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Uninvited and unwanted drafters--what to do?(52 posts)

Uninvited and unwanted drafters--what to do?commuterguy
Aug 21, 2002 10:18 AM
I received an email today in which a fellow bike commuter recounts his experience being intentionally made to crash after he jumped on someone else's wheel (someone he didn't know but who had a decent bike and was moving fast into a head wind). The instigator stopped, established that the crash victim was hurt, and then told the victim that this was a "lesson" about the evils of uninvited wheel sucking.

I think this is really sick, but I also am occasionally annoyed by people drafting when I don't want them to. I typically slow down and recover before passing riders who are going close to my speed, so that I can blow by (after warning, of course) and at least make them work hard for a while if they are going to get on my wheel. I will also sometimes ask people to cease and desist if I sense they don't know what they are doing, or if I just want to ride alone.

What is the accepted protocol here? Is there a generally accepted hand signal that means "please don't draft"? BTW, I am pretty sure that intentionally causing a crash for someone who isn't actively trying to cause you harm is illegal, and is certainly immoral.
the easy thing to do...phlegm
Aug 21, 2002 10:39 AM
Slow down and let them pass, or speed up and lose them.
So what's wrong with just being direct?Spoke Wrench
Aug 21, 2002 10:44 AM
"Hey, man, you're making me nervous drafting back there. I wish you'd stop." "Thanks."
question ?Marcocyclo
Aug 21, 2002 10:49 AM
you said:
I will also sometimes ask people to cease and desist if I sense they don't know what they are doing, or if I just want to ride alone.....

what indicates to you that a rider does not know what they are doing in this situation?

if it were me i would welcome the company if they were open to learning the protocol, but i like riding alone sometimes too.

that stinks about you friend's crash...the other guy was a jerk and must have a lack of good sense.
I don't understand the problemDanoK
Aug 21, 2002 10:53 AM
I really don't understand why people are annoyed by someone drafting them. What difference does it make? Does it slow you down? No. Does it make it difficult for you to see the road? No. Will a drafter cause you to crash? No. Do you really have an obligation to point out road debris and bumps to them? No. Do you have to alter your riding style at all? No. Someone please explain to me what the problem is. Maybe you should think about why this really annoys you.
I don't understand the problemgs6769
Aug 21, 2002 11:07 AM
Hmmm. A drafter could pretty easily cause you to crash by overlapping your wheel. That's the main reason I get a little weird about it.
Isn't wheel overlapping only dangerous for the drafter? nmtz
Aug 21, 2002 11:11 AM
Isn't wheel overlapping only dangerous for the drafter? nmThaddeus
Aug 21, 2002 11:16 AM

I had a guy on my wheel overlap me, get his front wheel stuck in my rear derailleur, slam on his brakes and ruin my derailleur and bend the hanger...

Not to mention that I have seen a drafting rider ride up the crack of the guy in front in an emergency stop.

My philosophy tends to be:

If I don't know your style/abilities I would prefer that you not draft.

A corollary:

If you want to draft off me, take the front first, then suck my wheel. This way I know that #1 you know why you draft (that is to say, you know the benefits) and #2 I know how well you ride.

makes sense. nmtz
Aug 21, 2002 11:22 AM
sometimes I dont know they are there and that is dangerous (nm)ColnagoFE
Aug 21, 2002 11:52 AM
I don't understand the problemcommuterguy
Aug 21, 2002 11:18 AM
It hasn't happened to me (yet), but an incompetent drafter could cause the draftee to wreck badly. That is my main gripe. The scenario I find most annoying is having someone who is working at their limit to stay on your wheel (panting, mashing pedals, etc.). It creates the impression in my mind that they are expending so much energy on staying with me that they are not paying enough attention to (on an MUT) oncoming traffic, obstacles in the road, walkers and other slower traffic to be passed, etc. I know the drafter is at greatest risk, especially if their front wheel touches the rear wheel they are sucking, but there is still risk for the rider in front.

BTW, I don't agree with you regarding the obligations to point out road debris and other obstacles. I think, if you are going to accept a drafter, you have to. Otherwise, you have to tell the person that they can't draft because you don't want to do that. It's a little like continuing to drive your car after a kid jumps onto your hood.

