Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Winded

Blue Skies and Windy
I remember in elementary school art class, our first assignment was to "draw the wind." The class was divided in their interpretation: Half drew an old man with long gray hair floating up in the sky and blowing gray swirly clouds; the other half drew trees swaying. I was one of the few who drew something weird - I think it was little animals running for cover amidst fallen flowers. The teacher wasn't pleased at all with my creativity and told me to look at the other children's pictures. But I never did get the hang of it. 

Today I came close to crashing on my bike, and it was all the wind's fault. Well no, it was my fault. But it happened because it was windy. I was riding my roadbike alone and practicing leaning on turns, when suddenly a strong gust of wind blew in the direction of my lean. It had not occurred to me that such a thing could happen, but of course there is no reason it can't. It was an alarming sensation, as if someone was maliciously shoving me, trying to topple me on a turn. I was already leaning, and the gust of wind made the lean feel out of control. 

Naturally, I panicked and tried to straighten the bike - in the middle of the turn, while simultaneously braking. As a result the bike became unstable, and then all I could think to do was attempt to bring it to an abrupt stop without letting it fall. I hit the brakes and came off the saddle at an awkward angle, holding on to the handlebars tightly and managing to keep the bike upright. Overall it was fine, except as my left foot landed on the ground, my right foot remained on the pedal and I twisted my ankle slightly. It's not swollen, but it hurts a little. Damn.

Of all the ways I could injure myself on a bike, it figures that it would be something ridiculous like this. Why did I have to panic and get all squirrely? Until today I haven't had that sort reaction in a long time. I guess what scared me is that the situation was entirely new. I know at this point how to right a bike if the front wheel hits a pothole, if another cyclist hits me with their elbow as they pass, or if I need to swerve around an obstacle. But the wind pushing me into a lean was unexpected and I didn't know what to do. In retrospect I should have just gone with it - I don't think the wind was strong enough to actually push me all the way to the ground. But of course that's easy to say now. Well, I hope my ankle is okay and I can ride tomorrow. I am trying to figure out what lesson there is to be learned from this, but more than anything I am just super annoyed at myself. And the wind. 

45 comments:

  1. The wind is always throwing me curve balls, as well. Yesterday it caused me to veer into the opposite lane of traffic. I felt that if I had opposed it aggressively enough to stay in my lane, I would have caused me to fall. The wind can be really annoying for cyclists!

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    1. You probably wouldn't have if there's enough traction. You can go extremely sideways while riding a straight line.

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  2. Peppy (the 48 spoke rear wheel cat)April 4, 2012 at 7:41 PM

    Y'all need to eat more.

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  3. I too have been blown across the road into the oncoming lane. Probably gave the poor old guy in the truck a heart attack! Nearly gave me one too. And you're right, it's like someone throwing themselves onto you from the side. Hope your ankle feels better soon. Bummer.

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  4. The wind being so strong it probably wouldn't have pushed you over but (tech verbiage warning) tightened your line such that you might have run off the road.

    Anyway you're not dead and didn't fall in front of a car.

    Maybe or maybe not with clipless you might have popped your foot out, not twisting your angle.

    You just gotta relax and go with it, now that you know what to expect.

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    1. Whaddya mean "go with it"? How is this friggin helpful?

      Well, I mean let your instincts take over.

      Ok.

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  5. Hope your ankle is OK with a day's rest. At least you weren't clipped in. Bad luck!

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    1. My feet were in the Power Grips; my right foot stayed in the grip and got twisted.

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    2. Clipless pedals are designed to prevent just this type of injury. The force required to hurt your ankle is greater than the force required to release your foot, unless you have them set abnormally tight. With Power Grips, you have to turn your foot and pull back some small amount to release. If your foot does not pull back, you will stay in the strap. Clipless pedals only require you to turn your foot, releasing you before you hurt yourself.

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    3. I know, this is precisely the kind of situation where toe clips and even power grips can hurt you. My right foot pushed forward, deeper into the strap as my leg turned, and that is how my ankle twisted.

      But to be fair this sort of thing is rare; much more common to fall over b/c of clipless pedals.

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    4. You are right there! After 50+years of riding and 10 racing at cat 2 level I finally gave in and went clipless and had two of only four crashes I've had in my years of riding. Both were in the span of 2 weeks and both were when I was just clipping in.

      I was using Look keo Mxs with Sidi shoes and couldn't get the momentum to maintain balance while clipping in the of foot.

      I was reminded of your experience going clipless.

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  6. Okay, I guess I hadn't realised it was normal to get blown around by the wind on your bike. I thought it was my poor handling skills. I guess I feel a little better now : )

    Has anyone else felt pushed further into a lean than they wanted to go? What do you do when that happens?

