Gale Force WIND-y City Commute

Since I took public transportation instead of riding my bike during the two-day windstorm, I bring this story from my intrepid reporter/friend E A.  If there’s ever a day when I don’t ride due to weather conditions, I can be 95% sure that E A rode anyway.


With the gusty weather predictions for the Midwest and Chicago on Tuesday, I debated the safety of venturing out on two wheels for my morning commute. A high wind advisory and tornado watches had been alerting me all Monday evening and Tuesday morning about the potential dangerous weather that is plaguing many areas of the U.S. as October nears its end.

At 7am Tuesday rain was pouring down and traffic reports showed the results of jack-knifed semis and cars in ditches. Luckily the worst of the storms moved over Chicago quickly and I found myself staring out into an eery calm after the storm by 8:30am. Shortly after 9am I was on the road with a light wind breaker for a dry commute into strong (but not gale force) southerly winds. Along my route, I bike down Wells Street – which to me is always ridden with cyclonic type winds – and my commute on Tuesday (or Wednesday) did not disappoint.

So… from my commute, I offer you some cautionary advice for dealing with such gusty wind storms:
* Keep both hands firmly gripped on your handlebars
* Tuck your upper body down more so less of you is exposed to the brunt of the wind
* Forge ahead
* Don’t be ashamed to bail out to use public transportation if the conditions are not safe – put your own safety first

Especially when the cross-winds come, I find it particularly challenging to keep my line and not be blown into parked cars or traffic speeding by. But I know my route well and that high level of familiarity helps me know just when and where I’m most exposed and where I can seek shelter or alternate transportation if need be.

I rode both ways Tuesday and Wednesday despite the high wind advisory. Going home both days the winds should have be at my back, but some of those gusts whipped at me from every direction…  The best part was when the wind literally did PUSH me home – “Look Ma – No pedaling!”

At least the these are the warm winds. It’s when these winds turn blustery that I start to shudder.

Stay upright out there! And please share your stormy/windy commuting adventures and tips.

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10 thoughts on “Gale Force WIND-y City Commute

  1. Mr Colostomy says:

    Whenever it has been really windy here I have noticed that a heavier bike really helps, especially the kind of blustery wind we commonly have here in Manchester. A 25 kg cargo bike is a lot more resistant to winds which frequently change direction than my other, lighter bikes.

    • E A says:

      You’re right — it’s windy days when I most appreciate the extra heft of my commuter bike. :-) Classic steel frame all the way. Plus my pannier full of ??? to help weigh me down.

    • Correct, my big Dutch WorkCycle didn’t much care about the wind gusts, which with the rain were heavy enough that I had to wear ski goggles. I was breaking any speed records, though.

  2. Yes, family is reporting horrific weather in Louisville – we’re finally getting a break in rough weather out in Flag so I sympathize.

    The street shots are beautiful, BTW. Having more Chicago envy.

    I forgo riding in winds much above 40 miles per hour as the feeling that I’m going to get blown into traffic is terrifying. Much worse are the reminants of the Santa Ana winds from SoCal what we get out here. They just seem to lift you right up in the air.

    • E A says:

      You know…. the street shots are of a local Spice Store on Wells where I stopped to pick up some licorice root (which I hear has great healing properties to fight infectious cold sores). The woman who assisted me hadn’t ridden that day due to the winds, and she seemed disappointed that she hadn’t after seeing me come in relatively unnerved by the gusts. I assured her that I almost wimped out, too, but it just didn’t seem that bad to me. The gusts may have gotten up to 40mph, but my “tank” of a bike kept me grounded. Yes – I almost did get blown into traffic – “Whoa there!”

  3. When it comes to cross-winds, that’s when a heavy bike can come in handy. My tank of a Gazelle is the most resistant of all my bikes to getting pushed sideways when it is very windy. So even though it may seem like taking a sportier bike may give an advantage, I always opt for the heavier clunker in weather like that.

  4. David From Madison says:

    I took a two-day break as well. And I ride 12 mi. in rain and snow/ice. But well, the way the winds were whipping, I don’t think I could have gone more than a few miles an hour. Faster to walk…… However, I noticed going home, if I was riding, it would have been a heck of a tailwind! Would have been blown straight home in record time.

  5. maureen says:

    Wishing you wind at your back and Happy Trails!

  6. [...] “headwinds suck.” And Jack answered the question about fighting the wind. My tips for commuting in gale force winds were even posted on LGRAB. Tonight my route definitely worked against me (at least in sections) but my outer layer (my hi-vis [...]

  7. [...] weather. Minneapolis has cold and snow, Portland has a lot of wetness, Chicago gets downright cold and windy…meanwhile, bike commuters exist in relatively tiny percentages in more fair-weather areas. [...]

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