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Psychology of wind(32 posts)

Psychology of windfiltersweep
Oct 2, 2001 5:54 PM
This is a "has anyone else noticed this?" post:

The more windy it is, the faster the average speed is for the ride.

My theory is that for me, I end up working harder to keep my speed up while going into the wind, and of course going with the wind is always faster anyway.

On one hand this wind issue seems counterintuitive, and I've generally NOT looked forward to windy days, but when I bike alone, I more or less use a computer to try to maintain an arbitrary minimum speed... plus I'm half convinced that like sailing, all sorts of different wind angles can have a positive effect on speed. This all assumes that the ride ends where it began.

Thoughts or ideas?
My hat's off to youMick
Oct 2, 2001 6:05 PM
If you clock faster times with a high wind then you have my respect. The mechanics of wind are similar to the mechanics of hill climbing in one way - whatever effort you put into a headwind or a hill, you do not get an equivalent boost from a tailwind or a downhill.

At a minimum you're facing losses from friction in the drive train and wheels. Also a tailwind only gives you a boost from the 4 o'clock to 8 o'clock positions. A wind from any other angle sucks energy from your ride.

Maybe someone else can explain the mechanics better.

However, you could very well clock better times if you're motivated to ride harder by the wind. Personally, I always do my best times when there's no wind at all.
My hat's off to youfiltersweep
Oct 2, 2001 6:16 PM
The problem with no wind at all is that it subjectively seems like I'm always AGAINST the wind (the "wind speed" of the bike itself).

But I do agree with you that it never seems there is a full payoff with a downhill or with a tailwind...

Another factor with hills or wind, is that since there is more time spent going uphill or against the wind, and comparatively less time going down or with the wind, you really DO spend more of the ride going against the wind or uphill (those descents take a tiny fraction of the time that the climb took)....
re: Psychology of windmaximum15
Oct 2, 2001 6:53 PM
I am on the gulf coast of florida. In early summer, the wind blows so that I have a headwind out and tailwind back. These rides give low average speed because I am so disgusted at the turnaround point I don't try that hard on the way back. In the late summer and fall, the wind is exactly opposite. At the turnaround, I have a great average due to the tailwind so I fight like heck to maintain it on the way back -- great average speed. All psychological.
re: Psychology of windfiltersweep
Oct 2, 2001 7:42 PM
hmmm.... headwind at the start vs. at the end of a ride- interesting angle (no pun). I think I prefer a headwind at the start- there is something comforting knowing that it is easier getting back than going out, plus there is little fatigue (hopefully) involved at the start of a ride... but again, it is all psychological. I generally ride in a series of circles around three of four lakes in a chain, which is different than more or less straight riding, so the wind is generally changing constantly. I tend to go further if I finish a lake with a tailwind because I quickly forget how harsh the headwind was. The lakes also tend to amplify the wind (for better or worse).
It's one of the challenges of riding I enjoyStarliner
Oct 2, 2001 8:59 PM
I've grown to like cutting through headwinds. It's a challenge, similar to climbing a hill in that it requires more effort, but with some important differences.

In contrast to hill climbing where I'll often stand out of the saddle, cutting through a headwind efficiently requires a smaller, more aerodynamic profile.

When I'm fighting gravity, I feel more at the mercy of the hill. One's bodyweight is a constant and consistent factor - the lower the better. I climb well for my weight (195 lbs) but those who beat me to the top typically weigh 20+ pounds less. There seems to be not a lot I can do about that but to get better conditioned so that I can climb up it faster. The whole process can be a real slog.

Battling the winds is a more fluid task, and one where I'm not at such a disavantage vis a vis the littler guys. As with climbing, my ability to fight through a wind improves over time with better conditioning. However, I can instantly get improved results during any ride when I adopt a minimal, tucked position. Speed goes up & effort goes down when hunkered down. Any aero advantages the smaller guys might have over me are not obvious as with hill climbing.

