In praise of… wind

In­stead of treat­ing the wind as an en­emy, why not em­brace it as just an­other chal­lenge to over­come?

Cyclist - - First Person - WORDS TREVOR WARD PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

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

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