Author Topic: East to West or West to East  (Read 1178 times)

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Offline Kenny G

East to West or West to East
« on: June 27, 2014, 11:19:27 pm »
       Before I decided to travel from Portland ME to Portland OR I researched whether it made that big a difference due to the wind.  After a lot of research it seemed that the direction and the wind probably wouldn't have a major impact on the trip.  Let me tell you from personal experience that if anyone tells you this, they have never ridden east to west!! 

      I'm convinced that we would have shaved 1 to 2 weeks off our 10 week ride if we had gone west to east.  It doesn't make that much a difference east of the Mississippi, but once you get into the fields, grasslands, and the deserts of the west, there is no hiding from the consistent west to east headwind.  Idaho and Oregon were by far the worst, but South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin also had their share of head winds.

     So take it from one experienced rider, if you need to get across quick, west to east may be the way to go.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2014, 11:44:01 pm by Kenny G »

Offline John Nelson

Re: East to West or West to East
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2014, 12:24:19 am »
I've ridden across the country in each direction. I carried a windmeter with me and took readings twice a day every day at exactly the same time each day. The sum of all the wind vectors was essentially zero. This experienced rider is pretty sure it does not make a difference, at least not to me at the times and on the routes I went. Perception, however, is another matter.

Offline John Nettles

Re: East to West or West to East
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2014, 01:28:56 am »
Out of curiosity, what and how did you determine this?  For instance was the wind out of the E @ 8mph average and W @ 8.5mph average or was it 51% out of the west and 49% of the east but the wind was stronger out of the west for instance, and/or east of the Mississippi, it blew westerly and vice versa? Sort of a really neat study you did!  Any summary you can provide?

For me, the sun is a factor (hard on my eyes) so I tend to ride west or north given a chance.  However, never ride the west coast northbound (from experience)!

Thanks!
Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!
John

Offline staehpj1

Re: East to West or West to East
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2014, 06:42:51 am »
There are lots of reasons to pick a direction of travel and wind would be way down on my list of factors for a coast to coast ride.  It depends on your route, when you plan to go, and where you live, but here are a few factors that you might want to consider.  I list them in order of importance to me.

  • I personally much prefer to start out on the opposite coast from where I live.  If you live near one end or the other of the trip starting at the other end allows you to plan air travel in advance at a time you can predict.  It is easy to say when you will start, and not so easy to say when you will finish.  It also helps to get and keep you committed to the ride better IMO.
  • Starting date will affect which direction will yield better weather.  Generally for a summer tour if you go early in the season, start in the east, later in the season start in the west.  You can avoid the heat and humidity in the east and snow in the west that way.
  • It depends on the terrain for your specific route, but on the TA we found the Appalachians to be the hardest part and wanted to do them after we were well road hardened.
  • Depending on whether you rise really early and get on the road at the crack of dawn or ride past sunset which way the sun is in your eyes might be a factor.

Offline RussSeaton

Re: East to West or West to East
« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2014, 03:16:46 pm »
I live in the middle of the country.  Anyone and everyone who rides a bike will tell you the wind comes out of the West during the summer.  Blows to the east.  There is no arguing this fact.  In the summer the wind will also come out of the South and Southwest.  In the winter the wind comes out of the West and North.  Maybe more North than West in the winter.  But summer, wind comes out of the West and South.  This is not 100%.  Occasionally the wind comes out of the East too.  When its going to rain, the storms come from the East.  But it does not rain every single day, so the wind usually comes out of the West.

Another reason to ride west to east is the setting sun.  Sun sets in the west.  So riding to the east you will have the sun above or behind you all day long.  Cars coming up behind you cannot be blinded by the sun if the sun is above or behind you.  Safety.  I do not start riding at daybreak so would never have the sun in my eyes as I am riding east.  I start several hours after daybreak so the sun is well up in the sky.  I will be riding to the east in the late afternoon as the sun begins setting in the west.

Offline staehpj1

Re: East to West or West to East
« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2014, 04:39:02 pm »
As I said, for a coast to coast trip I wouldn't base the direction of travel on the wind, but if I did I would go E-W on the TA since the TA runs NE-SE across the plains and the July winds there tend to come out of the SE.  My experience there seemed to agree with the map I attached.  For the NT it looks like a wash.  I wouldn't do the ST in summer but it looks like the winds there would favor E-W travel at that time.

Offline John Nelson

Re: East to West or West to East
« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2014, 08:19:34 pm »
Sun sets in the west.
And it rises in the east.

Online Pat Lamb

Re: East to West or West to East
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2014, 12:44:58 pm »
Sun sets in the west.
And it rises in the east.

And so we come to the crux of the matter.  Which way do you, the prospective tourist, want to go?

FWIW, it hit 100 F almost every day we were in Kansas in June.  It's a whole lot cooler, and generally much less wind, in the morning than in the afternoon.  It took a bit to shift our riding habits, but we were much happier when we started riding at dawn (going west, with the sun at our backs).

Offline Bclayden

Re: East to West or West to East
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2014, 03:43:45 pm »
Wind is a non-issue for planning a US crossing. Friend or foe?  Depends on the wind which is, of course, undependable.

