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Fear of the Wheel --- question on drafting and trust.(25 posts)

Fear of the Wheel --- question on drafting and trust.Delia
Jun 22, 2001 8:01 AM
Yesterday: Kristin, Greg and I were doing a 25 mile ride. Greg was trying to teach us how to draft/slipstream. Kristin knows how to do it but I find that I have this fear of being too close to the wheel off of which I'm drafting. It almost feels wrong to be that close (kinda like when you are invading someones personal space). I feel like I'm going to crash into them. Also, it's hard for me to be concentrating on the wheel in front of me and not be able to see the road in front of me. In this vein, I realized how much trust is involved in drafting someone: trust them not to lead you into a pot hole, trust them not to brake fast or slow down abruptly. Greg is pretty good about pointing stuff out and not making quick changes, but I'm still not getting it. Kristin says that it's mucho importantay to learn how to ride in paceline. Any words of wisdom/experience?
Best advice I ever Heard......Len J
Jun 22, 2001 8:07 AM
Was to start by riding 1 ft to 1.5 feet behind the person in front and gradually (as you get more comfortable) decrease the distance. You will still get some benefit from the draft, but won't feel as uncomfortable.

The other thing I try to do (especially when behind someone I don't know well) is to always give myself an out. I will shade myself to one side or the other (not by much) so as to have a quick Bailout direction in the event of something happening further up the paceline. I also keep the Brakes within reach (Not to use them in line but to use them if necessary in the Bailout).

Keep trying, it takes practice to get comfortable but it is worth it in terms of reduced effort. Also, check to see that you are relaxed. Your reactions will be quicker if you are not tense.

Good luck.
Be attentive and trustworthy!!Cima Coppi
Jun 22, 2001 8:16 AM
This is extremely important due to the nature of riding so close to the rider in front of you. If your eyes or mind wonder while drafting, you won't notice slight changes in the speed or direction of the rider in front of you. This is one of the major causes of crashes while riding a paceline.

The rider in front has some responsibilty in guiding the drafters away from danger in the road, but I have drafted behind some who give no indication of obsticles upcoming. Try to have as much possible faith in the leaders ability.

Another thing to try is drafting at a slower speed where your reaction time is enhanced. As you get used to riding close to the wheel in front of you, start drafting at a faster pace. Another thing to remember is to take your turn making the pace. This will allow the others in your group equal time to rest in your slipstream. Work on making smooth transitions from leader to drafter.

Drafting is an essencial component to successful riding, whether it be racing or just group riding. The energy savings are well worth knowing how to do it correctly.

Good luck!!

CC
re: Fear of the Wheel --- question on drafting and trust.Tom C
Jun 22, 2001 8:21 AM
I don't know if you've ever seen the 4 man time trial but those people are clipping along at 40 mph plus. So it's critical to stay close. As cycling is rhythmic, matching gears and cadence, if possible,should help smooth things out.
re: Fear of the Wheel --- question on drafting and trust.Haiku d'état
Jun 22, 2001 8:31 AM
agreed to start farther back and work your distance down/comfort level up as you progress. this may not come in one or two rides, or even in a week, but it will eventually. in the immortal words of my always-black-and-blue MTB riding partner, as i told him after a crash that i was looking for someplace to bail out, "i'm ALWAYS looking for someplace to ditch!" never occurred to me that one might always be mindful of an out...geez...

on drafting and trust, you have to watch folks and learn their style before you can draft them safely; meaning, some people signal and some people are verbal, some do both, some do neither, but move well before road hazards to following a wheel is more intuitive. then, there are the others: those that (1) either wait until the last conceiveable second to dodge an obstacle and leave you bunny-hopping a stinky former-possum or riding through a wheel-eating pothole, or (2) those that ride straight over/into/through the road hazard themselves without a second thought.

i'm one that will always (unless my hands are occupied with the decent or rough road death-grip) use hand signals when pulling or at the front, and will sometimes/often use verbal ques. i learned the import of verbal ques on that century back in may, when my riding partner was so tired nearing the end that he was just watching my rear wheel and not my hand signals, and would have cut his ride short if not for my "HOLE!" in addition to the pointing finger.

last week on the saturday group ride with the "fast" people ('tis all relative), i was enjoying a rest behind the front two, had never ridden with them before, they lead me directly over a pothole-strewn piece of road without a second thought. perhaps it was a ploy, 'cause i decided to drop off the back, ride around and pull them to the next "rest stop" at a substantially higher rate of speed than was already being maintained. i was surprised to find that as i passed them, not one but all (5) jumped on my wheel. looked back and there they were...and yes, i was kind enough to give them the hand signals that they lacked (and not the tall-finger kind i felt they deserved!).

