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17-03-2021 | Peter Koens

The wind: friend or enemy?

The weather is often a topic of conversation here in the Low Countries. Especially as a cyclist, I often look at the forecast to decide if I'm going to ride, which direction I'm going in and what clothes I'll put on. Last week it was storming in the Netherlands. It was blowing hard and it was rough. Most of the time we have a breeze here in our little country. Of course, it depends on where you live in the Netherlands, along the coast the wind is stronger than in South of Limburg. I personally don't like to ride in the wind. I think more cyclists do. If you hate the wind when you're on your bike, here are 10 tips to make the wind your friend.

1. Set a PR

Find a Strava segment on 1 of your favorite laps where you have a perfect tailwind. Make sure you ride there with headwind so you are warmed up. Then set an awesomely fast PR on the segment, try to catch the KOM. Wonderfully satisfying and good for your ego. That PR stands and years later no one remembers that there was a lot of wind that day.

2. Intensive interval training

Do an interval training workout against the wind. A VO2max interval training is ideal. Find a long straight road with no side roads and preferably a headwind. Ride blocks of 2 to 8 min. at 120% of your FTP* with 1 to 4 min. rest in between. If the road is not long enough to ride all blocks in a row, turn around after each intensive block and paddle back slowly. These intervals are ideal if you are preparing for a gran fondo or sportive in, for example, the Belgian Ardennes with its short, steep climbs. A VO2max training now and then should not be missing in any serious training program. Because on the flat road they are accompanied by relatively high speeds, they are difficult to perform on public roads. A strong headwind offers a solution.

3. Extensive interval training

Do a 'long climb' training. If you are preparing for a foreign GF in the high mountains, you will probably have to face long climbs. These are difficult to train if you live on the flat. Find a road with a headwind as long as possible. Switch to a heavy gear with a cadence between 60 and 85 rpm, depending on your climbing preference. Go about 5 to 10% below your FTP** in terms of effort. Do this in blocks of 20 to 30 minutes. If necessary, turn around after each block and cycle back for 5 to 10 minutes with a high cadence. This is a form of sweet spot training. The interval blocks can also be shorter, in which case do shorter rest intervals.

4. Take the train

If you want to do a long easy endurance training and you don't feel like battling the wind... Get on the train with your bike and ride as far as possible against the wind. Then ride home with the wind at your back. Enjoy the wind.

5. Do something different

Do an alternative workout. When it's really blowing too hard or are there gusts of wind that make cycling too dangerous but you still want to train? Do an alternative workout, like running or do some strength training at the gym. Again, don't let the wind throw a spanner in the works but use the wind as an excuse to try a different form of training.

6. Remove speed from your head unit

Seeing only 20 kmh on your head unit demotives, but it's not very strange with a 80 kph headwind. Remove speed from the screen and just ride on your heart rate, power or just by feeling.

7. Ride in a group

In most countries, it is allowed again: riding small groups of up to 4 people. It makes a world difference, up to 50%. Did you know that it even helps if someone's riding behind you? So if you have someone in your wheel, don't send him or her away immediately, because you will benefit from it anyway....

8. Find shelter

In the forest there is much less wind than in an open fields. Even a row of houses can make a big difference. Plan your route cleverly, headwind with lots of shelter, tailwind not. That way you get the most out of it.

9. Ride local loops

Small local laps are a very good option when the wind is very strong. Because you never have the wind against you for a long time, it is mentally easier to keep up. You also cool down less. Excellent to combine with an intensive interval training (see 2).

10. Rest

Take a rest day. Have you planned a bike training but it's storming outside, the weather guy has announced code yellow with heavy wind gusts of 80-90 kmh? Take a rest day! Go clean your bike, watch some Netflix or find a nice bike ride on for better times. Don't let the wind ruin your mood. Give yourself over completely to tranquility. Rest is an underrated form of training.

In short, if there is a lot of wind and you still want to ride, swap your high aero wheels for your light flat climbing wheels and make the wind your friend and enjoy.

*FPT = Functional Treshold Power. If you are cycling without a power meter but with a heart rate monitor, make sure you cycle the intervals at 90 to 95% of your max HR.

** Cycle the intervals at 80 to 85% of your max HR

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