How Much Wind Is Too Much For Cycling? A Guide To Riding Safely

Have you ever experienced the struggle of cycling against a strong wind? It can be challenging and even dangerous if the wind is too strong.

But how much wind is too much for cycling?

Riding your bike with a gentle breeze of 15 mph is quite pleasant. However, when the wind picks up to 20 mph, it’s enough to make the trees sway and can be very noticeable for cyclists. Although it’s not typically dangerous for pro cyclists, it’s best to stay at home.

Once the wind speed increases to 30 mph, even the most experienced cyclists will struggle to keep going. When the winds reach 40 or 50 mph, it’s considered a gale, and cycling is no longer an option.

In this article, we’ll explore the different factors that can affect your cycling experience when it’s windy and how to determine if it’s safe to ride.

From wind speed to wind direction and gusts, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make informed decisions about your cycling adventures in windy conditions.

So, whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or just starting out, keep reading to learn more about how to navigate different wind conditions and stay safe on your bike.

Understanding Wind Direction

Understanding wind direction can make a significant difference in terms of time, effort, and safety during a ride.

There are three main types of wind direction:

  • Tailwind
  • Headwind
  • Crosswind

Tailwind is when the wind comes up from your back, pushing you forward, whereas headwind is the opposite when the wind is blowing against you, requiring you to put on more effort to maintain your speed.

Crosswind is when the wind is coming from the side, often creating an obstacle course to weave through.

Tailwind is the most ideal wind direction for cycling as it gives a significant boost of speed to cyclists.

Headwind poses the most challenges due to the increased effort needed to maintain the same pace, which can lead to exhaustion and slower speed.

Cycling during a crosswind can be particularly hazardous, especially during gusty conditions. The gusts from side winds can easily put riders off balance and lead to a disastrous fall.

Cycling In Different Wind Speeds

If you’re an avid cyclist, you know that wind plays a significant role in your performance and enjoyment of a ride.

While tailwinds can be a blessing, strong headwinds, and crosswinds can be challenging and even dangerous.

In this section, we’ll explore wind speeds ranging from 10 mph to 20 mph to help you determine what is considered a strong wind for cycling.

10 – 15 Mph Wind Cycling

Cycling against 10 – 15 mph wind is an easy and comfortable ride for experienced cyclists. You can expect to feel a gentle breeze on your face and perhaps hear the rustling of the leaves on the trees around you.

However, if you’re new to cycling, you should approach this wind speed with caution. While 10 – 15 mph winds alone should not cause any trouble, they may put you off-balance.

For novice riders, it’s better to ride in flatter terrain and avoid winding roads while keeping a close eye on the surroundings.

20 Mph Wind Cycling

Can you bike in 20 mph wind? Yes, but it can be a challenge. Cycling at wind speeds of 20 mph can be frustrating and require significantly more effort than cycling in calm air.

You may find yourself having to put in more effort to maintain your average speed and reach your destination.

While 20 mph is manageable by many cyclists, you will feel like you’d rather walk than cycle.

What Makes Riding Against The Wind Challenging?

Cycling can be a strenuous activity even in favorable conditions. It becomes even more challenging when you add headwinds to the equation.

Cycling against strong headwinds can be an exhausting endeavor, as it reduces your speed significantly.

In fact, you can lose about half of your regular speed when dealing with headwinds, making it a grueling task that can test any cyclist’s endurance. (1)

Can You Bike Safely in Strong Winds?

The wind can be a significant risk factor when cycling, especially if the winds are strong enough to affect bike handling or bring down debris and other obstacles.

Different riders may have different comfort levels and risk tolerances when it comes to cycling in high winds, depending on experience, skill level, and personal preference.

Wind speeds of 20 mph or more can make handling the bike a challenge, while also raising the risk of trees and falling debris obstructing your path.

cycling in 20mph wind

Experienced riders may find riding in strong wind gusts manageable if they are aware of their limits, but for the beginner rider, it is best to stay clear of such hazardous conditions.

