With more than 30 000 cyclists planning to ride the 947 this weekend, here are 10 tricks that will let you tuck in smoothly and safely into groups you thought were too fast. By the Editors of Bicycling
These simple tips can help you stay smooth and safe in a pack from two to 2 000, and let you hang with groups going faster than you thought possible – without any additional training or any fewer French fries.
Unless the wind is directly in your face – and it rarely is – figure out which way it’s blowing, then offset yourself on the sheltered side of the rider ahead of you. The best draft is rarely found directly behind the person in front of you; hence, the best spot is usually just a bit to one side or the other. To find the best position, listen to how much wind whistles past your ears as you adjust your line. When the noise drops off just a bit, you’re in the sweet spot.
Speed Is Key
The faster the speed, the more important the draft. Don’t worry much about staying on someone’s wheel on uphills and during recovery periods; instead, concentrate on breathing and steady efforts. But whenever the speed goes above 30kph, get somebody’s wheel and hang on as if your life – not just your pride – depends on it.
Up Close And Personal
Stay right on the wheel. I see so many inexperienced riders let the wheel in front of them drift away when small accelerations happen because they’ve heard the secret to a good paceline is to keep steady. In a team time trial or a friendly weekend club outing, that might be right, but in a group ride when you’re fighting to hang on, getting gapped by a surge can kill you. Stick to the leading wheel even if you momentarily have to go way over your limit or pace – you can shut down developing gaps in a few seconds.
Keep It Smooth
Just before it’s your turn to take the front position and pull in a fast paceline, let a slight gap develop between you and the lead rider so you can accelerate into the draft right before the wind hits you. The result: you won’t slow down when the wind smacks you in the face.
Don’t use your brakes in a large group. As sketchy as this advice sounds to less experienced riders, you maintain more momentum and save energy if you swing slightly – slightly! – into the wind when you need to slow down.
Focus on the rider three spots ahead of you. Sure, you have to keep track of the wheel directly in front of you, but don’t stare at it. Any upcoming obstacles, the turns, swings and changes of pace that will affect that wheel start at the front. Keep watch up the paceline, and you’ll be able to predict what’s about to happen in your position.
This is the hardest part of drafting or big group riding for most people, but it is the most crucial. If you’re tense, you overreact to slight changes in the group’s line or speed and become a danger to yourself and others. Focus on your hands or jaw – if those are relaxed, chances are the rest of your body is as well.
Find The Sweet Spot
Stay in the sweet spot in really big groups. The best place to be in a huge pack is about 20 riders from the front. You have plenty of draft, but can still see what’s coming. If you go further back, the surges and shifts magnify as they travel. It’s like a Slinky – when the end springs forward, it can be a pretty nasty snap.
Sounds basic, huh? I have lost count of the number of times I’ve seen people crash while staring at the ground while drafting.
Refuel At The Back
When you’re in a paceline, replenish your body each time you rejoin the group at the back. Eating and drinking while in the middle is dangerous; in the front, it slows you down.
So how close do you need to be?
Although a 27% reduction at about two metres is scientifically valid as you get further back, finding the bubble of the lead rider’s slipstream becomes difficult – it can be about 0.3 metres wide and sometimes gets drifted sideways by the wind. Good riders recommend staying within at least half a metre. *Based on studies by Chet Kyle, Ph.D.
Gap between wheels (cm) = Reduction in Wind Resistance
Less than 30 = 45%
30 = 40%
60 = 37%
90 = 35%
120 = 33%
150 = 30%
180 = 27%