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Etiquette for “impromptu” drafting

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Etiquette for “impromptu” drafting

Old 07-18-20, 10:45 PM
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Hikebikerun
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Etiquette for “impromptu” drafting

I hope this doesn’t turn into a 200-post flame war. I’m not intending to start a thread about what a safe following distance is, jumping into groups uninvited with a tri bike, COVID-related concerns, etc.

My question is about how long it is appropriate/expected for each individual to “pull” for when you fall into an impromptu “group” on a ride.

I was on a short 25mi solo ride this morning on the MUP and was surprised by another rider drafting right behind me. I am not bothered by this at all; it was actually kind of a proud moment for me as a new rider

Anyways, I’m not sure how long he was there, but maybe a few miles after I noticed him, I transitioned from the drops to the hoods for a change in hand position, and he passed and moved over to take the position in front of me.

This was the first time I’ve drafted behind someone and WOW what a difference it made. After a few minutes I felt like I was rested and the level of effort that usually sustains like 18mph had me at 22mph. Really incredible how much easier it makes maintaining speed.... I had no idea. And I was hanging out about a bike length away from him.

So anyways, after a few min I was feeling pretty rested and only had another few miles left in the ride, and honestly I wanted to get more of a workout in. So I ended up passing the guy, assuming he would fall in behind me for the remainder of my ride, and I was going to wave him a thanks as I departed the MUP. But a couple min after I passed him, I noticed he had backed off and was out of sight (I saw him pass by again from the parking lot as I was loading my car).

Thus leading to my question: how long (time/distance) is it normal for each person to pull in this situation? Is the person behind supposed to pull ahead when rested, or wait until the person in front backs off and pulls to the side/behind you? Are there any hand signals indicating a desire to switch positions? Does the answer change if we are talking about a small/medium size group vs just 2 solo guys?

I feel like the guy maybe thought I was a dick, which was not my intention.
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Old 07-18-20, 10:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Hikebikerun View Post
I hope this doesn’t turn into a 200-post flame war. I’m not intending to start a thread about what a safe following distance is, jumping into groups uninvited with a tri bike, COVID-related concerns, etc.

My question is about how long it is appropriate/expected for each individual to “pull” for when you fall into an impromptu “group” on a ride.

I was on a short 25mi solo ride this morning on the MUP and was surprised by another rider drafting right behind me. I am not bothered by this at all; it was actually kind of a proud moment for me as a new rider

Anyways, I’m not sure how long he was there, but maybe a few miles after I noticed him, I transitioned from the drops to the hoods for a change in hand position, and he passed and moved over to take the position in front of me.

This was the first time I’ve drafted behind someone and WOW what a difference it made. After a few minutes I felt like I was rested and the level of effort that usually sustains like 18mph had me at 22mph. Really incredible how much easier it makes maintaining speed.... I had no idea. And I was hanging out about a bike length away from him.

So anyways, after a few min I was feeling pretty rested and only had another few miles left in the ride, and honestly I wanted to get more of a workout in. So I ended up passing the guy, assuming he would fall in behind me for the remainder of my ride, and I was going to wave him a thanks as I departed the MUP. But a couple min after I passed him, I noticed he had backed off and was out of sight (I saw him pass by again from the parking lot as I was loading my car).

Thus leading to my question: how long (time/distance) is it normal for each person to pull in this situation? Is the person behind supposed to pull ahead when rested, or wait until the person in front backs off and pulls to the side/behind you? Are there any hand signals indicating a desire to switch positions? Does the answer change if we are talking about a small/medium size group vs just 2 solo guys?

I feel like the guy maybe thought I was a dick, which was not my intention.
Don't pull longer than you can keep the pace steady and be able to get back in line smoothly. Shorter is better. Most people pull too long and bring the pace down. Then next guy through then tries to bring the pace back up which causes the pace line to yo-yo.
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Old 07-19-20, 03:12 AM
  #3  
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Whatever you are comfortable with. Personally, i wouldnt throw off my own ride plan in order to accommodate someone else, but if i am doing an unstructured ride and the impromptu grouping seems to be working, I'll do a long enough pull to get a decent workout but which still leaves me with a bit of reserve to pull off and accelerate to get back at the end. So no different than any other group ride, really.
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Old 07-19-20, 03:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Hikebikerun View Post
Thus leading to my question: how long (time/distance) is it normal for each person to pull in this situation? Is the person behind supposed to pull ahead when rested, or wait until the person in front backs off and pulls to the side/behind you? Are there any hand signals indicating a desire to switch positions? Does the answer change if we are talking about a small/medium size group vs just 2 solo guys?
If you haven't talked about it and agreed on anything than there is no "normal" time/distance for each person to pull.

