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Generating Power in the Wind

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Here in the Dallas area, it is quite common to have wind speeds in excess of 30 mph with gusts up to 40 mph.  Today was no exception.  When I was out today during lunch doing threshold intervals with the wind at my back, I was doing over 30 mph at 100% FTP.  My cadence was in the 97-100 RPM ballpark.  This feels like a perfect cadence for me to do my threshold work.  On my way back to the house, with the headwind, I was doing about 85-90 RPM.  It hurt much more.  I tried going to a lower gear to get the cadence higher, but I just couldn't generate 100% FTP at the higher cadences that I could with the wind at my back and at the faster speed. 

 

This makes no sense to me at all.  Is it just psychological?  I was probably doing about 16 mph against that wind with an occasional dip to 12 mph (or slower) up the small inclines here and there.

 

Has anyone experienced this?  I'm thinking it may just be psychological.

post #2 of 9

I think there might be 2 things going on here..

 

1) I think it's partially psychological.. because I experience this same phenomena, but also experience a similar, but less intense phenomena when starting out in the headwind and ending in the tailwind as well.. but who knows it could be physiological as well.. maybe your body just gets used to doing that one thing (especially in the extreme wind case)..

 

2) overall... in the general case.. in my experience.. I find it's easier for me to produce higher sustainable power in a tailwind than a headwind.. and I think this might be similar to what lots of people experience inside on a trainer without a flywheel or small rollers.. one's momentum is reduced at the lower speed... the bike and the pedals decelerate faster.. my pet theory is that your legs don't like it when it meets pedals at more variable speed.. don't like to have to accelerate the pedals and bike back up more on each pedal stroke.. 

post #3 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by awilki01 View Post

 

Has anyone experienced this?  I'm thinking it may just be psychological.


Yes, on a number of occasions and recently this past Saturday.

 

The Saturday ride was a 70 mile out and back course due north into sustained headwinds so I got a full dose for 35 miles. I think of when they say "a watt is a watt" and was thinking it was psychological for me. I simply failed mentally in fighting the battle, but there were some other hardships as well. Just about the time I would get into the groove with cadence and power output the wind speed would change and when it dropped so dropped my power output plus having to find the right gear. By the time I shifted gears the wind would change again. In other words it was a beast to hold a somewhat level power output and cadence. That added to the mental drain.

 

The 35 mile return (minus occasional intersection stops) with a tailwind I was able to hold the level much better even though I was just about out of gearing and was at the top of a cadence that I could hold for long blocks of time.

 

Saturday I was wondering if there was a physiological difference (watt is a watt), but there was certainly a mental aspect in play.
 

 

post #4 of 9

Most likely it has to do with training.

 

I put out more power against the wind than I do with the wind.

post #5 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by awilki01 View Post

Here in the Dallas area, it is quite common to have wind speeds in excess of 30 mph with gusts up to 40 mph.  Today was no exception. 


Thank you for your timely post. Tomorrow is predicted to be warm at my location... by with high winds (up to 30 mph). I was thinking that might be too windy for me. Your post inspired me! Tomorrow I ride.
 

 

post #6 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by doctorSpoc View Post

2) my pet theory is that your legs don't like it when it meets pedals at more variable speed.. don't like to have to accelerate the pedals and bike back up more on each pedal stroke.. 

 

I like your theory, I am very similar, I struggle more into the wind, I struggle more up steep hills, and I struggle on the trainer - and more on low inertia trainers than high inertia, one thing that does help is higher cadences, the higher the cadence I think the less the impact is, so I race with 36x28 on even quite mundane hillly routes where no-one else is using anything but a standard double and a 25.

 

There's a guy I ride with, who is totally the opposite, there was a time on the flat where I would simply ride him off my wheel at 300watts, yet on an 10% gradient he'd drop me comfortably when I was doing 450+   I weigh about 10% more than him, so weight is only a minor factor.   I think he is completely the opposite and likes to accellerate the pedals each time (or whatever it is) so the low inertia situations help him.

 

That said, I'm sure your body would adapt to the different situations, so you can train yourself to like the wind more, that doesn't mean it's psychological though.

post #7 of 9
Don't you just hate it what you're just riding along at 450 watts and people just ride off into the distance and smugly smile at you when you reach the top.

The other day I was riding along at 350watts, full aero tuck in the Tri-bars and some guy delivering newspapers just rode past me treating me with a nod and a wave. A cheerful bloke he was. 20 minutes later I saw him just casually wiping his not so sweaty brow after fixing a puncture and inflating the tire with his mouth...
post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by swampy1970 View Post

Don't you just hate it what you're just riding along at 450 watts and people just ride off into the distance and smugly smile at you when you reach the top.

The other day I was riding along at 350watts, full aero tuck in the Tri-bars and some guy delivering newspapers just rode past me treating me with a nod and a wave. A cheerful bloke he was. 20 minutes later I saw him just casually wiping his not so sweaty brow after fixing a puncture and inflating the tire with his mouth...


 

 



I had no idea the TOG delivered papers too!
post #9 of 9

@JibberJim

 

sure I think you get used to it.. in fact for me, in a given workout.. it's whatever I start out 1st with that I find easier.. if i start into the wind then when i do an interval in the tailwind i find it hard to get my leg speed up.. and if I start out in the tailwind, i find it hard to mash into the headwind... this is the case for concentrated, longer intervals.. not regular riding or group riding..

 

I think weight does have something to do with it.. even in the headwind as the smaller guy will have less inertia to work with in windy situation (i'm a smaller guy.. ~122-125lbs in season).. i find that with respect to my peers that I ride with all the time that I'm comparatively better in the tailwind than the headwind.. i think the wind bothers me more than the bigger guys.. but, yeah that's with more drastic differences..

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