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# How much speed can I realistically get out of drafting?

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

# How much speed can I realistically get out of drafting?

10-15-08, 06:29 PM
#1
DrakeSuperbus
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How much speed can I realistically get out of drafting?

I've spent that past few months riding by myself. I enjoy it, but I would like to join a group ride soon. The only problem is that they either go too slow or too fast. On my solo rides, I've been maintaining a 3:30 pace, which puts me right around 17 mph. The slow group lists their speed at 16mph; the fast group lists their speed as around 20mph.

However, I've recently read that drafting decreases your workload by 25%. If that is so, I should hypothetically be able to maintain around 21mph with the same effort (1.25*17). This leads me to believe that I can join up and hang with the paceline. Am I correct in my assumption, or does the math cease to work once my shorts hit the saddle?

If it matters at all, their 20mph rides would be only slightly longer than my solo rides (35 vs 30 miles).
10-15-08, 06:33 PM
#2
operator
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This speculation is pretty irrelevant. Just go try to ride with the group. Posted ride averages are usually meaningless. If you can't at least hold 10kph + above the average, i'm going to say you won't be able to hang with the group.

Of course it really depends on what type of group you're riding with. A social group? A race training group?

etc. etc.

It's better to join a group that is slightly slower and know where you stand than to get dropped from kilometer zero.
10-15-08, 06:33 PM
#3
RacerOne
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If your average pace is 17, it is my opinion that you'd have a tough time hanging with a 20 mph group. But heck, try to ride with them anyway. Worst that can happen is you end up riding by yourself like normal.
10-15-08, 06:34 PM
#4
Flatballer
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Do the fast group. If you get dropped, go back and do it again. Repeat as needed until you win the sprint at the end. Then find a faster group.
10-15-08, 06:34 PM
#5
blavelle
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you're thinking about it too much. You should easily be able to hang with the 20mph group. If you get dropped, ride harder then try again.
10-15-08, 06:36 PM
#6
Sinn
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Try the slow one first. Then, when you get bored because you are stronger and ready to go faster, join the faster ride.

Also, drafting does make a difference. But one also has to learn how to draft efficiently and safely, i.e., without constantly tapping the brakes and without running into someone's rear wheel. The slow group is probably a good place to learn to draft. The fast group will either drop your or you may cause a wreck.
10-15-08, 06:39 PM
#7
Harun
:p

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∞ mph
10-15-08, 06:47 PM
#8
DrakeSuperbus
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I didn't even think about the safety issue of drafting without causing a wreck. I think I'll try the slow group once or twice until I at least get the hang of it (the last thing I need is to be worrying about rubbing wheels while I'm gasping for air).

Any tips on draftin properly?
10-15-08, 06:48 PM
#9
uke
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Just do it.
10-15-08, 06:56 PM
#10
Motman320
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Originally Posted by harun
∞ mph
+1
10-15-08, 06:57 PM
#11
127.0.0.1
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Originally Posted by Flatballer
Do the fast group. If you get dropped, go back and do it again. Repeat as needed until you win the sprint at the end. Then find a faster group.
this

just don't jackrabbit unless you like suffering. jackrabbit is good and you get fast
but usually end up riding alone for a long time till you are a player
10-15-08, 06:59 PM
#12
rm -rf
don't try this at home.

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I'd plan on maybe 2 mph over your average speed. See this bike speed calculator: for their default road rider, 160 watts gets 17.3 mph, and 200 watts equivalent (25% higher) gets 18.8 mph. Even 400 watts is just 24 mph.

A lot depends on how close the group drafts, and how strong they are on hills. I can hang in a very fast (for me) group until they start climbing hills, then I get dropped. The average speed includes stops and hills, so the flat road pace may be faster than the average speed indicates. Also, most group rides seem to get faster later in the year.

So, like the other posters said, just give it a try. If you've never ridden in a group, try one that seems slightly too slow, for practice.

Last edited by rm -rf; 10-15-08 at 07:02 PM.
10-15-08, 07:00 PM
#13
Hickeydog
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Ride with the slow group first. Do that once. You will learn a lot of good riding techniques. But after that, go ride with the fast group. They will drop you. That's find. Go back and get dropped again. Keep going back and you will be able to keep up with them. It will hurt, but it is worth the pain.
__________________
Originally Posted by Wordbiker

What's frightening is how coherent Hickey was in posting that.
10-15-08, 07:01 PM
#14
bostongarden
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Agree with many others, just go give it a whirl...
10-15-08, 07:01 PM
#15
z415
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Math beyond addition in cycling is most likely useless.

