I live in the north of England, where the River Lune meets the Irish Sea – it’s a windy part of the world. The really memorable bike rides in these parts are the still ones where miraculously, implausibly, against all odds, the wind doesn’t blow.
They catch you by surprise.
You find yourself battling only Geography and the frailties of your legs, with meteorology removed from the equation.
The usual complex route finding, factoring wind speed and direction, is reduced to a simple: ‘so…where d’ya fancy?’
For better or worse, with ears no longer battered by conditions, you can hear every word your riding companion utters.
These windless rides are so pleasant and free of stress that it feels like cheating. A still ride in coastal Lancashire is how I imagine it felt to ride on EPO in the 1990’s; quick, effortless, and accompanied by a nagging guilt.
What this almost incessant wind does, is make the local cyclists experts in blustery conditions.
Your first job is to either pick a group of friends who are charitable and compassionate, or be prepared to fight like a panicked piranha for the slipstream of the wheel in front. If you lose it, into a standard 40mph February headwind, you are in for a long day.
Keep the well-oiled group intact and you can share the effort into the wind. Yo-yo off the back, scrabbling five yards behind your friends like a dawdling toddler, and you will quickly ride yourself into a hole.
Once you have successfully nailed down your natural place in the group you need to check the wheels around you. Find the guy or gal with the 65mm rims, and give them a wide berth. With each gust those pretty swathes of carbon fibre will respond like the tiller of a yacht in the seas off Cape Horn.
The rider will cling to their steed like a Texan cowboy in a rodeo, claiming to be in control, one hand in the air and tipping their helmet to the crowd, but clearly at the whim of an over-specced bike.
A tiny, slightly cruel part of you may be secretly willing them to hit the deck, but if they come down you’re all coming down. For the integrity of both the group, and your flimsy limbs, you need to feign sympathy and offer words of encouragement.
But, as I said, give them a wide berth!
Finally, think about what you’re wearing.
If you head out into the wind in a flappy rain jacket two sizes too large you may as well go the whole hog and strap a couple of bricks to your bike frame and pour treacle into your drivetrain. It’s the equivalent of those armed forces types who go for a training run with a rucksack full of boulders – have a bit of dignity, and wear the tightest kit you own.
And remember; if there’s a 40mph headwind, somewhere there’s a 40mph tailwind too.
Now get out there and earn it!