“Wind is just a hill in gaseous form” Barry McCarty


Yesterday in London, Ontario was the day for tailwinds. It’s a familiar feeling if you’ve been riding for awhile. “Wow, this feels great. I’m so strong.” Check Garmin. 34 km/hr and easy? Check heart rate. 120 bpm. Hmmm. Tailwind.

Next question, do I mention to the new rider I’m out with that we might want to turn back early? That turning around at the halfway point in terms of time isn’t the best strategy for today?

I missed wind when I was riding in Australia, around Canberra. There hills are the thing. No flat roads and a fair number of actual mountains and long climbs. It made for a different riding style. On the road, on group rides, people didn’t tend to ride as closely as we do here and at first, I wasn’t sure why. They also rotated the lead riders differently, in a way that wasn’t sensitive to wind direction. And then it struck me, wind was almost never a factor there. It was all about hills.

I’ve written about the choice between hills or wind before. See Wind or Hills? Pick Your Poisin.

My best tailwind story concerned an LCW (London Centennial Wheelers) ride a few years ago. I usually ride with the so-called “slow” group but how slow it is depends very much on who shows up and that is weather dependent. Nice days brings out everyone and sometimes, on those days, I moved up to the medium group. This was not a nice day. But I’d negotiated with Jeff, my partner, that it was my turn to ride. And I wanted to get out. The skies were dark and threatening but the radar promised that all the storms would be through the area in an hour.

Leaving the house, the heavens opened and down came the rain. I knew it wouldn’t last so I persisted. I rode to Centennial Hall where the ride begins. There were fewer than a dozen people there. Not good. Just the fast guys from the fast group. Yikes. I waved as if I were casually in the area and thought I’d grab a coffee and head home. Someone called out my name. I rode over. “You’re not heading home, are you?” “Well, yes. There’s no one here from my group.” “Ride with us.”

Crap. Scary thought. Ride with the fast group to Park Hill?

“Don’t worry. We’ll tuck you in the back. You’ll be fine.”

What the heck. I knew the way. I wanted a ride. Fast guys (there was one other woman, very fast, in her twenties) in the rain. What could go wrong?

Aside from one minor crash while cornering fast through a suburb (after which we stopped and deflated tires slightly to cope with wet roads) it was a blast. They really did successfully keep me with them, rotating around me, and keeping me out of the wind.  It was a totally lovely ride. The rain stopped, as the radar had said it would, about an hour into the ride. The sun came out and we all stopped to dry off glasses and take off arm warmers etc.

My fave memory was coming into town and realizing the fast group sprinted for the town sign. One of the guys said to me, “Come on. You don’t have to be last. Get on my wheel.” I did. And I stayed there. And we weren’t last.

But once we got into town. I started to worry about two things. First, I was hungry and the fast group doesn’t stop for lunch. But I hit up a corner store and found something to eat there. Second, that strong headwind on the way out meant a tailwind on the way back. It would be easier but it also meant they couldn’t tuck me and protect me from the wind.

Exactly as predicted the tailwind broke the bunch apart pretty quickly. I was dropped first–after assuring everyone I knew my way–but I didn’t ride alone for too long before I caught up with other riders dropped from the main bunch. The four of us rode together back to London, enjoying the tailwind.

I like this quote: “You never have the wind with you – either it is against you or you’re having a good day.” It’s from Daniel Behrman, The Man Who Loved Bicycles.




2 thoughts on ““Wind is just a hill in gaseous form” Barry McCarty

  1. Loved your post! I remember the first time I experienced being towed up to a group by a fast rider; it felt like a miracle, and a bit like a magic carpet ride. And riding tucked in with faster riders is such a cool thing– takes some gumption, but really fun!

  2. That’s a great quote and exactly the way my mind works! This week’s been particularly windy in London, and my Strava segments show it.

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