The bane of every road cyclist is struggling into a block headwind. After experiencing a solid headwind day after day on a road bike you realize why so much time and money has been thrown into improving the aerodynamics of bikes, helmets and body position; anything, in fact, to help the cyclist combat this elusive foe!
So, apart from spending thousands of dollars on the latest aero frame set, what else can I do to survive a headwind? Here are 5 tips that could just change the way you approach riding into the merciless wind.
1. Hide in the bunch
First and best is to always ride in a bunch and hide in the wheels as much as possible. Sitting in the slipstream behind another cyclist makes a monumental difference to the amount of effort required to move along. Sure, you will eventually have to take your turn, but even a few turns on the front is preferable to the WHOLE time on the front!
TIP: For all the little chaps out there, find the biggest, chunkiest rider in the bunch and own his rear wheel! It's a free ride!
2. Spin a low gear
The next way to save yourself in a solid headwind is to drop down the gears. It is pointless trying to hold that big chainring and slowly grind away, pushing hard and suffering. The best way to ride into wind is spin as much as possible in a low gear. You're not going to be moving fast anyway, whether or not you hurt yourself pushing a big chainring, so why not save yourself and ride a manageable gear.
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3. Get your head down
Spend time teaching your body how to keep down low. Riding in a tucked position makes a huge difference to the amount of wind you are pushing against. Don't be a sail, get down low! This will mean building good core strength and working on flexibility with the purpose of being able to ride comfortably with your head low over the bars for many miles at a time.
4. Plan ahead
Head winds are usually unavoidable; If the wind is blowing there is a good chance that at some stage in your ride you will be heading into it! There are ways to minimize the impact with forward planning. Choose a route beforehand that avoids riding directly into the wind. If your riding is an "out and back", see if you can ride into the wind first when you're still fresh and strong, then turn around and get an easy trip home again.
5. Attitude shift
Lastly and perhaps most importantly is your attitude. Riding into wind can be physically demanding and at times immensely frustrating; but who are you shaking your fist at? God? Yeah, good luck with that.
Perhaps the best way to cope with the savagery of a headwind is to start loving it. The challenge is an enormous opportunity to overcome an obstacle, to relish the struggle and to become a stronger cyclist. My own experience in facing the wind resulted in hysterical laughter; I became ecstatic with joy at the immense difficulty and began to will the wind to blow harder and harder while giggling at the ridiculous difficulty of it all. The effort becomes effortless from there.
Cycling can be such a hard sport; attitude is everything. Mastering your approach to wind by changing your attitude circumvents every other way of dealing with it; because you are no longer dealing, you're loving!