Now, the only way I have learned to avoid wind is:

I always start to ride at dawn. I should say that I don't camp but stay in motels so am always starting my day from town. 100 miles takes 5-8 hours and, if eastbound, by the time I am out of town and the road starts to get busy the summer sun is high enough where drivers aren't blinded by it.   Also, most commute traffic is headed into town so not much of a problem. 

The advantage of an early start?  ...done by early afternoon and heat and wind and thunderstorms and sunburn are avoided.  Early much better for this rider.   Disadvantage?  Sometimes I miss the crap "free" breakfast at the motel.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2014, 04:06:39 pm by Bclayden »

Offline John Nelson

Re: East to West or West to East
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2014, 06:37:48 pm »
Out of curiosity, what and how did you determine this?
Here's a small sample of my data from the summer of 2010, just the part through Kansas. These readings were all taken at 11:00 a.m. The columns are the date, the destination city for the day, the wind speed in MPH, and the wind direction. As you can see, it was a mixed bag. This data does not imply that the wind blew as shown all day--only that one moment at 11:00 a.m. So it's just a snapshot. Note that the day I rode from Hutchinson to Rush Center, the forecast said that the winds would be out of the SW at 26 MPH. That would have been devastating. Luckily, that forecast was very, very wrong. I had a strong tailwind (westbound). In the first two hours, which included the stretch through the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, I covered over 35 miles. That's astounding considering my average speed for the whole cross-country trip was only 12.4 MPH. I stayed with my cousin in Pittsburg, and he warned me that I would face strong headwinds all the way across Kansas. That was his perception, but it was wrong. I met some eastbounders in Rush Center that were complaining that they had had nothing but strong headwinds ever since they got to the plains.

Jun 03      Pittsburg      8   W
Jun 04      Chanute       8   SSW
Jun 05      Eureka         4   S
Jun 06      Newton        6   NE
Jun 07      Hutchinson   7   NW
Jun 08      Rush Center  8   E
Jun 09      Ness City     10   E
Jun 10      Scott City     20   SSW
Jun 11      Eads            12   NE

Offline John Nettles

Re: East to West or West to East
« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2014, 07:37:15 pm »
Pretty interesting.  My only thought to counter it is that it was valid for sure for that point in time only.  I am "assuming" (with all that that entails) the 30-year averages the National Weather Services uses is a little more accurate on AVERAGE.  However, your study made me think that while Kansas that year may have been slightly different from the NWS averages, on a 80+ days ride, a rider is bound to have numerous "off" days as far as the weather goes.

The only tour I remember where the wind patterns held predominantly true was when I went northbound on the Pacific during a clockwise USA-perimeter tour back in '87.  My journal (and memory) indicates I had headwinds (at least noticeably) at least 65% of the time, especially in California.

Thanks for the data, again it is pretty interesting.
Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!
John

Offline Bclayden

Re: East to West or West to East
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2014, 09:53:00 pm »
Hi John.

Interesting data. I just rode from Torrington, WY (Beginning June 2) Eastbound across Nebraska and Kansas to Kansas City, MO (June 9) and found a steady 10-15 mph headwind nearly all day and every day heading SSE.  Only 1 day of 7 did I have some help with the wind. 

Let's just say the only predictable thing about June wind in the Plaines is that it's always blowing.  From where is not certain.

Offline John Nelson

Re: East to West or West to East
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2014, 11:50:56 pm »
My only thought to counter it is that it was valid for sure for that point in time only.

Absolutely. I agree. Although it is interesting to look at the NWS averages, the experiences of any one individual will almost certainly not match them on very many days. The NWS averages really only reflect a slight bias. Wind is highly variable. That's why I typically cut a day short if there's a headwind and extend the day if there's a tailwind. Just because there's a headwind one day doesn't mean you'll have one the next. Furthermore, you can easily have a headwind one hour and a tailwind the next. Wind is also highly variable within a single day.

There are exceptions, however. Certain places, such as the Wyoming Wind River area, seem to have quite predictable winds.

Offline jamawani

Re: East to West or West to East
« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2014, 12:00:11 am »
Moving objects create apparent wind and apparent wind angle.

The simplest way to start is to consider a cyclist riding at 10 mph with a 10 mph tailwind.
The apparent wind for the cyclist is zero. With a 10 mph headwind, the apparent wind is 20 mph.

This also applies to side winds (90 degrees) but the calculation involves simple trigonometry.
For apparent speed:
A = Squareroot[(Windspeed2)+(Velocity2)+2WVcos(alpha)]
For apparent direction:
Beta = Arccos[{Wcos(alpha)+V}/A]

For a person riding east at 10 mph with a 10 mph north wind -
It SEEMS like there is a northeast wind of approximately 14 mph.

Thus, for most of us, 3/4 of the time it feels like there is a headwind -
And only 1/4 of the time does it feel like there is a tailwind.

Offline John Nettles

Re: East to West or West to East
« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2014, 08:10:50 am »
Thus, for most of us, 3/4 of the time it feels like there is a headwind -
And only 1/4 of the time does it feel like there is a tailwind.

And I thought it was just that the cycling gods were pissed at me a lot ;)
Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!
John