Personally, if someone drafts me for a while then goes around in front, I'll make an effort to drop back so I'm not drafting. Much like the person in your story did.
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Old 07-19-20, 04:07 AM
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Elbow flick is signal you are pulling off and draftee should come forward. But if it’s impromptu there are really no fixed rules, you have to talk and agree, at least informally, on a plan.
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Old 07-19-20, 06:23 AM
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The rider pulling controls the situation. They signal and move to the left when they are done, absent some other protocol. The other guy could have thought you were rude but more likely realized there is a reason drafting random strangers is bad form.
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Old 07-19-20, 06:32 AM
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I was in the local MUP and a hulk of a guy rides past me, big gearing it, riding at a good clip. I got on his wheel and stayed there. No way was I going to be able to pass him. After a few miles we come to a road crossing with a traffic light. Talked to him a bit. He was in the process of getting a position at the local fire department. Complimented his riding and he mentioned his father was a cyclist back in the 70's, raced, and was State Champion. Asked his father's name and he told me. Said I raced with his dad back in the day. We had a great conversation.
Every situation is different. Trade off the lead. Draft a stronger guy for a long time. For me its usually, " I'm cooked, I'm going to just sit on your wheel".
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Old 07-19-20, 06:39 AM
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MUP racing, love it!!
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Old 07-19-20, 06:50 AM
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My group pulls a mile then eases left then next rider slips to front and the rider tucks in to the back and keeps going this way. If someone is a weak link that day you simply back out prior to being next in line to lead. Everyone knows then you are having an off day.
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Old 07-19-20, 06:51 AM
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Trofeo Baracchi 1962.... Courage Jacques, courage! That was the headline in "Sporting Cyclist" a popular mag back in the day for all the budding coureurs.

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Old 07-19-20, 11:49 AM
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When it’s impromptu there are no rules. Make your intentions very clear. Either speak to your partner or make super emphatic gestures. Reaching to side with your hand and waving the other guy forward will generally be understood. If you wave forward with your left hand while edging over to the right most will get it. But maybe not, avoid assumptions.

In olden days amongst racers pulls were short or shorter. Seconds, not minutes. Ten seconds was not too short and a thirty second pull was a long pull. Currently there seem to be no rules or standards at all.

Try to ride steady. Try to be predictable.

A length back is as close as I want to be with a pickup group. There is more draft when closer but there is plenty at a bike length. Sounds to me like you have the general idea.
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Old 07-19-20, 11:59 AM
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IMO the OP did it all right. That's how it's supposed to work. It's not a marriage. Different riders are doing different things for different reasons. When they coincide, it's really fun.

IME most riders don't know the elbow flick, so before I pull off, I point to my left and down (US), then pull over to the left. I know some riders do it differently, but here the old lead rider fades back on the left while the line stays to the right, regardless of wind. This is because we ride on public roads and it's much safer this way. Of course the lead rider doesn't pull off until and unless it's clear back. A helmet mirror helps.

It's just my habit to try to run everything, so if it's a group that looks like it's going to be together for a long time, I'll run the line and suggest 3 minute pulls, which is about a mile as a previous poster said. If I'm comfortable, 3 minutes is my usual. If others are weaker, I'll pull longer. If I pull off and the pace drops too much, I'll come up and take back the lead, just like the draftee did when the OP went to the hoods. I think it's really cool when one can team up with another rider even for a little bit. We talk with our bikes. There's a language which one gets to know. I say, you don't really know someone until you've ridden with them.

If it's just a casual encounter, I'll pull over, see what happens. If they don't pull through, I'll take it back, no problem.

If you're trying to hold a line together because you're faster with a line, duh, when you come to and over the top of a rise, don't accelerate like you would solo, rather back off on the pedals a hair because the rider behind you isn't feeling it getting easier as quickly as you are.

Oh, right, etiquette. When I get on someone's wheel, I call out "Wheel."
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Old 07-19-20, 02:09 PM
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For impromptu and for strangers you run across there aren't any rules as you can't expect them to know them. I'm not so aware of an elbow flick as I am when someone points as Carbonfiberboy mentioned. Equal times pulling or pulling till you need a break, it's sort of how well matched your abilities are that determines which.

Certainly nothing beats verbal communication. So if staying behind I'll let the rider know I'm behind them and if I'm going to be within a bike length or so I tell them "on your wheel". Once you are in earshot then you can work out the details. Sometimes if noisy background, then get side by side.

If you do come up on anyone, I feel you should always announce your presence whether just staying behind or drafting. If the speed difference is such that you are going to be passing very soon anyhow, then just say "passing left" or whatever at least far enough back so they have time to react to you. Some do stupid things when they hear you and others it apparently scares the begeezes out of. Walkers, cyclists and joggers. I had a dog walker jump out of his skin and trip over his dog just yesterday when I shouted out "passing left".

And riding with others brings up the mask issue. You are definitely safer with a mask when following even 15 or 20 feet behind a group. I've worn cloth masks and find the pleated ones seem to work better as they don't suck into your mouth and nose giving you just a small section of cloth to breath through. The pleats seem to hold enough spacing so you have more material for the air to flow through.

