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The literal winds of change arrive every fall in La Grande, Oregon. There are two main ingredients on which to focus in La Grande weather forecasting--moisture and wind. Since the former is infrequent in the area, the latter should be the main concern. The winds of the Grande Ronde Valley occur daily and can be ferocious. This notion is supported by incidents of semi-trailer trucks being blown over on the freeway, an airport building being toppled, and even folklore of train boxcars derailed near Hot Lake. It goes without saying that cycling activities will be affected by these winds.
Generally, the strong wind starts in the fall and continue through winter and spring. When the hot summer weather starts in mid June, the wind subsides for a few month. The prevailing wind is from the south, blowing off the desert terrain around Baker City and picking up speed as it spills over the hills into the Grande Ronde Valley. Forecasts will often emphasize extremely high winds for Pyles and Ladd Canyons. Although the south wind is strong, it is usually a good indication that the temperature is bearable in the cold winter months. The wind will change to a north or west wind occasionally and often these are colder winds whereby wind chill is more of a concern. Wind generally picks up intensity in the afternoons, but this is not always the case. Sometimes strong morning winds are followed by calm in the afternoon.
Road cyclists are especially at risk because of the design of the valley. A tunnel of wind rips down the center of the valley where most paved roads are exposed because of flat terrain and no trees. Mountain bikers can often avoid the main impact of the wind because the trails are protected by trees and are above the valley floor. In fact, during high winds it is often advantageous to plan routes that hug the mountain (e.g. north section of Hunter Rd., Mt Glenn, Lower Cove Rd/Market Ln). This concept does not apply for Foothill or Union Hwy. These roads must be avoided during high wind.
Fortunately, wind is the one natural element that is accurately forecast in the area. Before hitting the roads or trails, every cyclist should check the wind information. This is especially important because there are often pockets of calm during windy situations. Just because it is calm at your house, doesn't mean it will be calm out on the road. Here are some resources to study:
During, "wind advisories" it may be best to forego riding particularly if you are a light rider. Heavier riders can withstand the gusts a bit more and often have a more inertia and power to overcome demoralizing head wind situations. Here are some suggestions for riding in the wind:
Rather then let the wind discourage you from riding in La Grande, consider it a challenging workout. And, don't forget to keep you head up and enjoy the beautiful scenery. If you don't ride in the wind in La Grande, you don't ride.
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