By: Michael Lander
Strong headwinds and crosswinds….. There may be few things that cyclists dislike more.
And, there’s certainly good reason for cyclists to have a well-placed aversion to wind.
Nothing can be more frustrating than running up against a wall of wind, peddling as hard as you can, and feeling as though you just aren’t moving or going anywhere.
Winds, though, are pretty much an unavoidable part of cycling, whether you are hitting them head on, or if they are coming from either side of you, and catching a nice tailwind can sometimes seem as elusive as winning the lottery.
Even on a relatively calm day, with little or no breeze, you will still come up against some resistance from the air around you on your ride, which only rises as you increase your speed.
The effects of wind resistance is nothing new to experienced cyclists, and much has been written on the topic, to include that which was written by authors Edmund Burke and Ed Pavelka, in their book “The Complete Book of Long Distance Cycling.”
Burke and Pavelka suggest that, in order to determine the effect of wind resistance on you while you ride, you would have to draw an imaginary circle around yourself.
After doing that, you can then look around you from any given direction and know that only those winds that are within 160 degrees trailing behind you would provide you with any beneficial push. Any winds from the remaining 200 degrees only work to push against you and to slow you down.
The same is also true of crosswinds, which also increases varying levels of resistance or drag on you as you ride.
Click on these links to calculate the impact that the resistance of air, and other factors have on you, and your performance, while riding: bikecalculator.com and HED Cycling.
Cyclists can take several steps to help reduce and minimize the effects that wind and air can have on you as you ride and anything that can be done to decrease air resistance and improve air flow over you and your bike should improve your speed with less exertion on your part.
When you talk about reducing or minimizing the effects of wind and air while cycling, the first word that you will always hear, is about something being “aerodynamic.”
Essentially, if something is designed aerodynamically, it is shaped in such a way as to enhance the flow of air moving around and past it with the least amount of resistance in the process.
Since nobody wants to ride slower, and with twice the effort, the goal of having something that is aerodynamic is that it will be designed in such a way as to allow air molecules to easily move over and around any given surface with the least amount of friction as possible.
You can purchase frames, drop bars, wheels, rims, helmets, and even clothing that have been manufactured and tested to ensure that they are aerodynamic and that they can decrease any air pressure drag and direct fiction. This is done with streamlined designs that allow the air to move around you while reducing air pressure drag from behind.
|Having a bicycle and gear on that are designed with|
aerodynamics in mind, as well as properly positioning
yourself while riding, can help you to overcome some
of the resistance that you will come up against as you
In addition to equipment, you can help reduce the effects of resistance and drag by drafting behind others. This helps to create a barrier of sorts for those behind the lead cyclist of any peloton and it is extremely beneficial to do this, especially on long-distance bike rides.
You can also try to lean downward on your drop bars, or aerobars, and then raising up to take full advantage of a good tailwind, whenever you are fortunate enough to get it.
As Chris Woodford points out, in his article, “The Science of Bicycles,” 80 percent or more of the resistance that you experience during a bike ride can come from the air, itself, and the only force that is greater than that for you is that of gravity, which you will run across whenever you try to ascend a hill.
Even though not every road will rise to meet you, and the winds may not always be at your back when you ride, learning more about the wind, air, and aerodynamics, should make your ride just a little bit easier and a much better experience for you, overall.