hill or headwind
The hill or the headwind?

Which do you prefer – grinding up a long and relentless hill, or facing the full-frontal forces of the wind?

Bicycle Network General Manager of Parkiteer, Parking & Counts, Glen Janetzki, discusses the differences, similarities and personal preferences of riding up a hill or against a headwind.

First off, it's important to acknowledge that both are going to give you a great workout (whether you're looking for it or not). Riding with the resistance offers great endurance and strength benefits.

With hills, you are obviously fighting the combined weight of you and your bike versus gravitational forces. Headwinds are a bit more complex, but essentially it's you and your bike's total frontal surface area vs that damn wind.*

*Yes, it is a little more complex than that. For those who can handle it, there are fancy drag coefficient CdA equations you can get lost in for days. 


I stumbled across this incredibly complex formula, which calculated that at my body + bike weight, riding at 250w on a five percent incline would clock me at approximately 16.5km/h. 

The same speed at the same wattage on a flat road would require an approximate 40km/h headwind. That's one heck of a windy day!

Take a more realistic headwind, and my bike + body weight, pedaling at 250w into a 20km/h wind should see me travelling at approximately 25km/h. 

Sounds alright on paper, but feels like a never-ending nightmare in reality.

If you find riding in strong winds frustrating and incredibly tough, you might find these tips helpful.

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Perhaps you feel comfortable powering through the onslaught of a headwind.

For some riders, particularly those who like to work together in tight-knit bunches, riding into the wind is the least of your worries – it's steep inclines you dread the most. 

Sometimes, even though you can see the top, it just doesn't seem to be getting any closer. But I'll still take a hill over a headwind any day of the week. 

For me, knowing that there is a point (at the top of the hill) when the pain will end is the psychological stimulation I need. Usually this is followed by the reward of a downhill descent, making hills my torture of choice.

As a side note, I do find it funny when naysayers say that Australian cities will never become bike-centric like Copenhagen or Amsterdam because its far too 'hilly' here.

While we may be slightly topographically disadvantaged, Holland is known as the land of the windmill, for a reason! Yet despite the wind, recent stats show 27 percent of all trips in Holland are taken by bike. 


A quick poll of the Bicycle Network office has hills ahead of headwinds for the majority of our riders.

Let us know which you prefer by checking out our polls on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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