Drafting is an essential skill to have in road racing and even large group rides or sportives. Drafting helps you to save energy – in fact up to a massive 30 watts saving or up to approx. 20% energy saving. You will have seen every rider in road racing do this as it is part of road racing and large group rides. The technique is used very specifically in things like leading out, sprinting, saving energy, hanging on to stronger riders when your fatiguing and/or sheltering from the wind, but how do they do it? Learn how to draft with us here today!
Tips on How to Draft:
So, drafting is quite an art and it’s does take some practice. It’s good to start with your local cycle club, people who you know, trust and ride with regularly.
Know your Team
When learning to draft or ride a wheel, you need to know the riders in front of you. Trust plays a huge part in drafting. You need to put your trust in the riders in the group to know that they are not going to send you into a pothole or change direction suddenly and cause a crash, or even try and get you off their wheel so you aren’t able to draft. It requires confidence and concentration to perform this technique well. The more you practice the better you will get at it.
Close the gap between yourself and the rider in front
In order to ride a wheel successfully you need to be as close as possible without being dangerous, overlapping wheels, and catching the riders in front with your front wheel. These things can all happen so quickly and bring you and others behind you down, which is not what you want! So to start with, get as close as you feel comfortable and work to getting closer the more experienced and comfortable that you get.
Shelter yourself from the wind
On the other hand if you are using this technique to shelter from wind then you need to know which direction the wind is coming from and ride on the other side of the riders in front so that you can feel the benefit of the shelter. The exact direction of the wind all depends on where about you need to sit on the wheel as you may have seen in the pro peloton when echelons are formed.
Use drafting for a sprint finish
Using drafting to help in winning sprints is really helpful – especially if you have a team or another rider happy to lead you out and sit on their wheel leading up to the finish. The slip stream gives you a sling shot effect whilst saving your energy for as long as possible until the moment you need to kick out and sprint for the line. Most professional and semi-professional teams will discuss this strategy before the race starts in order to execute the perfect lead out.
Sprinting is quite an art and doesn't come naturally to everyone. With all the time, money and training you can put into the sport it's very easy to forget it's the first person across the line that wins the bike race, not necessarily the fittest or the strongest. Read our handy guide on how to sprint.
Drafting in Sportives
Sportives – These can be really fast paced and long distance events so most riders will draft at some point through the the ride. Group riders will often take it in turns to go on the front of the group and rotate throughout the ride. This gives everyone the chance to recover and also do their turn.
It’s not easy on the front!
You will find that a lot of riders are happy to help out the weaker riders in the group and let them sit in or draft all the way round.
Whatever you use the technique for it’s a good skill to have so you can use this to your advantage wherever you can.