When is it Too Windy to Ride a Bike?

A cyclist riding on a windy day
I live in West Texas. Lubbock is the 3rd windiest city in the United States. I have often rode my bicycle in extreme winds. Sometimes, if you want to ride you just have to go out and ride in 30, 40 or even 50 mph winds. It's not fun but it is still a ride. I personally will not ride when the sky is extreme red because that dust that is in the air will end up in my lungs and the ride did me more harm than good. Those red sky days usually roll around in the Spring before the farm fields are planted.

The wind speeds below are kind of funny to me. The Breezy 10 to 15 mph days are commonplace and I have come to not even notice there is any wind on those days. The windy 15 to 25 mph days are actually great days to ride if you are needing hill work. It is flat around here and riding into 25 mph winds can feel like riding hills. It's when it gets up to 30 mph and above that riding is no more fun but I go anyway on some of those days if I am training for a long distance tour just because I need to ride and get the body ready for whatever mother nature wants to throw at me.

The wind in your hair can feel exhilarating on a bike ride, but when it turns into a gale-force opponent, it's time to reconsider your two-wheeled adventure. But where's that line between a refreshing breeze and a ride-ruining blow?

Wind Speed: The Threshold of Trouble

Wind speed is the most crucial factor, but it's not a simple one-size-fits-all answer. Your experience level, bike type, and route all play a role. Here's a general guideline:

  • Breezy (10-15 mph): This is manageable for most riders, though crosswinds can be noticeable.
  • Windy (15-25 mph): Experienced cyclists can handle it, but expect increased effort and reduced stability.
  • Bumpy (25-35 mph): Riding becomes challenging, especially on open roads. Consider alternative routes or postponing your ride.
  • Gusty (35+ mph): This is gale-force territory. It's best to avoid riding altogether, especially if gusts are strong and sudden.

Beyond the Numbers: Other Windy Worries

  • Direction: Crosswinds are the worst, pushing you sideways and making steering a constant battle. Headwinds slow you down, while tailwinds can be deceptive, making you overestimate your speed.
  • Terrain: Open roads offer little wind protection, while hills and valleys can create unpredictable gusts.
  • Visibility: Strong winds often kick up dust or debris, making visibility a concern.

Safety First: When to Say No to the Wind

Listen to your body and common sense. If you feel unsafe or unsure, don't hesitate to call it a day. Here are some red flags:

  • Difficulty maintaining balance.
  • Reduced control, especially during braking or cornering.
  • Fatigue setting in quickly.
  • Poor visibility due to windblown dust or debris.

Tips for Windy Cycling

  • Dress appropriately: Wear snug-fitting clothing and helmets to avoid wind resistance.
  • Adjust your grip: Hold the handlebars loosely to absorb gusts and maintain control.
  • Lean into the wind: This helps maintain balance, especially in crosswinds.
  • Choose sheltered routes: Seek out paths with trees or buildings that can block the wind.
  • Be aware of your surroundings: Watch out for falling objects and debris blown by the wind.

Remember, cycling should be enjoyable, not a fight against the elements. When the wind is howling, there's no shame in taking a break. Your two wheels will be waiting for you when the skies calm down.

Share your windy cycling experiences and tips in the comments below!

Here is my next post:  Senior Cyclists Bring Class to Bicycle Events


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