I’ve had a question or two from readers about the name of the blog — Bike Noob. Since I’ve been riding for well over a year, is it realistic to still consider myself a newbie? But I still manage to come up with newbie questions, and I’ve got one for you today. First, some background.
I had a great ride today. The weather turned out to be even nicer than had been forecast. I took off for Southwest Parkway, because I wanted to get in a hillier ride than I have been lately.
But I wound up cutting the ride short. I had planned to go about five miles farther, but I was bothered by one factor: the wind.
It came out of the southeast, at a steady 10 mph. But the gusts were much higher, maybe even 30. I’ve noticed on several recent rides in strong wind that I start feeling uneasy when I’m going downhill in a stiff crosswind or a quartering wind. The bike starts to feel unstable.
There’s no good reason for this. I do the ABC Quick Check before each ride, so I know my tires are at optimum pressure, the quick releases are tight, and the wheels are rolling true. So I don’t think it’s the bike.
I used to look forward to downhills. I’d pedal like mad to see how fast I could crank up the bike. Today though, I coasted, and even feathered the brakes to keep the speed in what I felt would be a controllable zone. My top speed was 32 mph, and under other circumstances I could have topped 35 or 36 along these same stretches of road.
This is a different sensation than getting hit by a stiff crosswind gust that threatens to knock you over. Today, I got the sensation that the bike would go out of control before I was knocked over.
Finally, on a nice downhill stretch heading west, the sensation got to be too much. The wind was hitting me on the left side. I got that uneasy feeling, and decided to bag it.
By the way, I still considered this a good ride. The hills made me work hard, and physically, I felt good throughout and afterward.
I wonder if this feeling is left over from my crashes last fall, which led to some less aggressive riding than I typically did before the crashes. I’ve been riding with a bit more verve in the past couple of weeks, attacking corners and building speed. It’s just the downhills in the wind that are getting to me.
So, loyal Bike Noob readers: Any suggestions on coping with a stiff cross wind? My inquiring mind wants to know.
According to Bicycling Magazine stay relaxed, stiffening up will allow the wind to more easily move you. Get in the drops for more stability and lean slightly into the wind. The stronger the wind, the more you lean. If the wind is coming from the right, ride more to the right and vice versa. Steer by using your body and not by turning the handlebar, moving the bar will make you weave.
This is similar to how motorcyclists ride in the wind.
In windy conditions I do exactly what you did, slow down and ride carefully.
I agree – it’s a great challenge; it makes you work harder, and it gives you a chance to build some handling skills.
As noted above, the best thing you can do is relax. When you’re tense and stiff, any slight movement will be translated to the bike. Recognize that the winds going to push you around a little and focus on not overcompensating for the push. You always hear to stay low in the drops, but I actually think I can relax better and maintain better control in windy cross winds by riding on the hoods. At my age, that may be a flexibility issue.
I’m getting to the point where I don’t really mind riding in the wind as much as I did in the past. I think I’ve learned to just adjust my expectations and go with it.
I’ve fought the wind for the last few years I’ve lived in South Texas, so my $0.02 might actually be worth..oh…$0.03. As far as the drops go, I mainly think of it as a way to reduce the amount of surface area catching the wind. It helps both with effort, and with stability. One thing I’ve learned is the effect of passing vehicles is exaggerated when it is windy. Be careful when a large truck passes you.