31 Dec 2016

31st December 2016 Always fighting a headwind!


Saturday 31st 43F, 6C. Leaden overcast and so damp it feels like misty rain in the wind. The forecast for the last day of the year is cloudy with 25mph south-westerly gusts. Will he or won't he? I walked down to the village and along the track across the local prairie. I was clutching my digital wind meter aloft like a poser taking constant selfies. [The Head Gardener's expression. Not mine.]

With the readings set at m/s I could easily multiply by 2 to get mph. The conversion multiplier is actually 2.2 but we won't quibble. Average wind speed was about 4-5m/s. With most gusts in the 6-7 range. Only very briefly did I see a 10 m/s but it was too fleeting to be sure. Interestingly [?] the little fan on the meter begins to hum as the wind speed increases. At 10 m/s it produces quite a whine. All very dramatic for this poor old fart. Happily toddling along a field track out in the middle of miles of low crops staring excitedly at a tiny screen! I still register no obvious comparison between wind speed and riding a trike. Even 5 m/s or 10mph roars in my ears and shakes my coat.

I have formulated a rather woolly theory that a cyclist balances their speed against the effective headwind. The cyclist is always making their own headwind even in dead calm conditions. Into the wind the cyclist's speed drops. With the wind the cyclists speed increases. Carrying an anemometer will allow the cyclist to read the effective headwind blowing against their forward motion. Anemometer = wind speed meter in layman's terms. These digital meters are incredibly cheap on eBay. About £7-8 in UK money speak if you don't get too ambitious. You can pay a lot more but why bother? 

My plan is to fix the wind meter to my tri-bar extensions with some sort of clip. I can then subjectively measure my effort as I choose a comfortable speed depending [only] on wind direction. The wind meter wants to be in clear air to function properly. It also helps if it can actually be seen and read while pedalling normally. Handlebar mounted kit requires that one look down [or even backwards] when the tricyclist needs to monitor the road ahead, over a yard wide strip, just for basic survival. Those who ride two wheel machines have the luxury of only needing to monitor a narrow strip of the road ahead for dead horses, sink holes and zombies.

My wild guess [theory of everything] is that, on the flat, I ride to maintain a certain headwind speed. Beyond that I would be trying too hard or just loafing along if my man-made headwind drops.

I tend to ride at the same level of effort all the time. Pedaling quite hard [and fast in rpm] all the time to average about 11 mph over the longer term. At least it is according to my cycle computer's measurement of average speed over many thousands of miles. When I am riding normally I tend to see around 16mph with the average wind and 12-13 mph riding against. Hills can easily drag me down to 8-10mph. Downhills in the 20s of mph and only very occasionally 30-31mph. Just the price of riding a trike with huge bags [parachutes] dangling off the back. It is so long since I rode the Trykit bare [ie. Bereft of bags or rack rather than any suggestion of nudity,] that I can no longer remember when that was. It felt much lighter and more nimble at first but the effect soon wore off.

I used to average about 13mph [long term] when I was slightly younger and covering much greater annual mileages. [Up to 10,000] My average speed is steadily falling as I taper off from being an OCD tricyclist in an attempt to become more normal. I am also rapidly approaching the magical 70. This is when things begin to drop off but one's remaining brain cell has already forgotten about it almost the moment it happens. Every day becomes a welcome surprise as the weeks and months flash by like some cheap, time travel, Hollywood special effect. Blink and that was 2017 over.

Even now most ordinary cyclists don't travel nearly as fast as I do. So I can still easily overtake most non-sporting cyclists. I have lost my "untrained mutt" habit of chasing every "proper" or "racing" cyclist on their carbon lightweight. Me, with my 30lb trike loaded down with assorted bags, the usual 10 kilos of shopping, tool kit and my 2lb, cutting edge, 13 century, wrought iron, Abus U-lock.

I am even allowing my weight to creep slowly upwards. At one point when I was riding higher daily mileages I looked much like a WW2 POW escapee even at 11 stone. Though with that rather strange pattern, of tan and bleached white, unique to the <cough> serious cyclist. I was thin all over except for my legs and it was not a pretty sight! Anyway, if I'm ever allowed out again, I'll report back on my managing a constant headwind speed [or not] to match my normal level of effort. But not today.

Click on any image for an enlargement. 

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