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    1. I have fallen a number of times because of this exact force. Don't worry, it is likely one of the most difficult forces to counteract because it is both powerful and unpredictable.

      For me, I always fell when in a race pushing the limit of my grip in the turn, and as soon as the gust came, I would flop right down onto the ground. I found that if I know it is a gusty day, I can posture myself more like a fixed-gear cyclist with the bicycle more upright and my body leaning. This allows me to throw my weight back into the wind to counteract the force far more easily than with a full-tilt lean.

      However, if I'm in a standard full-tilt lean and the wind decides to blow, I've learned to lift my head. It draws your eyes away from the apex, lifting your shoulders and moving your balance further out in the turn. This widens your line, opposing the tightening done by the wind.

      Having a gust strong enough to blow one sideways when upright, but whilst in a turn and coming out the other end still on two wheels is an accomplishment. It is not something which one can actively train for, because of how random the forces act upon the rider. I would say continue your practice with knife-edge turning and you'll 'grow' into the turn control.

      'Seek' the end of the corner with your eyes.

      Pedal through the exit as you transition out of the turn.

      Your head and your hips balance a bike. Head for the small stuff, hips for the big. Use the right one for the occasion but practice a lot with both.

      Practice sharp corning semi-seated. Lift your bum 1/2" off the saddle and use the room provided to shift your weight actively. Slide rearward to give your thighs a good grip on the saddle so that when your hips flex, the saddle responds immediately.

      I think a lot of these things are automatically learned when in the saddle, but it never hurts write them down.

      I'm glad that your mishap ended up being just a small one. Hey, if you didn't return from a ride battered and bruised every once in a while, no one would believe that you were giving it your all.

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  7. You straighten it up like you did.

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  8. It was windy tonight on our Wed. group ride and we had a few close calls. The closest was when we got a big gust in the face on a climb where we were all pushing pretty hard. Several people came out of the saddle as it hit and it was too much for the gear they were in. So you're spinning along in a sloppy line and suddenly a random few are track-standing and looking like they're trying to pull the stem off the fork. No body crashed but there was drama enough.

    On the way back the wind was pushing so hard that one downhill that I've down an infinity of times felt like a brand new experience. It probably wasn't as fast as it felt but I was spinning a 46/12 as fast as I could and the bike still "got in front of me". It was also neat because the roar in my ears was almost gone because I was only going a little faster than the wind. We regrouped at the bottom and while talking about this young guy, Matt, that used to fly down that hill on a fixie with no brake, spinning like a runaway sewing machine, my friend Ben (56, does the ride on a fixie Holdsworth with fenders and never breaks a sweat)tells me that Matt died in Dec. from Leukemia after they thought he had beaten it. I was wondering why everyone was using the past tense. I'm going to remember that descent with the wind at my back for a long time. I knew Matt from the Art community but was always glad to see him on the rides because he made all us old dudes with our 6 bikes and 100 excuses for not riding them remember how much fun it is to go meet your friends and ride.

    Spindizzy

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  9. I don't recall ever being maliciously shoved around in a turn by the wind, but if it's anything like cornering right on the limit and hitting that ever so slightly greasy spot and having the bike slide an inch or two... I've panicked in that situation and stayed up and I've "gone with it" and gone down. And the other way around too. The faster you go the less likely you are to get away with it but it sounds like for all the things you say you did wrong, you must have done something right.

    A year ago maybe this would have been the post where you told us about your first big crash. This time it's "only" a pranged knee(Sorry about that BTW. Put some ice on it. Or maybe some heat, wait, heat than ice... Uh, maybe heat than Gin...), you sound more and more like the rest of us.

    Spindizzy

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    1. That happened to me once too when I was riding in the rain. Front wheel slipped maybe an inch or so and went right into the space between two concrete sidewalk slabs (I was on a bike path). I lost balance and almost hit a telephone pole. Unfortunately I fell just hard enough to slightly buckle the top tube and down tube on my vintage Specialized Allez. Damage to the tubes was almost unnoticeable but the paint buckled and peeled over those two spots and I never felt like I could trust the frame after that. It killed me to trash that frame.

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  10. Wind does that. Practice and experience makes it a little less scary. Peppy the cat is onto something; size helps fight the wind.

    Usually, it only gets me when I am riding no-hands; my auto-correction for the wind forces tends to put me into a turn.

    Cargo bikes are a plus and a minus here -- the weight helps, and the practice with wonky loads helps you deal with a bicycle that's been possessed by steering demons, but with a light load all the box and/or fabric makes a heck of a sail.

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  11. I remember touring fully loaded across Kansas constantly fighting sidewinds from the South. I was pushed out into the traffic lane several times. Of course, there weren't any corners since the road was arrow straight so I didn't experience your scary sensation. It was quite a slog--not recommended!

