It is amazing how often I end up riding in a wind tunnel. Don’t know if this is a specialty of the plains of Chicago or simply a curse of every long distance bicyclista. Seems like both to me. My commute takes around one hour or twelve miles from north to south and vice versa. Sometimes these miles are the same as any other day before. Sometimes it seems like you ride it all for the very first time with all the excitement and sense of discovery in almost every turn you make, with every lake-gull you greet. One thing stays pretty much stable nevertheless. I always end up riding… against the wind. Didn’t it happen to you that you think you are cycling against head wind and once you make a U turn you get that feeling of deja-vu?
To be honest, NOT ALWAYS is the head wind blowing your face away. Sometimes the same wind which was punishing you for your courageous cycling along the lake shore, where Chicago has its strongest winds, is paying respects to your stubbornness by literally pushing you into your back. Sometimes your worst enemy – unpredictable wind – is your best companion. This companion saves you some twenty minutes of your usual hourly ride. Likewise it can add same twenty or even more. Here in Chicago it more often adds than takes away. Like Christmas every cycling day. Just the presents are usually the same from this Mr. Wind-Santa.
Once you end up in a wind tunnel, every ride gets through various stages.
At the beginning, you just are pushing those pedals harder. Trying to stay as fast as if the wind simply didn’t exist to you. It is just a wind. The harder the better. Oh my, it will be such a joy to ride in the opposite direction on my way back! For now, I have to swallow my enthusiasm as this 13 mph wind is slowing me down big time.
Enter the second phase of your joyful commute. Suddenly you realize that you are using much bigger sprocket than usually. If it wasn’t for this hard labor you would simply smile – this flat road needs some mountain bike gearing to continue pedaling. You don’t need any hills or loose gravel to shift to unusually low gear. What you need is what Chicago never lacks – some good strong wind. Straight into your face, continuously and some 10 mph or higher power! Naturally it is a time for not so nice and tranquil cycling anymore. At these moments, I thank the cycling god that I don’t have any clocks around me. My wrists are just as watch-less as my handlebars are o-d-o-m-e-t-e-r-l-e-s-s. Only theoretically I realize that I’m riding much slower right now. Well it is obvious but I still have a hope that it is not THAT bad. At least there is no cycling computer rebuking me with those mercilessly glaring digits. Digits which slowly get into a single digit number. Number 7. That’s what my imaginary o-d-o-m-e-t-e-r would show to me. Probably not higher and most likely not smaller. Just plain seven miles per hour. I am still pedaling very energetically so it cannot be lower than 7, right?
Second phase of riding in a wind tunnel is known for a conscious talking to oneself. In most cases it is more like moaning. Not always you could even understand what you are saying. Not that it is important or even pronounceable. I don’t think wind cares much about how you are calling him. You curse yourself with those finest words you can bethink; sometimes you even make yourself promises. Various thoughts are passing through your mind… but that doesn’t matter, you have to keep pedaling and you have to reach your point of destination.
With this wisdom in your mind (or I should say while not having any other choice) you slowly reach the third phase of this always memorable bike ride. After you’ll pass the “nothing happened” and “why I am doing this to myself” stages, things start to be more normal again. Not with the wind, no – it’s in one’s head where things are getting more under control now. The important thing is that this phase coincides with slowly melting the distance you have to cover. It is not important that number seven doesn’t changes for the whole hour. At last, you can congratulate yourself that there is only fifteen minutes (approximately) left till you get to the place you were biking to. Sure you do that! Once again, you are happy you could pedal this entire route, you were lucky not to get any rain and MAYBE on your way back you will have all this crazy wind helping you! Isn’t that great?!
That’s what cycling is all about – eventually it feels just great to pedal your bike! It feels wonderful to experience all that your bicycle gives to you. And be rewarded with the transcendental pleasure cycling provides you.
Just keep pedaling!