Riding in the Wind

Distance: 40.3 miles
Time: 2:01:30
Average Watts: 190 watts
Normative Power: 211 watts
Average Heart Rate: 156 bpm
Total Work: 1,419 kJ
Average Speed: 19.9 mph

Yep, this was one of those rides you do everything you can to average 20.0 mph and it just doesn’t happen. This was my Monday morning ride and it is the foundation for this post on how to ride your bike in the wind…

A Tale of Two Rides

Riding in the wind may be almost as hated by most cyclists as riding up steep inclines or being chased by a dog. I know I used to hate riding in the wind and would use it as an excuse to delay a ride. Truthfully, riding on a windy day and focusing your effort can help you improve your overall speed and endurance.

Personally I ride a lot of out and back routes. That means when there is wind I am riding into it for a significant portion of my ride. I prefer to ride into the wind for the out portion so I can feel the serious speed that comes when you put some push behind your pedals and the wind is at your back. Add a slight downhill and BAM! you have magic.

Monday morning the wind was pretty solid. It was tough enough that by the end of the out portion of this ride my legs were tired. Some of that was residual fatigue from my century on Saturday, but most of it was pedaling through some steep rollers into a headwind. The first 20 miles took me 1:09, which translated into a 17.3 mph average for the distance. My average power was 195 watts and my normative power for this section was 213 watts. That wasn’t my highest effort of the season to date, but it still taxed my legs.

The way back was a totally different story. The power output was really close to the first hour, but I finished the second 20.34 miles in 52 minutes for an average speed of 23.5 mph. My strategy for attacking the hills was way different on the way back. But that is a post for another day…

What I like to do on a windy day is attack the two sections — riding into a headwind and riding with a tailwind — differently. When I am riding into a headwind I keep my effort measured and within a range that I know I can maintain for the time I project I will be riding into the wind. I totally ignore speed and heart rate and just focus on power. If that means I am really slow, it means I am really slow.

If you are in a race, your competitors will be suffering in the wind too and will most likely take breaks when facing a headwind. Their effort will dimish over time. That is why it is important for you to focus your effort and ride consistently while you are riding into the wind. You can really put some time on other racers when the riding is tough.

Turning around and having the wind at your back is an amazing feeling, but it is not the time to slow down. Most people will take a little break to get their legs back under them, but if you have been riding within yourself while you had the wind in front of you, then turning around allows you to have another advantage. If you resist the temptation to take a break, then again here you have the opportunity to put some time and distance between you and your competitors.

So my advice is to improve your proficiency at the things that other people hate to do. Get good at riding into a headwind. Know how to measure out your effort so you can make the turn to home and have some power left in your legs. Know from experience how it feels to put in a little surge for the first five minutes after you turn around and have the wind at your back so you can bury other racers. As your practice these type of sessions again and again, you can figure out how to take advantage of a windy race day…

Congrats to Jeff of Dangle the Carrot

There is one blogger that I have become friends with over the years who lives in Houston in my home state of Texas. I will forgive him for living in Houston, but I digress…

Saturday he finished his first Ironman in 12:19, an amazing time. He put together an amazing training plan and worked his plan to perfection. His race and nutrition strategies were perfect and he really had almost a perfect day. You can read his race report here….

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...