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  12. It's easy to forget how strong the wind can be, I remember when I used to live up in Watertown (NY, not MA)winter winds that gusted at 80mph. Sometimes it felt like someone was grabbing you handlebars and shaking, other time a sidewind on a slick road would actually slide you a few feet sideways. Scary stuff, and even we clydesdales have to respect a strong wind.

    On the other hand, I think with tailwinds, crosswinds, headwinds, aero positioning, pacelines and echelons being such a part of our sport, we, as cyclists have a very special relationship with wind. Our landscape is made as much by the wind as by the pavement.

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  13. I, too, was pushed over by about two feet recently by the wind and it was pretty scary. I wasn't able to do anything to stop it and I was riding my tank, the Pashley. Fortunately there was no car next to me to crash into. In over four years of riding it only just happened.

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  14. I've experienced the feeling numerous times on a motorcycle. Sometimes I find myself going in a straight line and still leaned over. Other times the bike just jumps over a couple of feet. On a motorcycle I just (try to) trust the bike's inherent ability to stay upright at speed - that is, gyroscopic stability. Bicycles have this to though not to the same degree. And it's much more disconcerting due to the narrow width of the tires. I really don't like sliding the rear tire on either one.

    One thing that is common to both though is countersteering. I've not heard you talk about this here before (short time devotee) but do a google on this as it's a great way to both initiate steering into a corner and to control your lean angle while in a corner. The other best tip I ever read about and learned is to keep the outside pedal down and to put as much weight on that pedal as possible even to the extent of lifting slightly off the saddle. This has the effect of lowering your center of gravity to a few inches above the ground and almost directly over the contact patch of the tires.

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    1. The one time I had a problem with a sudden crosswind gust trying to push me down when cornering it was the conscious application of motorcycle style countersteering (thank you Keith Code!) that got me out of it. The faster you're moving the more naturally this seems to work. As someone else pointed out grabbing a lot of brake would actually make things worse as it destabilizes the bike in several ways. It's also a pretty normal thing to do in this sort of situation. It took me a fair amount of time mountain biking before I realized that the slower I went (and the more cautious I thought I was being) the more I crashed!

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    2. Respectfully, pushing down on the outside pedal does not change the CoG, only moving the mass changes CoG. Applications of force do not.

      I am not saying that transferring weight to the outside pedal is not a useful technique.

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    3. Nowhere - Countersteering has saved me a couple times too. Grabbing the front brake while turning on a motorcycle is usually a recipe for instant disaster. It bit me once though thankfully at a very slow speed.

      I remember going through a tight sweeping turn in Rocky Mountain National Park back in the 70s before I learned (or anybody knew of or taught)this technique. Again, a thank you to Keith Code and other. It was a right handed turn and the harder I tried to turn the more I drifted out into the other lane. I had it leaned over very hard and made the turn but thankful for no opposing traffic.

      MDI - I'm not an engineer so you are probably right. I was mostly repeating info from a corning article I read many, many years ago that really help my cornering. It does seem to me that if you are sitting on your seat that the force is being transmitted through the seat which, of course, is high up. And that if you unweight the seat and put your weight on the pedal that the force would be applied much lower. Similar weighting/un weighting techniques are recommended for moto riding too - both road and off road.

      I suppose it could be similar to those force of gravity demonstrations by Galileo on the Leaning Tower of Pisa where science and reality is quite different from human logic and supposition.

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    4. The reason for transferring your weight to foot is that your foot is at the end of your leg, and your leg is a good shock absorber (if you know how). Your butt (well, mine anyway :-) is not.
      I have Keith Codes books. They are excellent, not just for cornering, but as a philosophy for handling speed of any sort. (spare change, anyone?)

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  15. Old transportation/road cycling saying: The more you practice turns the faster you will get until...suddenly you become slower. Cycle repeats.

    Toe straps and clips are hard to get out of when you go down (and I have the scars to prove it). Most cleats unclip readily when you go down.

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  16. Grabbing a lot of brake shifts weight forward, lightens the back wheel. If you're already leaning the bike that weight shift will tighten the turn quickly.

    Once you commit to a turn you're in for the ride. Being jarred by a gust really messes that up. Hitting the brakes messes it up more.

    Using rear wheel drift to tighten a turn works much better on dirt than on pavement. Riders who drift the rear wheel in control on pavement are amazing.

    That you kept this incident together at all says you have really good reflexes.

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    1. Anonymous at 9:57: to clarify a little, ime grabbing a lot of rear brake tightens your turn. Front brake slows you much more but tends to make you go straighter.

