Friday, May 15, 2009

Finding the Sweet Spot

Learning to Draft

So you know I'm new to this whole cycling thing, and during most of my training up to this point, I've been flying solo. I've had a few rides with Chad, a couple with Todd, and who could forget the accidental group ride. I'm finding that riding with others is a lot more fun than riding alone. Certainly to get in enough mileage and training, I'm going to have to ride alone once in awhile, but from now on, I'll be trying to find a partner or partners for my long rides. Not only does it go by a bit faster with a little conversation, and human interaction, but I've found the sweet spot as far as drafting goes a couple times and man is that fun.

Todd and I got in a ride on Wednesday after work. He had come to ride at my house once already so we decided to meet at his place and take a ride down Route 10. As it may sound, Route 10 is not a very picturesque ride, and has some traffic, especially the time of day that we were riding, but it has it's positives too. First of all, it's strait out and back. If you want to get in 20 miles, just ride ten out and turn around, longer or shorter doesn't matter, just turn around when you want to be half done... nice and easy. Also, it's fairly flat, and the "hills" it does have are long and gradual, making the climb up not too grueling, and the ride down long and fast. On this particular day, the wind was howling and believe it or not, I had my first experience "drafting" going uphill. Todd had taken the lead and we we're churning up one of those long slopes and the wind was really making it harder than it needed to be. I decided to get right on Todd's wheel, and all of the sudden it was like someone flipped a light switch on the wind. I thought maybe it had just died down, but sure enough, as I pulled out to the left, I was slapped in the face with that stiff breeze again. Like a kid who just touched the stove for the first time, I quickly reacted and slipped right back in behind Todd. Wow. It actually makes a difference. I'm sure you can picture me riding along for the next half mile or so, weaving in and out of the sweet spot, smile on my face, making sure it was a real phenomenon. Like for once I was conquering the wind that has tormented me for the past couple months riding alone. Now I had the power to stick my face in the wind, stick my tongue out, and before the wind could get back at me, I could sneak back in behind Todd and keep rolling along. Like I said... sweet.

The only downside here, as I'm sure all of you real cyclists out there already realized, it's not really fair to your riding buddy, to sit behind him in the sweet spot all ride. Suddenly, it was my turn to ride in front, Todd coasted to the back and I took up the lead position. I was like that guy in a fight that had been held back by his buddies, but was suddenly not being held back anymore. Not so tough now, am I? It was like the wind knew it. It was waiting patiently while I was in the draft grinning ear to ear like an idiot, waiting for me to be back in front, at it's mercy so it could really blow. And blow it was it windy that day, at least on the way out. Luckily we were able to take turns in front, and when we turned around at the halfway point, the wind was finally at our backs, as if to say it's nothing personal.

Even with the wind at our backs, the draft was still very real on the downhills. It was amazing to me, to be behind Todd while he's pedaling his guts out and all I had to do to keep up was to stay close to his rear tire and coast along. I think I've mentioned before than I'm quickly becoming addicted to the speed that cycling offers and this draft thing is a whole new dimension in speed. Awesome, I can't wait to explore it more. Any tips would be much appreciated. As much fun as it is, I can see how riding that close together provides ample opportunity for catastrophe. Just always be alert I guess. Group ride planned again for Saturday morning so we'll see how it goes. Can't wait.

1 comment:

  1. Drafting rocks. Just make sure the person in front of you makes an announcement when he decides to launch snot rockets. That could be catastrophic.


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