once you've watched/determined how the person in front rides/pulls, then you'll have only to build confidence in your own abilities and the rest is LIKE BUTTA! good luck!
Do not over lap the wheel in front of you.seth1
Jun 22, 2001 8:44 AM
If anything happens happens up in the pace line, you have no options. if your front wheel touches the rear wheel you will go down, and most likely the person infront wont even notice a thing (except the screams and sound of twisting metal).
Do not over lap the wheel in front of you.Lardog
Jun 22, 2001 8:51 AM
Amen, do not let your front wheel touch the rear wheel of the person in front of you! Serious trouble......

Two man drafting/riding? The front guy yelling *pothole* or whatever won't do a thing, you'll be past it by the time you hear it. The front rider should simply steer you both a good line.

Don't draft strangers on your ride, only those you know and those who know you're riding with them. Don't zone out or as someone else put it, let your mind wander.

Have a good ride.
I fortunately have never done it myself (overlap wheels), butbill
Jun 22, 2001 9:06 AM
I've been led (misled?) to understand that, if you do, it's actually not that big a deal unless you panic. That is, the wheels can graze, and the guy in front won't much notice, and you can survive as long as you just pull off a little without gyrating unnecessarily. Gave me confidence, but now you're saying my confidence is misplaced?
Not true....Len J
Jun 22, 2001 9:38 AM
I overlapped once when the puller had to break suddenly. I was way back in line. when the Paceline accordianed I overlapped bike in front of me to the right. He suddenly pulled hard right & took out my wheel. My panic had nothing to do with it, I was over the bars before I could move them.

Just my experience. Stupid me was on the back of too long a line in a very crowded century (seagull 2000). Should have either gotten off or gave more room. My Bad.
Limited overlap is okay...mr_spin
Jun 22, 2001 9:05 AM
The key to a smooth and safe paceline is to stay off the brakes. If the line slows down slightly, shift out of line enough to catch some wind. You will overlap wheels for a bit, but the wind will slow you down, you'll fall back, and you can slip back into line. Anyone on your wheel will greatly appreciate you doing this!

Don't get paranoid about overlapping wheels. If you ride close, it will happen, probably more often than you'd like. The key is not to panic and make quick corrections. Panic in a paceline will probably take someone down. Shift out of line and use the wind to help make corrections.
Limited overlap is okay...badabill
Jun 22, 2001 9:17 AM
I agree. On downhills this comes into play all the time, the paceline will allways overtake the leader, so you must make smooth easy corrections to stay in the draft.
re: Fear of the Wheel --- question on drafting and trust.badabill
Jun 22, 2001 9:11 AM
Also get used to hitting the odd pothole or stick. Even the best paceline sometimes misses something, so be ready. Keep an even cadence and try to keep an even comfortable distance, if its 6 inches or 2 feet.
You're human, and you'll get it. Think "smooth," though.boy nigel
Jun 22, 2001 9:30 AM
Delia,

If I--or anyone else on the board--can "get" drafting, then you certainly can. It will take some time, however, and patience. There are a few helpful things that were said in the earlier replies. Here're my few pointer, some of which may be redundant with others' advice:

1) Start further back (1 to 1-1/2 feet), riding directly behind the person. When you're starting out (and your skills aren't quite sharp), only draft behind people you know (Greg, Kristin) and TRUST. Remember--and I don't say this to scare you--you're putting your body and bike in their care, essentially. Don't draft someone erratic, or someone who you don't particularly like; if they goof up and it costs you a crash, you'll be really sorry. If someone you know goofs, you'll be more forgiving, and will feel that it was an honest mistake by someone who wouldn't want to hurt you.

2) Try to avoid brakes. If you feel you have to brake, then just smoothly and evenly drag your front brake a bit. I say to drag the FRONT one so that it won't send a "She's BRAKING!!!!!" signal to the people behind you. They can't tell if you're tapping your front brake. If they see your rear brake moving, they may fear trouble ahead, and the reaction can go far down the chain back there, possibly causing people to overreact and crash when you only wanted to slow down a tiny bit.

3) Being short (5'5"), I know what it's like to ride behind larger people who you can't see past. Frustrating. I try to ride SLIGHTLY to one side of them (still behind them), not directly behind their wheel. Look up frequently to check out others' body language and to glimpse the road ahead--don't just stare at their rear wheel.