So I think your average speed theory works for me, too.
Not my experiencemickey-mac
Oct 2, 2001 9:07 PM
My times are typically slower on windy days than calm days. Most days, the wind is more or less completely calm here until late morning or early afternoon, so I don't do a lot of riding in strong winds. However, when I do, I rarely feel that I've got a good tailwind pushing me along. More often, I feel like I'm fighting a headwind or at least a sidewind. This is probably mostly mental, but I haven't been able to work through it yet. I'd rather ride uphill all day than ride on a windy day. My hat's off to you for figuring out a way to overcome the wind.
Oct 2, 2001 10:46 PM
I ride in windy conditions quite regularly and we get our best times on the calmer days.

re: Psychology of windDuane Gran
Oct 3, 2001 3:35 AM
I agree that wind poses a mental challenge. Many people get frustrated by it, but I think of it as being sort of like a hill. When riding on windy days I concentrate more on my HR than my speed.

In my experience, when doing controlled tempo rides (150 bpm HR) my fastest times are on calm days. In the book "performance cycling" the author proves that wind will always work against you if you are doing roughly and out-and-back or loop and the wind stays constant. There are always little variations, but I would confidently say that wind takes more than it gives.
Not exactly......Len J
Oct 3, 2001 3:51 AM
my experience. I live on the eastern shore of MD and we have wind every day, the only question is, how strong & from what direction. One of the things you learn to do early in a ride is guage wind direction so you always start out with the wind in your face & end with a tailwind. It is something we don't even think about.

Your theory that because you work harder going into the wind, you raise your average speed is not supported by my experience entirely. I do find that when working into the wind, I do work harder, I think because of ego (looking down & seeing that I am moving at 14.5 mph is demoralizing when I know I'm working so hard), however after this effort for an hour or so, I end up with less energy available to push as hard downwind as I did pushing upwind. Your theory however does hold true when I'm in a group ride, because of more "rests". I think.

Math doesn't support you either:
I have a 29 mile loop that I ride frequently. It's all flat and it's almost completely straight out & back. I ride it once every 2 weeks to test my fitness. I also keep a log.

Riding it in the early morning with no wind, my last 3 average speeds have been 20.5mph avg. completing the run in 84.9 minutes or 1 hour 24.9 min.

Riding into a 20mph headwind I can average 14.5 mph (I know I've kept track)
If I ride 29 miles out and back and average 14.5 for the first 14.5 miles I have to average 34.9 mph over the final 14.5 miles to have the same average speed of 20.5. I'm strong but not that strong.

If I average 17 going out I would have to averge 25.8 on the way back to average 20.5 overall. Maybe more doable, but it would have to be a weaker head(and tail)wind.

My conclusion is that the lower the wind the more likely that your hypothesis is correct, The higher, the less likely.

Not exactly......Scott B
Oct 3, 2001 7:11 AM
Len J, where on the eastern shore do you live - around Annapolis, or further out towards the ocean? One of my favorite rides is out along route 1 from Ocean City up to Rehoboth, and the only factor that ever changes is the wind. Anyway, not to be a nit-picker, but I think you're incorrect on your math. If you do 14.5 mph on the first half of your ride, then you have "only" to average 26.5 mph on the trip back for an overall 20.5 mph. If you do 17 mph going out, you "only" have to do 24 mph coming back. Think about it - since the distances are equal (and already factored in using mph), if you do one half at x mph and another at y mph, the average is the sum of those numbers (x+y) divided by 2. In any event, I agree with you - I prefer calm days, and would much rather go upstream (into the wind) first, and return downstream (or downwind). Isn't that what kayakers and canoeists are supposed to do too?
Incorrect.........Len J
Oct 3, 2001 8:06 AM
Average speed is total milage covered divided by time it took. If I average 14.5 miles for the first 14.5 miles that it would take me 60 minutes. If I average 35MPH for the next 14.5 miles it would only take me 24.9 minutes. Total Milage would be 29 total time would be 84.9 minutes therefor 29 milesdivided by 84.9 minutes times 60 minutes equals 20.5 MPH avg for the entire 29 miles. While the distances are equal, the time it takes to do the distance are not.

