Whether you’re an avid cyclist or a recreational rider, you’ve likely realized how environment affects your riding experience. Some days, bad weather prevents riding all together; yet other days, weather that seems inviting can actually end up causing you a lot of grief during your ride. Sunny but windy conditions fall into this category. Understanding how wind speed affects bikers, even on average windy days, can help better prepare you for rides.
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All cyclists have to deal with wind resistance, and whether you’re a road bike enthusiast or an ardent mountain biker, wind affects your speed on every ride. The more upright you ride, the more general wind resistance you’ll experience, and recreational bikers experience the most resistance, according to Science of Cycling. This is because the body causes poor aerodynamics when riding. Despite newer and more aerodynamic bicycle designs, your body slows you down tremendously since it’s not made to slice through air. Cyclists learn ways and come up with new techniques to help overcome this problem; and bike designers continuously work on inventions to make bicycles and gear more aerodynamic. Nevertheless, the human body tends to be the biggest obstacle to speed, whether you’re riding in average or windy conditions.
Two forces work against a cyclist during riding -- air pressure drag and direct friction; which is also called surface friction or skin friction. While a streamlined shape more easily cuts through air, irregular objects such as a human body disrupt air flow. At the same time, riders experience a pressure drag from behind caused by naturally occurring low pressure pockets, says Science of Cycling. This pull from the back coupled with resistance in the front creates a condition that pulls a cyclist backwards. Rider techniques such as holding the body in a more streamlined position while riding reduce the effects of this phenomenon. Avid riders also opt for gear such as skinsuits to help them avoid direct wind friction.
Dealing with Wind
Bike designers continually devise ways to make bicycles more aerodynamic. For example, they’ve come out with new tube designs that are less rounded; however, sacrificing bike durability and sturdiness for the sake of aerodynamics can cause other more serious problems for riders. New wheel designs in the latter part of the 20th century and early part of the 21st century have helped to enhance riding aerodynamics the most, according to Science of Cycling. Frame design has also improved riding conditions in wind.
Even when you’ve taken measures to make your bike and your body more aerodynamic, extra windy conditions can make riding nearly impossible, especially if your goal is to increase speed. Of course if the wind is pushing you, it can help you gain speed, but you can’t always count on wind direction. The best thing to do is to avoid riding in extreme wind conditions; however, this is not always possible and weather conditions can change suddenly. Choose a ride that includes more hill climbing if it’s windier than usual, suggests BikeRadar.com. Excess wind and open, flat roads can cause the worst type of riding conditions because the situation puts you in direct confrontation with the wild wind. You can avoid uncontrollable variables such as wind on hill climbs because hill-climb speed is more dependent upon hill slope, your riding power and weight. Most of all, hill climbing is an excellent way to train, says BikeRadar.com.