearing my favorite pair of shorts. I started feeling some soreness in my lower back. It wasn’t a lot of fun.

I probably did everything wrong going into the headwind. I stayed on the hoods, for starters. Everything I’ve read says you get into the drops into a headwind, to make yourself smaller and more aerodynamic. And I committed the real non-no — I shifted into an easier gear. What you’re supposed to do is shift into a harder gear to force you to pedal harder and maintain your speed.

I even let the wind get the best of me, and stopped at the side of the road for a few minutes, to eat some fig bars and drink mass quantities of water. But mainly to rest. I always feels rejuvenated when starting off after a break, but in the wind Saturday, that feeling lasted maybe a minute.

As I got nearer to the end of the ride, I encountered some rollers again. But by this time, the wind was at my back and I could pedal up them without losing much momentum. Hills are a challenge for me. Wind is a chore, an adversary, a powerful foe.

Well, there’s only one way to deal with it. I have to tackle it head on. We’re having a particularly windy spring this year, and I’ll be looking for a stiff headwind on my upcoming rides. Maybe by the end of the summer, I’ll have the same attitude toward the wind as I do toward hills: tough, but doable.

Windy Day on the Bike

stock-footage-texas-flag-blowing-in-the-windAfter some beautiful weather earlier this week, a nasty front moved in. The forecast called for a “Wind Advisory,” with winds between 20-30 mph, gusting to 40. That’s some pretty heavy-duty stuff. A lot of folks I see online in our club Yahoo group posted that they were skipping a ride, because of the wind conditions.

But, a few daunting souls decided to give it a go. I shook my head, and gave it a pass.

That is, I did until my wife chimed in, “I want a bike ride today.”

To say I was surprised would be an understatement. She hates riding in the wind. But work-related stress was taking its toll, and getting outside, even for a short ride, would be good for her. I told her I would join her, but wanted to wait until it warmed up just a bit.

Our house is on a curved residential street, and is mostly shielded from strong winds. If we really want to get a feel for it, we have to look at the tops of the trees a couple of blocks over to see how much they’re blowing.

“I have a hunch that we’ll really feel it when we get off this block,” she said. I nodded agreement.

We weren’t disappointed. The wind did smack us, but for the first part of our ride, it smacked us in the back. We zoomed down a small hill to the first stoplight, topping 28 mph without even pedaling.

It wasn’t until we made a right turn another mile up the road that the wind hit us with force — from the side. I hate crosswinds, but this one seemed mostly manageable.

We were only going on a short route this day — about a nine-mile round trip. Usually, when we ride it together, I continue on when she finishes. I wasn’t going to do that this time.

Sure enough, when we made the turnaround halfway out, we got smacked by the wind again. This time, it was quartering head-on. All of a sudden, our ride turned into hard work. The worst part came during one of my favorite stretches. It’s a gentle downhill for about a half-mile. This time, instead of hitting 27 mph as I usually do, I had to shift into the small chain ring and struggle against the strong north wind.

I finally got to the stoplight, and waited for Pat. As I look across the intersection, there were four members of my club, returning from their morning hill ride. We waved at each other, and I wondered how tough it must have been for them on the hills.

“How many times did you nearly get blown off your bike?” I asked Pat, when she caught up to me.

“Oh, twice,” she said.

“Three times for me,” I responded.

Back home, we were glad to get the bikes in the shelter of the garage. But the ride had been worth it.

“Oh, that feels better!” said Pat.

It might have been a tough ride, but as one of the guys on the hill ride said, rides under these conditions just make all the other days easier.

Thankful for Cycling

“Oh, I need this,” cooed Pat, as we headed out from home on a Sunday morning ride.

“This” was a bike ride. We’d just gotten home late last night from four days on the road for Thanksgiving. It was great. We stayed with our son and daughter-in-law and our brand new grandson — our first grandchild. So, we had lots of time for family bonding, lots of time sitting around watching their 70-inch TV screen (some action scenes made Pat nauseous), and lots of time eating more than we should have. It was great.

I got out for a couple of walks. The first day we were there, I set out to circle a large soccer-baseball complex near their house, and found that there was no quick way to do it. I wound up walking about four miles, and in the unseasonably mild Minnesota weather, I was soaked through with sweat when I got home.

Saturday’s weather was more seasonal. I walked a little over a mile to see a bald eagle nest near their house, and was treated to the sight of two eagles — one that flew about 50 yards from tree to tree while I looked on. I was a lot more bundled up for this walk, with temperatures in the low to mid 20s (-3C) and a biting wind. But it was better than the previous day, when we went to the movies. While we walked from the parking lot to the theater, the 25 mph wind cut through our jackets, and without hats or ear protection, we were really cold.

Now, I know hearty northerners ride in these conditions. On my walk to the eagles’ nest, a cyclists passed me, bundled up in a heavy parka, thermal cycling tights, thick gloves, and a skull cap. Tough guy, I thought. But we’ve lived in Austin for 12 years now, and our blood must have thinned out. My personal cycling cutoff is at 40 degrees (4C), and I’m mighty chilly even at that temperature.

So our ride this morning was a pleasure. Even with a brisk south wind, we pedaled easily over to the Veloway and did some laps. Good crowd out there today. Pat has been dealing with some work-related challenges, and she was glad to get on the bike, because ideas and solutions seem to come to her much more readily while cycling than while poring over a computer screen in the home office. As they did today. When I peeled away from her a couple of blocks from the house to continue my ride, she was already eager to get back to try out some things that came to her on the ride.

I tackled some local hills, and found that the pounds I tacked on over the holiday made themselves felt. Okay, I slipped from my careful eating campaign, and I’ll have to renew my efforts in that regard. But to ride in a short-sleeved jersey and shorts on a 65-70 degree (20C) day in November is something I’m thankful for at this time of year.