How Not to get Blown off Your Bike!

My gosh it's been windy! Typical autumnal weather I know but very frustrating when you're itching for a weekend ride. Ride Velo braved the elements yesterday with mixed results - Robbie had a great time chasing down the wind while I wimped out after nearly being blown off my bike on the South Circular road! 

So should I have obeyed Velominati's Rule 5 (harden the f**k up) or was I sensible to beat a hasty retreat? Here's Ride Velo's guide to riding in the wind...

Firstly, it helps to ride a heavier bike. I always thought that having a 'winter bike' was just an excuse to own yet more expensive cycles, but actually a sturdier bike is not only going to keep your summer carbon-fibre Pinarello looking in pro-team condition for longer, but is less likely to crack metal if you have a nasty accident. I was riding my super lightweight, fully carbon Merckx EFX1 yesterday while Robbie was on his trusty De Rosa aluminium frame Milanino. He weighs a bit more than me too, which can also be an advantage.

Secondly, know your limits - from reading forum posts and comments there seems to be a general consensus amongst riders out there (apart from in Texas where it is apparently always windy) that anything over 50 miles per hour is off limits. The wind in South London was about 45mph yesterday and I only saw one other road cyclist out and about on the Dulwich Paragon circuit which is rare indeed!

Remember too that wind can benefit you - you can beat your PB on Strava with a good tailwind behind you up that killer hill you usually struggle with. Try to plan your ride so that the uphill sections have the tailwind not the other way round! If that's not possible, cycle into the wind on the way out so that the tailwind pushes you home again. 

If you have to cycle into a headwind, try to make yourself as aerodynamic as possible by dropping down onto your low handlebars. Hug your frame like it's your lover. But you love your bike so don't feel embarrassed! This also helps the weight distribution on your bike so as to prevent the sensation that your front wheel is being blown out from underneath you. Just push through it and focus on your legs powering through to the end. Hang in there and keep going! You may be travelling slower than usual but you'll get there eventually.

In a crosswind, do like the pros and go out with your cycling buddies riding in an echelon formation - diagonally across the road - so the person at the front takes the full force and protects his or her fellow riders (you've seen them in the Tour battling along the coastal roads). Whoever's at the front takes it all, and it's hell, but only for 30 seconds to a minute, then slides back to the other side of the road at the back. Next one in line takes over. Do your full turn at the front. Don't wimp out before you've done your bit in the blast of the wind because no one's gonna buy you a beer afterwards. 

When it's gusty take extra care! Try not to let the exhilaration of having a tailwind blowing you downhill make you lose your guard. A sudden gust could see you dumped unceremoniously in the gutter next to the bus stop with some sore limbs and even worse the humiliation of spectators' guffaws. In particular, watch out for gaps in hedges or buildings where an unexpected blast could take you by surprise. 

And finally some housekeeping tips - wear glasses unless you want bits of twig and other detritus in your eyes and don't stare at your stem a la Chris Froome; keep a look out for fallen trees.

Or you could just take my advice and stay at home with the Turbo Trainer and a nice DVD of Alpe d'Huez on the telly...But if you're like Robbie, enjoy the exhilaration and the fact that you haven't broken the sacred Rule 5 of the Velominati.