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The Etiquette of Drafting

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The Etiquette of Drafting

Old 12-02-21, 09:51 PM
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Cramic
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The Etiquette of Drafting

Newish cyclist here, riding mostly on roads. Just wondered what people’s thoughts are on the “unannounced drafter”.

I live in Perth (Western Australia) and it’s bloody windy! As such it’s really helpful to get on another cyclist’s wheel, but it doesn’t always feel fair.

Case in point, today I was cycling along a long, flat path and a cyclist was up ahead. I was catching him pretty quick, announced that I was about to pass, and did so. I had a feeling he attached himself to my wheel and when I came to turn off a few kilometres later it was confirmed. There was a fairly strong headwind that I did all the work against. He didn’t ask if he could “hitch a ride”.

But the caveat to all this is that he was clearly slower than me when up against the wind himself, so I wouldn’t have wanted him to go ahead. I’d have ended up slower (albeit getting a bit of a rest). So where’s the harm in him riding behind me?

I feel like I’m being a petty little guy! 😂

But then, that said, I had somebody else do it without me knowing. I thought I heard something fall from my bike and my immediate reaction was to brake and look back…to see another cyclist swerving around me and muttering a curse. Which I think was totally unacceptable. I accept that there are “slowing down” signals, but it all happened so fast and it was only an issue because he was a few inches off my rear wheel, benefiting from the slipstream.

So what are people’s thoughts on this? Is there a fairly well accepted etiquette?
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Old 12-02-21, 10:18 PM
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It's not "nice" but that's to be expected.

When you're out experiencing "life" you'll run across people who take and other people who give. That transcends all sports. Cycling is no different. When I encounter a situation like yours where I catch a slower rider and they want to cling to my wheel to keep up, I'll do it for a few hundred yards and if they don't do a pull, I get up from my saddle and drop them if I can.

Now mind you, this does NOT happen often with me because there are lots of faster riders in my area, but it does happen occasionally. Try doing the same and don't get worked up over wheel suckers. On the other hand, I have been known to slow way down to force the rider to make a decision to go around or be an obvious wheel sucker. I rarely do that and only if I'm in a bad mood that day, which is also very rare.
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Old 12-02-21, 10:22 PM
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I don't draft anyone uninvited - that is getting behind another rider, I completely don't know, a complete stranger at less than 20 ft.

If someone drafts closely behind me, I slow down in the hopes they will pass. I'll make an exception if they're friendly and chatty.

Maybe if you're friendly and chatty yourself you can be excused for drafting closely behind other riders....BUT since you mentioned being a newish rider yourself, it may not be safe for you to draft another rider as you may not have the skills for it yet. Get lots of miles riding in groups, it will teach you the necessary skills to ride in a tight formation.
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Old 12-02-21, 10:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Cramic View Post
Newish cyclist here, riding mostly on roads. Just wondered what people’s thoughts are on the “unannounced drafter”.

I live in Perth (Western Australia) and it’s bloody windy! As such it’s really helpful to get on another cyclist’s wheel, but it doesn’t always feel fair.

Case in point, today I was cycling along a long, flat path and a cyclist was up ahead. I was catching him pretty quick, announced that I was about to pass, and did so. I had a feeling he attached himself to my wheel and when I came to turn off a few kilometres later it was confirmed. There was a fairly strong headwind that I did all the work against. He didn’t ask if he could “hitch a ride”.

But the caveat to all this is that he was clearly slower than me when up against the wind himself, so I wouldn’t have wanted him to go ahead. I’d have ended up slower (albeit getting a bit of a rest). So where’s the harm in him riding behind me?

I feel like I’m being a petty little guy! 😂

But then, that said, I had somebody else do it without me knowing. I thought I heard something fall from my bike and my immediate reaction was to brake and look back…to see another cyclist swerving around me and muttering a curse. Which I think was totally unacceptable. I accept that there are “slowing down” signals, but it all happened so fast and it was only an issue because he was a few inches off my rear wheel, benefiting from the slipstream.
So what are people’s thoughts on this? Is there a fairly well accepted etiquette?
The Front Rider gains 1 or 2 Mph when another tags on behind.
Enjoy The Boost
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Old 12-02-21, 10:56 PM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
The Front Rider gains 1 or 2 Mph when another tags on behind.
Enjoy The Boost
Huh? Citations please.
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Old 12-02-21, 11:04 PM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
The Front Rider gains 1 or 2 Mph when another tags on behind.
Maybe, if you're riding at >100 mph.
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Old 12-02-21, 11:08 PM
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I don't like it. That person is obligating me to ride for them or possibly put myself at risk when they crash into me if I do something unacceptable to a drafter behind. Announce yourself and give me the option to ride for you or be willing to take all risks including anything happening to me from your presence.

