They Call the Wind Mariah…

But cyclists call it something else. And we use words not appropriate for this G Rated blog.

Riding in windy conditions is really irritating. I would much rather climb cols in calm conditions than ride on flat roads into a stiff breeze. And since we go slower into the wind that we do when it is at our back, we spend more time with it working against us than with us.

But it gets even worse. There are 360 degrees of direction that the wind can blow from relative to the direction you are riding. But only about 40% of those directions actually help a cyclist. Even if the wind is slightly behind you the crosswind component outweighs the pushing component. Once upon a time I took a math course where I learned about ‘resultant vectors’ which is how you determine the ‘apparent wind’. All I know now is that when there is more than about 5 mph of wind, the breeze becomes the enemy, and my irritation grows exponentially with the wind speed.

You can’t see the wind, but it is there. A mini-Mistral

Crosswinds are even worse riding the tandem. The wind gets between Stoker and me and creates turbulence, aka ‘dirty air’. And steering the tandem in crosswinds is no picnic either. Once in the Canadian Rockies the wind blew so hard from the side that it literally blew us off the road. I think there were 40-50 mph gusts that day. Rather that fight those conditions for another 30 miles we decided to abandon and ride in the tour company’s van. One of our few DNF’s. I felt bad until I learned that one of the guides, who used to be a pro track rider in Europe and had tremendous bike handling skills, also got blown off the pavement. Twice!

Our tour leader tests the wind velocity! Too much for the Tandem

Last week we finally had some dry weather, but it was accompanied with some pretty significant winds. Stoker and I are getting our legs ready for a month in France, so we have to ride even if conditions aren’t ideal. On Friday we took our bike to Ione to ride up to Plymouth and back. It was pretty windy in Ione and the forecast was for stronger winds later in the day. I was not real enthusiastic about the prospect.

We rode up Irish Hill Road. This road is a pretty good test for the tandem with some short, steep rollers. Then the rest of the way to Plymouth is slightly uphill until the last 3/4 mile, which is a little steeper. We had pretty good legs and when we got to Plymouth I noted that it only took us 1 hour 24 minutes to do the 20 miles with 1400 feet of climbing. That won’t get us on any Strava Leaderboards, but it is pretty good time for the CoMotion Team.

As we passed the fire station in Plymouth on our way to the coffee stop, I noted that the flag was blowing straight out and the wind was coming from the west. That meant mostly headwind or crosswind conditions on the way back. We were going to take Carbondale Road on our return trip, and there was going to be plenty of pedaling into or across this west wind.

But then something happened that is so rare I had to write this post about it. The wind shifted from W to almost due N, and maybe even a bit NNE. That meant that the feared headwind was going to turn into a helping hand for much of the ride back to Ione. On the flat stretch of Carbondale Road and then on Michigan Bar Road we were heading south with a big wind at our back, instead of the crosswind I had expected.

Favorable wind shifts almost never happen, so we finished our ride with big smiles and a pretty good total time of 2:35 for 40 miles and almost 2000 feet climbed. We rode pretty well, and for once the cycling deities saw fit to give us a break.

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