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  1. #1
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    Drafting on roadbike on commute?

    I've recently started drafting on buses and dump trucks whenever I get lucky enough to get behind one on my commute. Typically the speed limit is 35 mph on those roads.
    Any thoughts, experiences, suggestions for doing/not doing this?
    I ride a carbon-aluminum road bike with Tektro dual pivot brakes. I feel like getting better brake pads may be a good investment in case the truck/bus decides to stop suddenly. My brother who has hydraulic disk brakes says he can stop faster than the car in front of him so drafting is less risky for him.
    Thoughts?

  2. #2
    Senior Member halcyon100's Avatar
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    I have avid mechanical disc brakes on my road bike and I don't really notice much braking difference over rim brakes. I haven't seen hydraulic disc brakes on road bikes in shops, but it sounds like you might have a cyclocross bike and could get disc brakes on it. With my disc brakes, I do notice a difference in two areas: 1) With heavy-duty 700 x 28 tires, I can and do sometimes ride on flat dirt/gravel fire roads or rail to trails, with up to 90psi in my tires. No worries about road and trail grit wearing away my rims and pads 2) I'm less worried about rain and don't use fenders. I don't generally start out a ride in pouring rain, but I'm more inclined to ride when it might rain, because my brakes still work pretty well.

    I wouldn't want to draft behind any vehicle, especially not trucks or buses. I live near San Francisco and there have been a couple recent cyclist fatalities - where the cyclist was hit by a garbage/recycling truck. I think they sometimes can't see cyclists from the higher driver's seat.

  3. #3
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    My business partner got pulled over back in the 1960's when the police took issue with him drafting a dump truck at 55 mph on the highway and when they asked him why he was following so close he said, "he would not let me pass".



    He was a semi professional cyclist... this is not something you should try at home as it is very dangerous.

  4. #4
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Hire a wide guy of your own, on a scooter to ride in front of You .

    in training terms and in track racing its motor-pacing ..

    on film, it's Rollerball .. [1975, 2002]
    Last edited by fietsbob; 12-27-13 at 10:21 AM.

  5. #5
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    I used to play games like that until I almost got crushed between a couple of city buses. Stay away from inviting disaster, enough exists already without courting it.

  6. #6
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    Two things:

    1. If you are close enough behind to draft, you have little to no time to observe/react to any debris, potholes, or other obstacle(s) that the much wider, heavier vehicle will be able to roll over without issue.

    2. If can't see their mirror(s), they can't see you back there.

    Besides, I wouldn't want to be that close to their exhaust fumes.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyril View Post
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  7. #7
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    Make sure you know where all the bus stops and stop lights are, develop an excellent sixth sense for whatever else is going to cause one of those drivers to stop unexpectedly and you'll be fine mate. What's the worst that can happen? You collide into the back of a stopped dump truck while going 35 mph. The other drive is simply going to drive away, laughing, if he/she even recognizes that you've crumpled yourself and are lying in the road. (Before any of you idiots respond to my comments. I'm being facetious.)

    By the way, I've found that dump trucks don't offer the best draft. Their beds and undercarriages are too high, allowing too much wind to come under the vehicle onto the cyclist. The best I've found are the high cube people mover/trade vans. But, they tend to go faster than the transit busses, which are certainly a good second. (This part has been serious:-)
    Birth Certificate, Passport, Marriage License Driver's License and Residency Permit all say I'm a Fred. I guess there's no denying it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    My business partner got pulled over back in the 1960's when the police took issue with him drafting a dump truck at 55 mph on the highway and when they asked him why he was following so close he said, "he would not let me pass".

  9. #9
    Senior Member CrankyOne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vanttila View Post
    My brother who has hydraulic disk brakes says he can stop faster than the car in front of him so drafting is less risky for him.
    Thoughts?
    His brakes might be quick, but how long does it take his brain from brake lights to lever pull? What happens if there's a bit of gravel or oil on the roadway? Does he ever get distracted for a moment from focusing on the brake lights he's following? Can the car behind stop as fast as your brother can? When the car behind smashes in to the dump truck, what happens to your brother?

  10. #10
    David H. HDavidH's Avatar
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    With all due respect just don't draft vehicles other than a willing cyclist. Presumptuous at best and even under the safest of conditions as perceived by you the risks are too great. Besides, what statement could you be making to impressionable riders that observe us and our riding behaviors?

  11. #11
    Riding like its 1990 thenomad's Avatar
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    I'll be the grumpy naysayer:
    Have good dental insurance and life insurance policy if you have a family.

    After decades on the road I say its not a good idea, far greater risk level for an absolute minimal benefit.
    I do take risks, don't get me wrong, but there are certain things I just don't do, or if I do them there are a whole lot of factors that have been calculated.
    Whenever I ride with people who are new to riding, meaning less than 3-5 years always riding in traffic, I am shocked by some of their decisions.
    Running stop signs, beating the yellow light, cornering tactics, swinging into traffic, dodging though lanes etc. all based on the assumption that drivers around see them and will react.
    Now, I do all of those things too, but only under certain conditions/vehicles/roads, and the newbies seem to do them without regard to conditions.
    I still ride fairly aggressive and communicate a lot with cars around me.

    If you don't like getting tired riding a bike then get an e-bike.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member NatUp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
    Two things:

    1. If you are close enough behind to draft, you have little to no time to observe/react to any debris, potholes, or other obstacle(s) that the much wider, heavier vehicle will be able to roll over without issue.

    2. If can't see their mirror(s), they can't see you back there.

    Besides, I wouldn't want to be that close to their exhaust fumes.
    This.