The ascot type things that go all the way around are just too hot. At least the ones I've tried.

Last edited by Iride01; 07-19-20 at 02:14 PM.
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Old 07-19-20, 02:28 PM
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In times of COVID I try to take a short rest or put in an effort to get ahead. I have no intention of drafting behind someone.

There is a route where I regularly (maybe every other time I ride it) have someone draft behind me, so far, at the end where I turn left and they continue straight, they have always thanked me. Only issue is, I am so competitive, I push way too hard just to see if I can drop them, but never can, so overexert myself. But might be a good training effect.
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Old 07-19-20, 02:43 PM
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Unless by chance I’m coming up on another rider I know I stay back far enough not to be confused with a member of the group. I feel no obligation to pull. Often I either pass or stick to my route plan a few rider lengths back until he/she/them or I turn on another road.
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Old 07-19-20, 03:10 PM
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I only draft when I run behind people. No, wait, that would be crazy. And I don't draft when I'm following someone I don't know, seen others do it, but I like the advice if you are going to, to at least announce it.
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Old 07-19-20, 04:13 PM
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If I come across another cyclist going a similar speed to myself I ride alongside them and chat.
Maybe further along we could start taking turns but jumping straight on their wheel is not how I would usually do it.
Just doesn't seem very friendly to me regardless of what you think the "etiquette" may be.
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Old 07-19-20, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by thenetters21 View Post
I only draft when I run behind people. No, wait, that would be crazy. And I don't draft when I'm following someone I don't know, seen others do it, but I like the advice if you are going to, to at least announce it.
I once had a roller blader ask to draft, that guy held IIRC, 18 mph for a hell of a lot longer than I would have thought possible. He caught back up at the next light crossing and thanked me profusely.
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Old 07-19-20, 04:43 PM
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You guys let other riders draft you? Doesn't anyone drope the hamer any more??? HTFU.
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Old 07-19-20, 05:05 PM
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My problem is not the etiquette for impromptu drafting, but rather rolling up on someone on a downhill, or the flat, and KNOWING that rider will smoke me on the hill just up ahead. It seems rude to pass someone only to make them pass me again only quarter or half a mile later. But I also hate braking before a hill though I usually end up doing it. AND I stay far enough off their wheel, and to one side, so I'm not drafting at all. So, I hang out behind them, not drafting, often freewheeling, till we reach the base of the hill where they'll drop me.

I imagine it's annoying, grinding along and hearing someone freewheeling behind you, but I can't help being fat and having good hubs!
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Old 07-19-20, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by AdkMtnMonster View Post
You guys let other riders draft you? Doesn't anyone drope the hamer any more??? HTFU.
I actually don't have many try anymore. It seems I'm faster than I thought. I don't try to smoke others, but on climbs I'm blowing past others at my normal speeds and though some try to keep up, I leave them without even trying.

I'm about to go for a ride with my son. I'll have to hold back by a couple mph. I'm not even what I'd consider a strong rider though. So go figure.
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Old 07-19-20, 05:19 PM
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Any rider is fair game.

I don't get any closer than a single bike length, since some people aren't comfortable with you being that close.If they don't like it they can either try to drop me or wave me around. If they try to drop me, i'll hang on if I have the legs. If they wave me past... I either pass or drop back. Not doing so is obnoxious.

2 weeks ago I was 52 miles in on a ride and about 10 miles from home. I was one the MUP runninn north from Jones Beach and I caught up to a guy and decided to draft for a stretch. He picked up his pace and I followed matching his cadence. After 3 miles I pulled up next to him, thanked him for the draft and told him to jump on my wheel. The drafting gave me enough of a rest that my legs were fresh and I picked up the pace. After a mile I glanced back and he wasn't there. When i reached the trailhead of the MUP I stopped for a break before cruising home. A few minutes later he showed up and stopped to chat.

We talked for a few and he didn't fully understand how drafting saves energy. After explaining he said he'll definitely try it next time.

When I got home and checked my Garmin and that was the fastest 5 miles of my 63 mile ride.
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Old 07-19-20, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by thenetters21 View Post
I only draft when I run behind people. No, wait, that would be crazy. And I don't draft when I'm following someone I don't know, seen others do it, but I like the advice if you are going to, to at least announce it.
This afternoon, I heard one woman ask another for permission to draft - "I hope you don't mind if I take advantage of your draft for a minute or so", which I thought was nice.
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Old 07-19-20, 05:49 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by Hikebikerun View Post
Thus leading to my question: how long (time/distance) is it normal for each person to pull in this situation?
In the situation you describe, each cyclist should pull for exactly 1m47s.
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Old 07-19-20, 05:57 PM
  #25  
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Hmm... The Unwritten Rules of Drafting. Just what I want to do is follow closely behind a complete stranger and trust he has good eye sight, good reflexes, knows how to communicate road hazards, and gives a damn about me. I think I'll forget about drafting.
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