If you cycle in the Languedoc region, you will quickly learn to expect wind. While helping to keep you cool in the hot summer months, it can be especially strong and troubling in the winter and spring seasons. Thankfully, the infamous Mistral that you encounter in Provence, does not make it this far south, but we have our own somewhat gentler version lovingly referred to as the “Tramotane”.
Cycling in strong winds can cut your speed significantly and make you work a lot harder for the same output. It can beat down your moral. But, with a few practical tips to help counteract the effects of a strong headwind, there is no reason to let it ruin a good ride. Besides, it is an excellent opportunity for improving your riding position.
Ride in a tucked position as much as is comfortable. A tucked position will lower your wind resistance by keeping your body small so you can slice through the wind easier. On a road bike, use the drops to lower your overall position.
If you’re a recreational rider and speed isn’t a major concern, then comfort should be your primary consideration. But if you are looking for ways to get faster, gradually adjusting your riding position to make yourself more aerodynamically efficient can go a long way to combatting wind drag.
However, it is important to make any adjustments to your riding position progressively over time. Initially, you’ll probably lose a little power as you adjust, but after you’re used to the new position you should gain a subsequent increase in speed. A bike fit with a qualified bike fitter can help you determine the optimal position for you to balance both comfort and power.
Wear Tight Clothing
Ensure you wear cycling clothing that is form fitting and keep your jersey fully zipped. If you wear a jacket that lets wind inside of it, it will act like a small parachute that gets dragged through the air. This tip may seem obvious, but clothing drag will have an increasingly bigger effect the longer you ride.
Ride in a lower gear than you normally would on the same terrain. It might cost you some speed but you’ll be able to keep your stamina up longer, making the ride more enjoyable. Give up a little speed for endurance. Staying in a higher gear will overwork your legs and cause you to run out of energy sooner. Try to keep your cadence between 70 and 100 rpm.
If you are riding in a group, drafting is a very effective way to cut wind resistance. You can lower your energy expended by up to 20-30% by drafting properly. Check out the wind direction as you ride and draft to the side away from the wind and behind the other riders. Stay close to the rider in front, six inches to a foot off their wheel, in order to maximise the slipstream.
Take turns drafting and share the workload so everyone can benefit. The bigger the group, the greater the advantage as you will get a longer break in the bunch after doing your turn on the front.
Ride With the Wind
If you are riding alone, choose a route on which you’ll spend the least time riding directly into the wind. For example, the predominant winter winds in Languedoc, generally blow from the northwest so adjust your route accordingly. Fortunately, most of the routes are offer lots of twists, turns providing intermittent shelter even when the wind is unremittent.
If a headwind is unavoidable then start your ride into the wind, when you’re at your freshest, and, provided the wind doesn’t turn mid-ride, take advantage of the tailwind to push you home.
Cycling in the wind is never going to be easy. The most important thing is to get out and ride whenever you can, with or without wind.
– Adapted from Road Cycling UK, November 2015