Following up on an MUT thread of a few weeks ago: if you are riding on a crowded trial, and you pick up drafters, it has been my experience that they won't look ahead and make good decisions about when to pass. Even if I signal "slow down", they just keep pushing, and will either come close to rear-ending me or will pop out into the oncoming traffic. This creates risk for everyone.

Finally, I don't know what how the math works, but it seems to me that there has to be a big gap in abilities if one is going to drop a determined drafter. It has been my experience that someone who can manage 20 mph (e.g., a run-of-the-mill roadie) can easily stay on a 25 mph wheel. Going faster than 25 mph requires a lot of effort, and is difficult to sustain. Lance timetrials at 31 mph for an hour, and that's typically for the win. On a normal (non-TT) bike, with tools, tubes, pump, water bottles, etc., the vast majority of really good riders are going to have trouble dropping pretty good rides and even the half-way serious crowd.
I don't understand the problemfiltersweep
Aug 21, 2002 12:05 PM
I agree... but:

There doesn't always need to be a big gap in abilities. The drafter usually has to make up a gap to even grab your wheel, and is recovering in your wake... the longer you wait, the harder they will be to drop. Your scenario of the over-exerted drafter is a perfect example.
Get used to itthesleeper
Aug 22, 2002 3:44 AM
Warning: lecture mode

If you ride at any decent pace people are going to sit on your wheel from time to time.
If you don't want them there just pull to the side and motion them past (or tell them). That is no problem.
Alternatively, if you are fit (and feeling good at the time) ride away from them.

It is generally good practice for you to tell someone you are going to sit on their wheel if that's what you intend to do. You need to let them know you are there to start with. As mentioned by another user this is the safe option. Also, if you have any brains and you jump on someone's wheel you will know there is a good possibility of copping a faceful of snot if they don't know you are there.

The other thing is that it is actually a compliment in a way for someone to sit on your wheel. Who cares if they do no work. What is annoying, however, is when you are 'stonkin' (are at least think you are) and some old beardy weirdy on a 30 pound mtb sits on your wheel for 20kms and then trys to impress you by cutting loose every time you hit a little hill, after you have done all the work into the wind the whole f..n way. Oh yeah you're such a strong rider, mate. Wanker!!! That should never have to be tolerated!

Mind you same can be said for the tosser who you just draft for a second and they start switching you like they are in a race. Disgraceful, anti-social individuals.

If they cross up your rear wheel tell them not to. If they keep doing it be more abusive and then if needs be ride a little more eratically and they may learn something when they go down.

The other thing I was going to say was if someone decides to sit on your wheel you are in no way obliged to point out road hazards to him/her. That is their problem. Of course, you could choose to do so.
Yeah, generally tough to dropRay Sachs
Aug 22, 2002 4:16 AM
If a medium slow rider like me can pretty easily hang onto a tandem well into the high 20s for several miles (this was at thier invite), dropping a determined drafter would be pretty tough. If I either hop onto someone's wheel or see someone on mine, I start up a conversation pretty quickly to see if it's OK (in the first case) or to let them know that it either is or isn't ok (and if they plan on doing any pulls) in the second case.
I doyeah right
Aug 21, 2002 11:30 AM
Perfect example saturday:

Riding with my dad on the trail, keeping up a pretty good pace, pass a guy (said on your left etc.), guy appearently jumps on my dad's wheel without asking, or even letting him know he was behind. Run into some walkers with dogs on long leashes, and the guy starts yelling at them (from the last wheel, which never helps), while my dad had already cleared the situation. Dude is so busy yelling, that he almost takes me out.

That's why I don't want him back there.

Yeah, and when you've got two guys alternating pulls into a headwind, and another one just sits, it pisses me off. I felt like turning around and asking if he'd like some peanuts or anything to drink because he sure was getting a free ride.

It is dangerous, and inconsiderate. Does anybody like freeloaders in any situation?
I docdnrider
Aug 21, 2002 11:57 AM
Have to agree with you completely. I don't think I even qualify as a a "run-of-the-mill roadie" but it's happend to me. First time I was stunned that someone had the nerve to "freeload" as you put it. I just don't appreciate it when I am pushing hard in a stiff headwind only to look back and find someone coasting along on my energy unannounced and uninvited.

