A Clydesdale’s revenge: riding in the wind

Posted by SuperClydesdale on May 11, 2011 under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read

The Sacramento River from atop the levee.

There’s still a bit of a chill in the air, particularly for May.   When I woke up on Saturday, it was 47 degrees.  That’s damn cold for May.

My ride this day was strictly social.  I was meeting some customers and friends to go out over a flat course, ended up with about 70 easy miles.  70 miles and 200 feet of climb.   In California, that “climb to mile ratio” means one thing:  the Central Valley.   The “Sacramento region” of this massive valley is cleverly known as the Sacramento Valley.  It’s all part of a 450-mile-long flood basin that dominates the central part of the state.   These days, it also means wine country, as wine grapes are now as ubiquitous in the central valley as breast implants are in southern California.  In fact, based on this weekend’s ride, I estimate that, after many years of things being the other way around, that wine grape vines now outnumber silicon boobies in the State.  I’m not sure what this means for California’s future.

In the summertime, the air in the Central Valley can be still, hot, and dry.   In May, it’s a crap shoot, and on Saturday it promised to be breezy, and a bit overcast.

I arrived at my buddy Jeff’s house.  Jeff’s about 170 pounds and reasonably fit.  He comes out, looking a bit concerned.  Like other small people, he’s sensitive to both the cold and the wind, much like my mother.   He ran in and grabbed his jacket — not just a thin lycra thing, but an insulated jacket.   I looked at him with that “really dude?”  look.

He has no shame.

I put on arm warmers.

We headed out.

Is this a Haiku?

From the time we left his place, and throughout the ride, Jeff was very unhappy with the breeze.   While a comment or two was sufficient, he felt compelled to provide a near continuous stream of commentary as to the crappiness of the wind.

We rode south along the Sacramento River, crossed the river, then back up on the levee.   The levee winds past scores of vineyards, and numerous wineries.   We rode little two-lane country roads and ended up looping up back at a small town called Clarksburg, which is a longtime agricultural area converting from less flashy crops like wheat and sugar beets (historically), to wine grapes.

On the levee road, riding North out of Clarksburg, CA

It made for a beautiful ride, with the Sacramento River on one side and vineyards on the other.  Practically no traffic.  Just spectacular.

The wind seemed to be swirling, as practically any direction we went, we seemed to have a headwind.

It occurred to me on this ride that in the wind, as in life, Clydesdales don’t get pushed around.   The wind sees how big we are and then just backs the hell off.  Although the wind was annoying, I was cutting through it with relative ease. It was quite strong at times, and Jeff was being challenged.  He was really getting pushed around by the wind.

For me, what was an annoyance was an enormous challenge for him.  What a great equalizer!   I’d look behind me and he’d be 50 yards back.   The shifting winds made it hard for him to draft me, so the protective wind screen would occasionally disappear, and poor Jeff would have to fight to stay behind me.   I felt like a locomotive.  I just kept plowing through the wind, unfazed, unmoved by the gusting wind.   I was a windbreaker — that’s a big change from my normal routine of merely breaking wind.

Afterwards Jeff was amazed.  “Your legs are like pistons, man!  They just kept pumping.”  And, of course he was right.  I kept a pretty good average cadence, about 92 rpm, which is where I like to stay if possible.

When I was doing the California Triple Crown a couple of years back, I would find myself leading these long trains through the windy zones.  I didn’t volunteer it.   I would be pushing through the headwind, passing smaller riders as they struggled.  Next thing you know, the little bastards had tucked in behind me for a free ride.  I’d look back and see that there were sometimes four or five riders tagging along.

Of course, when we came to a big hill, the favor was returned.  They pulled me up the hill.

Yeah… right.  Nope.  Just freeloading little wind-dodging wheelsucking bastards.

I suspect that they struggle because the weight to surface area ratio is relatively low, their entire little bodies act like a fleshy, bony umbrella.  Sort of like a flying squirrel in lycra.  Put a light jacket on one of those tiny guys and it’s like a parachute.   In a strong breeze, I imagine that you could see them occasionally go backwards in their flappy little day-glo jackets.  Their high-pitched screams as they are dragged into traffic.  Like a cat in a tent.  In a hurricane.

And, what’s up with the flappy day-glo jackets anyway?  All the little people wear them.  Is it because they are so small they are afraid that drivers cannot see them?   It’s always little people.  Or old people.

So, it was a good day.  Any experience that allows me to confirm how much better I am than someone else can only be considered part of an excellent day.

  • stonegiant said,

    I’ve never ridden in The Valley, but I grew up in central Kansas and currently live in Tulsa which is just Kansas with hills! Out here we have a saying, “If the wind’s not out of the south, it’s in your face.” Although the south wind will peel your face off and send it to Nebraska in the spring and summer.

  • stonegiant said,

    I’ve never ridden in The Valley, but I grew up in central Kansas and currently live in Tulsa which is just Kansas with hills! Out here we have a saying, “If the wind’s not out of the south, it’s in your face.” Although the south wind will peel your face off and send it to Nebraska in the spring and summer.

  • alangriffin said,

    You would love it here in Carson City, NV. Even as I write this we are having approx 25-30 mph winds. It is this way most of the time as the thermals over Lake Tahoe push down the eastern slopes to the high Nevada desert. There is never the luxury of waiting for a “calm day”, you would never get a ride in that way. The wind is almost always from the west and is named after the greek god, Zephyr. There is a sacrifice that can be made to appease this ominous tyrant, but as it involves a goats head and a virgin, most do not attempt it. They just all file in behind us windjammer types.

  • alangriffin said,

    You would love it here in Carson City, NV. Even as I write this we are having approx 25-30 mph winds. It is this way most of the time as the thermals over Lake Tahoe push down the eastern slopes to the high Nevada desert. There is never the luxury of waiting for a “calm day”, you would never get a ride in that way. The wind is almost always from the west and is named after the greek god, Zephyr. There is a sacrifice that can be made to appease this ominous tyrant, but as it involves a goats head and a virgin, most do not attempt it. They just all file in behind us windjammer types.

  • mskembo said,

    I never really thought about this before! My wife whines like crazy when we have a headwind, but let’s face it she’s not even a palomino, she’s more like a Shetland pony. I keep peddling along oblivious to it (or extremely thankful for the cooling nature of it) Of course we are in Texas, so come August no amount of wind will ever be enough to cool me, and the sun will be hot enough to turn my red-headed wife into a giant blister.

  • mskembo said,

    I never really thought about this before! My wife whines like crazy when we have a headwind, but let’s face it she’s not even a palomino, she’s more like a Shetland pony. I keep peddling along oblivious to it (or extremely thankful for the cooling nature of it) Of course we are in Texas, so come August no amount of wind will ever be enough to cool me, and the sun will be hot enough to turn my red-headed wife into a giant blister.

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