THE ART AND SCIENCE OF DRAFTING
WHAT IS DRAFTING? Drafting simply means riding in the wake of riders ahead of you, which will allow you to increase speed, ride longer, and rest without increasing your effort. Energy savings of 20-40% are achieved with proper paceline drafting technique.
Play it safe at first. Give yourself a bike length between you and the rider in front of you to start. This will give you plenty of time to react to changes in pace or direction. Slowly decrease the wheel spacing as you are able to hold a steady, smooth pace.
Follow experienced riders at first. They will be most likely to ride straight lines with minimal changes in pace. If you find yourself behind a jerky, hesitant rider, increase your wheel spacing.
Look ahead. Don’t become mesmerized by the wheel in front of you. Pay attention and anticipate upcoming events such as turns, bumps, etc.
When it is your turn at the front, maintain the pace in effect before you took the lead position. If you encounter a hill, maintain a steady effort while slowing gradually.
While leading, you are responsible for avoiding hazards. Be alert, stay away from the edge of the road, and make EARLY reactions to traffic, obstacles, or potholes. Point and/or call out potential hazards. Keep your paceline out of danger.
When finishing your turn at the front, look left to check clearance and to signal the following riders that you are pulling off. Ease to the left and slightly back off the power as you move rearward. Apply power to the pedal while abreast of the last rider to avoid being dropped as you assume the back position.
Enjoy the rest, take a drink, and blow your nose, etc while you are on the back.
Advanced Drafting Principles
Try and stay directly behind other riders if possible. 6-12 inch wheel gaps are safe and effective for experienced riders.
In races, select larger riders to draft if possible to conserve energy. When your competition is drafting you, stay aerodynamic. Keeping streamlined reduces the effective draft your opponents receive from you forcing them to tap deeper into their energy stores.
To drop weaker riders in races, accelerate and hold the pace while the weaker rider is in the rear position.
In cross winds, draft behind and slightly to the downwind side of the lead rider. Be careful to monitor dangerous wheel overlap in these circumstances.
Learn to “feather” your brakes to adjust to speed changes. Avoid hard braking unless you are avoiding an EMERGENCY situation.