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    2. I thought I might be the only one to think of the braking aspect of V's post. Hitting the brakes might have been the only potential mistake, for the reasons anon 9:57 and Nowhere up above state.

      You did keep it together, just not quite as seamlessly as you would have liked.
      Being a female-type V probably helped you here, as your personal CG is naturally a bit lower.

      Good going!

      Growing up on the coast- my first ten years were spent within sight of the open Pacific, and I can smell the salt air as we speak - one learns to deal with the wind early on. Your post made me remember battling with sidewinds when my bike still had handlebar streamers and training wheels.

      One still gets surprised, of course. Mother Nature is tricksy.(grin)

      I hope the ankle feels better quickly.

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    3. Anon 8:ooAM

      That will depend how deep you are in the turn. Moves that work well on a bend in the road change when you're pushing hard. If you can make a front brake do that in tight situations my hat's off to you.

      What we're discussing is quite easy to practice and experiment with at moderate speed in dirt. On pavement in an emergency I'd go for gentle touch on the brake and if well leaned over not at all.

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  17. I actually got 'winded' over the weekend. I was doing my first-ever ride out on Highway 1 in northern California (beautiful coastal road, winding, hilly, very little-to-no-shoulder) and I was doing OK with the traffic and hills and my beginning-of-the-season level of fitness but on the way back, headed south on Hwy 1, the big gusts of wind that were blowing me sideways were terrifying. Luckily there was no traffic at those moments but it was very unsettling. This was a new cycling experience -with high gusty winds on an already challenging ride. It's nice to know I am not alone and hopefully I will be ready to handle similar situations with more confidence next time.

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  18. Stability during gusty winds is one of the arguments low-trail advocates use. They say it doesn't effect them as much.

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    1. Yep. I'll assert that. Changing from high trail to low trail fork dramatically improved cross wind stability on my bike.

      I think wheel flop is the tendency of the front wheel to turn more than expected due to lowering of front end.

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    2. Hmm I don't understand how that would work, but interesting idea. I may be test riding a low trail bike this weekend and will pay attention to this if still windy.

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    3. Like Mike said, it's the lack of wheel flop. Helps low speed handling as well. Something to compare/contrast is you get a chance.

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  19. How do you right the bike if the front wheel hits a pot hole? Is there a technique?

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    1. I am sure there is a step by step technique, but I wouldn't know how to explain it; it just became intuitive at some point. Also, it seems to me that some bikes are better at this than others.

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  20. "...if another cyclist hits me with their elbow as they pass..."
    Who is doing this? Why? Elbows happen in racing and they are part of sprinting. In fact if there's no sprint on, I would see an elbow in a race as a sign of an inept or very excessively aggressive rider.

    45 years of group rides here and I can count friendly ride elbows on one hand. If I joined a group and got elbowed twice in one spring I would leave that group and not say goodbye.

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    1. Crowded trail is where it happened to me a couple of times at least. There is always the guy who feels the need to pass everyone at 20mph on the MUP when it's the most crowded, yet lacks perfect spatial skills. Also happened to me in a bike lane once, when a cyclist passed me on the right. Aside from that, it was by accident, on random rides I've joined. Once a woman moved up to cycle next to me and chat, and accidentally ran into me - not with her wheel thankfully, but with a part of her body, maybe the shoulder or arm. It was surprisingly okay, we just kept going.

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  21. Great book: Proficient Motorcycling by David Hough.

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  22. I HATE when that happens! I'm glad you didn't wipe out and get really hurt,my friend,and hope your ankle feels better fast!

    The Disabled Cyclist

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  23. Jan at BQ has talked about the inherent stability of low trail bikes in cross winds. After reading about it numerous times I had a chance for direct observation last year during the Victoria Populaire.

    Part of our route involves the Victoria water front and there was an on-shore (cross) wind blowing about 50 km per hour. I ride a Velo Orange Polyvalent, my friend Patrick a Kogswell P/R and many riders were on cross bike or sports bikes. We were all leaning over due to the strong wind. When gusts hit, Patrick and I would lean over harder and maybe wobble a bit, but we could ride along side by side comfortably and continue talking. Contrast that with the non-low-trail bikes that were being blown over half a lane or more.

    It was very graphic illustration of what I had been reading about!

    Cheers Lee

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  24. Your interpretation of the wind sounds great, unfortunately your teacher didn't feel the same. I had a teacher like that once...

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  25. The day that Shawn and I hitch-hiked into Banff last year was because of wind. It was gusting all over the place, and it blew me almost off the pavement, then tried to blow me into traffic--I tried to get off my bike and bail, and somehow just slammed my crotch into my saddle instead, ow ow ow.

    Doesn't help, of course, that we were on fully loaded bikes...we were sails in a side-wind.

    Wind is no joke.

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