Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Battling the Wind Gods

There is an old Irish saying that cyclists often use "May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back."  My father even used this for my wedding blessing-- which was fitting since my father, my husband and I are all cyclists.  In some ways, I think this is one of the kindest things one cyclist can say to another since very few of them I know actually enjoy wind...unless it's at their back.

Living in Madison, Wisconsin--being surrounded by open farm fields and valleys--I am somewhat used to wind.  Each spring I know it will greet me...when my legs and lungs are weak.  For the past two weeks I have almost felt as though the Nordic wind God, Njord, has been mocking me.  No matter what direction I seem to ride, the wind is at my face.  The weathermen call it "variable", I just call it crappy.  During a time when I should be embracing the longer days and radiant warmth with a smile, I instead must hunker down, brace my handle bars and push.

I must admit that part of this is my fault.  You see I usually choose to ride West in search of hills.  In the summer and fall this poses no issue since the winds often come from the West and I can cruise back home with ease.  In the spring, however, the winds blow from the East or Northeast and I "get" to ride home, often for 20-30 miles, into the wind.  The kicker is that in the spring, the trees haven't leafed out yet and the corn hasn't pushed through the soil so there is no natural wind block.  The best I can do is ride with someone that's stronger or bigger than me and put them out front to be my personal wind block.  Since I usually ride alone during the week, I have no choice but to face it.  My mantra becomes "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."  But there is nothing that can take away the agony of having to pedal down a steep hill.  It just isn't right.

I really shouldn't complain.  I have cycling friends that live in Texas (they are originally from Madison) and they say that a 25 mph wind is nothing.  They would "love" to have a 25mph wind.  I also remember living in Kona, Hawaii where the wind would consistently blow people off their bikes into lava fields.  Needless to say, I didn't enjoy biking there.

Since I was a kid, I have preferred hot, humid, still air to wind.  Call me crazy but there is nothing better than biking when all the joints are lubricated with warmth and sweat just drips down your neck.  To this day, I have trouble sleeping with a fan on me and I HATE air conditioning.  Maybe this Scandinavian girl should have been raised in the jungle instead.

The most amusing thing about this scenario is that I married a sailor.  Although my husband is also a cyclist, sailing is his passion.  No, he doesn't like biking in the wind either but in his mind, a windy day is a day for sailing.  Do I sail with him?  Of course not.  When it comes to water sports, I choose a canoe...and paddlers hate wind almost as much as cyclists.

There are times I think I am just being a complainer and I should embrace a "zen" way of being.  Be one with the wind, don't fight it.  Then I hear other cyclists bitching about it as much as I do.  There is even a cycling video that touches on this very issue.  The first time I saw it, I couldn't stop laughing since it was made by a cyclist that fully understood our nature.

Maybe some day I'll appreciate what the wind does for us (blows mosquitoes away, clears the particulate matter in the air, moves fog out of valleys etc.).  Until then, if you see me on my bike, riding into the wind, you will understand why I have a grimace on my face even though I'm on my beloved bike.


  1. Great article. I totally get that and have some of the.exact same thoughts. Appreciate you sharing that.

    1. I also meant to add that I have also riden in TX and with the long country roads and strong wind with nowhere to tack it is as if you are climbing a 5-mile hill.

  2. Ah yes, rule #5...harden the f**k up! Believe me, I try. You can't tell me that there isn't any weather that bothers you though. I'm quite comfy riding to work in -20 temps (ski goggles and all), it's just the strong winds that try to blow me into traffic that I don't like :)

  3. My reply is tongue in cheek. I'm not attacking you at all. There are certainly days when I fail miserably to accept the weather conditions and instead sit in the house wondering why I chose not to ride. When I do ride in the wind, which is frequently this time of year, I accept what is and look at it as a training tool for the fair weather rides that will eventually come. I enjoy the work and the suffering that comes with it. I'll take the wind over the sub-freezing ride any day. Fun blog... thanks!

    1. Thanks Paul. I didn't see it as an attack...I actually found it a bit amusing...a bit bikesnob nyc! You're right, I do need to drop the wusiness sometimes. And I actually don't mind the headwinds as much as crosswinds.