Friday, June 18, 2010

Lessons From Behind The Paceline

Last night seemed like a good time to try out one of the local group rides in Salem. People get together after work and ride for a couple of hours. I got there just in time to hop onto the tail end of a “medium” pace group...and I was on the tail end the entire ride. I got spanked.
Once the group got out into open countryside, they began to pick up the speed.  The lead dog set a pace of about 25 mph and everybody stayed in a tight paceline formation. I was, um, not.  As the caboose, I was all over the place. When I could get into the slipstream, I was able to keep up.  But then I’d either fall off my own cadence or get stuck behind somebody else who did, and get spun off. I was pedaling my brains out while guys in the middle of the pack ahead were coasting! I was grateful for the guy who took pity on a couple of us stragglers.  “Get behind my wheel, “I’ll pull you in.” it worked like a charm. 

I've got to figure this out.
The aerodynamics of drafting are sort of basic: the lead locomotive works harder than everyone else.  The second rider slips in right behind, into the vacuum created by the leader, and works about 20% less. In the middle of the pack, you can be working half as hard as the leader. When the leader needs a break, the next person pushes forward, and the rotation continues.  Here's a clip to describe it. You have to keep your nerve and ride tightly for this to work. Stay about 12” off the back wheel of the person just ahead of you. Ride smooth and avoid any sudden moves. Feather your braking to keep from starting a chain reaction crash. And don't miss a beat with the group cadence or you'll lose it.  That was my downfall.
This kind of riding is foreign to me.  As a result, I was my own lead rider most of the time.  I suppose that means I got a better workout than most people!  By the end of the ride I was pooped. 

And ready to try again.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

It's amazing to me that birds do this naturally!