Today wasn’t the first time I noticed this but perhaps I’ve thought about it enough to give more than a passing mention to it. In reality, bicycling is much like sailing with one very important difference beyond the fact that falling off likely results in entirely different experiences.
Many a sailor, certainly including myself here, has commented on how the wind often follows one’s course across the water through tacks and gybes, it’s very often not where you expect it to be. The old timers. the captains navigators and books will tell you that the wind is not shifting but in reality, it is self-generated wind and of course they must be right.
Looking up the mast you see the tell-tale blowing in the breeze, you feel it on your cheek and hear it in your ear. In fact, as you turn your head into the breeze, you feel the pressure on your cheeks equalize and the rushing sound that muffles all other sounds settles to an equal roar in each ear as you look into the eyes of Poseidon. That’s just the way it is. You seldom have stationary items blowing in the breeze to tell you which the direction the wind is truly coming from. If you do, they are either too far to be of much help or so close that they are paramount in squeezing into or out of tight passages.
Bicycling in a suburban neighborhood brings new light to a common theme. Sure, you feel the breeze pushing against you, on one side of your face or the other. On particular windy days it leans the bike over just as it does a sailboat. It’s unlikely that you have a tell-tale flying and if you do, it’s mostly likely behind you or too high and completely useless in navigation. What you do have however is flags. Patriotic cloths on high poles, tall skinny attention getters at places of business and hundreds of those little red and yellow flags that decorate the landscape.
Riding west this morning, I didn’t need to rely on the air pressure on my cheeks or the rush in my ears. As I passed these lines of miniature flags, my suspicion that the wind was right on the bow was confirmed with an occasional slight shift as I passed large landscaping or fences of various types. Turning north (at the same point I fell overboard on a recent journey), I wasn’t really surprised but amused to feel the breeze now not only on the left side of my face but also the front. Self generated wind obviously….except those little scattered tell-tales were now blowing to indicate the wind had shifted from the west to the northwest. Perfect timing on my part apparently.
A mile or so later, another turn to the right and now heading due east I had already given up on the notion that this would be a downwind sail of which I could go wing-on-wing, pedal my fastest and go as fast as my bike would take me. It wasn’t a bad ride but even as I continued, I could feel the wind shifting more northerly and those bits of orange and yellow that dance in the grass along the sidewalk now waved back and forth to show the wind was coming from nearly due north. When I did turn south – it stopped for the next mile and I could write that up to self-generated wind. Not enough to extend both arms out and sail but no real obstacle to deal with either until the last hundred yards where the wind then again shifted to the west to come directly off the bow when I turned into it.
I repeated the 6 mile lap and saw the same results which can only lead to one conclusion. No it’s not all self-generated wind out there and yes, Poseidon and his land-locked cohorts do frolic with us. Unbelievable though it may sound, it’s true and can easily be proved by planting thousands of these small orange and yellow flags vertically in the water in which you sail. As experiments in quantum physics have determine, the act of observation does change reality. Don’t believe the old-timers that stick to their fantasies. 😉