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Catching the draft... how close is too close?

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Catching the draft... how close is too close?

Old 07-13-20, 06:03 AM
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big chainring 
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Catching the draft... how close is too close?

Whats your safe draft distance? I like the weekend group ride. Typically I jump in to whoever passes me by on Saturday and Sunday mornings. On Chicagos north shore its pretty much a constant parade of cycling groups heading northbound on Sheridan road. I'm questioning the safety, especially now at 62 yrs young. A spill now would probably put me in the hospital. But my instincts are still honed by my racing days when racing around the track in a line of riders with a centimeter or two of gap between our wheels was normal. I still catch myself following really close to a wheel and think...hmmm, maybe too close. But there is quite a difference in draft effect between a half wheel distance and a couple inches. What say ye?
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Old 07-13-20, 06:14 AM
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It depends on how well you know the wheel. If you are riding a friend's or teammate's wheel you can likely get fairly close, say 1-2 feet.

If you are hopping some random stranger's wheel (first ask) you probably want to allow more space. Plus COVID19 risks which are tough to quantify.
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Old 07-13-20, 06:19 AM
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Let's assume that you've already asked permission to draft, etc etc because otherwise @rubiksoval will be unhappy. According to https://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/p...rafting-349941, the benefit to you has a pretty good range, up to 20m (assuming no wind). So basically choose whatever distance you want.

The flip side to this--the same source https://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/l...w-study-458203 says that drafting is probably not a great idea right now.

Take your pick?
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Old 07-13-20, 06:19 AM
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Don't draft people uninvited and this won't be an issue.
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Old 07-13-20, 06:24 AM
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Originally Posted by big chainring View Post
Whats your safe draft distance? I like the weekend group ride. Typically I jump in to whoever passes me by on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Don't do that.
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Old 07-13-20, 06:29 AM
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If you're risk averse, don't draft!

I generally try to stay between 1 ~ 2 meters away from almost everyone.

If someone jumps on my wheel, I'll usually pick up the pace, or let them pass.
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Old 07-13-20, 06:55 AM
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Originally Posted by upthywazzoo View Post
Let's assume that you've already asked permission to draft, etc etc because otherwise @rubiksoval will be unhappy. According to https://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/p...rafting-349941, the benefit to you has a pretty good range, up to 20m (assuming no wind). So basically choose whatever distance you want.

The flip side to this--the same source https://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/l...w-study-458203 says that drafting is probably not a great idea right now.

Take your pick?
20 meters? Really? Even with no wind, that's way too far back. At one bike length off a field, you're feeling the wind. At two bike lengths, you'll be struggling. At three, you're dropped.

And as other said, do just jump on a random person's wheel. It's not a cool move. If it's a big group, that's a bit different, though it is generally best to ask, "Hey can I join you?" or "How far are you going?" If they don't seem friendly, that means they don't want you to join them but are too nice to say that out loud. Don't be offended if they don't want you to ride with them.

As for how close to ride, that depends on how well you know the wheel in front of you and how close everyone else is. If you and a friend are good, you can ride really close. I had a riding partner who was so steady, I was comfortable to put my bar over his rear wheel - we were overlapped due to a cross wind. If the group is all riding with about a foot between wheels and just a few inches between bars, that is where you should be too.
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Old 07-13-20, 07:18 AM
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Probably not this close!

