The Lazy Cyclist’s Guide to Wind (Lazy Cyclist’s Guide Part 3)

First published in Flashing Pedals, 2007. 

With the strong winds around this spring, you might like to read this light hearted article, written with the lazy cyclist in mind.

The Lazy Cyclist’s Guide – Part 3

Wind

A tail-wind is a lazy cyclist’s dream.  Indeed, why would a lazy person get out on the bike at all without some sort of pedaling assistance?  Unfortunately, there’s no ‘Dial a Tail Wind’ service for cyclists.  Indeed, the pessimist’s second law of cycling is:  The wind is always against you.  If you want to find how to break this law, there are some tips later in this article.  (What is the first law of cycling?  *)

It’s blowing a gale out there and you feel no motivation at all to get out on that bike.  You’re committed to cycling with friends or the car is in for repairs or you find yourself a long way from home with only the bike to get you there!  If you’ve ever been daunted by the prospect of cycling in wind, read on.

First, be realistic.  If it’s really blowing at gale force, it may be safer to stay home and read that paperback, or take a bus.  Storm force winds are dangerous for cyclists.  Flying debris and dust are hazardous.  You need to give other vehicles more leeway than ever – both you and they too can be affected by sudden gusts and airborne debris.  You could even be blown off your bike, especially by wind gusts and strong side winds.

If you have decided that you are going to get on the bike, even for a short ride, here are some tips.

Minimise the time that you have to face the full brunt of the head or strong side wind.  Vary your cycling route, to include cover (e.g. from trees and buildings).  If you will be riding directly into a head wind, see if there is an alternate route which cuts across the wind at an angle, especially if you are riding in a built-up area.  This can sometimes reduce a strong wind’s impact to little more than a nuisance.

Use your gears.  They are not ornamental.  Pedal faster, not harder.  Don’t be coy about using the small chain ring.  Spin your pedals; don’t grind them – better for you and the bike.  It’s usually faster too.  If you don’t believe this, test it on the bike – you’ll find that in hard conditions, a higher pedal rate (known as cadence to cyclists) will get you there as faster and without feeling you’re exhausted!

Take a portable wind break – otherwise known as a cycling friend (or friends).  Being lazy, you will encourage your friend to go in front of you.  Ride close behind, about a wheel length or less back. Let your friend’s body and bike act as a wind break.  This is called drafting.  If you want to keep your friends, it’s a good idea to take a turn at the front sometimes.  If you have chosen your friends for generosity as well as effective size as a wind-break, and cultivate an air of exhaustion for your stints, you will probably be able to minimize this.

Changing the second law: The wind is always NEVER against you

This involves forward planning.  Check out the wind direction and find a route and one-way distance that is in line with the wind and suits your cycling preference for distance.  Now you need to find a way to travel the route one way (i.e. with a howling head wind) other than by bike.  Take a train, or have a friend pick you up or drop you off so that you only cycle with a tail wind.  It doesn’t really matter whether you cycle from home, or from the destination.

An example of this is in practice is a ride tailored to Geelong’s prevailing south-westerly wind.  Cycle from Geelong to Melbourne (75 km approximately) or any intermediate V-Line station.  With the new Federation Trail, and using the wide emergency lanes from Werribee to Geelong (or quiet back roads) this is an exhilarating wind-assisted ride.  Off-peak trains run at least hourly to bring you back to Geelong.  For strong northerly winds, take the train to Melbourne and come back by bike.

A pick-up from Queenscliff is a great solution for a day of north-easterly gale.    After a fast easy 35 kilometres from Geelong and a delightful lunch or coffee break, pack the bike in the car for an easy trip back.

The cycling tourist (who is probably not a lazy cyclist) may even plan a cycling weekend around a proposed change in the weather – e.g. from Geelong south to Lorne with the northerly wind, and wait for the south-westerly change to come home.  Don’t attempt this, unless your weekends are very flexible!

The last word on cycling and wind comes from a wise touring cyclist, with many Great Vic Bike Rides under his belt;

‘No matter what the prevailing wind, if baked beans are on the breakfast menu, ride at the front of the pack!’

Happy cycling.

*The first law of cycling:  It’s all uphill.

