When it comes to speed on a bike, there are two main factors: power output and drag. One of these can dominate the other, and one of these can outsmart the other. Every cyclist deals with headwind. Maybe I’m nuts, but I have actually get very angry at a strong headwind . . . to the point of talking to it! That rarely happens anymore, because I got tired of fighting it and figured out a couple of ways to help me ignore it or at least deal with it.

  • Gear Selection: Treat a strong headwind like a steep hill. Wait. That’s not all. Do NOT go nuts with your cadence. You’ll end up spinning your legs off and doing 7 miles an hour. Keep your cadence like you would a medium-grade hill, like 85ish. Keep your legs in the aerobic spin and not hard, deep, anaerobic crank. You will not be at a peak speed, but you’ll move through the wind at a nice pace . . . like a hill. More on that at the end.
  • Body Position: The largest parts of your body to catch wind is your chest and your head. A strong headwind will actually help you train yourself to have better body position: shoulders down, head tucked, knees near top tube, ect. Listen for the wind. You should try various positions to slide through the wind, not fight it. You will NOT win if you try to overpower a strong, continuous wind. Remember this: if you stay in a far forward position, in an attempt to duck the wind, you will be placing most of the burden of moving your bike onto your quadriceps (thigh muscles).

Knowing the number of your threshold heart rate will assist you in finding that perfect cadence number, depending on how hard the wind is blowing. It works exactly the same way as a hill. By now, I know where my cadence should be depending on the gradient of a particular hill. It varies, depending on the pitch, the same with wind speed. Like I said, I use to get aggravated with the wind, but it is actually a great training tool (like hill repeats). It strengthens you and contributes to you being a better rider. Someone told me the other day that April wind brings May legs.

Bon Vélo!

11 thoughts on “Headwind

  1. I’ve found myself past that anger part. Now, it’s just the way it is so I can still enjoy the ride. Still, I’d rather have a tailwind!!

  2. I second the cadence tip, one of the best things I learnt. I’d add, keep your body relaxed, don’t tense up. Imagine the wind is a light drizzle, unpleasant yet a little refreshing.

  3. Been screaming at the wind ever since I started loaded touring 😉

    The points about gearing and cadence is bang on. Unfortunately, I can’t reduce the drag because of masses of bags hanging off the bike.

    So patience is my only defence. Sit and spin, and take twice as long as usual to get anywhere… Grrr!

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