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Drafting Etiquette?(14 posts)

Drafting Etiquette?Ann in DC
Aug 27, 2001 9:57 AM

I'm a tri-geek and have only cycled seriously for a year. NO-O-0, I won't even think of doing it in aero, but what exactly is drafting etiquette especially with strangers? I've followed guys a couple times and been drafted a few times myself. Any general rules? What does it mean if someone moves to the left? What are the unspoken rules?

Generally, I find that biker's are totally cool! Had a mountain biker zip by me this weekend. Could not let that happen so caught him on a hill and didn't look back. At my turn around point, I heard someone say "Where do I go next?" Had not realized he was drafting off me the whole time. I directed him to the next trail. He smiled, gave me a hand, and thanked me for the "hard ride". I LOVE biker's!!!!

re: Drafting Etiquette?pmannion
Aug 27, 2001 11:18 AM
Rule #1: You are responsible for what is in front of you (not the guy in front of you). IE: don't overlap wheels. If you do, you could end up on the ground, and it'll be your fault.

Rule #2: don't use the rear hub (or tire) in front of you as the main visual focus point. If there is a sudden move, and you're using this as a reference for when to react, it'll be too late. keep your eyes forward up the road, and the riders body clearly in your peripheral vision. Make sure you can see all movements the rider in front of you makes with his/her body. Be especially mindful of them standing on small hills, as the rear wheel typically drops back about 6 inches when this happens. Make sure it doesn't hit your front wheel.

If the person moves over to the left, he/she may be trying to indicate that the free ride is over, and it's your turn to do some of the work (people that don't oblige are called wheelsuckers). Oblige him by keeping the pace constant, and allowing him to drop back to get on your wheel. Try not to surge forward to take his place. The front of the line should move at a constant pace, and "retirees" should slowly drop to the back.

Unspoken rules: swerve if you must, but if you're in a group and you see a fairly small bump, or obstacle, or even a small hole...Just take it, or hop over it (unless you're in the lead, and decide which line to take). don't risk taking down the whole group just because you don't want to ride over a little piece of wood. Some bumps you just have to take. Part of the game.

best o luck
On overlap...mr_spin
Aug 30, 2001 7:45 AM
Don't worry about overlapping wheels. It happens a lot in a paceline when riders are riding close to each other. It's not that big a deal. In fact, wheel overlap is the key to an echelon formation in crosswinds (where the riders are staggered across the road).

The real issue with overlap is what it means and how to deal with it. Overlap means you are out of the "sweet spot," because the line slowed down or because you sped up. It doens't matter so much why. You need to back off and get back in line.

You try to avoid braking in a paceline, so how do you bleed off speed? Simple. You move out (or stay out) of the sweet spot to catch some wind, which will slow you down. The you slip back in.

That's what you should remember. Not that overlap is bad. But that small, smooth adjustments are better than big adjustments. In a beautifully moving paceline, there are all kinds of micro-adjustments going on.
Aug 27, 2001 4:23 PM
do I need to let the guy know I am there? and if so, how? and how close do I need to be to drafting to work?
I feel unconfortable closer then 2 feet.
Aug 27, 2001 6:02 PM
The only way to get more comfortable drafting closer than 2 feet is to draft closer than 2 feet.
But it takes time...Bruno S
Aug 27, 2001 7:48 PM
It is like parking a car you have never driven before. The first time you don't know were the car ends. Once you learn how to draft you don't look at the wheels. You look ahead and 'sense' how far away you are from the rider in front.
let him know, and ride closer (when comfy)pmannion
Aug 28, 2001 6:59 AM
I usually let the guy know I'm there simply by shifting gears (to make a little noise. Or sometimes I'll snap the brake lever quickly...just to let him know I'm there. If the guy makes no acknowledgement of my presence after several minutes, or even worse, tries (usually in vain) to drop me...I tend to let those bozos enjoy their ride in solitude. Most people seem to be friendly and appreciate encountering new riders.