4) When you're in transition to and from taking a pull, think "smooth." Don't increase the speed. Focus on smooth riding, and look out for obstacles or bumps/ruts. Point these out as you're approaching them. If there's glass/gravel or something really bad on the road to one side, make a more animated pointing gesture to your followers; they'll love you for it. When "pulling off" (as it's known) to recover in the back, smoothly pull to the side and glide to the rear of the line.

Again: don't lose hope or faith, and don't ride tense. Try to relax and be smooth, whether drafting or pulling. Be a dependable rider; be the person you'd always like to ride behind--N-i-c-e-a-n-d-S-m-o-o-t-h. It'll happen with practice, and it'll be worth it. :)

Nigel
I wish my buddy would read this stuff (rant)...biknben
Jun 22, 2001 7:17 PM
I have a close riding buddy who frustrates me. The closest thing he has had to a group ride is me.

I tend to do most of the pulling on our rides. My bud insists on riding behind and off to the side while I'm pulling. He completely wastes the draft. He claims he's not comfortable when he can't see. When I let him pull he slows down because no one is forcing him to go faster. Other things worth mentioning: riding through rough roads, not pointing out debris, no turn signals, gives cars the one finger wave. Any one of these things may be acceptable by itself, but put them all together and you have one unpredictable ride. When I try to offer friendly advice it goes in one ear and out the other.

Now I'm no squirrel. Others that I consider to be great paceline riders have no trouble riding inches behind my wheel. On the other hand, don't accuse of being Elitist Roadie Scum. I'm just a guy who has done enough group riding to understand and respect the etiquette and rules of the road.

This is what happened on our last ride that I consider to be the last straw:
I'm pulling at about 25 mph (wind at my back) on the way home on a 40 mile ride. My budd passes me on the left and says "I've got a present for ya!" He pulls in front of me, stops pedaling, picks his butt up off the saddle and passes wind. Remember, we are old buddies, this kind of thing is normally acceptable. What is not acceptable is what he didn't realize. He pulled in front of me and slowed down while I was pulling. My hands were not in a position to brake since I don't generally need them while pulling (I had the heel of my hands on top of the hoods). After getting in front of me he stops pedaling, slows down, stands, and his bike moves back towards me. My tire rubs the side of his for about 2-3 seconds. Scared the crap out of me. I was just waiting to go down. We were doing well over 20 at that point. It would not have been a pretty sight. Thankfully, I waited it out and we separated before I lost my balance. I tensed up so much that I pulled a muscle in my ribcage.

Now he knew what had happened but was not about to blame himself. I gave him the "Dude...what were you thinking" look, but he didn't seem to get it.

Anyway...there's my rant. He's an old friend of over 15 years. Can't exactly yell at him. I have two good rides planned this weekend that won't include him, but I know that will not change or improve his riding habits.

Thanks for listening,
Frustrated
Man, Ben, that's ROUGH.boy nigel
Jun 23, 2001 10:09 AM
Sometimes, old buddies aren't the best buddies, I guess. He does sound like a nightmare to ride with. You're in a very touchy spot; you can't yell at him, and he doesn't listen to what you're telling him to do. Maybe just once you can give him a semi-stern "What the hell were you thinking?!" speech, especially since he "didn't seem to get" your glares sent to express this. The last thing you want is to bust yourself and/or your bike up due to his lack of riding skills or just plain goofiness (like his recent antic); simply inexcusable when safety and money are concerned like that. Try to be a bit firmer, if possible.

I still ride occasionally with an "old buddy" of mine. Now this guy doesn't particularly care that much about his bike or anything (like I do mine), but if I screwed around like that and almost caused a crash, he'd give me a "C'mon, man, you can't do that!" or something. We have that kind of relationship. He's a much stronger rider than I am, and much smoother (the perfect person to be behind in a paceline, in fact), but if either one of us tried a stunt like your friend did, we'd get an earful from the other one. No relationship should be beyond constructive criticism.

Good luck with him, and keep him on a short leash, so to speak.

