Author Topic: Headwinds  (Read 8043 times)

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Offline ClayH

« on: May 25, 2010, 01:03:41 pm »
Hi there, I'm riding westbound on the Northern Tier, and I made it all the way from Minneapolis to Western North Dakota before I encountered what everyone has been warning me about: 30-50mph headwind.  The first day I tried pedaling into it, I made it about three quarters of a mile before I decided that it was too risky to continue.  I was being blown from side to side, and I was picturing myself plastered against the novelty grill of a semi truck after being blown off the shoulder onto the road. 

My question is this, am I making the right decision in hunkering down for these windy days?  Or is it just going to be like this until I get to the mountains (where I'll meet another impediment to my progress, gravity.)  I am nearing the point where I could possibly detour onto the Louis and Clark Trail, would the riding conditions be more amenable to westbound travel on the L&C?  I feel like I am wasting my money, my time, and my summer by hiding from the weather in tiny little oil-towns, but the thought of safely navigating HWY 2 with gale force headwinds just seems reckless.  If anyone has experience riding westbound on the NT, I would love to hear your thoughts, insights, words of encouragement, or even admonishments.  I've been losing enthusiasm for this journey over the last few days, and I feel like something has to change.  I love cycling, and I love the solitude of solo travel, but when you combine those with what feels like riding in a wind tunnel, spirits tend to plummet quickly.

Thank you in advance for your wisdom, this forum has already served as an amazing resource while planning my journey. 
Oh, and I'm in Tioga, ND, at the moment, in case anyone was curious.

Offline JimF

Re: Headwinds
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2010, 02:36:15 pm »
Hi, Clay:
Don't get discouraged. Gales will not be in your face most of the time. In fact, you should see mostly tail winds, according to wind rose data. I have not ridden the NT or the L&C, but I did come E to W on the TA and found a mix of directions and velocity. Part of nature. So, hang in there!

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Headwinds
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2010, 03:09:31 pm »
If it is constantly 30-50 mph, wait it out is my opinion. Time and energy expended is way more than distance achieved. It is not worth it. Cycling is great, but there are limits. Know your limits.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2010, 09:15:37 pm by Westinghouse »

Offline geegee

Re: Headwinds
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2010, 03:18:53 pm »
I rode through two weeks of headwinds across the Canadian Prairies and I know what you are feeling. It wears down your spirit and tries to break you. I rode on no matter what, and learned to adjust my expectations of how far I could get in a day. I remember being so frustrated after a couple of days of unceasing wind that I just stopped in the middle of the road and screamed at the top of my lungs. Somehow I felt better after that  :) In the middle of Saskatchewan, I came across an inscription on an earthen dam which somehow boosted my courage to keep on: "Great enterprises fail because people become tired and lose heart. But a country is built on the dreams of those who will not let them die." After all that, I stopped cursing the wind and accepted how puny I was. And when a tailwind finally came, I felt like Superman  ;D


  • Guest
Re: Headwinds
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2010, 04:14:58 pm »
Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if my experience on the "High Line" (U.S. 2 across MT to Cut Bank) was typical, the prevailing winds will be in your face.  Some days it was strong.  Other days it wasn't.  You will also likely face a stiff headwind between McGranth, AB and Waterton Village.

Have you tried starting very early in the morning, stopping in a town when the wind gets really bad, and then continuing late in the afternoon when the wind often dies down some?  Traffic should also be calmer in the morning.  The one thing you have going for you is that you can do some relatively short days.  Culbertson to Wolf Point is about 55 miles. Another 52 to Glasgow.  From there it's a long day to Malta, but maybe you can shorten it if there is lodging in Saco.  Malta to Harlem is about 47 miles, and then it's 43 to Havre.

I feel your pain.  I spent days riding in Andalucia riding into headwinds that nearly reduced me to tears and blew me off the road.  And last year I learned to never again ask "It's only 35 miles.  How hard can it be?"  The wind between Pincher Creek, AB and Waterton Village slowed us to a crawl.  Good luck and keep your spirits up.  Things could change tomorow.