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Old 07-13-20, 07:39 AM
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If you're at all concerned about health risks, in the current viral climate, I wouldn't be drafting strangers (or anyone I didn't live with) except on Zwift.
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Old 07-13-20, 07:42 AM
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I absolutely will not draft or allow a draft from someone I don't know. I will pull over if I have to.
On a group ride where you have been part of the group for a bit and are familiar with each others style and signals, everything up to touching/overlapping. Inches, if that.
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Old 07-13-20, 07:42 AM
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Weren't draft cards once mandatory kit?
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Old 07-13-20, 07:42 AM
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Thanks to COVID I'm not doing group rides. But, on pre-COVID group rides with my club it was just assumed that riders would draft each other. FWIW, I'm not talking about competitive rides...usually 30-50 mile rides averaging 14-15 mph.
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Old 07-13-20, 08:00 AM
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I ride on Sheridan Rd. all the time, and on a nice Saturday morning it's sometimes hard not to get caught up with a few other riders or a group. I frequently chit-chat with the other riders I end up with, and the vast majority of people don't mind if you sit on their wheel for a few minutes. Use your best judgement on how close to ride. You can usually tell pretty much immediately how squirrelly someone is. I've also noticed that people tend to pick up the pace when you catch them from behind, so I may sit on their wheel for a minute or two to catch my breath and let them settle down a little bit before I pass and say something friendly as I go by. If I get caught by a group, I'll ease up for a few minutes, let them go, and continue on solo. I have no interest in group rides, but if you do, there are plenty of groups on the Northshore of all levels of fitness for you to join.
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Old 07-13-20, 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by upthywazzoo View Post
Let's assume that you've already asked permission to draft, etc etc because otherwise @rubiksoval will be unhappy.
Not just him. I have no idea how anyone considers this acceptable behavior.
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Old 07-13-20, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by topflightpro View Post
Originally Posted by upthywazzoo View Post
According to https://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/p...rafting-349941, the benefit to you has a pretty good range, up to 20m (assuming no wind).
20 meters? Really? Even with no wind, that's way too far back. At one bike length off a field, you're feeling the wind. At two bike lengths, you'll be struggling. At three, you're dropped.
Yes, you can feel the difference even at one bike length. However, Cycling Weekly understates "the benefit." We've measured drag reduction much farther than 20 meters. It's just that the benefit, although there, is too small to feel. How far? During hour record attempts on 250 meter velodromes, we've measured the rider drafting themselves. That's cuz even a straw can stir a bathtub.
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Old 07-13-20, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by RChung View Post
During hour record attempts on 250 meter velodromes, we've measured the rider drafting themselves. That's cuz even a straw can stir a bathtub.
Along these lines, and in the spirit of gaming the system a la Nike/Kipchoge, has there been any discussion of playing with the venue to further this effect and break records? Or are venue parameters fairly well locked down?
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Old 07-13-20, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Bah Humbug View Post
Not just him. I have no idea how anyone considers this acceptable behavior.
The etiquette behind drafting was beaten to death in another thread. So to keep things focused I preemptively mentioned him.
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Old 07-13-20, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by upthywazzoo View Post
The etiquette behind drafting was beaten to death in another thread. So to keep things focused I preemptively mentioned him.
You can’t “focus” on this thread and ignore the idiocy and antisocial aspects of hopping on a stranger’s wheel uninvited.
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Old 07-13-20, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
Along these lines, and in the spirit of gaming the system a la Nike/Kipchoge, has there been any discussion of playing with the venue to further this effect and break records? Or are venue parameters fairly well locked down?
Um, I guess you could say that there has been some discussion.
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Old 07-13-20, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Bah Humbug View Post
You can’t “focus” on this thread and ignore the idiocy and antisocial aspects of hopping on a stranger’s wheel uninvited.
Please not this again. The OP asked about drafting distance and efficacy. If we're going to talk about etiquette then it should go back here: https://www.bikeforums.net/road-cycl...elt-shame.html.
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Old 07-13-20, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by upthywazzoo View Post
Please not this again. The OP asked about drafting distance and efficacy. If we're going to talk about etiquette then it should go back here: https://www.bikeforums.net/road-cycl...elt-shame.html.
No, he was asking specifically about safety -

Originally Posted by big chainring View Post
Whats your safe draft distance?
The etiquette you mention is tied to safety, so it seems fair game, dunnit?
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Old 07-13-20, 09:27 AM
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
No, he was asking specifically about safety -



The etiquette you mention is tied to safety, so it seems fair game, dunnit?
The full context is--OP wants to draft and reap the aero benefits, but is unsure of how close is too close. Aero benefits do not matter if OP is violating this:
Don't draft people uninvited and this won't be an issue.
as Rubik said above. With that out of the way, we can discuss safety as it relates to rider skill, and the relationship between draft distance and benefit.
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Old 07-13-20, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by big chainring View Post
Whats your safe draft distance? I like the weekend group ride. Typically I jump in to whoever passes me by on Saturday and Sunday mornings. On Chicagos north shore its pretty much a constant parade of cycling groups heading northbound on Sheridan road. I'm questioning the safety, especially now at 62 yrs young. A spill now would probably put me in the hospital. But my instincts are still honed by my racing days when racing around the track in a line of riders with a centimeter or two of gap between our wheels was normal. I still catch myself following really close to a wheel and think...hmmm, maybe too close. But there is quite a difference in draft effect between a half wheel distance and a couple inches. What say ye?
This is too close.


Drafting someone you don't know at the age of 62 is a good way to get hurt; especially if you're 62 and don't have years of racing under your belt. Even then, it's not generally a good idea.

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Old 07-13-20, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by upthywazzoo View Post
The full context is--OP wants to draft and reap the aero benefits, but is unsure of how close is too close. Aero benefits do not matter if OP is violating this: as Rubik said above. With that out of the way, we can discuss safety as it relates to rider skill, and the relationship between draft distance and benefit.
OP is asking about half a wheel vs a few inches, on people he doesn’t know. Both are irresponsible and antisocial behavior.
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Old 07-13-20, 09:40 AM
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There is no safe distance for an uninvited draft in a Covid world.

Passed a guy last week with probably a 5mph differential. I suffer from pretty bad post nasal drip and needed to spit about 2 minutes after going by. He was right on my wheel and caught a bunch of it because I had no clue he was there until after it happened.
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