2020 update.  Nowadays many lazy cyclists have taken ‘pedal assist’ to a new level with electric bikes.  These are perfect in the wind, and the extra weight adds to stability in gusty winds.

LANEWAYS V2.0 — Nov 1st 2020

A great ride today through some of Geelong’s laneways for 10 riders.

I think some people surprised themselves by being able to ride the somewhat rough and bumpy laneways. Always good to push oneself to a new challenge! There were no incidents, mechanicals, punctures etc.

Coffee stop at the end of the ride was at Ripples.

A big thankyou again to Gary for leading and his choice of route.

I had a very nice email from Rod a few days ago, expressing regrets that he couldn’t join the ride owing to other commitments. I reproduce it here with his permission:

‘Hi Dave,

I can’t make the ride on Sunday with regret, because this is a beauty.

You have moved into the next phase of growth of Cycling Geelong and its a mammoth move.

The essence of a real working city is its connectivity offerings and here you are exploring this

in our own locality. Kevin has been doing this on his Monday rides as well but yours is more fine grained as I see it now.

I applaud your planning and note how the ‘old’ Geelong Bicycle Plan suburbs are partly used so the ride has signifiant historic value as well.

Please circulate this email to all club members. Its a real win and offers alternatives for the future.

I would love to be involved with discussion of where to now.

Wonderful Dave, how lucky are we to have you aboard.

Rod Charles’

Thanks for the kind words Rod and here’s hoping that you can come along for Laneways V3.0 !!

–Dave

Drysdale via Bellarine Rail Trail – Thursday 15th October 2020

Thanks to ride leader Bill for this report and photos.

Today we had 13 riders who set off for Drysdale. It was a  warm and very humid day with rain expected in the afternoon.

Unfortunately Peter Olsen had a flat tyre along the trail in Whittington. While repairing the tyre we were attacked by huge numbers of mosquitoes. The group was sent on and Peter and I stayed to repair the tyre. We were not able to fix the tyre and Peter decided to walk back to the start and I rode on to Drysdale. Peter did get his wife to pick him up and had the tyre repaired at de Grandi’s.

I was killing 5 mosquitoes at a time  but they still were unbearable.

Otherwise the riders had a nice coffee and cake at the Zoo and rode back together to the start point.

I would recommend that future rides carry plenty of insect repellent

Barwon River Circuit: Saturday October 3rd, 2020

Thanks to David Jones for this report and photos.

A reminder to all cyclists riding on bike paths, especially the Barwon River Path which is very busy at present. Please check the path before you step or cycle out.

At the Queens Park Road bridge stop Peter Olsen was walking across the path when he was hit by a rider travelling south on the path. Both Peter and the other rider fell onto the path. Peter suffered a graze to his left elbow. The other rider appeared to be uninjured. Names were not exchanged.

The ride participants were: Karen Anderson, Geoff & Steph Andrews, George Belcher, Rod Charles, Kevin Clingan, Pau Cooney, Russell Ison, David Jones, Lynton Leigh, Margy McIntyre, Herman Mennerich, Doug Merritt, Peter Olsen, Ron van Oosten, Gavan Vigar.

Barwon River Circuit – Saturday, June 6th, 2020

Many thanks to Rod for this report and Kevin and Edith for the photos.

Eleven members took the now well worn trail around the Barwon River beginning at Balyang Sanctuary on a chilly but clear morning.

We share the trail these days with many more people out walking and jogging, parents with children and friends chatting and many singles with listening aids in their ears to make bell ringing sometimes irrelevant.

This morning we took the return route along the  south side of the golf course down at the breakwater end.

Coffee and a chat at Barwon Edge is always the right way to end the club ride.

We beat the rain which began to fall lightly as we rode home.

Kevin took photographs with help from Edith.

Deakin/Highton Loop – Sunday 7 June 2020

Six Cycling Geelong riders and one guest rider (my brother, Gary) today. It started out looking like rain but things improved and we even had periods of sun as we took a leisurely ride around a short 20km loop. From Sth Barwon Reserve to Waurn Ponds, a lap around Deakin on gravel, the Highton Pipeline path, coffee at Highton Shopping Centre and finishing up back to Sth Barwon via the Barwon River path.

It was great to introduce some of our members to bits of cycle paths that they hadn’t ridden before (always a good thing 🙂

Thanks for the ride.

–Dave