I also disagree with those who've said it doesn't affect your ride. The second I get someone back there I spend more time focused on making sure he doesn't clip me than keeping good form myself.

Finally, some folks just enjoy the time alone on a bike. People who draft without an invitation are like the people who see you reading a book on the plane but insist on starting a conversation every 3 minutes anyway!
Freeloaders, no...Friends, yes.cabinfever
Aug 22, 2002 5:01 AM
If I'm riding with a friend that I trust in this situation, and I'm just stronger, I take it as a compliment and maybe an ego boost, and I pull. If it is some Joe I saw on the road, then no. If they aren't strong enough to pull their weight, I can usually drop them anyway.
I don't understand the problempmf1
Aug 21, 2002 11:34 AM
I don't like someone I don't know drafting me. How do I know what his or her bike handling skills are? If I have to stop suddenly, are they going to crash into me. Having someone draft you and doing a good job pulling is harder than just riding alone. You need to keep a steady pace and ride in a straight line. You can't blow your nose at will.

Hmmm, now there's a way to get rid of an unwanted drafter.
I don't understand the problemliebejungen
Aug 21, 2002 12:23 PM
I think whether you want it to or not, having a stranger draft behind you is bound to change the way you cycle, and certainly doesn't make for a relaxing ride. If you could forget he was there, then it wouldn't mater, but it is sort of like trying not to think of a pink elephant. Can't do it.

But you are right, in that, if you didn't notice it, and it doesn't affect how you ride, then it shouldn't matter.

Great, now you've done it!Mel Erickson
Aug 21, 2002 12:32 PM
All I'll be able to think of for the rest of the day is pink elephants. I'm thinking of one right now. Thanks alot!
Great, now you've done it!liebejungen
Aug 21, 2002 12:34 PM
Sorry, let me help... try not thinking of a white Elephant instead! :- ) That's better right!
If you thought the elephants were bad.......gs6769
Aug 21, 2002 12:38 PM
.........He's bad, bad Leroy Brown, baddest man.......

Sorry I had to do it.
I'll see your "Leroy Brown"...liebejungen
Aug 21, 2002 12:48 PM
and raise you a " It's a small world after all.. it's a small world after all... "

:- ) great, i think i just have ruined my afternoon ride... now i have shot myself with my own weapon... i guess i will have to ride with Mickey...
Ouch!! click here if you dare.gs6769
Aug 21, 2002 1:40 PM the corners of my.......

Only when you can take.......the bird
Aug 21, 2002 5:05 PM
Only when you can take the crankbolt from my hand grasshopper,will you know the answer to the question! Open the gap,drop him like a hot potato!
I'll tell you why!AaronL
Aug 21, 2002 12:38 PM
Do you go to the park and jump into a flag football game or basketball game without asking? Hey, it's a public place so you should be able to, right? Hell no you don't it's rude and you may get your butt kicked.

Same for riding down the road. If you CATCH UP to someone, why do you feel this need to jump on the wheel uninvited? For the life of me, i can't figure that out. Either ASK the person or go on ahead. It's that simple.

I can't tell you how many times i've been JRA with my S/O and we are simply crawling down the road when some yahoo blasts up behind us, slams on the brakes and proceeds to draft us at 60% of his approach speed. They will just sit there for freaking hours doing this. What I do, is turn around, look at them, stop pedaling and swing all the way to the right side of the road, making it obvious that I don't wan them on my wheel.

I won't even go into the fact that the rider that you are drafting may have to make an emergency movement and it may cause you to crash. Who's fault would that be? And then, let's bring in the lawyers because YOU insisted on exercising your rights to the open road by drafting some guy/girl that didn't want your ass there in the first place, but now YOU crashed and it's somehow the other guys's fault and you want money for it.


