Today I went for a relaxing ride along the water front. Well, it was supposed to be relaxing but thanks to a brutal head wind, it was a little laborious. As I pedalled along, head down as if I was trying to push the buttons on my computer with my chin, I noticed some perfect examples of what not to do when riding into a head wind.
A light sprinkle of rain passed over and everyone was desparate to get to the next point of shelter or simply limit the amount of time they are stuck in the rain. In times of desparation on a bike, when speed is paramount in getting from A to B, there are several techniques that one can adopt to maximise your efficiency, however, from what I saw, here is a list of things that will NOT make you go faster in the wind, no matter how hard you try...
1. Smoking: Although the cigarette itself is probably the sole reason that you want to get out of the wind and rain in the first place, it is only going to slow you down and ironically, this applies both in the short term and the long term. Riding with a cigarette in wind and rain is like trying to drink from a cup whilst running; it ends up going everywhere and when you do get a mouthful, you end up having to stop anyway because you choke on it.
2. Arm pumping: As soon as sprinkles of water began to fall, many people started the arm pump; bobbing your head up and down in rhythm with the pedals as you do imaginary push-ups on the handlebars in the search of more power. It was like fast walking pigeons trying to escape the rain.
3. Putting your bike into a harder gear: It makes sense; bikes can go faster when they are in a big gear so when you are struggling to pedal one of the easiest gears you have, change it up a few and make it even harder??!! Why do people on bicycles think the opposite to driving a car? You don't start a car in 5th gear and when you want to overtake someone, you don't look for that 6th gear???
4. Sitting dead bolt upright: Perhaps they were simply providing a wind block for those behind them or maybe they wanted to feel the full brunt of the wind in their hair? Either way, the laws of aerodynamics suggest that this is not correlated with going faster.
5. Zig zagging: Like a yacht tacking its way into a wind, many cyclist tried to employ the same technique. Sure, you get reprieve from the wind but you also take about five times longer to get anywhere.
Thankfully, the rain didn't last but it got me thinking. I once saw an episode of Myth Busters that found experimentally, you will get less wet if you walk in the rain, rather than run. (If you don't believe me, watch the above video.) At the time, I dismissed it as garbage as, to me, logic suggested otherwise. Perhaps, those employing the techniques above had already discovered this???