Nige
Start Drafting on Climbssidley
Jun 22, 2001 9:39 AM
I began drafting by following experienced riders up long hills. The speed is slower and generally people settle in so you don't have to worry about attacks freaking you out. This got me comfortable with the idea of being within inches of several other riders. Moreover, it is easier to see the hazards on a climb. Eventually, I got comfortable enough to follow the pack on the flats where one can learn to monitor speed without using the breaks.
Start Drafting on ClimbsPyg Me
Jun 22, 2001 10:07 AM
Learn by drafting on climbs? Sorry, but I think that is TERRIBLE advice. The main danger being when the rider in front of you stands. It is not only common, but expected that on longer climbs, you are goig to get out of the saddle in order to use different muscles. When a rider stands, his/her bike can be thrust back 6 to 8 inches...suddenly and without warning! Can you say chin reaction? When drafting on climbs, it is advisable to give yourself more room than normal.

Keep in mind, that drafting is not an "eye thing" it is an ear thing as well. Listen......for the ratchet of a freewheel meaning that the person in front of you has stopped pedaling and therefore is slowing. Listen for brake pad on rims.

Dont look at the tire in front of you. Look through the rider. Pay attention if they are reaching for brakes, slightly sitting up in the saddle, if they are slowing or stopping their pedaling.

Good luck.
I knew someone would mention this...biknben
Jun 22, 2001 6:08 PM
As I was going through the posts I knew someone would caution about drafting while climbing. I find it to be the most dangerous time. People stand up, thrusting the bike rearward. They soft pedal to shift gears. They start to get squirrly. If the climb is big enough that any of these things begin to happen who probably are getting little benefit from drafting anyway. I would recommend being very cautious during these times. Give yourself a couple feet or move to one side (while staying behind) to give yourself the "Out" that others have mentioned.
Caution with this methodLazy
Jun 22, 2001 10:08 AM
When doing this, make sure not to get too close. When people get up out of the saddle, which happens more on climbs than on flats, it tends to shoot the rear wheel backwards about 6"-12".

Good plan though. Slower speeds and it's obviously easier to slow down if you're starting to overlap when going up hill.
Falling off on a hill is HARD!Kristin
Jun 22, 2001 1:18 PM
My disagreement comes from an newbie perspective. Did you ever slip out of the draft while in a climb and you were new and weaker than the guy pulling? Its the most miserable thing I've experienced so far! You're in a bigger gear, going faster than usual. Suddenly, the bottom drops out and you feel like you're pedaling thru mud. When you look up, the leader's just cresting and you've got half the hill to climb. You arrive at the top DOA. It seems easier to me to practice on level ground so I'm not hopelessly gone if I slip off the back. No ones gonna slow down and wait for you on a hill.

I'm still staring hard at the wheel in front. I'm afraid to look away and overlap. But that's probably typical if you don't have great handling skills.
Rear wheel hypnosisspeedchump
Jun 22, 2001 10:16 AM
Try watching the heinie of the person in front of you rather than their wheel. MT biking showed me that keeping your chin up tends to improve your balance and confidence. Also, you don't get the hypnotic effect of staring down at a revolving wheel, and tend to be more alert. If you're too worried about overlapping wheels, you'll start staring at that wheel in front of you, and miss the body language of the riders in front of you. Looking more at heinie level keeps the road in front of you in your field of view, and lets you ANTICIPATE, rather than REACT.

The only caveat is that some behinds are hypnotizing in their own way!

Straight from my crust old cycling mentor to you. Hope it helps.
Suggestionmr_spin
Jun 22, 2001 11:02 AM
Watching the butt in front of you is a sign of experience (and yes, sometimes scenic). But for paceline beginners, it is hard to do because they are totally concerned with the wheel.

A suggestion I use with newbies is to watch the bottom bracket instead. It's as good as staring at the wheel, but you are looking more 'up', plus the pedal motion helps avoid vertigo. Soon, you will develop the confidence to look up a few more degrees, and someday, you'll be staring at butts with the best of them.
Thanks for the input guys --Delia
Jun 22, 2001 12:55 PM
Thanks for the input guys -- We'll see how it works out...
Fear the Mulletnm
Jun 22, 2001 10:11 PM
nm
Watching the trackies train ...Humma Hah
Jun 23, 2001 8:00 AM
... I had the opportunity to watch Eddie B. teach national-caliber trackies at the San Diego Velodrome. He fires up his motorcycle, a "cruiser"-style with a low seat, equipped with a roller bar attached just behind the rear wheel.

The trainee drafts the motorcycle as Eddie progressively jacks up the speed. The cyclist is supposed to BUMP the roller! Otherwise he gets hollered at. They're trained to draft within a couple of inches, and not to fear a bump.

Wheel lap, on the other hand, they do fear.

And it is not uncommon to see trackies wearing large patches of "road rash."