Man, I need to drink less coffee in the afternoon :)
you gotta be kidding mecyclejim
Aug 21, 2002 8:08 PM
I bet you are one of those who likes to do it. Do you ask?? If you don't then you would tend to really piss me off and I'd either drop you or slow down intentionally until you got mad and passed me. Then Id jump on your wheel just for spite.
wrong assumptionDanoK
Aug 22, 2002 8:08 AM
You think that I don't see the problem with unannounced drafting because I do it. Not really. I don't see the problem with it because I don't mind other people drafting me. Its no wonder so many normal cyclists think that roadies are stuck-up and fussy. Someone pulls behind for a little draft and we get all upset like our own space is the most important thing in the world and nobody should dare enter it without asking. So someone drafts you....big deal.

To be honest, I don't encounter other cyclists very much on my rides, so its not that much of an issue for me.

Also to be honest, I have been scolded a couple of times for drafting unannounced and both times I thought the scolder was just being a d**k. Once was in a century ride when I pulled a group of about 4 up to a rider in front. I needed a bit of break after catching on, so I settled in behind him for about 30 seconds. He gave me an tongue-lashing that I couldn't believe. I hadn't even been there for 30 seconds, it was an organized group ride, and he was acting like he had pulling me along for the last 70 miles. I was willing to do some more work, but it just didn't occur to him that maybe I needed to sit on for a little bit. The other time I pulled myself up to a solo cyclist and was behind him for maybe 10 seconds when he swerved out suddenly and gave me the evil-eye like we were getting ready for a sprint or something. It was ridiculous.

When I encounter situations and encounters like this I can't help but to think what jackasses some people can be. How about treating cyclists you don't know as potential friends instead of space-invaders? If someone wants a pull from you, treat them to it. They just might return the favor sometime when you are hurting.
i think you just answered a bunch of assumptionsyeah right
Aug 22, 2002 9:08 AM
"To be honest, I don't encounter other cyclists very much on my rides, so its not that much of an issue for me."

Some of us do, especially when we choose to ride trails, and it often passes beyond the nuisance stage, and into danger.

If you encourage other people to treat other cyclists as friends, why don't you be friendly and strike up a conversation, and ask if it's okay? I almost always would let someone sit behind me that's asked, especially if they explain what's going on, tired etc.

Bottom line, I think most roadies realize that when you're moving along on a bike at a pretty good clip, safety is important. When you don't play by the rules (read the post about passing on the right above), you'll get called out. Step onto any basketball court in america for some pick-up, and you'll learn very quickly what others consider to be acceptable. If you don't like the rules, fine, but don't get into someone else's game.
It can be a big problem!Justride
Aug 21, 2002 9:48 PM
A close friend and I were riding along and passed another cyclist going much slower than we were. The guy jumped on my friends wheel without letting him know what he intended to do. We were just comming up to a busy intersection at the bottom of a hill when the light changed. I gave a hand and verbal slowing signal as did my friend. The guy in back could not stop and plowed into my friend causing much dammage to both bikes and the offending rider broke his elbow. My friend was lucky and just had some bruises and sore spots.

You would be foolish to ride along with someone on your wheel and ignor them when slowing or avoiding a road hazzard. If you see me out riding and want to grab my wheel announce yourself and give me the option of saying not today. Come on, it's only common courtesy!!
You can't end a story like that......tronracer
Aug 22, 2002 9:12 AM
What happened to your friend's bike...did he get reimbursed for his damages? What about the other guy?
Running someone off the road where a couple of words wouldtz
Aug 21, 2002 11:12 AM
suffice is evil. I doubt that anyone will keep drafting you after you ask them not to.
Be honest though!Rich_Racer
Aug 21, 2002 11:30 AM
Is the real reason that it annoys you because you know you're putting in the work for them? Come on!

Be directbcm119
Aug 21, 2002 11:26 AM
I usually welcome drafters if I'm just trying to keep a pace- they make me work harder. And if I'm going slow, nobody drafts me, and intervals- nobody drafts me for very long. If you have a problem with drafters, strike up a conversation and ride side by side, or just tell them to stay a few feet back. No need to be snotty about it- I hope the attack you describe is a rarity.
Courtesy and common senseDragon33
Aug 21, 2002 11:43 AM
I agree with the one of the posts above. If I happen to catch someone I usually ride up beside them say hi, take the front and see what happens. If they hang on then I'll let them take some pulls too. If somebody catches you that is another story, I guess I would just slow down and force them to come around if I really didn't want them on my wheel. You all must live in an area where there are a lot of cyclist because other than the weekend group rides I never see another. Must be nice.
Swap "car" for "bike" and it becomes fairly clearjoekm
Aug 21, 2002 11:47 AM
I think it becomes obvious when you swap "car" for "bike". I.E. draft while in a NASCAR race; that's part of the game. Draft during your morning commute; that's tailgating and you're being an asshole. Intentionally make the drafter crash; that's being a bigger asshole and maybe even vehicular manslaughter.

