Drafting – AKA: Free Speed

Military_cyclists_in_pace_line2-1024x696Before I get back to the articles on Recon Work I thought I would cover a topic that one of my readers is interested in, drafting. I have not done a tips article in quite sometime so I feel a bit overdue.

Drafting is the process of riding behind someone in an effort to recover and or share the work.

When drafting one or more people do not I repeat do not Half Wheel! Half Wheeling is described as when a rider in a draft allows their front wheel to overlap the rear wheel of the rider in front of them. This is going to lead to a wreck and you may take someone with you in the process. Maybe not today but eventually you are going to go down by practicing such bad riding etiquette. Heads up for all you new racers out there. If you half wheel and the guy in front of you sweeps into your wheel he is not at fault you are. More experienced riders will check there 6 (Look behind them) before making a line change. Inexperienced/tired riders do not do this.

Why do riders half wheel in the first place? I have two thoughts on this. In the pro ranks there is a reason for doing this in cross wind scenarios. In the case of cross winds pros will form an echelon pace line and the best spot in the line may cause a pro rider to half wheel. What do I mean by the best spot in the pace line? When riding in a pace line an experienced rider will quickly recognize where the best spot is because they feel that they are not having to work as hard to maintain speed in the pace line.

The other explanation I have to why inexperienced riders half wheel is that they are not paying attention nor are they confident enough yet to be drafting in a pace line. Who’s responsibility is it to point out half wheeling? ANYONE in the group or pace line. If you see it call it out, nicely. The other tip that I learned that helped me immensely was to NEVER look down or at the back of the rider in front of you. For one thing it isn’t safe and for another the spot right behind someone in the draft may not be the best. Instead look just over the shoulder of the rider in front of you. You want to see what is going on towards the front of the pace line or group to see what is going on. Remember in any riding situation concerning groups all ways have an escape route!

In order to get the “Free Speed” from drafting you are going to need to practice drafting, bike handling and relaxation.

When riding in the draft there are 2 constants to remember. The closer you are to the rider in front of you the less work you have to do and wind shifts constantly. Be prepared to move about in the draft trying to find the optimal location to hide from the wind. As far as bike handling goes we are talking about making subtle movements on the bike to control position and speed. This means no wheel steering of the bike and no grabbing of brakes. Instead use your hips, shoulders and elbows to make fine adjustments to steer the bike. Instead of using your brakes anticipate what is going on in front of you and soft pedal “DO NOT COAST” or even sit up in the saddle and pull out of the line to catch wind in your chest to slow down. The relaxation part comes with time. If you find yourself completely racked with nerves because you are not use to riding so close at speed and tight confines I have to recommendations. Don’t give up keep coming back. It won’t get easier to do but you will eventually come to find that drafting is one of the most amazing things you can learn to do in a group ride. The other is to practice in the off season. How in the world do you practice drafting in the off season? Well you start riding the rollers.

Rollers are a type of trainer that has little resistance “kind of like drafting” requires you to balance the bike because you are not locked in and has a narrow width for your bike to ride on. Not only did a winter of riding the rollers do wonders for my group riding anxiety it made me a more efficient cyclist.

Good luck and be safe when practicing. Remember drafting equals free speed!

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