You are getting draft effect at 2 feet, but hopefully, with time, you'll get more comfortable riding closer (and you'll enjoy even better drafting effect...much better)....However, I tend to keep my distance at first when I do not know the skillset of the rider in front of me. I usually like a little "bail-out" room. Doesn't take too long to notice if the guy can ride a fairly straight line.
A runner friend of mine calls it "tailgating" (nm)Steve Davis
Aug 28, 2001 11:13 AM
Aug 29, 2001 8:00 AM
I always let the rider know i'm there by calling out "on your wheel"
If they don't know you are there (and some don't pay attention) you
run the risk of short stops, unannounced swerves and the worst,
misdirected spitting...........
#1 rule...Take your turn.Canidraftyou
Aug 29, 2001 6:19 AM
Pay day is hell. For every down hill there is a up hill. For every draft, there is a pull. Until you do a Century in a race mode, you'll never really understand. 90% of the cyclist dont mind that you draft, but you better be able to pull when its your turmn. This year at the Hotter than Hell, we had a Junior who was drafting several minutes at a time but would only pull for a few seconds and sometimes go back to the rear prior to taking his turn pulling. A few of us got together and left him. Was that good/bad of us to do such a thing. We were all after the same thing, to cross the finish line as soon as we could, if he was not going to help then he was a weak link and it was time to shed him off. If you want peoples respect out on the road, you need to take your turn. Of the 12 people in the pack, only three was of the same team. For in large, we all on the same team until the pack broke up. When they move left, they are saying, "YOUR TURN."

Peace out
DONT take your turn...ishmael
Aug 29, 2001 9:21 AM
if you cant pull at the same pace as the others you'll only slow the group down and its best to move to the back as soon as its your a race id do the same too, but as this guy says, you'll be dropped maybe if they see that you are weak..but, in friendly group rides id just drop to the back if i couldnt pull and thats what i would imagine most people far as ettiquette, dont go too close untill you are comfortable and even then i like to keep slightly to a side just incase..keeping it smooth is very important, no fits and starts and weaving
or try thisgrassy knoll
Aug 29, 2001 5:07 PM
go on a local fast group ride, hang at the back and observe. (believe me you won't be the only one doing this).take note of the group dynamics and when you feel confidient take a pull. also when approaching a solo rider or small group pull along side and ask if you can sit in. group riding is about communication more than anything.
or try thisTig
Sep 10, 2001 3:14 PM
Yep, communication is the key. After 2 flats in our group Sunday, those 6 of us who stayed to help started a single paceline to try and catch the rest of our group. One guy made sure to tell everyone "let's take 30-40 second pulls and keep the pace between 21 and 22". It worked like it should. The stronger riders pulled longer and the weaker ones kept it closer to 30 seconds. Organization starts with communication.

Some riders will flair their fingers out from the hoods or drops when they are ending their pull. Others do what I call the "chicken wing" and flap their elbows a few times. It gets noticed, but can be distracting if not plain funny! I flair the fingers and call "I'm off" or "out".

No one likes to get behind someone who constantly coasts over and over, causing a slinky effect. They keep getting too close to the wheel in front of them and adjust by coasting in excess. Prevention helps, and soft peddling keeps the people behind you from having to react too much.
Learning Opportunities in DCtriangleforge
Aug 30, 2001 9:51 AM
Since your screen name includes "in DC" I'll assume you're in the vicinity... If so, you should avail yourself of one or more of the opportunities around here to learn and practice paceline/drafting skills.

One great one is the DC Velo Saturday ride (7:00 a.m. at the corner of East West Highway & Beach Drive), which is a fast but safe group ride that includes a storming paceline section up MacArthur Blvd. to the base of the Old Anglers Inn hill (with a sprint to the top of that...) There's always a trailing group that doesn't rotate into the actual paceline, which would be a good way, your first time or two, to get a good look at how it's done.

Also good is my club's Sunday ride (Squadra Coppi, 9:00 a.m. at the Java Shack in Clarendon, then 9:30 at Pierce Mill in Rock Creek Park). The first half is "piano" and social, then the second half splits, with the fast group finishing in a speedy, smooth paceline down Clara Barton Parkway (which I understand is currently under construction, so this section might not be happening the last couple of weeks!). I also expect that the "Coppi Women's Winter Training" series will start up again soon (it's not just women, but they set the tempo & run the ride). The focus of these rides is winter base mileage and teaching road racing skills, including drafting, pacelines, tactics, etc. I think there's more info on our website at

I'd stay away from some of the local "Goon Rides", until you're very comfortable with dealing with crazies at close quarters. It's fantastic, fast training, but a pretty hairy way to learn about pack riding!

FWIW, I generally don't ever draft strangers, outside of races or organized rides, and even then I gravitate toward "good wheels" that I know will be predictable and steady. It's not that big a deal, however, as I'm usually either training with some specific purpose in mind (which drafting someone else would generally defeat), or recovering at an easy pace and would rather pick my own pace.