Wednesday, May 5, 2010


In my bike commutes over the past several weeks I've noticed something I hadn't really encountered since last fall: headwinds. I've observed the typical warm-weather wind pattern in the Puget Sound region is for winds from the south or southwest in the morning, shifting to winds from the north or northwest in the evening. Since my current office is south of my home (about a 45 mile round trip), what this means for me on a typical warm-weather day is headwinds on both legs of my bike commute. Usually these are not particularly significant (I only really notice when sustained winds are more than 10 mph and/or have higher gusts), but they certainly don't make bike commuting easier.

Well, for the past few weeks, and after six months without significant wind on the days I've bike commuted (usually 1-3 times per week -- I also telecommute twice a week), the typical Puget Sound warm-weather pattern seems to have returned. The first time I noticed this was about three weeks ago. I took a bus downtown, then biked from there to my office in Tukwila. For most of that bike ride I had to drop a gear because of the persistent headwinds, and along one stretch alongside Highway 99 south of South Park, I had to drop two gears.

Two weeks ago I biked the entire distance to my office and arrived pretty well spent from the relentless headwinds. And Monday, just as I started climbing the Dexter Hill southbound from the Fremont Bridge towards downtown Seattle, on a day when windstorms littered my route with tree branches and leaves and caused a lot more mayhem elsewhere in the region, a gust hit and forced me to drop a gear, which I never was able to make up. I felt almost as out of shape as I had been back in January.

On the other hand, maybe my commuter bike's semiannual tuneup is overdue, or maybe I really am getting too old for this. I will have to try breaking out my road bike later this week to see how much it helps -- I haven't ridden the road rocket since about October.

One fun note about that first windy bike/bus commute three weeks ago: at the stop after I boarded my morning bus to downtown, new Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn boarded too, loading his bike behind mine on the bus' bike rack. He greeted me by name when I gave him a wave hello -- we know each other from our intersecting neighborhood work on issues of bicyclist and pedestrian safety and urban planning over the past few years, but I hadn't seen him since before last summer's primary election when I was working on his campaign. It was nice to see him again. No one else on the bus seemed to recognize him, which surprised me.

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