As a general rule, it is not recommended to ride when wind speeds go above 30 mph. While pro cyclists can ride in this condition, I suggest not taking risks.

Wind speeds between 40 – 50 mph (gales) are extremely dangerous even for the most skilled and experienced riders, and the risk of injury or accident may be too high to justify the ride.

High winds may make the cyclist feel as though their balance is shifted and swaying, especially when passing through a gusty area like open plains or near large objects that disrupt wind patterns.

It is important to stay alert and maintain an appropriate speed level to increase stability and prevent accidents caused by losing control of your bike.

When riding in high winds, cyclists should wear protective gear including helmets and reflective materials to help increase visibility and ensure safety on the road.

How to Ride In Windy Conditions

When cycling in windy conditions, wind resistance can be a major hurdle to overcome.

Fortunately, there are several ways to mitigate this resistance while out on your bike.

Know When To Stay Indoor

Learn to say no and stay indoors, especially when the wind is blowing faster than 30 mph. That might not seem like much, yet we must remember that a category 1 hurricane has a minimum speed of 74 mph.

To be safe, it’s smarter not to take any chances.

Opt for indoor cycling when it’s too windy outside

Dealing With Crosswinds

Crosswinds can be quite intimidating and potentially dangerous – they can unexpectedly throw you off-balance or even topple you over.

However, it’s important to keep your wits about you as it’s not something that happens all the time. If you actively work with the wind rather than fight against it, you are much more likely to stay safe.

For example, try gently moving your bike in the same direction as the wind, something akin to swaying with it instead of against it.

In the end, it’s usually your own fear that can lead to accidents – so stay calm and stay in control.

Dealing With Headwinds

When you’re facing the wind, make sure you keep your body low and close to your handlebars.

Keep your arms close to your body and your elbows bent inwards. This way, you’ll create less drag and won’t be slowed down as much by the wind.

To get the most out of every ride, adopt a posture that reduces your surface area as much as possible. Make yourself as “small” as possible.

Wear Tight-Fitting Clothes

When it comes to reducing air resistance, it’s important to choose clothes that fit snugly, rather than wearing baggy garments.

For instance, an open jacket can act like a parachute and really slow you down. Therefore, it’s best to avoid wearing this type of clothing when you’re dealing with wind.

cyclist wearing tight-fitting apparel

Use Thinner Wheels

Having the right bike shape is also important to reducing wind resistance while riding, as larger-rimmed wheels, like those found on efficient road bikes, can be hazardous and can slow you down.

To avoid this, opt for thinner wheels when possible. Mountain bikes are heavier and usually come with suspension, so they’re perfect for tackling winding roads.

An e-bike is also a good option if you’re looking for something specifically designed for winding terrain.


Top Challenges When Cycling Against Strong Winds

Cycling in strong winds can present a range of challenges. From coping with dust and debris to navigating through thunderstorms, rugged terrain, and getting blown off your lane, you need to exercise caution and preparedness while on the road.

Below, we will take a closer look at some of the common obstacles cyclists might face while pedaling through windy conditions, and how to tackle them effectively.

Dealing With Dust

Cycling in dusty and windy conditions can be a challenging feat for even the most experienced rider.

It’s not uncommon for strong dusty winds to cause problems on the road, making it difficult to see and compromising your balance.

If you can, it’s best to stop cycling for a few minutes and wait for the dust to settle down before continuing.

In addition to visibility issues, dusty winds can damage your eyes and lungs. It’s essential to wear cycling goggles (and mask, if you prefer) to protect you from debris and dust particles.


Not only will they protect your eyes from flying debris, but they can also help to reduce irritation and watering.

If you must cycle in dusty conditions, always proceed with caution, reducing speed and staying off the road when possible to remain visible to other drivers.

Beware Of Thunderstorms

When planning a cycling trip, it’s essential to check weather conditions beforehand, especially during the summer months when thunderstorms are common in the United States.