Offline valygrl

Re: Headwinds
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2010, 07:08:13 pm »
the NOAA web site has a lot of detail about wind forecasts, you can use it to look at towns along your route for the next couple of days and make an informed decision.

looks to me like it's going to get better tomorrow, then you're getting some tailwind.

type the city name and state in the box at the top of the page.  ALso, click the "Hourly weather graph" link, and turn on the wind graph, to see what it's going to be like in different parts of the day.  As indyfabz said, there's often an afternoon increase in wind in that area, so you can help yourself by riding early & late.  Or at least, that's how it is in the summer, I don't know if it's like that now.

Also, if you are hating part of your tour, it's ok to go somewhere else - hitchhike, bus, etc. - and change your plans to something you like better.  Not everyone likes the plains - I sure didn't.

Offline windrath

Re: Headwinds
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2010, 09:28:58 pm »
When I encountered those kinds of winds in Canada, I did as Indyfabz suggested.  Get on the roa when it gets light - even if that means 4:30-5:00 am and get a couple of hours before the winds pick-up.  You might be able to cover 25-30 miles before taking a break until the evening time.

Not quite the same tour as you expected, but it will come to an end as you get closer to the mountains.

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Headwinds
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2010, 12:52:50 am »
I live in a place where it's like this most of the time in the spring and summer (Central Washington, near Ellensburg).  It  blows so much here that we have windmills all over.  I survive by riding early or on routes that I know are somewhat protected by topography or trees.  Often, I just ride in other places.  It can be very demoralizing when caught out in these conditions.

It sound like where you are, the wind is not like that all the time, so I'd follow the advice of the others an continue on the ride.  Locals may know what time of day is best. 

I often end up stuck in it, and then gear way down and go slowly, with the knowledge that it's going to take a long time to get home.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline staehpj1

Re: Headwinds
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2010, 08:29:37 am »
Have you tried starting very early in the morning, stopping in a town when the wind gets really bad, and then continuing late in the afternoon when the wind often dies down some?

I like to start an hour or more before daylight.  It is a great time to be on the road and the winds are usually light that time of day.  At least that was my experience in eastern Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.  I expect it should be the same there.

Hang in there.

Offline MaryK

Re: Headwinds
« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2010, 04:17:01 pm »
I rode westbound on the NT in 2007. We had headwinds, we had tailwinds, we had crosswinds.  We even had debates with eastbound riders as to whether or not they had headwinds at the same time we did.  I finally realized that the wind blows and I should just keep pedaling.

It was a great trip.  I hope it gets better for you.

Offline ClayH

Re: Headwinds
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2010, 01:31:19 pm »
I'd like to thank all of you for your words of encouragement.  I am travelling with a blackberry phone linked to my email, and I was out on the road when I read a few of your responses (I stopped, got off the road, and then pulled out my phone, of course.)  Your comments made a difference in my attitude, and I really appreciate the support.  I'm in Havre, MT now, resting a waiting out a couple of very, very windy days and watching trains. 

Much love


Offline rabbitoh

Re: Headwinds
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2010, 11:39:20 pm »
G'day Clay, I know exactly how you are feeling. Some days out on those high plains are just murder, but you get through it. As a couple of other posters have already said, don't be too hard on yourself, and you can also get away with a few relatively short days through much of eastern Montana-Malta to Harlem to Havre to Chester are all quite manageable, especially with early starts. Chester to Cut Bank was by far my worst day for headwinds (I very nearly turned back just a mile out of Shelby where I had stopped for some breakfast), but after Cut Bank, you are pretty well into the foot of the Rockies and out of the wind.

And don't be overly concerned with "gravity" being an impediment in the mountains. After the winds across the plains, the climbing can be a relief, and don't forget, there is always the downside to the mountains. Overcoming such adversary can only make you stronger, and you will be laughing about it in just a few weeks time and even feeling a bit chuffed with yourself. Plus, it makes a good story to tell your family and friends, and you can embellish it as much as you like, because YOU WILL HAVE DONE IT!

Best wishes
Dennis S
Good Cycling

Offline kdiehl

Re: Headwinds
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2010, 06:52:15 pm »
There's a reason the trees in Wyoming all lean to the southeast!

Here's another helpful real-time wind and weather site: