Friday, March 27, 2015

Foward Wisconsin: Into the Wind

I began my road riding 'career' in the late 1990's in the flat-as-a-pancake plains of central Illinois. This area is almost nearly treeless, and the corn is only tall enough to provide even a modest wind barrier about 3 months of the year. The roads are paved, nearly traffic free, and arranged in a perfect mile-square grid along the cardinal directions. This makes rides safe and navigation easy, but they could get a little boring, especially when riding solo.

Here, the ride route each day was dictated by one thing: the wind direction. We'd gather up at our meeting point, assess the wind conditions and head out of town, two-abreast, on whichever one of several routes took us as directly into the wind as possible.

This had a couple key advantages:
  1. We could challenge ourselves working into the wind while we were fresh and strong early in the ride, and get a good workout in.
  2. You never found yourself worn-out and stranded too far out of town. If you were questioning your ability to go on, you just turned around and the wind pushed you home.
  3. We could ride in groups with a fairly broad range of fitness levels, since the strong riders could pull on the way out of town while the weaker riders sat in, working less hard and thus keeping up with the group. Often at the turn around the stronger riders would form a race-like group and sprint-chase-tempo their way back into town further challenging themselves. If anyone (or sometimes, just about everyone) got dropped, well they had an easy ride back to town with the wind behind them.
Since then I have lived in a couple locations that had trees, buildings, or both! This has led me to two basic edicts that I follow when planning a ride route. These seem so self-evident to me that I'm pretty shocked by how few Madison riders consider these when planning a ride:
  1. Always head out of town into a headwind.
  2. Choose an outbound route near buildings and trees that exposes you to the minimum amount of headwind, and a return route through open country that exposes you to the least headwind.
Now, riff on this theme to your liking: If you want a hard workout, maybe you want to face down the wind as much as possible on the outbound leg. But my point is: pay attention to the wind!

If you're going to do the Monona Lake Loop, figure out if the wind will be with ya, or against ya on that big open stretch on John Nolen Drive & the Monona Terrace. Heading south into the wind? Use the tree cover on the Badger Trail to get you south of M, and then use Seminole or some other rural road to push you back to town. Head west through town into a wind with cover from buildings, then return east north or south of town with the wind behind you on country roads.

Ride Smart. Don't be a sheep and just ride the same routes the same way all the time. Have fun.