The Skill of Drafting
In the recent Cycling Workshops with Peter Morris and Dave Kay, we learned several new cycling skills that will help us to improve as Triathletes, including riding in a paceline, more commonly known as drafting.
What is Drafting?
Cyclists form a single line, riding closely behind one another, then rotate through the line by taking turns riding up front (leading and pulling) before they drop down to the back of the pack. By tucking closely behind another cyclist, you can save about 20-40 per cent of your energy expenditure due to reduced wind resistance.
What I Learned About Drafting
Primarily a solo rider, I learned to appreciate the benefits of drafting and have become more confident in my cycling abilities. Here are some tips from the Workshop:
- Stay alert! No matter where you are in the paceline, be alert at all times and keep an eye on what’s going on at the front of the line and beyond. I learned to stay alert by watching the rider in front and continuously scanning from waist to wheel. Keeping an eye on what’s ahead also helps me to anticipate changes that may occur, such as preparing to stop when I see a stop sign in the distance.
- Stay in control! In a paceline, I found that I have the best stability and control when I ride down in the drops (holding the curved part of the handlebars). This position also allows me to maneuver my bike quickly and effectively, and with my right hand directly behind the brake, ready to stop at any time.
- Communicate! Regardless of the experience levels of the cyclists, communication is very important to ensure safety. Be sure to communicate what is going on to the riders behind – whether you are slowing, coming to a stop, or if there is something on the road to avoid.
Practice makes perfect!
Overcome your fear of drafting by practicing as often as you can. It will help to improve your overall confidence in cycling. Here are my paceline riding tips:
- Pedal smoothly
- Cycle at a consistent cadence
- Avoid abrupt changes in speed to keep the line together
- Stay close; To get the maximum benefit in a paceline, keep your wheel as close as possible to the rider in front of you. You can be as far back as about 3/4 of a wheel length and still save some energy
- Pay attention, stay alert and be prepared to apply the brakes at any time
- Drafting a faster rider makes you fast! Riding behind a faster rider helps to improve your speed, so it’s time to get practicing, especially if you can also save 20 to 40 per cent of your energy expenditure!
More to Learn!
I have only covered a few points about drafting here, so please talk to one of the GTC coaches, do your own research, or take part in an upcoming Cycling Workshop to learn more!
In future articles, I’ll share what I learned about other cycling skills, including heart rate training, hill training, speed training and pack riding, along with other tips and tricks that have helped me to become a better and more confident cyclist.