Against the wind

Stormy gusts turn commute into wild west, yee-haw
Published April 2, 2009

Twice this morning on my ride into work, I came to familiar stops and awkwardly tilted to the right. That’s awkward because I always tilt to the left, dropping my left foot to catch the weight of the bike at stops while my right foot holds the rear brake. The first error could have happened any day, but two on the same short trip to the office? Oddly, it wasn’t until I reached my destination that I realized the impetus to my bobbles–it’s bloody windy.

The gusting wasn’t so subtle in the evening, with winds in excess of 40 mph pushing everything toward the gaping mouth of the bay. The last hour of work I anxiously listened to the howling from the lashing gusts, watching the palms outside struggle to hold their ground. It hasn’t been windy like this for a while, and the outdoor armageddon had me half dreading the ride home.

It felt like Wild West, only in more modern leathers

Wind and me (and my bike) go way back to March 2008 when I first started riding. I got about a million warnings about other drivers, a few warnings about clutch control, and even warnings to switch the petcock to “off” when dismounting (the new Ninja 250 doesn’t have a petcock), but was issued exactly zero warnings about riding the bike in wind. It can be hairy if you’ve got the rigid death grip of an infant rider.

Fortunately, somewhere between last year and now I’ve lost the death grip. And that, I think, is key to fearlessly riding against the wind. Shoulders and elbows loose, the battering my head took this evening didn’t translate to accidental steering inputs. The bike’s fairing still caught the westerly gusts like a sail, pulling the bottom of the bike out into a half-lean that, sans 40 mph persuasion from the port side, would otherwise result in a sharp left turn.

But there was no fear of veering out of my lane today. In place of fear, thrill. The usually tedious freeway took on the life of a stampeding herd, deafening wind roars tossing slab-sided cages side to side, the city’s daring motorcyclists assuming the role of horsemen imposing intent on the chaos. It felt like Wild West, only in more modern leathers.

Exiting the harrowing freeway, I felt both relief and a bit of disappointment, not yet wanting to end the ride, like unbuckling from a roller coaster and needing another go. If memory of last year serves me right, I’ve another two months of evening hurricanes. Bring it on.