Yesterday, Bugman and I agreed that we would go for a ride today – up to the Wildcat Hills, maybe even our first “up and over” ride of the year.
Late this morning, as we prepared to head out, a sudden gust of wind ripped the cover off the recycle bin on our deck, and we began to question our judgment. The local radio station put out a caution about the wind on social media.
We revised the ride down. Instead of heading to the Wildcat Hills, we’d go to Mitchell for an out-and-back ride, taking shelter at the turnaround at the Subway (one of the few places open on Sundays) for a break from the wind and a quick lunch.
“It’s hardcore to be going out in this windy nonsense,” Bugman said.
But we wanted to go anyway – we need to keep getting in our training rides. If we run into windy weather when we’re out on the road during Cycle Greater Yellowstone, we’ll still need to get out there on the bike, so we might as well prepare ourselves for the possibility in our training rides.
We headed west on 20th Street out of town, straight into sustained 25-30-miles-per-hour winds, which were occasionally gusting to 40.
Things that make you go “hmmmmm . . . “:
- A cardboard box tumbling towards you.
- A plastic sign flipping end-over-end down the street.
- Large clouds of windblown soil cutting a diagonal across your path of travel.
Our teeth crunched with grit as we gasped and panted, struggling westward, hardly managing to break 8 miles per hour.
As we crossed the bridge over the North Platte River, I spied an osprey clinging to the top of a fencepost, head down so its body was as aerodynamic as possible, angling this way and that as the wind buffeted from the west, then northwest, and back west again. (I tried to get a picture of the perched bird, but nothing turned out.)
At the railroad crossing, I suggested that we take a break and walk our bike across the tracks, as it would be difficult to tackle the bumpy-and-in-need-of-maintenance crossing in such a headwind. Bugman agreed, and I was glad! I needed a breather and a drink of water!
As we stood there west of the tracks, having a hard time keeping ourselves and the tandem upright against the wind, a couple of motorcyclists slowed to see if we were OK. We gave them the thumbs-up, grateful for the consideration. (I reckon the motorcyclists could empathize about bucking wind like that.)
“Should we turn around?” I asked.
Bugman suggested proceeding to Haig school before heading back.
He got a leg over the tandem, I got into position on the back, and . . . a fierce gust of wind sandblasted us! Bugman had a hard time keeping the bike upright. There was no way he was going to be able to get us started and keep us going in a straight line.
“This is too dangerous,” Bugman said. “Let’s just go back.”
A tandem bicycle is a lot like a semi truck. Because we have more sideways surface area on just two wheels and a long wheelbase, we’re more susceptible to getting knocked over by sideswipes of wind. It’s also more difficult to steer, increasingly so the slower we go. With us unable to go any faster than 8-10 miles an hour into the wind, and with occasional gusts of wind from the side and air disturbances from passing vehicles, it really was just too dangerous to ride. (If we’d been on a smooth, deserted 8-foot-wide bike path, it might have been a different story.)
We turned around and flew eastward home, racking up just 7.8 miles in total, but satisfied with a decent workout nonetheless.