Except for the possiblity of being invited to draft by a bicyclist, I see no difference between cars and bikes in this case.
Depends where you arehrs
Aug 21, 2002 12:35 PM
In MA if you're commuting you're drafting...if you leave more than half a car length open someone will work their way in. But driving in MA sort of has its own rules ;-).

As for drafting, as others have stated I think a little courtesy is in order...I'm not going to suck the wheel of someone I don't know without at least asking if I can join them and I expect the same courtesty of other riders (actually that's what I've experienced and how I learned). Forcing a crash is unacceptable in my book and dangerous to all involved and maybe others (cars swerving to avoid the crash/cyclist losing control and running into pedestrians, etc.).

Here's to riding safe.

How about a drafting Haiku in keeping with an earlier post?joekm
Aug 21, 2002 12:00 PM
rider locked on rear wheel

He rest while I block headwind

I break wind on him
Isn't a Haiku suppossed to be 5-7-5? NMtronracer
Aug 22, 2002 6:24 AM
Isn't a Haiku suppossed to be 5-7-5? NMjoekm
Aug 22, 2002 10:40 AM
oops, change "rider" to single syllable equivalent.....

Dammit Jim I'm an engineer not an english major!
Two wrongs don't make a right,TJeanloz
Aug 21, 2002 12:22 PM
I abhor people who jump on my wheel. Not enough to cause them to crash, that's just mean, but enough to be very annoyed. When I was young and arrogant, I used to just ratchet the pace up bit by bit. The problem with that, is that the person you passed knows what you're trying to do, and if you don't succeed in dropping them they smile at you like: "I know you tried to drop me and you couldn't do it, but now I am also very tired, but just strong enough to continue to hold your wheel".

In my older, mellower days, I just fall off the back and change routes.

Why does it bother me to have somebody drafting? A few reasons.

Sometimes, I don't want the responsibility of pointing out things in the road, and saying when I'm turning. Somebody above said that you can relinquish these responsibilities- but you can't. If the guy's half-wheeling to my right, I need to think about him before I make a right hand turn, or else I get blamed (and rightly so) for crashing him.

Sometimes, I ride for the solitude, and to have some squeeky chain and Look pedal click constantly behind me is exactly what I don't want. After a long day, sometimes I just want it to be me and the road, and quiet otherwise.

In terms of being passed, when I started getting slower, I took the same tact I did when I was faster: if somebody passes you, their average speed is higher than your average speed. Let them continue at their pace, and you continue at yours.
"Half Wheeling"?off roadie
Aug 21, 2002 12:55 PM
That sounds like theres some wheel overlap. If somebody rides with thier wheel next to mine, its like having a car in your "blind spot"- I find it very disconcerting and inconsiderate.

As I was taught drafing (even in a pace line) that's a no-no. I don't even like that when "aproved" drafters do that in a group ride. I've never verbally asked somebody to chnage thier line, but it is one reason I often end up riding off the front (solitude, quiet, and speed are others).

If you can't draft 3"-9" off somebodies back wheel, you probably don't have the skill needed to draft safely, or the person isn't "safe" to draft off of. If an unknown rider was "blind spotting" me (over lapping my wheel), I'd have no problem stopping and explaining that to them. But if somebody safely rides 3"-9" inches off the very back of my wheel, I really could care less who they are.
It's fair game,TJeanloz
Aug 21, 2002 1:22 PM
When riding in a group of people you know well, it's perfectly reasonable, particularly in a cross wind scenario, for people to sidle up on you. It makes good sense, if everybody is comfortable with each other's handling skills. It doesn't really bother me a bit, except that I (the person in front) have added responsibility.
"Half Wheeling"?off roadie
Aug 22, 2002 4:42 AM
That sounds like theres some wheel overlap. If somebody rides with thier wheel next to mine, its like having a car in your "blind spot"- I find it very disconcerting and inconsiderate.