    It's not so much whether you can stop faster than a big vehicle with equal reaction times or what kind of brakes you have. It's that the big boys have FOUR wheels and TWO eyes looking forward while you can only see their bumper. Only a matter of time till debris, ruts or potholes take you out.

    Also...ruining it for everybody, giving cyclists a bad name, not fair to the bus drivers, et cetera, et cetera.

  13. #13
    Senior Member NatUp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thenomad View Post
    I'll be the grumpy naysayer:
    Have good dental insurance and life insurance policy if you have a family.

    After decades on the road I say its not a good idea, far greater risk level for an absolute minimal benefit.
    I do take risks, don't get me wrong, but there are certain things I just don't do, or if I do them there are a whole lot of factors that have been calculated.
    Whenever I ride with people who are new to riding, meaning less than 3-5 years always riding in traffic, I am shocked by some of their decisions.
    Running stop signs, beating the yellow light, cornering tactics, swinging into traffic, dodging though lanes etc. all based on the assumption that drivers around see them and will react.
    Now, I do all of those things too, but only under certain conditions/vehicles/roads, and the newbies seem to do them without regard to conditions.
    I still ride fairly aggressive and communicate a lot with cars around me.

    If you don't like getting tired riding a bike then get an e-bike.
    Love it. Drafting others without their permission is as Fred-ly as an e-bike!

  14. #14
    Gearhead old's'cool's Avatar
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    At the end of the day, a [standard, not recumbent] bike's stopping power is limited by the relatively high centre of gravity. If the force vector during braking intersects the pavement ahead of the contact point of the front wheel, the bike will endo. I've proven this to myself on at least one occasion.
    Normal automotive vehicles are traction limited before they reach this condition. Assuming the same coefficient of friction with the pavement, this means they can stop faster than a centre-of-gravity limited vehicle.
    If the coefficient of friction is low (e.g. due to water, oil, dust), and skids result from panic braking, a bicycle is much less controllable than a 4 wheel vehicle.
    Just some points to ponder when considering drafting in traffic.
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    "I think that I think, therefore I think that I am"

  15. #15
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    I used to draft big rigs on some back roads… it was perfect because they had to make 2 turns… so just when they got up to a speed I would not be able to handle… the turns come up. Came in real handy for my commute home when I lived in socal and those afternoon headwinds came up. No wind protection on open farming roads was a bummer.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    My business partner got pulled over back in the 1960's when the police took issue with him drafting a dump truck at 55 mph on the highway and when they asked him why he was following so close he said, "he would not let me pass".


    good one, i'll have to remember it...

  17. #17
    Senior Member link0's Avatar
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    Horrible idea. You can't see potholes coming since your view of the road is obstructed. You won't know if the driver suddenly slams the brakes for some reason and you cannot possibly react fast enough to avoid face planting.

  18. #18
    Senior Member gregjones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thenomad View Post
    I still ride fairly aggressive and communicate a lot with cars around me.
    Communication is a good thing.

    The nice folks around here wave to let me know I'm #1 all the time.

  19. #19
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    Not a good idea. I would rather get there a little later than risk the alternative. YMMV.

  20. #20
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    A couple of months ago I was fortunate to be able to ride behind a City tractor pulling a bush hog mower in an upright position for a few miles on a commute to work. This was a 20 mph draft and it was very nice! The line of cars behind us were happy when the tractor pulled into the Dept. of Public Works facility.
    RANS V3 (steel), RANS V-Rex, RANS Screamer

  21. #21
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    Sorry, the o.p. just does not pass the smell test. IOW, I don't believe a word of it. I am actually paying the o.p. a compliment to say, in effect, that I absolutely do not believe that they are actually so stupid as to do something like draft a commercial vehicle in city traffic.

    H

  22. #22
    Senior Member Rudz's Avatar
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    Buses have frequent stops, and they always try to run me over. I pass buses and try to stay far ahead of them. Sometimes I'll draft big rigs but I lose em due to the higher speed limits.
    Giant Rapid 3- COMMUTERIZED *IBERA*Nashbar*Tiagra*105*Velocity*Selle SMP*Gatorskin
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  23. #23
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    i recommend that the OP fill out their state's organ donor paperwork and communicate end of life choices with loved ones.
    Road rash is a precious gift. Road rash is your friend. Bask in it, appreciate it, love it. Above all, learn from it. --Robert Hurst

  24. #24
    Senior Member yarb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
    Sorry, the o.p. just does not pass the smell test. IOW, I don't believe a word of it. I am actually paying the o.p. a compliment to say, in effect, that I absolutely do not believe that they are actually so stupid as to do something like draft a commercial vehicle in city traffic.
    Are you kidding? Plenty of people draft vehicles in the city, including me. It is of course more dangerous than riding in a bike lane - certainly a segregated one - but if there's no lane then it's safer, and it's always a LOT faster. And it's fun. I'd suggest the following:

    - don't draft buses, unless you know there are no stops. Buses stop a lot and when they stop with you behind, it can be tricky to pass. If you know the road well you may be able to anticipate the stops but you'll still lose the draft.
    - never draft on a road you don't know intimately, in terms of potholes, cracks etc.
    - if you lose the draft, pull out of traffic (if safe) and don't keep chasing like a loser.
    - obviously, keep your eyes and ears wide open, as you should at all times while riding. If you do this you should be OK re: stopping. A bike can stop just as quick as a car under normal conditions. Emergency stops are different; I'd hate to find out whether or not I could stop behind a suddenly braking motor vehicle. But there are all kinds of sudden actions that can impact you on the road, whether you're drafting cars or not. I don't think you're at hugely greater risk from doing so, if you're an experienced cyclist.

  25. #25
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    Drafting in a 35mph? HTFU my friend and yell "On your left" and move on.

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