Wrestling The Witch of the Wind

by Andy Amick on February 27, 2016

in Cycling

cycling wind, witch wind

As I write this, the forecast for Denver on Feb 27th is high 60s, bright sunshine, and gusty winds. All on a day when the NHL Stadium Series will be played outdoors at Coors Field. Ah, spring(ish) time in Colorado. Earlier this week we had snow. Sunshine and 50s filled the remaining days.

With all of the wacky weather of Spring, comes the witch of Spring – the wind. She is not kind. She takes no mercy. She is a constant voice in your head – a whispering or sometimes a yell that never goes away. The wind and the witch. Inseparable and existing for the sole purpose of driving a cyclist mad.

If faced with the prospect of riding in 10 degrees with light snow falling, 60 degrees with a 30 mph gusting wind, or 90 degrees with 90% humidity in the stifling dead air, I think I would take the 10 degrees almost every time.

Having grown up in South Carolina, I’ve seen enough of those 90/90 days when there is absolutely no movement in the air. Maybe some ice water in a bottle or drenching yourself with water can cool you for a few minutes.

On the cold days, one can add layers to stay warm and mostly comfortable. Plus, riding through light snowfall is delightful.

With the wind, there is no option for being comfortable. Maybe you can ride “with” the wind and alleviate the witch’s whispering. However, as soon as you turn a corner, there is the witch waiting for you to face the wind so that she can tell you all of the crazy ideas she dreamed up while you were riding away from her.

There is no escaping the battering you receive when riding into a headwind. It’s a physical battering from the extra energy required. But even more demoralizing is the mental battering from the constant voice that the wind becomes in your head. Thoughts can’t be completed because the witch is constantly interrupting you with her voice. A calm mind is out of the question.

As Bob Seger sings in “Against the Wind”

Against the wind
A little something against the wind
I found myself seeking shelter against the wind

It’s always a headwind at some point on those days and there is no shelter. At the end of the day, the rider is left tired and exhausted while the wind witch sails off to find another rider. One she can tempt with the thoughts of fast tailwinds, all the while knowing that she will deliver a fierce headwind and a demoralizing chant in their ear.

The wind always wins.

About Andy Amick
A little bit nutty in general, a lotta bit nutty about bikes. Each of his boys received a bike helmet for their first birthday and the three of them have been biking together ever since.

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  • ram3979

    Hey Andy – my experience with head winds came front and center during my Canadian cross-country bike ride back in the early 90’s. Somehow I convinced myself that the trade winds wouldn’t necessarily blow in just one direction and decided to go east to west (it was logistically easier to start in Yarmouth, NS since I lived in the northeast). By the time I swung west past Montreal I began to wake up every morning hoping/praying/pleading for a tailwind. It happened so infrequently I thought I’d never get to the west coast. Even now I groan when reliving that pummeling wind tunnel that defined most of my summer jaunt. Ugh.

    • Ouch, that sounds miserable :) hopefully you made it to the west coast and were able to celebrate the accomplishment.

      • ram3979

        Yeah – I got to Tsawwassen, BC after 59 days. It felt great to complete the adventure but it was harder than it had to be :)

  • Gene Dionne

    Oh, the curse of the long distance cyclist…the headwind! Mountains and passes have to eventually relent to a cyclist’s persistence but the wicked “witch of the wind” often never quits, never relents. Wyoming seems to have the worst setting for headwinds. I rode America west to east and for a 120 mile segment into Casper, headwinds the whole way and it was only made easier by riding in a pace line or echelon. Riding the Great Divide Trail (Banff to Mexican border) the worse day was AFTER riding through the Great Divide Basin in Wyoming, hitting a headwind when I turned south on pavement to go more-or-less downhill in Rawlings. The wind was so strong that I had to pedal hard downhill to achieve 8-10 mph! The loneliness of the long distant mtn biker…

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