How to Draft
Drafting saves energy and gives you an extra edge, whether that’s for riding a 100-mile sportive faster or winning the sprint in a road race. The closer you are the more shelter you will get from the rider in front, ideally 6 to 12 inches. Choose someone of equal ability so you can share turns on the front and work as a team.
Don’t obsess about touching wheels, just leave enough time and space for any eventualities. Try to anticipate hazards and changes in speed or direction by looking 20m to 30m down the road past the rider in front, rather than staring at their wheel. Communicate with other riders and look behind before you change line or speed. Don’t overlap wheels with the rider in front.
Drafting is best for flat or undulating roads. Drafting uphill will give a reduced aerodynamic advantage due to the lower speeds, and you’re probably better off tackling the hill at your own pace. Same applies to going downhill, where you will still gain an advantage, but if you have to pedal hard to keep up with better descenders you will be using more energy than you save.
Drafting works in all conditions. However, you need to be aware of how wet or loose surface conditions will severely diminish the bike handling capabilities of you and the riders around you, especially when cornering and braking. Also, beware of reduced visibility from spray and rain. Try to leave more room and time to react and keep your own lines and riding as smooth as you can.
The best place to draft isn’t necessarily directly behind the rider in front. If you were racing or riding on closed roads in a crosswind, the best draft might be at an angle offset from their wheel. Pick up clues of the wind direction by looking at flags and trees – and, of course, other riders.
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