As Homer put it ‘A man who has been through bitter experiences and travelled far enjoys even his sufferings after a time’. As cyclists we choose suffering, it is a large part of our sport. Suffering is rarely optional, it is often thrust upon us – and we wouldn’t choose the easy route even if it was presented to us.
Taking a look outside the wind is up and the rain is falling. My ride is going to be wet. I will for a majority of the ride wrestle with a high wind, with it never truly repaying me. It will not be an easy ride. The noise of the wind will only be broken by the ferocious sound of cars distributing litres of water from their tyres as they approach. My stopping distances lengthened, corners ready to spit me into the tarmac. Is it strange then, that I do feel a little bit of excitement?
There are many benefits for training in the windy conditions. It is all part of my Adverse Weather Training 😉 I take the benefits from the opportunity to face these conditions. Becoming weather hardened is beneficial and an important skill. We don’t get to choose the conditions in which we race. Taking a look at the time sheets after a gruelling windy race and you will see a larger spread in the field – I am betting those that lost the least time to the conditions were those that took the opportunity to train in all conditions presented to them.
I am not saying I would go out when I new the winds were highest or the rain was falling hardest on purpose. On the contrary I check the weather and plan accordingly if I can. However when the conditions present themselves, ride, suffer and ‘travel far’.
Keeping up morale
Having a power meter training becomes less about average speed. I think what gets a lot of people down with the wind is the seeming lack of progress or speed for the input they are giving. It’s as if they are blaming their legs for the circumstances. Looking at and training with power levels in mind it becomes less about that. I can see that I am working at the level I want to be with the speed simply a product of that.
Quite often you can completely lose your mind into a headwind by sitting up even standing up and trying to put more power out. It wont work, the cost of losing aero will require 4x the aero cost in watts just to travel at the same speed!
Choosing a route
There are three ways of routing a windy training ride. Well there are many but here I am describing three:
- The loop – This makes sense a lot of the time because if you plan it right you can avoid long stretches of headwind. A cross wind gradually becomes head, cross into tail. It’s like a spit roast, evenly distributing the wind across your ride. I usually aim to start and finish the loop into the wind. This way you have split the headwind component into two.
- Zig zag or Tacking – If you have a destination that is into the wind try taking roads that deviate left and right limiting your exposure to the headwind, giving you variation and respite.
- Out and back – You can do this in a direction giving you a crosswind in both directions. Or if you are really hard try a tailwind, headwind back course! Most advice though is to have the tailwind back. Funny enough I’d rather get warmed up and into my flow before facing the headwind. This is why the loop is usually my preferred windy day course.
Hills often provide welcome relief to the occasional monotony of a flat road exacerbated by a headwind. I find it best to approach hills into the headwind and descend with a tailwind. It’s not always possible because you can’t move mountains. For me my hills are situated mainly to the East and South. I find it physically and mentally easier to do this. Physically because when climbing a hill air speed is already reduced and is therefore a smaller component of my overall effort. Secondly the hill can shield you from the full force of the wind. Mentally it is easier because the hill becomes the focus rather than the relenting wind and it is more tolerable to be going slower for the effort.
Beware of descents when you have a tailwind speeds can become especially high!
In part two I will be looking at how best to ride a windy race.