Riding in strong winds can be a miserable and even dangerous experience without careful route planning. Even without officially named storms the UK is a windy place, and if you find yourself on a cycling holiday on one of the Canary Islands or somewhere else extremely windy, that's a whole other level.
To make windy rides more manageable (and even fun, dare we say) we've got a septet of wise tips to help you plan your route so you're not battling quite so many headwinds, and help you to increase your average speed, cycling enjoyment and safety.
How to plan a route
Before getting into our seven top tips, these are some golden rules for planning a route on a windy day to still make it a great day on the bike.
Check the forecast
First, you need to know where the wind is coming from, so check your preferred weather sites, such as the BBC or Met Office. It is important to know which direction the wind is going as you want to plan your route such that you're riding home with the wind (a tailwind). If you take nothing else from this article, the golden rule is that you start by riding out into a headwind and then come home with a tailwind.
Something to consider when riding in the wind is that the weather can change quickly. This could work in your favour with the wind dropping while on your ride, but could also mean a ride that starts dry can soon turn into heavy rain. If the wind is moving fast, so is any accompanying rain, hail or snow.
Wear suitable clothing
Due to the unpredictability of the British weather, particularly on windy days, make sure you're wearing suitable clothing. The best windproof cycling jackets will stop the wind so that it doesn't cool you down too much. You should also consider carrying an emergency rain jacket just in case (check out our picks of the best waterproof cycling jackets to see your options).
Hide from the wind
Once you've decided where you want to be heading, you want to think about how you can hide from the wind.
When riding into a headwind, long, straight, open roads are going to be less than fun. Choosing a route through lanes, wooded areas and high hedges will break the worst of the wind.
The route itself
When riding out into a headwind, you need to make the 'out' leg a little bit shorter than the return, if you're looking for an evenly split ride and want to get a certain number of hours done. Riding into the wind for 30 miles is going to take a lot longer than riding the 30 miles home.
Some roads might not look like much on a regular map, but when using something like komoot, Trail View or Google Street View, you can see how flat, open and exposed they are. These are the roads you want to avoid if there's going to be a headwind, but make ideal conditions for a maximum tailwind advantage!
Once at the halfway mark, you don’t want to spend too much time going across the path of the wind. Crosswinds are excellent for watching a dull sprint stage on TV because they often split up the race, but can be scary if you're not used to riding in them.
Seven route planning hacks
1. Remember to eat!
When you're battling those headwinds, reaching for a bar in your back pocket is often the last thing on your mind. Even though you're going to be travelling at lower speeds, you're going to be burning more energy as you're having to put in more effort when riding into a headwind.
> How to eat right for sportives and long rides
Fuelling properly is essential for longer rides as it will help you on the way home.
2. Get aero
Getting aero means the effort to ride faster is exponential.
We recommend tucking down and bending your elbows, wearing one of the best aero helmets and opting for a close-fitting jacket that isn't going to flap in the wind.
3. Don't take your deepest wheels
To make riding in the wind safer, switch your deepest wheels for some shallower rims. While deep wheels often make you go faster (and sound nice too, the most important bit of course), they can be dangerous in high winds; particularly in cross-winds. You don't want to be blown across the road!
> Are expensive carbon road bike wheels worth the money?
4. Go with a friend
There's nothing worse than battling a headwind alone, so planning a ride with other people means you can share the workload. Riding with other people won't only motivate you to get out, but also makes you ride faster too.
> Get your road.cc kit here
Group riding also means you can form mini echelons which help protect you from the wind whilst sharing the work, meaning you can save more energy for the return leg.
5. They're great for training
While headwinds don't sound appealing, they're great for training. In terms of the increased effort and power needed to keep consistently turning the pedals it's like riding uphill, meaning you can add intensity to flatter rides and get similar benefits as you would on hills.
Image: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com
Headwinds are also great for interval sessions, particularly longer intervals, as you can ride at a consistently high power. Timed intervals can be done in less distance.
6. Save something for the tailwind
Tailwinds often make riding into the headwinds worth it. It's easy to get carried away in a tailwind feeling like you've found the form of your life, but tailwinds won't be as enjoyable if you've gone too deep into a headwind for the rest of the ride.
7. Stay at home and hit the indoor trainer
If all else fails and it really is too windy to head out, we advise staying home and hitting the indoor trainer instead.
> Check out the best turbo trainers here
Cycling in the wind isn’t always fun, and can also be dangerous. Pay attention to any weather warnings issued by the local forecaster. Unless you really need to go out in gale-force winds, it might be the smart choice to reschedule your ride.
What's the windiest place you've ever ridden? Let us know in the comments section below...
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