Seems there's been a change of direction in the wind

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By Jack Crowe

Cycling Columnist

"I'm older now but still running against the wind." Bob Seeger sang that line and I know exactly what he means. But I'm not running. 

With the possible exception of sailing, no sports activity is affected more by the wind than cycling. There. I said it.

Is Wrigley Field a hitter's park when the wind is blowing out but a pitcher's park when the wind is blowing off the Lake? Tinkering at the edges of the game.

Does an occasional field goal at Soldier Field get buffeted outside the uprights by a blast of west wind?

Is a world record pace at the Boston Marathon nullified once in a blue moon because of a strong tailwind out of Framingham?

Is St. Andrew's a different kind of links course when a stiff Scottish wind is howling?

All child's play. 

There is a rule in cycling that is ignored at the cyclist's peril. Ride out into the wind.  Ride home with the wind at your back. Do the hard work while you are fresh.

Some friends and I ignored this cardinal rule on a recent ride from Oak Park to Oswego and back. When you are chatting merrily while cycling effortlessly at 24 mph on the way out, beware.

And when a cyclist coming from the opposite direction calls out "enjoy it while it lasts," that's time to double beware. Or as another cyclist once said, "If you feel a tailwind, turn around because you're going in the wrong direction."

When you turn the corner and are smacked by a 20 mph headwind and your speed drops to 12 mph and you are 50 miles from home, it is time to settle in for a very long return ride … or to call a cab.

We have all kinds of wind stories from our annual group rides to Galena. You know you are in for a windy day when you crest a hill and see hundreds of wind turbines spinning madly up ahead. You can also tell by the names of the farms you pass, such as Windy Acres or West Wind Farms.

But you can really tell when you cannot loosen your grip on the handle bars to take a drink from your water bottle for fear of being tossed off the road. I have seen a bike and rider picked up and blown several feet to one side or another (particularly those with fancy deep dish wheels).

I have seen a line of cyclists bent sideways by strong crosswinds, leaning into the blasts. 

There is a certain mindset needed for this kind of riding. I find that it helps to grumble and think dark thoughts while grinding away.

And maybe it's global warming or maybe it's me, but this spring has been the windiest I can remember. It's like living on the Great Plains. And the wind seems to be out of the east more frequently and less out of the normally prevailing west.

These days, like a politician in a close election, a cyclist needs to know which way the wind is blowing.

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