CYCLING PERFORMANCE TIPS
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Riding into a Headwind
A headwind will significantly increase your pedaling effort and affect your cycling
performance (particularly if you are riding at competitive speeds). Why? The relationship
between your effective air speed (ground speed plus head wind speed) and the
resistance to pedaling (energy needs to overcome this resistance) is an
exponential one. This means that doubling your air speed will MORE THAN double the
Calories expended per mile traveled.(This graph visually
demonstrates that relationship.) And the graph also shows us that adding a 5 mile per hour
headwind to a ground speed of 20 miles per hour has a much greater affect on you total
energy requirements per mile than if you are riding at a recreational pace of 10 mph.
Are there any secrets to dealing with a headwind? A good attitude is
probably the best. You can't do anything about it till the road turns, so
welcome the wind as an aid to becoming a better rider. Think of it as a form of hill
climbing (at slower speeds, each 5 mph of wind speed equals ~1% of grade i.e. a 20-mph
headwind would equal a 4% hill). Then it becomes a challenge rather than something to
hate for part of your ride. Here are several other ideas:
Are there any drills to improve your riding in windy conditions? If you have hills,
doing hill work comes the closest. As an alternative, you can find a gear that lets
you pedal easily at 80 to 100 rpm, and then shift 2 to 3 cogs harder for 15 to 20 minutes -
a simulated hill interval. Then recover for 10 minutes and do it again. And of course
focus on keeping your head still, which is a challenge as you slow the rpms and start
to use your body to compensate.
- Get down. Get aero and hone your riding position. When riding into a
headwind, watch your computer and notice how small postural changes affect your speed.
Get low with your back almost horizontal. Try aligning your head and back, but without
keeping your head so low that your back is hunched. In fact, if you try to keep your
chin on the stem, it actually increases the turbulence and wind resistance as the air
travels over your back.Keep your elbows in to
minimize your frontal area instead of splayed outward. Then bend them a little more
to see what happens. Hold them in line with your body . A second tip is to eliminate the
side to side motion of your head. So keep
that head still and your chin 4 to 6 inches above the stem.When you find your
most efficient position, it'll give you greater speed with less effort in calm air, too.
- Gear down. Pushing your normal gear into a wind is hard
on your knees (and your motivation). Just as with a hill, drop down a gear or two to allow
you to maintain your normal cadence.
- Don't fight to keep a set speed. Remember, to maintain 18 mph into a 10-mph headwind
you need about twice the effort as when riding 18 on a calm day. Gear down and work on a
fluid spin. If you are riding in a paceline, rotate more often and in slower motion.
- Don't wear a loose fitting jacket. A baggy jacket can act like a
drogue chute, flapping loudly and slowing you down. An alternative might be a jersey
with a wind stopper under it - a piece of wind proof material or even a plastic bag will
keep the cold air off your chest.
- If possible, start rides into the wind. Do battle while you're
fresh, then let the gale blow you home.
- Time your ride. Wind is usually
lighter in the early morning or in the evening. If you start your ride a little earlier,
the headwind could be relatively tame before you're
treated to a roaring tailwind on the return trip.
- Watch for cross winds., especially on roads with
truck traffic. When you're leaning left to maintain a
straight line and a passing vehicle momentarily blocks
the wind, you might veer into the lane. Fight the
tendency by keeping your elbows loose and upper body
- Pedal downhill. Your bike will be more stable on descents if you're
applying even a little power to the rear wheel. But especially on a windy day when
you're being buffeted on descents, shifting to a high gear and pedaling will give you a
noticeable edge in stability. Coasting lets the wind push
you farther off your line.
- Get shelter. Pick a route with trees, buildings, stone walls or other wind
- Keep a good mental attitude. Stay positive. Wind, day after day, can beat you down
mentally. But head winds actually help improve fitness.
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Cycling Performance Tips
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