Thunderstorms are not only accompanied by lightning but also bring strong gusts of wind that can easily knock you off balance, creating handling issues.

If you’re cycling and a thunderstorm strikes, the first step is to find a safe place to seek shelter. Avoid tall structures and trees, as they are more likely to attract lightning.

Instead, seek shelter at a nearby building, beneath a house porch, or underpass. It’s necessary to remain in shelter until the thunderstorm passes; do not leave until the storm wanes.

If you’re unable to find shelter, your next step is to find a safe location to wait out the storm. Park your bike in a secure position off the road and wait until it’s safe to proceed with your trip.

It’s essential to be mindful of wind gusts during the storm and keep your focus on the road.

Prepare For Colder Winds

Colder winds can lead to frostbite if proper caution isn’t taken. If possible, it’s best to avoid cycling in windy and colder conditions altogether.

But if you must go out, make sure to wear a proper jacket that is not only windproof but also able to keep you warm.

A windproof jacket will prevent the wind from penetrating and cooling down your body temperature, which can be quite hazardous.

female-mountain-biker-standing-on-road-outdoors-wearing wind jacket

It’s also important to pay close attention to wind gusts while cycling in colder winds, especially in the winter.

A gust of wind can throw you off balance and cause accidents, so be sure to keep a close eye on any sudden changes in wind direction or strength.

Be aware of safe places you can shelter in while cycling. Stopping to take shelter can prevent dangerous situations that might put you at risk.

Getting Blown Off Your Lane

There is always a risk of being blown off the bike lane by strong gusts of wind. To avoid being pushed into traffic or off the bike lane, it’s essential to take the right steps if you find yourself in this situation.

Firstly, you should try and ride in a low aero position to become more compact and lower your center of gravity.

This position will help you maintain control of your bike and reduce wind resistance, making it easier to ride through strong gusts.

If you have enough space in your lane, allow your bike to move in the direction of the gust instead of trying to fight it.

Be sure to adjust your gear to a lower setting than normal, which will give you better endurance, and be prepared to sacrifice some speed.

In general, it’s best to avoid biking in narrow lanes close to high-speed traffic in high wind conditions.

If you find yourself in such a position, be extra vigilant, and take the necessary precautions to decrease your risk of losing control.

Always keep your eyes open for any sudden gusts that could blow you off balance and avoid riding in areas with strong crosswinds.

Biking Against Wind As A Training Regimen

As hard as it may be, biking against the wind can effectively be used as another tool in your fitness arsenal.

With extra effort, this challenging workout opportunity can give you an edge in your cardio and overall conditioning.


The idea is to use the advantages of varying degrees of wind for more productive rides. During your ride, select a stretch where you’re facing a headwind and increase the intensity of your cycling.

Use this as an active recovery exercise or go all out at 80% of your maximum heart rate for two minutes with one-minute rests in between each interval if you are looking for something more intense.

Another way to make use of windy days during rides is by intentionally scheduling the bike ride when the winds tend to pick up in your area.

Plan it so that part of the route is with a headwind and another stretch with cross or tailwinds usually decreases resistance and makes passages easier.

Having knowledge about what time the winds typically pick up will allow you to capitalize on these weather conditions without feeling forced to alter or cut short your ride.

Additionally, make sure to wear appropriate gear including helmets, reflective clothing, and bicycle lamps, and keep yourself hydrated throughout long stretches especially when it is windy outside.

My Verdict

Based on my experience, any wind speeds above 30 mph winds are too dangerous as they can cause accidents or other issues.

Winds of 20 mph and above are considered worrying, but still manageable for pro cyclists if you use care and caution.

To remain on the safe side, it’s best not to cycle in conditions with winds of 15 mph and higher.

It’s important to always prioritize safety and be aware of any potential hazards caused by wind gusts, such as debris on the road or unstable branches on trees.

Investing in high-quality cycling kits such as wind-resistant clothing and a sturdy bike with good handling can help make riding in windy conditions more manageable. Happy cycling!

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