# General Cycling Discussion - Settle A Bet - Perpendicular Wind

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View Full Version : Settle A Bet - Perpendicular Wind

flippinsweet
09-19-12, 10:09 PM
Help settle a bet between me and a neighbor.

This is the hypothetical situation:

You are riding your bicycle, on a perfectly flat, perfectly straight road, if the wind blowing perpendicular to your direction of travel. Does the wind help the cyclist by pushing the cyclist along, or does the wind cause resistance for the cyclist?

Artkansas
09-19-12, 10:35 PM
It's going to slow you down, just a bit. As you ride, you push into the air. More wind, the more air you push into. I don't think you'll notice the effect though.

Arrowana
09-19-12, 10:36 PM
I'm going to guess that it adds resistance. Either way, if it is strong enough, it will impair your ability to ride in a straight line, so that will slow you down.

Jeff Wills
09-19-12, 10:49 PM
Help settle a bet between me and a neighbor.

This is the hypothetical situation:

You are riding your bicycle, on a perfectly flat, perfectly straight road, if the wind blowing perpendicular to your direction of travel. Does the wind help the cyclist by pushing the cyclist along, or does the wind cause resistance for the cyclist?

What kind of bicycle? If it's got nothing to extract energy from the wind, I think it might slow you down a bit. If you've got something with some sail area, you can get energy from it just like a sailboat:

http://lonniemorse.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/lonnie-transam-meninite1.jpg

10 Wheels
09-19-12, 10:52 PM
It will slow you down, compared to zero wind.

StephenH
09-19-12, 11:26 PM
Based on observation, it will slow you down some.

There's not any way to just deduce the answer. What actually happens is that you're moving through the air at a skewed angle. Your airspeed is greater than it would be with still air, your "frontal area" is actually the area on a diagonal, the drag coefficient changes, but no telling how. The force from the wind will be at a skewed angle, also.

fietsbob
09-19-12, 11:56 PM
Get on the leeward side of the other guy.. :rolleyes:

iconicflux
09-20-12, 03:59 AM
It slows you down in a couple of ways.. first there's the fluid dynamics of the wind which causes resistance..
But then.. in order to not get blown over you shift to a less efficient riding position so your coefficient drag goes up while you lean into it and this causes your tires to increase the road resistance.

09-20-12, 05:17 AM
How much of the bet do I get if I tell you the correct answer? :)

spectastic
09-20-12, 05:33 AM
drag is proportional to the speed of the fluid (air) moving over the object (you). With wind at perpendicular angle, you will face a higher wind current than if you were just riding with no wind, in which case the only wind moving past you is in the direction you're facing.

For instance, if you are facing a wind that is as fast as your bike speed, you can add the perpendicular wind vectors together, and the resulting drag would be sqrt(2) the amount you would face if there was no perpendicular wind.

09-20-12, 12:44 PM

If that wind were water this bet would be settled quick! :p:p:p

Keith99
09-20-12, 01:38 PM
Just watch the major cycling races and see what happens with a crosswind.

A significant decrease in speed and a chance to break a race to pieces as unlike a headwing the following cyclists get forced into the wind becaseu the best position is to more to teh side of the rider ahead and roads are onlty so wide.

ThermionicScott
09-20-12, 01:43 PM
Help settle a bet between me and a neighbor.

This is the hypothetical situation:

You are riding your bicycle, on a perfectly flat, perfectly straight road, if the wind blowing perpendicular to your direction of travel. Does the wind help the cyclist by pushing the cyclist along, or does the wind cause resistance for the cyclist?

Hurt. Extra energy is needed to maintain a straight line.

rumrunn6
09-20-12, 03:02 PM
it would only make you go faster if you had a sail set at angle angle, in sailing they call that "tacking" don't they?

caloso
09-20-12, 03:33 PM
Crosswinds, at angles of 90 degree and above, are felt as apparent headwinds. See http://sheldonbrown.com/brandt/wind.html

tagaproject6
09-20-12, 03:48 PM
I take it your neighbor does not ride?

caloso
09-20-12, 04:34 PM
I take it your neighbor does not ride?

I was thinking the same thing.

Monster Pete
09-20-12, 04:46 PM
it would only make you go faster if you had a sail set at angle angle, in sailing they call that "tacking" don't they?
Pretty much. With the sail/aerodynamic bike structure at zero angle, the force on it is just pushing sideways. With it held at an angle, there are components pushing to the side and ahead.

Damnit, now I'm going to have to figure out the physics of a sailing bike :P Maybe some kind of tandem with the stoker sailing instead of pedalling...

fietsbob
09-20-12, 04:52 PM
Ice and beach sail rigs are all 3 point of contact, trikes..
skate blades or general aviation wheels.

Laying down low so the sail boom doesn't hit you..

no motor?
09-20-12, 05:48 PM
It sure slowed me down last night.

spinnaker
09-20-12, 07:47 PM
Pretty much. With the sail/aerodynamic bike structure at zero angle, the force on it is just pushing sideways. With it held at an angle, there are components pushing to the side and ahead.

Damnit, now I'm going to have to figure out the physics of a sailing bike :P Maybe some kind of tandem with the stoker sailing instead of pedalling...

Sails do not push a boat. A sail pulls a boat based on the Bernoulli principle (on anything from a broad to close reach). A conventional bicycle and rider make a poor air foil. If anything the wind will cause the cyclist to slow a bit due to lateral resistance.

If the cyclist were able to fashion even a crude foil then some lift would be acquired aiding the cyclist.

spinnaker
09-20-12, 07:50 PM
Crosswinds, at angles of 90 degree and above, are felt as apparent headwinds. See http://sheldonbrown.com/brandt/wind.html

Why didn't I think of that. :) The faster the cyclist moves, the apparent wind will move further forward. This would probably slow the cyclist much more than the lateral resistance that I mentioned.

bikepro
09-20-12, 10:36 PM
Yes, cross winds will slow you down. If you are riding with others in a cross wind, rather than drafting directly behind the rider in front, you want to form an "echelon" in which you are behind the rider but off to the left or right of the rider, depending on if the wind is from the left or right.

