When Does It Get Daft? (Just For Cyclists)

There was the tail-end of a hurricane sweeping across the north today, with the rest of the country getting some unusually strong winds too.

So, we went up on the Downs again. Is that daft?

It was stunningly windy at some points and it made the riding more than a little hard at times, but we weren’t at risk from anything – it wasn’t going to blow us over or bring down trees – and besides, there aren’t many trees up there. But, again, it would have been very easy to say it was too bad to go out. As it was, it was a good experience – one we’d never normally get if we listened to ‘reason’. I think reason, these days, is too soft an option some times. We’re awfully partial to our comfort.

Riding on a seriously windy day does require some care and some techniques to be safe – more than just riding out into a head-wind and back with a tail-wind. If you can pick your route and you know the territory, hedge-lined lanes are a major bonus. If you are going along a hedge-lined road and that’s protecting you from a strong cross-wind, then be cautious when it comes to gates and other gaps – the sudden strong gust can catch the unwary out.

Vehicles, too, need more care than normal. On a windy day there’s often quite a sucking effect as they go by, pushing a hole into the air and creating a lower pressure area behind them. If you know it’s coming you can counter it easily; if you’re not alive to it then it can be a bit alarming.

It’s worth bearing in mind that a very strong tail-wind will push you along significantly, and you can help the process along. So to take today’s ride for example, as we were climbing up to the top of one hill the wind was strongly behind us. It was a struggle up, but I accelerated a little at the bottom and the force of the wind was enough to mean I could maintain that extra momentum, with a net result of an easier and faster climb than it would otherwise have been. The extra effort at the bottom paid off handsomely.

And then there’s the question of noise. A strong wind can make it very difficult to hear. If you’re used to being able to hear what’s going on around you, it’s perhaps surprising how much you rely on it, even if not consciously. Thus, to then be denied that extra input into your ‘picture’ of what’s happening can be quite significant. Riding into a strong headwind can mean a vehicle coming up from behind might be on your shoulder before you realise it’s there, whereas normally you’d have heard it and been aware of it.