As I was taught drafing (even in a pace line) that's a no-no. I don't even like that when "aproved" drafters do that in a group ride. I've never verbally asked somebody to chnage thier line, but it is one reason I often end up riding off the front (solitude, quiet, and speed are others).

If you can't draft 3"-9" off somebodies back wheel, you probably don't have the skill needed to draft safely, or the person isn't "safe" to draft off of. If an unknown rider was "blind spotting" me (over lapping my wheel), I'd have no problem stopping and explaining that to them. But if somebody safely rides 3"-9" inches off the very back of my wheel, I really could care less who they are.
re: Uninvited and unwanted drafters--what to do?aliensporebomb
Aug 21, 2002 12:51 PM
Totally weird.

My friend and I were riding on a route and there was a
guy riding fast on the road in front of us.

We'd said hello to him earlier and he just sneered so we
figured he was just "vanting to be alone" or whatever.

Anyway, the trail we were on was not wide enough to pass
him safely and we were going about 25 mph at the time.

After about a mile I decided to ease off since I think
the guy was getting the creeps. We were probably 20-25
feet behind him but at some point he slowed and came
within drafting range.

I slowed as did my friend.... he never said anything
but we felt it was weird to just go "LOCK ON" and then
break out the chips and salsa and turn on the TV.

I think drafting someone you don't know or don't ask is
sort of like kissing someone elses girlfriend. It's like
you're getting a freebie and.....

Well, the analogy sucks but it just seems weird that
someone would go "click" and lock on without asking or
knowing you.

It's one thing if a guy says "hey, mind swapping drafts
till location xyz?" it's another where they just do it.
re: Uninvited and unwanted drafters--what to do?mbologna
Aug 21, 2002 1:13 PM
I don't mind someone drafting, provided they also take a pull once in awhile. I keep running into the following situation:

Twice a week, I hook up with a group of very fast riders for a 20 mile ride. It is very fast for me (26-27 mph or more) and I usually get dropped at some point. Invariably, someone else will too. I catch them, they latch onto my wheel and sit, never offering to pull.

Usually we're going into a headwind on the way out (when I get dropped), so it is a big advantage to just sit behind someone. To my way of thinking, the person should take a pull after they recover, especially when the conditions are difficult.
So what's wrong with just being direct?Spoke Wrench
Aug 21, 2002 1:46 PM
"Hey, guy, how about taking a pull for a while?"
handle them "racer" styleDuane Gran
Aug 21, 2002 2:00 PM
Just do what we do in the races (amateur)... make a quick glance to check for overlapping wheels, swing left or right quickly and soft pedal. Insert a clever line, like "your turn up front" if you have breath to spare.
cant we all just get along??????? 8) smack!!!!stik__boy
Aug 21, 2002 3:20 PM
this same subject was adressed a couple months ago..... and i'll say the same thing i did then: somebody does this to me...... making me crash, either from the front, or the back, intentionally....... they better be g-o-n-e!!!!! make sure i cannot get up, especially from the front. i will kick some ass!!!! is it rude to draft w/o asking: yes. is it ignorant to intentionally hurt someone: very. think about this, you COULD kill someone.
If you see them, then just tell them not to draft.0_Kewl
Aug 21, 2002 4:32 PM
Hey ppl's when you ride with a few ppl's or alone and someone hitches on to ya; if you don't want them there just tell them. If you say nothing it's almost the same as saying you'll accept them there.

If you don't notice them tell later like at a intersection or stop, just tell them you didn't notice they were there and would appreciate it if they stopped. Tell them it's nothing personal, but you're unconfortable with them taggin ya.
does it count if you 'draft' 2 or 3 gorgeous members of oppositeqp-rider
Aug 22, 2002 7:00 AM

Riding alone the majority of the time, I find myself unable to resist when a training ride from one of the local womens clubs or teams goes by. It's amazing how much extra energy I get...however, I make sure I keep my distance and stay out in the wind...both for the improved view as well as trying not to sponge off others...
Only if your tongue is hanging out. (nm)Quack
Aug 22, 2002 7:27 AM