I live in Easton, about 30 minutes south of the bay bridge.

Incorrect.........Scott B
Oct 3, 2001 9:26 AM
You're right - I stand corrected. I got confused between two average speeds for the same distance vs. 2 average speeds for the same amount of time. (duh) And speaking of rides that can be highly impacted by wind, will you be heading to Salisbury to do the Seagull?
Definatly.....Len J
Oct 3, 2001 9:46 AM
Seagull is a fun ride. Not sure what course we are doing yet, will decide on the day of the ride.

I made the same averaging mistake you made several times before I "got it", not a problem. We all are "duh" sometimes.


Definatly.....Scott B
Oct 3, 2001 10:11 AM
Well, if you see a guy on a red Serotta, all decked out himself in red and black (I know, it's silly, but it's sort of my trademark), hopefully sucking the wheel of a Litespeed with a boombox on the back (of the Litespeed, not the Serotta), say hi. I think I'm doing the "traditional" century.
I'll be the guy...........Len J
Oct 3, 2001 10:22 AM
on a Trek 5500, with an Alaska AIDS ride jersey & a camelback.

red flag! camelbak=fred! wait a minute...nevermind. nmJs Haiku Shop
Oct 3, 2001 10:29 AM
You can call me fred. That be me. (nm)Len J
Oct 3, 2001 12:25 PM
Question, do winds blow or suck? nmMB1
Oct 3, 2001 4:55 AM
Depends where you livemickey-mac
Oct 3, 2001 5:00 AM
I've always heard that Texas is windy because Oklahoma sucks. ;-)
Lately, they blow. Right into my face. Every timeSpinchick
Oct 3, 2001 7:53 AM
I ride. Every single time. It hurts.
Try riding in circles. Skip the painkillers.MB1
Oct 3, 2001 8:09 AM
On windy days we usually look for hilly routes with lots of direction changes. When you are going up and down you are often out of the wind and the direction changes keep the windy stretches manageable. Of course there is nothing more discouraging than pedaling your favorite downhill at 10mph.

I think the fall and spring are windy times of the year.
But can I ride in circles and chew hornets at the same time?Spinchick
Oct 3, 2001 9:12 AM
That is the question.

Ain't no hills rount here.
Yes (nm)Len J
Oct 3, 2001 8:07 AM
True, LOL (nm)MB1
Oct 3, 2001 8:13 AM
winds worse than hillsbianchi boy
Oct 3, 2001 6:05 AM
Your experience is different than mine. The wind usually isn't a big factor in NC, but it seems to slow me down more than help. Part of the reason for that is the wind always seems to shift so it seems like you're riding into a headwind about 75% of the time rather than half. At least with hills, there's always the downhill side to recover. You know that if you start and end a bike ride at the same location you will always have exactly the same amount of climbing and descending. Not so with the wind. It never seems to equal out.
winds worse than hillsLen J
Oct 3, 2001 8:16 AM
Living in winds like I do, I have spent time understanding them. I also sail, which gives me another model. Anyway, I think that on a 360 degree compass, when you have a wind, you only feel it as a tailwind on 90 degrees of arc. In the next 45 degrees left & right it feels & acts as a crosswind (hurts handling, doesn't really help progress) the remaining 180 degrees feels & acts like a headwind. So basically you only get help from 90 degrees of wind direction, but you get hurt from 180 degrees. Add to this the difference between apparent wind speed & actual wind speed (the effect of you moving thru the air on wind perception) and wind becomes very confusing to decipher. How many times have you been in a tailwind that suddenly sounds & feels like a headwind? What usually is happening is that your velocity has exceeded the wind speed. (i.e. 16 mph tailwind, once you exceed 16 mph you begin to move against the wind (you are moving faster than the tailwind, up around 20mph in this example & the wind makes alot of noise & seems to be coming from the front))

My .02

i'd have to agree--faster with headwind than against hillsJs Haiku Shop
Oct 3, 2001 6:45 AM
now, headwind uphill is another story.

