Riders make their way past the flag lined Silver City Cemetery during the first day of RAGBRAI Sunday. (Justin Hayworth/The Des Moines Register)

by Coach David Ertl

In my last blog, I discussed the 4 H’s of RAGBRAI – Hills, Headwinds, Heat and Humidity.  This time I am going to focus on Headwinds and how you can deal with them.  Let’s face it, no cyclist really likes headwinds, but here are some tips to help you deal with it more positively.

Headwinds are a fact of life and cycling. You need to accept that.  While headwinds, like hills, are harder to ride into, you might as well accept the fact that it is a part of cycling. Like hills, headwinds are part psychological.  You can defeat yourself before you even begin if you notice the wind and decide it will beat you.  Instead, think about winds as adding a challenge to cycling. While it would be fun to ride with no wind at all, at least you have to admit wind does add an element of challenge to cycling. Who would want cycling to be easy all the time?  (okay, don’t answer that!).

But one thing you can think about while riding into a headwind is the fact that they do make your cycling not only more challenging but also more interesting.  One day the wind will be out of the west.  If you ride a given route, part of it will be into the wind and more challenging and another part will be easier.  The next day the wind may be out of the east and if you ride that same route, it will be completely different.  The hard parts will now be easy and vice versa.   So if nothing else, wind does create variation to your riding.

Headwinds also provide a challenge. Now you may not be going out of your way to find challenges while riding your bike, but the wind certainly offers that.  Here is Iowa we don’t have mountains but we do have wind.   I call our winds “Iowa mountains”.  You can grind away for a couple of hours as if you were climbing a long mountain pass, then turn around and get to ride back with a tailwind as if you were coming back down a mountain.  If you don’t have hills to train on, a good headwind can provide somewhat similar resistance as gravity. Even if you don’t enjoy riding in the wind, at least you can feel comfort in the fact that wind makes you stronger just like hills do.

RAGBRAI goes west to east on purpose.  Our summer winds here are typically out of the west or south-west so you get some friendly assistance from the wind, most of the time.  Of course there are exceptions when an odd easterly wind will hit you during RAGBRAI, or you will be heading south on the day there is a southerly headwind.  But for the most part it will be at your back.

So view headwinds as a training partner – it is there to make you stronger, both physically and mentally.  Wind can be tough, but so can you!  If you get caught in a headwind, use your gears just as you would on a hill and reduce the effort.  Headwinds will slow you down, but tailwinds will make you feel like a million bucks.

Have fun out there banging your head into those headwinds.

Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and individual cyclists through the Peaks Coaching Group. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: http://ift.tt/KCPCu1 . He can be contacted at coach@cyclesportcoaching.com.

Footnote: The RAGBRAI Route Inspection Pre-Team just completed riding the full route and experienced 7 straight days of East winds, which amounted to lots of headwinds and cross wind, making the ride much more difficult.  Take Coach Ertl great advice…. Please train, just in case!

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