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Cycling, Wind and the Joy of Low Expectations


I used to hate cycling in the wind. No matter how hard I tried, the tailwind sections never made up for the headwind sections and my “average” always suffered for it. That reality drove me nuts….

Backing up, in Michigan, springtime means wind. Lots of it. Always. Between the beginning of March and the end of April, we’re lucky if we see ten days where the wind isn’t in the double-digits (mph, too, not km/h). When I was a runner, you just sucked it up and ran. As a cyclist, well, wind can be more of a pain in the tuchus… if you suffer from high expectations.

I almost chose to skip riding last evening. Work was busy and my phone rang right up to 5, I was stressed, it was sputtering rain on and off, and it was windy. 16-mph sustained, gusts north of 25-mph (25 km/h to 40 km/h). It was also 70 (20 C) when the sun was out… You don’t pass up 70 in Michigan, in March unless it’s pouring rain. I prepped the Trek, suited up and rolled out. I chose an easy route that would split up what little headwind there would be (only three miles total in the sixteen mile route) and stack it more toward the beginning.

And I took it easy.

Big ring heading north, east and west. Baby ring heading south – and that baby ring was quite necessary. The tailwind sections were absolute pleasure, the crosswind sections were only a pain when I had to lean my bike into a gust, and the headwind sections were about what you’d expect. And my last mile was dead into it.

I pulled into the driveway wishing I’d chosen a longer route.

Oh, of course I long for those wonderful, warm, still summer mornings where we roll out at 7am and it doesn’t matter which way you go, it all feels the same… but, as my dad always said, “Son, wish in one hand and $#!+ in the other and tell me which fills first”. I can long for those days all I want. Given another three months, they’ll be here. In the meantime, I’ll dance with the girl who brought me, as the saying goes.

See, there’s a linear measurement of “suck” that we can look to. Call it the cycling suck spectrum. On one end, you’ve got a whole day off without a care in the world to ride as many miles as you can, 77 degrees (23 C), sunshine and it’s calm. Folks, that’s about as good as it gets. On the other end, you’ve got snow, sleet, ice and a driving 40-mph wind. You’re polishing the couch with your butt. A plain, old-fashioned windy day with comfortable temps is actually on good side of the suck spectrum when you think about it.

The point is, sure wind sucks, but I t doesn’t suck bad enough that riding the couch is better, and you can take that to the bank (that’s a saying… really, you can’t actually take “riding on a windy day is better than riding the couch” to the bank… best case they laugh at you… worst case, you leave the bank with ugly bracelets and a legal bill the size of Kentucky).


  1. Mr Shit50s says:

    Yeah, bloody wind… the number of times I’ve thought I was in a headwind and I was actually benefiting from a tailwind, and then turned for home and realised my mistake! But it seems that happens to the best – I was listening to a podcast with Geraint Thomas the other day, and he confessed Chris Froome and he had made the same mistake on many a long training ride.

    My worst wind experience was the first couple of hours I spent in Denmark while doing the Berlin-Copenhagen tour a few years ago. I’d just left fascinating Germany, and the city of Rostock, behind and when I got off the ferry in sleepy Denmark on a Sunday, I thought it was dead boring in comparison. Add to that, there was a horrible little 10 mph headwind that pushed back against me and my bulging panniers for the first couple of hours. It did get better – wind wise and becoming more interesting as I got closer to Copenhagen – but I confess I did think of turning tail(wind) and heading back to Germany again.

    I also wish my Dad had said interesting stuff like yours… Dads are often at their best when they’re being a bit profane. I remember the Old Man and I were watching Wimbledon on TV when I was about nine or 10 and this Aussie player missed a shot and swore. “What did he say?” I asked my Dad. “He said something that rhymes with ‘duck’, son.” Quality time…

  2. crustytuna says:

    The Suck Spectrum! Such a great thing to keep in mind when it’s a low motivation day…

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