it’s a well-known fact that drafting is the key to success in nearly all aspects of road biking, with the exception of the individual time trial where it’ll get you pariah status faster than you can say ‘75% of the effort’.
i don’t know if i speak for other cyclists or not, but one of the things i live for as a cyclist is that moment when the absolutely perfect draft appears out of nowhere. i had one that was nigh on perfect today. i turned into a long section of B road and up ahead an enormous low-loader was just turning out of a works depot onto the main road. i slammed it into the small cog and gave it everything to get on terms before it accelerated away from me. this is the first essential ingredient of the draft – you’ve got to get on terms, commit straight away and grab the lift.
the rear trailer had two enormous wheel ramps on either side, shielding me entirely from the wind. i tucked in behind and rapidly moved into the 11 sprocket, churning over the big gear like dave le grys, but without the differential gearing (something Adam from the BBP told me about but i forget how it works, it basically means you can push 300 inches or something).
i managed to cling on, completely out of the wind and quite possibly scaring the cars behind. i can’t help but think that it must be a bit of a spectacle, although this is tempered slightly by the knowledge that from inside of a car nothing looks that fast. cyclists doing 25+mph look positively pedestrian, if that’s not a contradiction too far.
So anyway, after a short while i stole a quick glance at the garmin and realised i was doing nearly 40mph. on the flat! i felt super strong, the Ole Ritter of Long Ashton. I averaged 30mph for about a mile on my road bike, and peaked out at 40. it was a fantastic drafting experience and made up for those times i’ve tried to grab a cement lorry or other such and left with a sudden build-up of lactic acid and not a lot else.
The best drafting experience i ever had was on an after work ride, from Bristol to a friend’s house in Lynmouth. It was a bit of an epic, about 90 miles, finishing with Porlock in the last 10. To compound matters i had to battle a vile headwind across the flats from axbridge to minehead. There’s a flat section after Minehead, and suddenly the guardian angel of cycling sent me a Massey Ferguson, replete with high sided trailer and a top speed of 30mph. I managed to draft the combo for 9 blissful miles. When he finally turned off i couldn’t help but laugh and he gave me a thumbs up.
The most cinematic draft ever is in Breaking Away, Peter Yates’ amazing rites of passage film that also has some cycling in it. i’ve posted it before. it’s here.