A Breeze

May 23, 2011

I wasn’t expecting to cycle at all this morning. I knew there was an amber weather alert for gales and high winds* and when we woke up this morning it was beyond grim out there: raining, blowing, visibility down to mere yards at time. But then something odd happened – the wind didn’t drop but the rain stopped and the sun even put in an appearance and I decided to seize the opportunity and nip down for the paper after all.

Well, I say ‘nip’, but with the wind being what it was, ‘battle’ might have been a better word, at least for the outward leg. Coming down to Nearest Village wasn’t too bad, although the road was running with water from all the rain and the tarmac was scattered with debris from the wind (it’s always a shame when we get late spring gales to see the fresh new leaves all shredded on the ground, and coming into the village I also saw the body of a fledgeling rook that had probably been tossed out of its nest). But it was as I left the relative shelter of the village and the road turned directly into the wind that it got interesting. There were a few moments when I did actually grind to a halt, despite pedalling with all my might, and others where the bike skittered sideways in a sudden gust of crosswind and it took all my luck to stay upright and out of the hedge. But even on the way out it was an exhilarating ride. Every overhead wire hummed with its own note as I passed and every tree was in movement, the forests roaring like the sea. With the clouds racing through the sky everything was patterned with fleeting sun and shadows and where the grass had been left to grow long for silage whole hillsides seemed to be alive, rippling like the play of muscles under an animal’s skin.

And then there was the ride back. I’d not put my GPS on the bike so I don’t know what speed I hit, but I’m pretty certain that some records may have been breached when the wind and the downhill sections coincided. There was definitely one point when I felt the wind take me like a boat before a storm and it’s probably fortunate that there wasn’t much else on the road around me because I’m not sure I could have either braked or steered around any sudden obstacle.

Cycling in Manchester over the weekend we were all struck by the ferocity of the headwinds which don’t so much blow there as ambush you round every corner. The Manchester cyclists we were with were united in their dislike of wind, which they considered far worse even than the rain. I’m sure if we had winds like this constantly, or if I had to get anywhere quickly and looking in any way shevelled, I’d probably go off the wind here too. But when it’s just occasionally and coincides with an otherwise sunny-ish day on empty roads, all I can say is it’s an absolute blast.

* I know the weather’s going to get interesting up here when my London friends start emailing me the forecast…

Cutty Sark

October 24, 2008

It was foul weather yesterday, steady driven rain that left me stuck in the house all day, watching it sheet past the kitchen window. Today, as is often the way, was better: bright, cold and breezy. Really breezy. Really, really breezy, as I found once I got onto my bike and into the teeth of the wind.

David Hembrow had an interesting post about head winds in the Netherlands, and how they can be just as much a problem as hills are in a less flat country. The Dutch, of course, have their own practical solution – they fit tri-bars onto their granny bikes so they can be all upright and urban-chic in the shelter of the cities, and then adopt a more aerodynamic posture when they’re battling across the polders with their entire extended family in a trailer off the back, or whatever it is they do on their bikes. It looks a bit odd, but it’s practical, and this is the nation that brought the world clogs, so I don’t think they care much what the rest of us think.

There’s no room on my handlebars (what with the light bracket and the bell and the air horn and the gear lever and the bird poo) for tri bars or anything else, sadly, so as I battled up the longest hill into the gale, I had to adopt my own, rather unorthodox, approach to aerodynamics. With my hands still on the handlebars, I stand up on the pedals (otherwise I end up going backwards), tuck my elbows in and back, and lean down and forward,  as far out and low over the front wheel as I dare. The effect – I like to think – is that of the figurehead on the prow of a ship, only with more clothes. On a scale of ridiculousness it puts both clogs and tri-bars into the shade, but there’s no-one to see me do it except the cows and the sheep and they all think I’m mad anyway.

Coming back, of course, the wind was behind me and I was flying, my wheels barely touching the road. It’s worth battling the wind, sometimes, as long as you know it will still be there on the way home, pushing you on.

More foul weather to come, they say.