Riding with the wind Mar 1, 2012 7:21:40 GMT 10
Post by Rusty on Mar 1, 2012 7:21:40 GMT 10
This helpful post by Scrap has been copied into this section where it may be found by more Forum users.
One of the most baffling atmospheric conditions to master while riding is the wind. Flatulence aside, how does a rider deal with wind? Wind condition vary considerably, form a light breeze to pre-storm gales. The stronger the wind, the greater impact and the more strategies a rider may need to implement to remain safe on the road.
Imagining the wind direction being a clock face and your riding direction being 12 o’clock:-
Wind direction from 11 o’clock to 1 o’clock (head wind) is a pain. It increases your fuel usage, can be very tiring especially without a screen and/or fairings and your bike will surge and the wind decreases or slow as the wind increases. In this scenario, its easier to “open up”, elbows out, loosen the knee grip on the tank and let the air flow through – much like the cut outs used on vinyl signs that allow the wind to go through the sign rather than blow it over. Conversely, if you’ve got a large enough screen, tuck behind it and let the screen take the force of the wind. By slowing down, most riders feel less buffeted.
Wind direction from 5 o’clock to 7 o’clock (tail wind) will obviously push you along and is really good for picking up speeding tickets without realising. The engine (which you’ve learnt to understand and feel for) won’t be working as hard to achieve the same speed so there’s temptation to get it to your normal rev point only to find you’re 10 – 15kmph over what speed you thought you were riding at. By tucking elbows and knees in, a rider can maximise the positive effect of the wind, but watch that speed.
Wind direction from 7 o’clock to 11 o’clock and 1o’clock to 5 o’clock (cross winds) cause the most problem. Rarely does the wind remain at a constant speed, so what ever actions the rider takes, they will need to constantly change to counter the varying wind speed. The degree of impact will depend on the style of bike and what accessories may or may not be in place. Cruisers and Touring bikes with their larger profile will be impacted greater than a sports bike. Accessories such as saddle bags and screen also catch the wind increasing it impact on the bike. Solid wheels and tank bags are just some of the other accessories that cause and increased impact. Its also beneficial not to change your speed – low speed riding with a cross wind cab cause you to wobble all over the road; but if you ride too fast, you’ll get blown off the road quicker than you can deal with, so a compromise is necessary where the bike has reasonable straight line stability but you can stay on the road.
• ride on the side of the lane which gives you the most room to be blown to the side
• keep a good distance if overtaking trucks (or one comes the other way),
• take up the right posture - brace your knees against the tank, brace your back, take a good grip on the bars. but keep your shoulders and elbows flexible
• steer into the wind
It's important you don't lock onto the bars with stiff arms. If your upper body gets buffeted and you have a death grip, you simply yank the bars and wobble and weave down the road. Think of the bars as the tiller, something you steer with, not something to hang onto. Simply counter steer into the wind. If you hang your backside off the side of the bike facing the wind, the bike will try to steer into it and takes a bit of effort out of holding a constant degree of turn.
You can't stop the bike being blown sideways, but like most things, there are strategies for dealing with the problem. A bit of amateur weather forecasting can come in useful. Checking the weather charts before riding is a common activity amongst riders – winds around a Low pressure cell blow clockwise, and anticlockwise around a high pressure cell (easy to remember Low = Clock) – that’ll give you an idea of the prevailing wind and the closeness of the isobars will give you an indication of its strength.
Figure out where the wind is going to catch you:
• high bridges
• open roads
• coastal areas
• mountain tops and valleys
• gaps between buildings, hedges and wooded areas
• as trucks pass
• between high rise buildings
Beware of areas where you are protected from the wind and then suddenly exposed to it. The photo below shows a potential death trap for a rider. The approached to both sides of this bridge are protected by trees, but the bridge is exposed to the elements. Th area is notorious for gully winds early in the morning and a strong wind blowing for the left can easily cause an unaware rider to be blown into the oncoming traffic on a blind bend. Usually the bike is blown in the direction the wind is blowing, but there are exceptions:-
• passing trucks where not only are you sheltered from the wind but there is a low pressure zone beside the truck that sucks you in
• halfway down a hillside, often there is a back eddy where the wind blows in the opposite direction to the wind on the hill top and at the bottom
• alongside high rises where the draught at ground level is in the opposite direction (so you can be buffeted by winds which change direction through 180 degrees in a few
Wind will also cause branches to fall and debris to be blown across the road – just a few more hazards to watch out for.
Since very few roads are a straight line – the direction the wind hits you and you bike will vary according to the turns in the road – it does not take long to judge where and when its going to hit.