9/22 rode mostly solo 18 mph century over low rollers first 30-40 miles and long, straight, flat/slightly inclined, severely windswept roads the last half+. this was my second century and third long ride this year (ever, really), the second being a hilly double metric. i found that flat roads with wind, where you can see other riders (targets) up the road, are preferable to me over climbing. then again, i'm a big guy, and at 195 i'm no climber.

9/29 rode a low-rolling to flat double metric, during which i picked up a line of 5-8 in my draft at around mile 70, where we were crossing several miles of HEAVY winds and long, low hills with no windbreaks. pretty nasty. of the half dozen in my wake were a couple smaller riders, one with a disk rear wheel (go figure?), and a schwinn SS tandem. at the next SAG, several of them thanked me for being a human fairing in that section. maybe bigger riders fare better in heavy headwinds/crosswinds than smaller/otherwise lower-power-output riders? i'm no mathemetican.
think about heartrateDog
Oct 3, 2001 8:05 AM
If you rode at a constant heartrate, near your AT, you would definitely be slower on a course with wind. Anything that slows you down will never speed you up as much.

Not sure about the psychology part. I'd imagine that is highly individualized. For me, if I were timetrialing, I'd be going at the limit regardless of wind, and fighting a headwind might likely have the opposite effect - I'd go too hard and blow up trying to maintain speed, rather than effort.

Mudjekeewis ...breck
Oct 3, 2001 8:06 AM
Mudjekeewis, Father of the Winds of Heaven
-"Hiawatha", Longfellow

Since one is a prisoner of the road, you have to develop a psyche scheme for those times you re running/ riding "against the wind", and simply knowing the words to Seger's lyrics are of no great help.

My plan was to embrace the wind as if it were a huge invisible hand pulling you along. This allowed me to relax and put more less effort into running those days when the Santa Ana winds blew the hardest in October, Huntington Beach 1969-74.

Still use this psyche scheme while riding solo the windy desert hwy of S22 from Borrego Springs to the microwave towers , sometimes on out to the Salton Sea, and back the winter months.

Try it :)

"Against the Wind"
I'm still runnin' against the wind
Well I'm older now and still
Against the wind.
-bob seger got that right, bob :)

cheers all,
Psychology of WindJon
Oct 3, 2001 12:27 PM
First of all let me say that Len is the undisputed Windmaster of this Board! Nothing like getting to
know your adversary!

Having said that, in the spring, when it blows hard around here for about two and a half months, I
detest the wind. It demoralizes me. It depresses me. It beats me up. However, by the end of the
summer I almost don't notice it. Why? Two reasons. First, as we all know, the wind makes you
stronger. Second, initially I find the noise of the wind in my ears tenses me all up and puts me
in a negative, resistive mood. Then as a reaction I gear down, start fighting the wind, and end up
mentally and physically whipped. By this time of year I've accepted the wind, gotten stronger, learned
to relax, and like one of the other posters, wised up and started riding in a much more aero position.

As my best riding buddy says, you may not like the wind, but it is your best training partner.
Psychology vs. Physicsfiltersweep
Oct 3, 2001 4:18 PM
I won't argue that the physics definitely support the idea that wind hinders more than it helps, but there are also a ton of psychological factors that seem to influence my ride. Traffic, other riders, etc. seem to affect my speed. I've noticed even that rougher roads (paved with larger stones/gravel) gives the perception that I'm going faster (since there is more road noise/vibration) so I'll actually find that I do ride faster than on a new road that is completely smooth asphalt (even though there is obviously less rolling resistance, there is no feedback through the bars to even indicate I'm moving).

Another issue with wind for me simply might be that I have much lower expectations on a very windy day, and no matter what I'm doing, it seems the lower my expectations, the more I enjoy doing it.