February 25, 2012
We've had a calm winter overall here in Montana, but this past week acted as a good reminder of what it's like to ride in harsh conditions, specifically heavy winds. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you battle the winds with finesse!
With so much dust, debris, precipitation, trash, and other miscellaneous objects whipping around in every direction, you need to keep your eyes protected in order to maintain good clear vision. If nothing else, it will help prevent your eyes from drying out and itching all night.
Switch Gears Mechanically and Mentally
If you're riding into a stiff wind, shift down and keep your cadence up. If you get bogged down in too big of a gear, you're going to put a lot of unnecessary stress on your knees, fatigue faster, and gradually slow your pace. Mentally try to think of a headwind as a long climb, and keep your pedaling smooth. Also do your best to ignore the sound of the wind ripping past you. Just the noise alone can cause a rider to fatigue and lose motivation quickly.
Cross Wind Handling
If there's a cross wind working you one way or the other, widen your hand position on the bars for better stability. If you have drop bars, get low in the drops to lower your center of gravity, this can also improve your stability. Keep your speed in check on descents, and try not to make sudden movements which could jerk you unexpectedly in either direction.
If it gets really nasty, look for a house, barn, or any kind of shelter to bunker down in until things ease up. This is especially important if rain, hail, or snow mixes in with the heavy winds, which makes it harder for vehicles to see you.
If you're getting slammed by a cold wind, keep as much of your skin covered as possible. Cold winds can really send chills through your body, and once you're cold, it can be difficult to warm back up. One thing you don't want to do, for instance, is take your hand out of your glove to take a terrible 18 second video of how windy it is.
Video by Josh Tack's cold hand.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.