Sunday, March 28, 2010

Making Peace with the Wind

Hello, blog, you poor, neglected thing!  Have you missed me?

It's Springtime!  Springtime brings a lot of things: Warmer weather, more sun, a return to lawn care, leaves on the trees, blooming wildflowers . . . 

And wind!

Compared to my hometown (Cheyenne, Wyoming), the wind here is nothing (except during a hurricane).  However, being a man broad of shoulders (and waistline) and creating enough rolling resistance for Lance Armstrong and three-quarters, I am the bicycling equivalent of a semi-truck or RV.  It only takes a little wind to slow me down (further).

It seems like every ride I've taken in the last couple of months has provided me with the opportunity to learn to deal with the wind.  And, since my bride and I have picked several breezy locales as possible retirement locales, I need be able to deal with the wind if I intend to keep riding into my senior years.

I don't remember where I read the interview, or who was being interviewed, but I remember that it was a rider who was a big-time cross-country (mountain bike) and cyclocross racer.  He advised novices to familiarize themselves with their gearing and become proficient and frequent, small changes in gearing.  His rationale was that maintaining consistent cadence and perceived exertion would save energy in the long run as opposed to hammering uphill and coasting downhill.

We don't have many hills to speak of in the Houston area, but I think the same principles can apply to dealing with wind and road conditions.

For me, that's only half of the equation, though.

The other half is personal comfort.  I've made some changes to my trusty steed that help in this regard:
  1. I got rid of the gel saddle cover.  I have a Brooks B-17 to put on, but the rails don't fit my clamp exactly, and I haven't been inclined to do anything about that, yet.  However, riding on the "naked" saddle (with padded shorts) has been more comfortable, and I think that I'm finally able to sit in the saddle for a couple of hours without a break.
  2. I did replace my handlebar grips with Ergon grips.  The Ergons distribute the pressure across more of the hand so I don't pinch the ulnar nerves in both hands like I did previously.  Handlebar discomfort doesn't go away immediately, but it does get reduced significantly.
  3. I haven't figured out a pedal solution that will make those more comfortable for long rides.  But, I'm a lot more comfortable with the pedals than I used to be, so I'm in no hurry to work on this one.
Today's ride was a blessing: Headwinds for the first half of the ride; tailwinds for the second half.  Temperatures were cool, traffic was light, coffee was good, and all of my body parts in contact with the bike remained relatively comfortable throughout the ride.

Since I didn't have to take coasting breaks with my butt in the air (trust me, you don't want to see that), or shake out hands and feet to get blood flowing, I was able to maintain a consistent cadence.  I used the whole range of gears on my middle chainring, so my speed varied a good deal.  However, I felt great at the end of the ride, and I'm up for clearing the jungle that is currently my backyard this afternoon (without a nap, even)!

I need to start taking a camera with me.  The Bluebonnets are so-so, but there were some red flowers that looked awesome.  If they're Indian Paintbrush, they're the biggest ones I've ever seen . .  .