We all know that wind makes riding tough. If you’re going 18 mph on a calm day and suddenly a 10-mph headwind cranks up, it takes considerably more effort to keep your speed.
But sometimes wind resistance is useful. It can help you brake without touching the brake levers.
Let’s say you’re in a paceline or riding on a buddy’s wheel. Suddenly your gap to the rear wheel ahead is getting uncomfortably short.
If you snatch the brakes, you’ll probably slow too much and then need to pedal fast to close the gap. In a paceline, this yo-yoing causes a chain reaction among the riders behind. That’s dangerous.
Instead of braking, sit up higher so more air catches your torso. Usually, the higher you sit, the more your “body sail” catches the wind.
If this doesn’t slow you enough, move slightly to the side, out of the draft. Keep the cranks turning without applying power. This “soft pedaling” helps you stay smooth. Jerky mixes of pedaling and coasting are a paceline no-no akin to braking.
Another time to use air brakes is on fast descents. You could keep your brakes on to control speed, but that’s not cool. In fact, it can make your rims very hot, with possible blowout consequences.
By sitting up to catch the wind, you can take 10 mph off your descending speed. Save your braking for short bursts just before corners if you’re still going too fast for comfort. Then release the levers as you lean into the turn.