The Chainlink

Hi All-

I've recently started working in Evanston so my daily commute is now straight up Clark from Uptown.  There's a weather statement for this afternoon saying gust of 35-45 mph, and it calls out issues on north to south orientated roads for high-profile vehicles.

Does anyone have any recommendations on safe biking in this kind of weather? I've only been in Chicago for a couple of years and haven't had much experience of really strong cross-winds.

My bike is hybrid so I'm not super low profile, and I have panniers on both sides of my rear rack.  

Any thoughts/ comments/ recommendations would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Kate.

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I commute back and forth from Evanston to 31st and State and I decided to ride today.

When it's not favorably-windy I stay off the Lakefront Bike Path and stick to Clark, or I'll take Wells to Lincoln to California or other route where the buildings can shelter the ride from much of any cross or head winds. 

I'm on either a cargo bike or my commuter so I'm not low profile either and have panniers on the back.

I think the worst wind I rode in was a 30mph gusting day and made it home without too much delay. Buildings along the route break the wind up pretty effectively most days. Open stretches where gusting around stoplights or empty lots or school fields can give the wind a chance to pick up but there usually are plenty of stretches where it's just another ride to work or home.

I don't really have a preferred route. I look at the weather to see which way the wind is blowing and how strong and let the wind tell me which route to take. I've often found that a crosswind can seem like a tailwind with how the wind works its way around buildings and up streets.

I'm always amazed when I check the weather and see a strong headwind for my commute in the morning towards the city and never really run into it until I get past Roosevelt heading south. The city does a great job of sheltering us commuters from the wind sometimes. And I much prefer being on a bike when it's windy than standing on a train platform without shelter and wondering when a train is going to show up.

My guess is the high-profile warnings are for highway driving where the wind can really get gusting because of open fields along highway stretches.

Hope any of this is helpful!

Thanks Jim!

The ride home this evening were pretty wild in places, but I'm glad the wind speed had dropped a bit - not sure if I'd have braved it if they were still reckoning on 45mph gusts - I was really worried about westbound gusts sweeping me into traffic at intersections as I headed south...

Glad you made it home! And yep it was a wild ride at times heading home today for me too. Mostly had a tailwind heading north but those intersections can be gusty. Someday I might switch to a road bike but my commuter keeps me riding more defensively which comes in handy when the Windy City earns its nickname!

That is an incredible bike commute, Jim. Good for you!

That is a solid commute! Mine is from Avondale to Pullman and I nearly always drive these days (sigh) because it saves me a huge amount of time, but when I ride, adverse wind conditions can add 20 minutes to my trip home.

Very strong wind will definitely discourage me from riding. Even being on guard I have had a few close calls like the one you mentioned above where I was blown in to the traffic lane by a gust and was lucky there wasn't a car there. You may have already discovered this, but one of my biggest bits of wind advice is beware not only of cross streets but also places where there is land area opens up like parks and big empty lots. 

Thanks Nora!

A few years ago on the northwest corner of Milwaukee and Division in the triangle area on a 35mph to 55mph plus gusting windstorm day, this corner turned into a vortexing wind tunnel and pulled my glasses off, lifted my helmet, then pulled me towards the curb and a parked car. Even though I was  on my heavier MTB the force of the wind was lifting it off the ground while I was stopped and holding on to it. I had a pack on my back rack and some of those now extinct spoke cards on my wheels so I was sailing in the wind and not aerodynamically clean. I suggest on the very windy days to skip the panniers and minimize your wind profile with a sleeker backpack with just your daily essentials. 

That's intense!  The only part of my ride that has a vortex affect is Broadway and Lawrence - from about 20 yards south of the intersection the wind really picks up and then swirls when it hits the westerly wind coming down Lawrence.  Luckily I haven't had anything as strong as describe though.

Unfortunately I need my panniers - I have to bring all my work files, work clothes, and shower stuff (no locker I can use overnight) every day.  I might have to skip a few rides if the wind gets crazy. 

Even in the 50-60 mph range from Halloween 2014 you could still stay more or less upright. making progress against it was no fun, though.

On the lake the bigger problem is the surf around Oak Street. Other locations on the water depend more on the wind direction. Debris can always be a potential problem; I've seen a few roofs come apart back when I spent more time in the city proper.

Yeah - I remember Oak Street curve from when I used to work downtown - sometimes feels like you're biking through the lake!

And sometimes you are:

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