My view - unless there is agreement by both parties to suspend the law, the law should apply. Tailgating to the tune of 24 inches or less is illegal in most states. It is here in Oregon.
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Old 12-02-21, 11:58 PM
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Now there are bicycle laws? Did I fall into an alternate reality?
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Old 12-03-21, 01:54 AM
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Originally Posted by rsbob View Post
Now there are bicycle laws? Did I fall into an alternate reality?
It's etiquette. Just like there is no law against farting in an elevator, but doing it is a Richard move.

Oh, and sliding in a taking someone's wheel uninvited that you don't know what a Fred does. Don't do it. Don't force others who were out on a solo training ride or just out for a spin to focus on you, too.
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Old 12-03-21, 02:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Cramic View Post
So where’s the harm in him riding behind me?
If you have any general concern toward the safety of other humans, it puts a responsibility on you.

Frankly a lot of people who hitch a wheel without asking have flat-out bad judgement. Mostly because they actually trust a stranger who hasn't made any kind of demonstration of safe or fun group-riding behavior, but for other reasons as well.
Recently I had some guy on an ebike do it to me. He was going around 15mph, I was cruising along at around 21mph, and he hopped on my wheel when I passed. About a mile later, he decided to hop in front to "help" right as we started to go downhill; I had to immediately re-pass to get up to reasonable speed. Not a big deal, but kind of silly.
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Old 12-03-21, 02:43 AM
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This subject pops up pretty regularly here. If I am going to draft behind someone I come across on on a ride, I'll say something like "You mind if I tag along back here for a little bit?* A couple of times I have picked up an unexpected tail, and while I don't think it is polite for someone to ride on my backside without making himself known (if it were a "her" I wouldn't care), I won't get bent out of shape about it.
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Old 12-03-21, 04:17 AM
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I won't let an uninvited Fred suck my wheel. There are four options, aside from taking him down.

1. Drop him
2. Slow down to deliver a message
3. Stop and have a rest
4. Ask him to get off your wheel

There is potential harm, the wheelsucker could take you down. Different story with riders you know and accept the risk of riding together. Strangers with questionable riding ability? Not a risk I want to assume and it seems wrong to latch on without asking or getting an invite (hand wave from behind)
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Old 12-03-21, 04:25 AM
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Old 12-03-21, 04:38 AM
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IMO, I have no responsibility for the safety of a stranger that jumps on my back wheel. My responsibility is my safety. At this point in my bike world, this is a bit of moot point as I almost never have someone do this.
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Old 12-03-21, 04:57 AM
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I heard this from a wise person to peel off drafters - cough like you have Ebola.

Another very risky move that actually works is swerve randomly and brake a little like you are total noob at cycling, often time, it will force wheel suckers to pass you. This risky move can backfire so first resort is to caugh like you have Ebola or Covid or w/e.

Perhaps even bring water spray as you caugh for realistic effects. That water spray is also useful for cooling off.
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Old 12-03-21, 06:03 AM
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Originally Posted by rsbob View Post
Now there are bicycle laws? Did I fall into an alternate reality?
You know better than that if you're riding on roads, we're subject to lots of laws.
In most states, a bicyclist is a vehicle operator who has all applicable legal rights and duties on a road. That would definitely include anti-tailgating laws that require some prudent distance between vehicles.

On a path in Perth? I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised.
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Old 12-03-21, 06:09 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
You know better than that if you're riding on roads, we're subject to lots of laws.
In most states, a bicyclist is a vehicle operator who has all applicable legal rights and duties on a road. That would definitely include anti-tailgating laws that require some prudent distance between vehicles.

On a path in Perth? I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised.
I live in Perth. There's some pretty major and smooth sailing paths going all across the city

I find that below 30kph no one is really riding hard or fast enough to draft so it doesn't matter
On the flip side, if I'm holding down 35-40kph and someone jumps on my wheel, then they're generally strong and experienced enough to also take pulls, and with a little nudge of the elbow I've had fun little pace lines going on many a commute

If you don't like someone on your wheel, either speed up and drop them, slow down so they pass you or start firing off snot rockets
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Old 12-03-21, 06:16 AM
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Unannounced wheel sucking is definitely a safety hazard and probably a traffic violation if done on a road. When I've caught people doing it to me on paths, I've told them I will stop suddenly for pedestrians and take no responsibility for signalling my stop or anything else to them. That has backed them off so far.