Actually, cross winds can be more tricky than headwinds, since the wind will move you off course. This is especially true if the wind is gusting. Even more true of you have deep rims on the front.

Back when they started using solid disk wheel, they had them front and rear. They quickly found that disks on the front were a bad idea when the first wind gust blew them across the road.

flippinsweet
09-20-12, 10:59 PM
I take it your neighbor does not ride?

Now that I see how the conversation is going, I feel I can jump in without persuading the topic. Yes, my neighbor does not ride, and yes he feels that a cross wind is helpful to the cyclist. His argument is that if it is not a head wind, then it is helping the cyclist. Like the wind will wrap around the back of the cyclist and push the cyclist forward somehow.

I think one could argue that if the force of wind 'pushes' the cycles to the left or right, during travel, that this is a form of resistance. The cyclist will 'waste' energy compensating for the wind pushing the off the vector of travel, forcing the cyclist to turn into the wind slightly.

I am not sure the magic angle, but I would even go as far as to say that a tail wind at a steep angle, nearly perpendicular to the cyclist, is still a from of resistance. The cyclist will have resistance greater than the help the wind is doing pushing the bicyclist.

StanSeven
09-20-12, 11:47 PM
it would only make you go faster if you had a sail set at angle angle, in sailing they call that "tacking" don't they?

Pretty much. With the sail/aerodynamic bike structure at zero angle, the force on it is just pushing sideways. With it held at an angle, there are components pushing to the side and ahead.

Damnit, now I'm going to have to figure out the physics of a sailing bike :P Maybe some kind of tandem with the stoker sailing instead of pedalling...

You both better stick with cycling. Tacking is changing directions by pointing the bow through the wind. You're thinking of reaching when the wind is at your side.

Jeff Wills
09-21-12, 12:37 AM
Now that I see how the conversation is going, I feel I can jump in without persuading the topic. Yes, my neighbor does not ride, and yes he feels that a cross wind is helpful to the cyclist. His argument is that if it is not a head wind, then it is helping the cyclist. Like the wind will wrap around the back of the cyclist and push the cyclist forward somehow.

I think one could argue that if the force of wind 'pushes' the cycles to the left or right, during travel, that this is a form of resistance. The cyclist will 'waste' energy compensating for the wind pushing the off the vector of travel, forcing the cyclist to turn into the wind slightly.

I am not sure the magic angle, but I would even go as far as to say that a tail wind at a steep angle, nearly perpendicular to the cyclist, is still a from of resistance. The cyclist will have resistance greater than the help the wind is doing pushing the bicyclist.

Nope. See the faired recumbent above. What matters is lateral sail area and the efficiency of the sail. The better of both, the more efficient the sail will be at extracting energy from the wind, from any angle. As Stan said, a tacking boat can sail upwind by sailing at an angle into the wind. Conventional sailboats make headway in quartering headwinds- more exotic rigid sails can make headway almost directly into the wind.

flippinsweet
09-21-12, 08:49 AM
Nope. See the faired recumbent above. What matters is lateral sail area and the efficiency of the sail. The better of both, the more efficient the sail will be at extracting energy from the wind, from any angle. As Stan said, a tacking boat can sail upwind by sailing at an angle into the wind. Conventional sailboats make headway in quartering headwinds- more exotic rigid sails can make headway almost directly into the wind.

Perhaps I was not clear, I am not talking about sailboats, or a faired recumbent. Just regular folks on a bicycle.

Aeolis
09-21-12, 09:12 AM
You win the bet, have fun sleeping with his wife. :thumb:

tagaproject6
09-21-12, 09:19 AM
Where's the money?

Monster Pete
09-21-12, 10:43 AM
Sails do not push a boat. A sail pulls a boat based on the Bernoulli principle (on anything from a broad to close reach). A conventional bicycle and rider make a poor air foil. If anything the wind will cause the cyclist to slow a bit due to lateral resistance.

If the cyclist were able to fashion even a crude foil then some lift would be acquired aiding the cyclist.

If you rely purely on Bernoulli, a flat plate at incidence wouldn't produce any lift. Remember a sail has the same profile on each surface, paper aeroplanes can fly, as can those with symmetrical wings. The shape on an aerofoil section certainly helps, but it's not the primary cause of lift. (http://www.grahamlegg.talktalk.net/lift.html )

A better explanation comes from Newton. If you hold an aerofoil, sail or indeed a flat plate at an angle to the air flow, air will be directed downwards, creating lift as a reaction force (the air's velocity vector has changed). On the leeward side, the drop in air pressure increases the lift force, however flow separation will affect this component. If a particularly wide-shouldered cyclist could place himself at an angle while riding crosswind, a small aerodynamic thrust would be generated.

However, the problem lies with the angle of the apparent wind. Moving forward causes the apparent wind to shift forward. This limits the maximum speed of any wind-driven vehicle, and in the case of a cyclist will make it virtually impossible to get any meaningful thrust without a dedicated aerofoil or sail structure.

Sailing boats can turn a crosswind (and even a headwind to a degree) into thrust because they're aerodynamically designed to do so. A bike isn't, so can't.

(I'm an aerospace engineer btw :P )

Jeff Wills
09-21-12, 10:29 PM
Perhaps I was not clear, I am not talking about sailboats, or a faired recumbent. Just regular folks on a bicycle.

I did ask "what kind of bicycle" at the beginning. Since you didn't clarify, I thought it was an open discussion.