Don Feidner

Effect of Wind on Cycling

Last Update: 19 September 2010

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Wind Force


Visible Effect

Effect on Biking


Still, calm air
<1 kph

Smoke rises vertically. 
Water is mirror-like.

None: Ideal conditions


Light Air
1-5 kph


Rising smoke drifts, wind vane is inactive.

Small ripples appear on water surface.

None: Ideal conditions


Light Breeze

6-11 kph

Leaves rustle, can feel wind on your face, wind vanes begin to move.

Small wavelets develop, crests are glassy.

Nothing serious:

Doesn’t really slow you down. Enjoy your bike trip.


Gentle Breeze

12-19 kph

Leaves and small twigs rustle, light weight flags extend.

Large wavelets, crests start to break, some whitecaps.

Noticeable change in your ability to ride the bike. When riding against the wind, the bike doesn’t roll downhill by itself anymore.


Moderate Breeze

20-28 kph

Small branches move, raises dust, leaves and paper.

Small waves develop, becoming longer, whitecaps.

Biking is difficult against the wind and gets on your nerves. You begin to concentrate only on the wind and don’t pay much attention to what is around you. Ride in wind shadow. Take frequent breaks.


Fresh Breeze

29-38 kph

Small trees sway.

White crested wavelets (whitecaps) form, some spray.

Only ride the bike if you like to torture yourself. Wind shadow riding only. Distance for day is significantly reduced.


Strong Breeze

39-49 kph

Large tree branches move,  telephone wires begin to "whistle", umbrellas are difficult to keep under control.

Larger waves form, whitecaps prevalent, spray.

You have to be a real bike freak to ride in this wind. Watch out for flying objects.

Think about finding a place to sleep for the night.


Moderate or Near Gale

50-61 kph

Large trees sway, becoming difficult to walk.

Larger waves develop, white foam from breaking waves begins to be blown.

Ride only if the wind is constantly at your back. No peddling necessary. Best to wait until it slows down.

Find a place to sleep quickly.


Gale or Fresh Gale

62-74 kph

Twigs and small branches are broken from trees, walking is difficult.

Moderately large waves with blown foam.

Great time to read a magazine in the nearest café.

Park your bike on the lee side of a wall or building.


Strong Gale

75-88 kph

Slight damage occurs to buildings, shingles are blown off of roofs.

High waves (6 meters), rolling seas, dense foam, Blowing spray reduces visibility.

Make sure you stay behind a wall or building if you go outside.

Time to write some postcards.


Whole Gale or Storm

80-102 kph

Trees are broken or uprooted, building damage is considerable.

Large waves (6-9 meters), overhanging crests, sea becomes white with foam, heavy rolling, reduced visibility.

Stay inside and read a long book. Make sure your bike is inside a building somewhere.


Violent Storm


Extensive widespread damage.

Large waves (9-14 meters), white foam, visibility further reduced.

You can’t even stand up in this when you’re holding on to something, let alone ride a bicycle. Stay away from the windows and ask where the nearest storm shelter is located.



118 + kph

Extreme destruction, devastation.

Large waves over 14 meters, air filled with foam, sea white with foam and driving spray, little visibility.

If you ever wanted to know what a KAMAKAZIE feels like, now’s your chance. Be sure to give a copy of your will to your biking companion before you go outside.

For more details, see Beaufort Wind Scale


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