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Cycling And Wind

By Georgena Terry

mr_windNobody knows,
Where the wind comes from,
Where the wind goes.
~ A.A. Milne

A friend and I were riding the other day and joking around about how wind is “wind” in winter, but in summer, it’s just a “breeze.”  Is that because we’re In better shape in summer, so wind resistance is easier to deal with?  Undoubtedly, that’s some of it, but there’s more to it than that.

Enter the Ideal Gas Law, which calculates the density (how much a volume of air weighs) of dry air as a function of its pressure and temperature. Dry air is air with no moisture content — zero humidity.

Plugging some numbers into the Ideal Gas Law reveals that a cubic meter of 77º air has a density of 1.18 kg/m3 and a cubic meter of 32º air has a density of 1.29 kg/m3. Warm air is lighter than cool air.

Air exerts a force against the bike rider which we refer to as wind resistance. How much force depends on air’s density (which we calculated above), the square of the velocity of the rider, the drag coefficient (based on the shape of the rider and bike) and the cross sectional area of the rider and bike.

Everything else being the same, the wind resistance of 32º air is about 10% higher than the resistance of 77º air.  So the perception that “wind” morphs into a “breeze” as the weather warms up is real.

Here’s something that’s completely counter-intuitive. Humid air is lighter than dry air. Read the informative blog referenced below for the reason why.

Hmmm.  This means that a hot, humid day is better for cycling than a cold, dry day…at least in terms of wind resistance.  How many of us would opt for the hot, humid day?  Not many!  Humid conditions introduce a lot of physical challenges for the cyclist.  They usually override the benefits of that lighter, faster air.  But to the extent that we can acclimate to that kind of weather, the easier the cycling will be.

Fun things to think about the next time the wind or breeze blows!



The Ideal Gas Law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Density_of_air

Caculating drag: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drag_(physics)

Why Dry Air is Heavier than Humid Air: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2013/08/05/why-dry-air-is-heavier-than-humid-air/



GTA _signature


Georgena will answer your questions about bike-fit, bike-frames, saddles, and bike-maintenance. So don’t be shy. Take advantage of her knowledge and decades of experience to get answers to any questions you have about bicycles. Email me at [email protected].

When Georgena Terry first started designing bicycles, over 30 years ago, there were no women-specific bikes. Many female cyclists were forced to put up with neck, and shoulder pain, and other physical problems that came from riding bicycles that didn’t fit them. Georgena Terry changed that. Looking at anatomical differences between men and women, such as body mass and body strength, she began designing bike frames that optimized comfort and performance for female cyclists, with special attention to women under 5’2”.

Working out of her basement in Rochester, NY, Georgena first designed bikes for herself, then for her cycling friends. In 1985, she sparked a revolution in the cycling industry by launching Terry Precision Cycling, selling custom-built, high-quality steel frame bikes for women. Larger cycling companies sat up and took notice. Eventually following her lead, they developed their own brand of women-specific bicycles, clothing, saddles and accessories.

Today, Georgena continues her passion, designing and building custom steel bikes for women cyclists of all sizes. Contact her at georgenaterry.com


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