Riding into a headwind

I find that riding into a headwind is harder than with a tailwind, even at the exact same power. RPE and even HR are higher for the same power. Or, conversely, I struggle to put out the same power at the same RPE, so will often unconsioucly drop power into the wind. It even seems to be harder than putting out power on a climb.

Do others feel the same? Why is that? Has it got to do with inertia, or is it purely psychological, because you feel slower? Why doesn’t it seem so bad on a climb then?

Does it have to do with body positioning? As in, on a climb you open up more, while in a headwind you try to get more aero? But even if keeping the same position (eg in a TT), the headwind feels harder.

Are there any techniques or anything that can be learned to help with riding into the wind (on your own)?


I suspect cadence could fall if you turn into a headwind, which would probably affect RPE if you fell outside of your usual/self-selected range. Like you said, you might also make a more conscious effort to maintain aero position for long bouts.

Psychologically it can feel like mother nature is conspiring against you sometimes, and I’m sure that doesn’t help!


This is my quick take on it. When riding into headwind at same pwr the headwind gives lower speed so it’s fundamentally a little frustrating “I am trying hard but going slow!”. It is hard to ignore this psychologically. Second headwinds are rarely perfectly even, more often they are blustery meaning your speed is up and down as you are pushed back by micro-variations…these sap your pwr and spike your VI…and as we know a high VI means more draining on your energy even at the same ave PWR. Low speed AND low momentum AND wind variations combined mean you will slow disproportionately and suddenly have to battle hard to regain speed which is energy costly.

I have only three tips: keep aero (that has significantly higher gains in windy conditions), wear aero clothing not those baggy wind jackets of old (same reason) and keep cadence relatively high (this prevents torque spiking in blustery conditions effectively smoothing the effort out a bit). hope that helps a little! AG


See video in the first post of this thread


It’s not this thread…I started this one. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

But yeah, what he said in that video made me think more about it. But if it was just inertia, why doesn’t it feel the same on a climb, where inertia is even higher?

Smoothing out micro variations is interesting. Maybe even more of an effort of keeping the bike in a straight line (if the wind is changing direction slightly)?

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I feel the same about the headwind. I put it down to mostly mentally. It’s just a lot more fun to go wwweeeeeeeeee with a nice tailwind. And fun lowers RPE.


The variation in wind speed/gusts is the key to me, much easier to sustain a consistent power on a climb than into a headwind. Although I do treat headwinds like I would a climb, higher cadence and trying to be super consistent with effort/power.


I think it’s tension. I see a lot of people really tensing up and trying to fight the wind, which raises RPE and wastes energy. Made worse if, as above, the wind is gusting. Trying to push too big a gear doesn’t help either.

I find the best thing is to focus on power not speed, and stay relaxed. If anything I find it easier to push higher power into a wind (same with climbing). Psychologically, both headwinds and climbs are much easier in a group when your brain can focus on speed relative to other people rather than worrying about absolute speed or average speed. Unless of course the other people you’re riding with are much stronger than you…


Riding into a headwind is frustrating, to be sure – and it requires additional skills.

That said, I find it more difficult to keep a consistent power when I am riding with a tailwind. I suppose that it is the same problem as downhills: I keep pedalling but not with the same power as uphill.

There is also something to be said about the noise…
Riding into a headwind increases the wind noise in your ears which is super frustrating and probably decreases some of the concentration you have which then increases RPE…

This is at least true for me.


The noise is a good point too! I heate having this loud wind noise in my ears and sometimes wonder if my ears have weird shape, because nobody else seems to mind much. So thanks for mentioning that!

However, it doesn’t really explain the higher HR. It is weird because it looks like I’m working harder, but I’m putting the same power out.

For me the headwind is a plus, especially when doing intervals. Somehow it feels more challenging to go hard with a tailwind.

Also allows me to channel my inner Flandrien :cloud_with_lightning_and_rain: :wind_face:

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I find it depends - steady head wind is fine, but if it swirls/changes direction, or gusts, then it is much harder due to so many changes. There is also a big mental component (at least in my case), where headwind saps your energy and kills your soul.

On a similar note, on a gravel ride last weekend with some serious winds, I found my HR was the same whether I was at the front, or 2nd in the pack (keeping the speed same). Effort felt harder being 2nd in pack though, likely due to not being steady like I was at the front. I am pretty good at keeping the pace steady, so that’s the best guess I can have here.

Doesn’t it literally strain your muscles differently? Similar to how you use certain muscles or don’t use them on the trainer indoors since you don’t have to keep balance because the trainer is static?

I feel that in a headwind, I am pushing against an imaginary wall or something like that. It is like my tendons are not going up and down, but have to go back and forth. This may be BS, but that is how it feels like for me.

Also, a strong headwind feels like it literally compresses my abs, like somebody is pushing you back physically. It’s like you have an elastic band around your waist and you are trying to walk away from it using your legs and it becomes harder and harder as you get farther away due to the elastic pull by the elastic band.

EDIT: it also strains my neck more, as you have to keep putting your head “in the wind”. Similar to high speeds on a motorbike on the highway.

You need to keep force on the pedal over a much longer arc compared to a tailwind due to the change of inertia the wind exerts. Same as gravity and climbing.


It doesn’t feel as hard putting out power on a climb too me, even though that might be partly psychological (you can see the increase in elevation), and partly I’m wondering if I’m comparing like with like. Most headwinds are probably not like a proper climb, or a steep climb, but more like a long 1-2% drag. Plus at least around here, climbs last a few minutes, but you can ride into the wind for hours.

I was wondering about the effect the wind has on your upper body. Maybe it’s sort of similar to how some people need to lift up the front wheel on an indoor trainer, to make up for the lack of wind. Maybe a strong headwind outside pushes your body back more than you’re used to, and changes your position on the bike slightly. But I’m not totally convinced - when you’re focussing on being in an aero position (in a TT for example), I’d be pretty confident that the position doesn’t really change.

Yeah, however: I guess the stronger the wind, the more you literally need to push your body down. Don’t know how much energy this costs though, perhaps it’s only marginal. But it does physically increase tension, let’s say, core strength?

oh yes!

i think its the suck factor.
You put same power with much lower speeds and it sucks…
plus keeping the power constant is a huge pain in the butt!

this weekend my friend and I went for a 62 mile ride…
close to 50% was headwinds… and it sucked! going 16 mph and hitting 180w…

on the way back tho…
same power but 23 mph!

I was able to grab 2 Strava Segments by going 30 mph!
So embrace the suck of headwinds and enjoy the major advantages of tailwinds!


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