16 Jun Riding A Wheel
Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU: https://www.pexels.com
No doubt you’ve heard the phrase, but what does it actually mean to “ride a wheel”? While it’s not rocket science, getting comfortable riding in close proximity to another rider or riders does take practice.
Riding a wheel in cycling is also referred to as “drafting.” Drafting is when one rider (or a group of riders, also called a peloton) tucks in behind another cyclist’s bike and rides with their front wheel as close as possible to the back wheel of the bike in front without touching it. Drafting protects the rider from the wind, and as a result, generates 30-40% less power to go the same speed as the lead rider (who is pulling at the front).
The best way to draft is to relax your grip and upper body and ride with your head up. Looking forward (and not down at the wheel directly in front of you) will enable you to be aware of all the dynamics around you and to keep a steady distance from the wheel in front. The number one rule for drafting is to NEVER OVERLAP A WHEEL. This way, if the rider in front must move laterally for any reason (pothole, wind gust, etc.), there will not be contact, thereby avoiding a crash.
When riding in a group or even if it is only two riders drafting each other, do not make any sudden, unexpected moves without warning. Lead or follow the wheel in front in a constant and steady line without suddenly surging or breaking. It is also important for any riders that move from the drafting position to the lead position, to accelerate gradually and not accelerate too quickly, causing a big gap and subsequently causing the riders behind to have to sprint to get back into the drafting position.
Practice by riding as close to the wheel in front of you as you feel comfortable and get progressively closer as your confidence builds. Focus on what is happening in front of you when riding with others. Turning around is dangerous and may cause you to touch a wheel in front of you which can lead to a crash that takes down the riders behind you.
So, stay focused, relax, keep your gaze forward, practice, practice, practice, and enjoy the faster ride with way less effort!