In praise of… wind
Instead of treating the wind as an enemy, why not embrace it as just another challenge to overcome?
n his recently published autobiography, Chris Boardman recalls a discussion with two of his secret squirrel staff at British Cycling on ways to streamline a rider’s position on the bike. He only narrowly manages to dissuade them from breaking Ed Clancy’s collarbones and re-setting his shoulders.
A rider’s battle against air resistance – or, to give it its everyday name on the roads of Britain, wind – is an ongoing struggle of Sisyphean proportions.
The peloton is an exercise in drafting on an industrial scale, with all but the leading riders able to enjoy the benefits of slipstreaming and a bit of banter with their mates in the shelter of the pack.
If the wind should be so insolent as to come from the side rather than the front, then it’s time for the echelons, those distinctive diagonal formations across the road that were once the preserve of Roman legionnaires and are now the wind-deflecting tactic of choice for today’s modern gladiators on the road.
On my training rides, though, neither of those wind-cheating measures is available to me. I don’t have a dozen mates available to form my own personal peloton, and club rides are a weekendonly option. Instead, I resorted to planning a route that would offer as much shelter as possible from the UK’S prevailing south-westerly winds.
Using my knowledge of the local roads and an Ordnance Survey map, I spent months carefully piecing together a parcours that utilised the protection offered by walls, woods, embankments and buildings. The end result was a 50mile loop that spent the first 10 miles traversing hedgerow-lined lanes in a north-westerly direction before turning into the wind. The struggle of the next 10 miles of exposed terrain was alleviated by them being slightly downhill, and by the time the road started climbing again, I was cossetted by a long section of forest, some tall hedges and even the extensive wall surrounding a local castle.
Then came another elevated and exposed section before I reached the turning point and could take a direct route home with a tailwind behind me. It was far from perfect but did at least provide me with a psychological – if not physical – incentive to get out on even the windiest days here on the east coast of Scotland (one of the top 10 windiest locations on the UK mainland, according to forecaster Paul Michaelwaite at Netweather.tv. South-west Wales is number one, by the way).
The wind, it is clear, is the enemy. But does it have to be?
Despite all my route-plotting and hedge-sourcing, eventually I realised that the real solution was to start looking at the wind as a friend, not a foe. All that air resistance actually