Hello and welcome back to The Bike Geek’s weekly post. Today’s post is a little late because I got my ass kicked by a 70 year old cyclist who happens to inspire this week’s writings.
I don’t know about your bike commute, but my bike portion gets pretty lonely so I usually get together on the weekend with a couple of friends and ride to the beach. Our usual ride is about 30 miles round trip and a good portion of this ride is down Pacific Coast Highway.
I’ve been riding with these guys for over ten years and they are usually in better shape than I am. So how do I keep up with them? I suck their wheel otherwise known as “drafting”. Drafting has allowed me to finish centuries and ride at over 20 mph during long periods of time. Drafting has been known to save about 20% to 30% energy but you have to do it correctly. You must ride about 6 to 10 inches from the rider in front of you in order to benefit from the draft. This could be pretty scary if you don’t know how the person in front of you rides or if they are unaware that you are sucking their wheel. Most riders who are in front signal any upcoming road hazards and announce themselves while taking over other riders.
Now, wheel sucking has its own set of rules and lingo. For example, it is totally OK to draft off your buddies but you also have to take your turn at “pulling”. Pulling means that you get on the front of your buddies while they suck your wheel, this allows for them to regain their strength so they can keep pulling at a good speed.
This past weekend we “grabbed the wheel” of an older gentlemen who was pulling 6 of us at about 23 to 24 mph and left us totally drained. The guy was a freaking beast and when we had to stop at a red light he told us he was 70 years young. So yeah, I got my ass handed to me by a 70 year old guy but thanks to wheel sucking I was not “dropped”. Here is a little video of the ride:
So what is the moral of this post? Old people rule and wheel sucking is good as long as you are not an ass about it.