Saturday morning looked perfect. No need for tights, no need for long sleeves. Finally — finally! — I was getting out on a road ride. Solo, with my iPod loaded with a mix of Boingo, Cake, Devo, Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and (above all) Social Distortion.
I was headed from my home out to Cedar Fort, a 50-mile out-and-back ride with very few turns and very little climbing.
My idea? Get into the cycling zone and lose myself for a couple hours.
But it didn’t work out quite that way.
Cue Ominous Music
Within a couple of miles, the wind kicked up, blowing Northeast.
I, naturally, was headed Southwest.
I decided, though, that this wasn’t going to ruin my ride. I’d just drop to a lower gear, put my head down, and keep going. A headwind was no big deal.
Except it wasn’t always a headwind. About half the time, it was a headwind/crosswind. It didn’t just want to blow me backwards. It wanted to knock me over sideways.
Before long, it had stopped being so much of a headwind as an uber-headwind. Like a hurricane, without the water. Or like a cyclone, but without the spinning. Or like a tornado, but without…um…I guess without the spinning again.
Tumbleweeds tumbled across the road. I made a game of dodging them, losing only once. I noticed a motorcycle was leaning hard to the left in order to go straight. I wondered how far I was tilting.
I was on a mostly flat road, pedaling at my absolute limit — in third gear. Then second. Then second, standing up…because there was no way I was going to be pedaling on a flat road in my granny gear, no matter what. I’ve got my pride.
I learned to adapt to what was the greatest danger of all — big trucks going by. The trucks themselves weren’t a problem, but as they passed, they’d briefly block the wind, and since I was leaning hard to the left, suddenly the absence of wind would have me shooting into traffic.
This ride was not turning out how I expected.
I Give Up
About five miles before my self-appointed turnaround spot (basically, the place where the road shoulder disappears), I decided I was just too tired. I needed to turn around and see if I could limp myself home.
So I waited for traffic to clear and then pulled a U-turn.
Instantly, I realized how powerful that wind was. Without pedaling, I shot up to 15mph.
And that’s when I understood why wind is such an awful opponent. You can’t tell how much it’s affecting you. Sure, you feel it on your face and chest and you know it’s slowing you down, but you don’t really know how much of your being slow is because of the wind, and how much of it is because of you just being slow.
Well, in this case, it turned out that it was pretty much all the wind.
I Un-Give Up
With the new knowledge that the wind was basically going to give me a free ride all the way home, I decided that I could make it to my original turnaround spot. And so I turned around again, slamming into the wall of wind and having to shift down to my third gear again.
Except it didn’t seem as bad anymore, because now I knew how hard the wind was pushing against me, and that I was still moving ahead anyways. And the important thing wasn’t that I was going slow, it was that I was going at all.
And then, finally, when I got to turn around and ride with the wind — top gear, 35mph on level ground — I really felt like I had earned it.