Pacelining of any kind on a MUP is generally unsafe. I do what I can to discourage drafting if I think there's any real likelihood of pedestrian traffic.
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Old 12-03-21, 06:37 AM
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Originally Posted by SapInMyBlood View Post
I live in Perth. There's some pretty major and smooth sailing paths going all across the city

I find that below 30kph no one is really riding hard or fast enough to draft so it doesn't matter
On the flip side, if I'm holding down 35-40kph and someone jumps on my wheel, then they're generally strong and experienced enough to also take pulls, and with a little nudge of the elbow I've had fun little pace lines going on many a commute

If you don't like someone on your wheel, either speed up and drop them, slow down so they pass you or start firing off snot rockets
Or tell them to stop. Or swerve side to side. Or......

There are US MUPs where I think it's reasonably safe, and if people know they have a "partner", it's ok. I have seen people doing this while essentially slaloming through pedestrians, which I think was clearly illegal and dangerous.

Ninja wheelsucking under any nonrace circumstance isn't just an etiquette violation, it's really dangerous. At a minimum, tell someone you're there.
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Old 12-03-21, 06:52 AM
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Originally Posted by SapInMyBlood View Post
I live in Perth. There's some pretty major and smooth sailing paths going all across the city

I find that below 30kph no one is really riding hard or fast enough to draft so it doesn't matter
On the flip side, if I'm holding down 35-40kph and someone jumps on my wheel, then they're generally strong and experienced enough to also take pulls, and with a little nudge of the elbow I've had fun little pace lines going on many a commute

If you don't like someone on your wheel, either speed up and drop them, slow down so they pass you or start firing off snot rockets
Good to hear from another Perth rider, but then you must know that kph doesn’t mean a lot here? The headwind (or tailwind) means a lot.

My first example from today, doing the Canning Bridge to Narrows Strava segment (4.18km) I did 40.1kph at approx 10am.

My second example, cycling to work (essentially from UWA to the city, along Mounts Bay Road) was a “leisurely” 25kph or so, due to headwind.

In addition, I saw somebody get drafted earlier this week. I approached Mounts Bay Road from the Bell Tower. One cyclist ahead of me, who I was gaining on. Another guy came down off the Narrows Bridge, splitting us, but going at the same speed as me. I kept up with him, both gaining on the first cyclist, who he subsequently passed, who then stayed inches off his wheel. I think we averaged around 20kph due to a 30kph headwind (the doctor) and the gaps between me and the first two riders stayed the same. Me and the drafter peeled off at UWA and I passed him easily going up the western path of Kings Park.

Interested to hear your thoughts! It’s more about effort in my view, not outright speed.
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Old 12-03-21, 06:59 AM
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Interesting to hear most people seem to think the same as me. It’s unfair and unsafe to draft.

But equally, as I pointed out, it’d actually be inconvenient if my first cyclist passed me to do his “fair share”.

So, being the sudden recipient of a slipstream, would you slow, to get out of it, and then continue at your earlier pace? Or tuck in behind and go along for the ride?
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Old 12-03-21, 07:01 AM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
The Front Rider gains 1 or 2 Mph when another tags on behind.
Enjoy The Boost
Incorrect.
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Old 12-03-21, 07:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
Incorrect.
3-4% less drag for the lead rider in a tight paceline depending which study you want to believe


https://www.sciencedirect.com/scienc...67610518306755

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Old 12-03-21, 07:35 AM
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Ride in the hills and mountains and draft dodgers disappear magically.
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Old 12-03-21, 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Cramic View Post
Interesting to hear most people seem to think the same as me. It’s unfair and unsafe to draft.

But equally, as I pointed out, it’d actually be inconvenient if my first cyclist passed me to do his “fair share”.

So, being the sudden recipient of a slipstream, would you slow, to get out of it, and then continue at your earlier pace? Or tuck in behind and go along for the ride?
Situational.

I'm a solo rider, so I'm going to go whatever speed I would normally go at and if someone wants to tuck in front of me and go as fast as I normally would or better, I'm going to stay behind them until I want to do otherwise. They know I'm there because they put me there so the awareness and etiquette are all fair game.

I have no idea how I'd handle this in a place as windy as where you ride, however. We get high winds where I ride from time to time, but nothing systematic like that. I'd think you might be somewhere where there's some unspoken rules that wouldn't apply elsewhere. From SapInMyBlood 's post, I suspect that might be the case.
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