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How to cycle in a headwind

Nik Cook explains how to cycle into a headwind and what you should be doing with your head/body position

How to cycle in a headwind
Keeping low and aero is a good tactic when riding into a headwind. © James Mitchell

Basically the key, when facing a headwind, is to keep low, aero and still! Get down into an aero position on your hoods, drops or extensions, and minimise the frontal profile you’re presenting to the wind.

Try to stay relaxed in your upper body, though, and don’t sway or bob, as any movement massively increases the size of the hole you’ve got to push into the wind. Make sure you zip up your top, too.

Use your gears. The road may be flat or even slightly downhill but, in a stiff headwind, there’s no shame in dropping down to the end of your cassette or even into the small ring. Forget your speed, work to a heart rate or power you know is sustainable, and don’t let your cadence drop to a grind. We all have different optimal cadences, so just try to stay in the range you normally would.

Finally, there’s a mental side to dealing with headwinds. Unlike a climb, there’s no reward of a summit, spectacular view or much-needed downhill run. It’s the relentlessness and monotony of them that can really get you down. Break up the road ahead and set yourself little goals, even if it’s just reaching a lamppost and having a sip of drink. Also, unless you’re riding an A to B route, remember, at some stage, that headwind will become a tailwind.

Profile image of Nik Cook Nik Cook Freelance bike writer


Nikalas Cook is a writer, author, coach and athlete based in the Peak District. He specialises in health, fitness, endurance and adventure sports. Having studied a postgraduate degree in Health and Exercise Science, he worked for eight years as a top personal trainer in London. He was the editor of Totally Active magazine and writes for numerous specialist magazines and websites including 220 Triathlon, Outdoors Magic, Trail Running and Trek and Mountain. He has also edited the British Cycling member’s website, the Insight Zone. He’s written for national newspapers and magazines including The Times, The Financial Times, The Daily Mail, GQ, Men’s Fitness and Red Magazine. But he’s probably most proud of being Derbyshire Life’s beer correspondent. Nik has written two books (Marathon Training: Get to the Start Line Strong and Injury-free; Peak District Trail Running: 22 off-Road Routes for Trail & Fell Runners) and his third, entitled The Road Cycling Performance Manual, was published by Bloomsbury in June 2018. He has also worked with Nigel Mitchell on his book, Fuelling the Cycling Revolution, and with Martin Evans and Phil Burt on their book, Strength and Conditioning for Cyclists. He’s completed numerous cycling challenges including the Trans-Wales MTB stage race, the Fred Whitton, the Raid Pyrenees and both the Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders sportives. Competitively, he likes to combine his cycling with running and has previously won gold in his age-group at the ITU World Long Course Duathlon Championships at Powerman Zofingen.