Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hammer Time

This evening as I was riding home, I caught up with another cyclist just as I had taken a turn into the 15 mph west wind. I'm still riding my beast of an ancient mountain bike and was wearing my nylon shells, so I was basically a big sail. The cyclist I caught was wearing a nice kit and riding a nice bike, so I figured I'd tuck in behind him and let him pace me into the wind for a bit.

Drafting another cyclist is remarkably effective. That's why you see pros do it in the races all the time. The thing is, in order to get the benefit of the draft, you have to follow fairly closely. There is some skill involved in doing this, but generally people won't try it unless they're pretty comfortable on the bike. There's also a lot of etiquette around what you should do if you catch another cyclist, but generally you should just acknowledge each others presence and then offer to take turn on the front after a while.

So as I fell in behind the other cyclist, I saw him look back at me and I gave him a nod and a smile. He kept looking back at me though, so I said "Hope you don't mind if I catch your draft for a bit while we're heading into the wind." Instead of responding, he slowed down and waved me around saying something. I pulled up alongside and said, "What?" He said "You're too close, I'm not comfortable with that."

"Okay, sorry." I said. But I'm thinking, you're on a nice Giant road bike. You're kitted out in race-cut spandex. And you're not comfortable with someone drafting you? If you were some kid on a fixie or another commuter I would understand, but a roadie in full kit?

So I did what any self-respecting cyclist would do. I put my head down over the handlebars of my 40 pound tank of a mountain bike, dialed it up into the highest gear-- a paltry 44x13-- and proceeded to put the hammer down, leaving him in my dust.

Moral of the story: if you're going to wear the kit, learn the rules.