10-15-08, 07:02 PM
#16
Sinn
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Originally Posted by DrakeSuperbus
I didn't even think about the safety issue of drafting without causing a wreck. I think I'll try the slow group once or twice until I at least get the hang of it (the last thing I need is to be worrying about rubbing wheels while I'm gasping for air).

Any tips on draftin properly?
Its not too hard. The three rules of thumb that I use are: 1. keep a distance of about 30 cm at least and 1 meter at most between your front wheel and the other's rear wheel, 2. never tap your brakes in the line, always try to eschalon out of the line before resorting to brakes (this is to keep the person 30 cm off your rear wheel from running into you), 3. always try to stay shoulder to shoulder with the person you are riding next to. Rule 3 is flexible though, it depends on how disciplined the group is in general or on that particular ride.
10-15-08, 07:03 PM
#17
ridethecliche
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Originally Posted by RacerOne
If your average pace is 17, it is my opinion that you'd have a tough time hanging with a 20 mph group. But heck, try to ride with them anyway. Worst that can happen is you end up riding by yourself like normal.
I hung in a 4/5 crit at 25mph average for a 4 corner crit (aka lots of surges and slow downs and speed ups) and my average speed on rides was like 16 or 17 mph.

Group rides are a totally different ball game. I can push so much harder riding in a group that it's ridiculous. I'm working on pushing harder when riding by myself. To the OP, just start out with the easier group, even if it is on your easier days. Once you learn the techniques and etiquette, start riding with the faster group get dropped and do it again till you can stay with them. Once you can stay with them, try to work the group and dictate the pace. Then find a faster group.

Rinse and repeat!

(Credit to botto).
10-15-08, 07:50 PM
#18
KiddSisko
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Go and do it. If you make a mistake, they will yell at you the appropriate corrective measure.
10-15-08, 07:59 PM
#19
bigtea
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I think John Howard got up to about 152mph drafting behind a race car when he set the bicycling speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats. However, I'm not sure you want to try that without a cork in your bib pads.
10-15-08, 08:08 PM
#20
pdedes
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Joining a group ride involves a bit of etiquette, especially if you are new and they are experienced, after all, you may just be jeopardizing their safety. Draft reasonably close, don't open gaps, don't overlap wheels and when you take your turn at the front maintain the speed of the group. Figure out how to set up a proper echelon. If the wind is off your left shoulder, don't put the group in the gutter.

If you're finding it difficult maintaining the pace, shorten your turns at the front before hanging on to the back of the paceline. If the group contests sprints, offer to lead out. It'll keep you out of the way when they're getting the blue sign and you'll get some sprint practice without endangering anyone (just keep your speed high and ride in a straight line).

You don't have to yell "car back" every time, but point out bad potholes, or better yet, steer the group around them.

If all this hasn't dissuaded you, have fun, 'cause you'll go faster and further than you've gone before.

Peter
10-15-08, 08:34 PM
#21
kudude
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Originally Posted by DrakeSuperbus
I've spent that past few months riding by myself. I enjoy it, but I would like to join a group ride soon. The only problem is that they either go too slow or too fast. On my solo rides, I've been maintaining a 3:30 pace, which puts me right around 17 mph. The slow group lists their speed at 16mph; the fast group lists their speed as around 20mph.

However, I've recently read that drafting decreases your workload by 25%. If that is so, I should hypothetically be able to maintain around 21mph with the same effort (1.25*17). This leads me to believe that I can join up and hang with the paceline. Am I correct in my assumption, or does the math cease to work once my shorts hit the saddle?

If it matters at all, their 20mph rides would be only slightly longer than my solo rides (35 vs 30 miles).
no.
10-15-08, 10:05 PM
#22
dahvaio
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I think you could keep up with a 20MPH crew... However, I think there are a ton of variables which would come into play:

1. Group could be cruising at 30+MPH over certain portions of the ride. If you can't hang on then it would be very difficult to catch up.

2. Hills - Enough Said

3. Stop Lights - Some Groups mash pretty hard until they get up to speed. This can be difficult, if you are constantly sprinting.

In the end, the only way you are going to know for sure is to ride with the group. Don't ride with the slower group, no point in it. Most groups who ride that slow are recreational - I doubt they would even maintain a good paceline.
10-15-08, 10:18 PM
#23
travkat
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No matter what you do with either group you should make sure you spend some time learning how to ride in a tight group. Learn to draft properly, take pulls, echelon, pointing out hazards etc. You will be dropped from the fast group for sure the first few times you ride with them but don't be discouraged. Keep at it and you will get faster.
10-15-08, 10:37 PM
#24
sonic six13
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I have worked my way up to 38 MPH before on flats and held it steady for quite sometime.

It was me and a cat 4 racer. It was a blast
10-15-08, 10:55 PM
#25
sharkey00
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