5 Lessons From the Wind Gods

Before there were bikes, there were wind haters: In almost any culture's mythology, wind gods are among the nastiest of the bunch. The Greeks have Zephyrus, who murdered the boy Hyacinthus by maliciously diverting an airborne discus. Norse god Odin was famous for his "berserker rage." The Egyptian god Set buried his brother alive, then scattered pieces of the corpse around Egypt. (His sister suffered an even worse fate—Set married her.) The ancients' harsh portrayals of the third element shouldn't surprise us—after all, they never had aero helmets. But, buried within their stories are some valuable lessons for cyclists. Here are five worth a second look.

Lesson #1: Stand Your Ground

The Tale: According to Chinese mythology, Yi, the divine archer, undertook a series of missions in order to save China; his initial task was to fight Fei Lian, the Count of the Winds—a bull with the tail of a serpent. First, Yi diverted the wind with sheets so he could scale Fei Lian's home on Taishan Mountain. Then he shot the god in the knee.

A Better Idea: Although we mere mortals can't control the wind, we can at least try to survive it by staying upright. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Like Fei Lian, the front of the pack is more stable than the rear, which can be as whippy as a snake. Stay in the front third of the group to avoid the energy-wasting braking and accelerating that happen at the tail as the group reacts to the front riders.
  2. For a little extra help in a paceline, try to ride behind the wheel of someone larger than you, ideally the 250-pound former linebacker. (But don't be selfish—if you weigh 95 pounds or are one of the stronger riders, any wheel will do.)
  3. Ride in the drops. A lower center of gravity will increase your stability in a buffeting wind.

Lesson #2: Know Thy Enemy

The Tale: Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek army, was sailing to fight the Trojans when the goddess Artemis stopped the wind, stalling his fleet. To appease Artemis, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia. This worked out great at first—the Greeks resumed their journey and won the war—but severely displeased Agamemnon's wife, Clytemnestra, who killed him upon his return (and took a lover in the meantime).

A Better Idea: Though you may be tempted to sacrifice many things for a tailwind—your last Clif Shot Blok, a spare tube, your soul—the best way to get a little help on the way home is to start your ride into the wind. But if you begin with a tailwind, pace yourself accordingly. Or ride in the early morning, when conditions tend to be calmest.

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