Tag Archive: aerodynamics on bike

Just Ask Jack: Fighting the Wind?

Jacob sent in the following question:

I’d be curious to know what you guys do to deal with wind. Are there good tips for how to ride during a stiff wind? Do you take the car when the wind gets above a certain speed?

Well, Jacob…wind can be tough, there’s no doubt about that. We don’t have much in the way of winter weather, but from December to May, the wind is a fairly constant thing here in Florida. And, just my luck…it’s almost always a headwind. I don’t own a car, so I can’t comment on whether I would use one if the wind was too high. I’ve ridden in some pretty stiff winds, including the 1993 “No Name Storm” and the runups to several hurricanes along the Gulf Coast. It’s certainly not something I’m a big fan of, but when you’ve got to get to work there’s sometimes no choice but to get out there and ride.

I asked several fellow cyclists if they had any solutions to offer, and overwhelmingly I was met with a bunch of good-natured ribs to “HTFU” (warning: excessive salty language) or “put your head down and deal with it”. That doesn’t really help us much, though…

So, what can we commuters do to help beat back the wind? There are two major “tricks” in a cyclist’s arsenal, one mostly impractical for day-to-day riding and one that’s fairly easy and long-used for just this sort of thing.

Let’s look at the first solution — the fairing:


I say that this is mostly impractical because a recumbent is not often a good choice for a commuter bike (too low-profile for motorists to see at reasonable distances), and I’ve not seen fairings for traditional bicycles. Still, these fairings do a pretty amazing job at getting you through the wind with less effort.

The second solution is right up my alley…the traditional road “drop bar”:


Let’s face it — there are a lot of “commuter-friendly” bikes on the market such as Dutch-style upright citybikes, hybrids and comfort bikes with the features many commuters look for in a primary machine. But, they can be TERRIBLE to ride in stiff winds. That upright position — otherwise great for getting a good view of conditions around you — turns your body into a wind-catching sail. Enter the traditional road handlebar: multiple hand positions for all-day riding comfort, including a couple of positions that get you tucked in and out of the wind’s worst. Aerodynamic positioning is key for spending a lot of time riding in wind, and drop bars get you closer to that ideal position.

Many flat-bar or upright bikes can be converted to a drop-bar configuration, but it’s not always an easy proposition…since the bar diameters differ between flats and drops, you can’t just swap your brake levers and shifter pods over. Luckily, road-style brake levers are readily available (my favorite are the Tektro R200A), and if you replace your shifter pods with friction bar-end shifters, you can run just about any combination of derailleurs and cassette or freewheel, mixing brands as you see fit.

A couple of other tips come to mind. The first is clothing choice. Although many commuters are reluctant to wear cycling-specific gear, there’s a reason cycling wear is form-fitting — it doesn’t catch the wind the way street clothes might. Something to consider, in any case.

The second is route choice. If you have a commute where you can choose your route from several possibilities, a good choice is one that gets shielded from prevailing winds by treelines, buildings and the like. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but a little creative route planning can definitely help. Even a short break from the wind can make a huge difference in the amount of energy you expend.

Remember, there is a benefit to the wind…you WILL get stronger if you have to fight it on a regular basis. Don’t be afraid to tough it out…your legs, heart and lungs will thank you for it eventually!

Finally, if you really want to dominate against that wind, here’s the vehicle for you:


It’s able to slice through headwinds like a hot knife through butter…but hang on in a crosswind — you’ll be in for a wild ride!!!

Stay safe out there, and try some of these tips the next time you find yourself fighting against the wind.

Have a cycling-related question? Just Ask Jack! Click on the link in the right-hand column to send me your questions.