Bicycling is one of my favorite outdoor activities. Once the temperatures go north of 50 degrees, I will bare my pale old-man legs and peddle throughout the area. Now that I am much further south than is typical and the temperatures are rarely below 70 I have few excuses not to be on my wheels. But over the last week or so there has been one preventative factor: the wind. This season in the Keys has been particularly breezy with an average wind speed of 15 mph with gusts over 25 mph.
My first big experience with the impact of wind was when I took my first long bike trip on Long Island nearly 20 years ago. The east-bound leg of my trip seemed too easy barely any fatigue, but I attributed it to being in shape. I was wrong. The west-bound way back was a struggle facing an unseen force straight on, taking the wind out of me.
At home in New England, my routes tend to be circular and sheltered by hills and trees so it is rare when you face the full impact of wind head-on for extended periods of time. In the Keys there are no such luxuries as all roads are oriented to the northeast or southwest, which ironically is often the direction of the wind. There are no hills and much of any possible shelter of vegetation was shredded by Hurricane Irma. So half of any ride is a delight with easy peddling. The wind is at your back and if you are travelling at the right pace, it feels as if you are moving effortlessly in a windless space. Not so much on the way back.
Spinning around 180 degrees in direction, the wind hits my body full on pushing back, resisting any forward progress. In the Keys fine grains of sand blast my skin and sometimes find their ways into my eyes. My legs feel an increased resistance as if I was moving up a steep incline even though there is none on these flat little islands. You can crouch lower like a toad, but it helps little as any reduced wind resistance is counterbalanced by an increased difficulty in peddling.
So my self-propelled trips have become less frequent and shorter. The winds are supposed to subside by the end of the week. I can’t wait.