Thursday, June 07, 2007

Egad! The wind!

I have no clue what in the universe I did to deserve this kind of treatment! The bone-rattling tempest held a steady 30 MPH with gusts probably double that on my journey to work. The first two legs of my journey were a test of my perserverence.

As I bear south onto Ridgeview, I'm punched in the chest with the force of a fire hose. I look at the flags that my apartment complex is flying. They're stiffly rippling to the north-northeast. I am going downhill, but should I stop pedaling, I will certainly be blown to a complete stop within a few yards. My -3% descent feels like +2% at least. I stay in the second chainring, hit the drops, tuck in, and work through the gears. I topped out around 17 MPH. That's weak, even for flat land.

I usually amass 30+ MPH on this 1/4 mile of asphalt to build momentum to help me conquer the 180 Beat Per Minute "wake up call" climb that lies ahead. From a dead standstill, I can usually slog up it in the lower 2 gears of my middle chainring. With a full head of steam from the speed ramp leading up to it, I can usually tackle the rise in the second, third, or even fourth gear of my middle ring.

Today, I hit the valley between the slopes at about 15 miles per hour, somewhere near the middle gear of my middle chainring. I remain crunched and shift down two sprockets to get my cadence up in anticipation of the wall ahead of me. I'm quickly met with opposition. I drop to the granny ring and get about 1/4 way up the hill before my legs run out of push. I clinch the hoods and downshift again and get a little further. I begin to strongly pull with my legs on the upstroke, something that I don't do too often. It gets me some more leverage but my speed keeps dropping. I downshift again and hop out of the saddle, still pushing and pulling, using my arms and core to keep the bike from flailing about. Swarms of gritty debris rips at my legs and face. I downshift again and now I'm totally grannied out as I approach the apex of the challenge I've conquered.

I get back into the middle ring for the slight descent and flat area that comprises the last 1/2 mile of my first leg. I wait for the stop light, and turn left.

Can anyone tell me what could possibly be more malevolent than a 30-60 MPH head wind?

Bueller? Bueller?

I'll tell you the answer. A 30-30 MPH cross wind is far more devious, far less predictable, and an order of magnitude more treacherous than a head wind of similar velocity, especially when that cross wind is left to its own devices with a vulnerable cyclist on a raised viaduct without anything to baffle the gale. My trusty panniers and beefy profile provide ample surface area for the breeze to exact its revenge against me. What crime had I committed to make me a just victim to its torture? To counter it, I leaned over to the right, at times 20-30 degrees from perpendicular to the concrete structure beneath me.

The third and final stretch of my trip to the bus was actually aligned with the wind. My legs completely tapped, I hit 41.1 miles per hour (in a 35 MPH zone) on the flats. Then, and only then, for the first time since I set foot outside my apartment, did I feel calm, still air. Riding at that pace without feeling any resistance pressing against your face is a surreal and confusing experience. One mile is gone far too soon at that speed, and it hadn't nearly paid the debt for the two miles of pain and suffering that had preceded it.

I really, really hope this stuff calms down this afternoon.


Warren T said...

It was a workout indeed. Even if I'd wanted to hammer away I wouldn't have been able to; the path looked more like a brush pile in places than a bike/hike path. The winds even knocked down some mummified squirrels. It was nice yesterday when it was a tailwind...

matt said...

i wonder, if one were to ride in side-winds like that with a disc-wheel, could they even stay on the bike??

like that old saying goes, "may the wind be at your back.."

scott said...

Did you try riding downtown? The wind was stronger whipping around those buildings.

I saw a guy ridding north up Grand 14th to 13th with no hands. I yelled at him to watch the wind.

Noah said...

Heck yah I rode downtown. It was insane. The venturi effect was mind-boggling.

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