Friday Group Ride #108

Rider A leaves his home for a solo ride. He’s not training. He’s just riding. Thinking. He chooses a familiar route, popular among local cyclists and sets himself a comfortable pace.

After a few miles, Rider A comes upon Rider B and slowly overtakes him. Rider B, without a word, surges forward to sit on Rider A’s wheel. Rider A says nothing. Rider B says nothing. Rider A rides, and Rider B sits on.

This goes on for a few miles, when the pair come upon a hill. Rider B jumps off Rider A’s wheel and attacks the climb out of the saddle. Soon though, Rider B is faltering, struggling. Rider A, who has maintained his pace, approaches and passes Rider B again.

And again, Rider B jumps on Rider A’s wheel and follows to the top of the climb. At this point, Rider A is annoyed that Rider B is roosting on his wheel and when the next natural turn comes, Rider A pulls off and takes a different route to reclaim his solitude.

An etiquette question this week: What should have happened here? Is it ok to draft other cyclists without asking permission? Is it incumbent on the passing rider to declare whether or not it’s ok to draft? If you’re on a popular route do you relinquish your right to ride alone? And at what point is it too late to talk it over?



  1. Picchio

    Hell, I’d be annoyed after B jumped after sitting on for however long. Under similar circumstances, after the initial catch, I’d speed up, try to chat up A for a couple of minutes, then ask permission to wheelsuck. But that’s just me.

  2. JohnG

    I rarely ride alone and most of the time with a group even if it may be a couple of buddies. At times I’ve been alone and latched onto a group, I stay at the back and never make an attempt to pass them at any moment. I will stay behind them and not even all that close behind. At a light or a stop, I may ask the last person if it’s ok to tag along. If I attack the group it will be because I am in the final stretch to my rest stop or end of the ride. If I falter and they pass me, I soft pedal by myself not making any attempt latch on again. However, when I’m riding alone and someone latches onto me. I enjoy setting the pace (a la Voigt) and do not mind all that much. I will pick MY tempo and pull and don’t say a word. If I tire, I slow up and if the person drafting me wants a faster tempo, he/she will have to pass me and keep going.

    Lastly, where I ride (Miami), there are ZERO climbs so I do not have that concern in your post.

  3. VeloVolpe

    If you leave a hole in the air unattended, you have no right to claim that it is off limits… you are allowed to ask me to make one for you, however.

  4. Michael Schlitzer

    I think you’ve got to at least ask. If I’m out taking it easy and somebody jumps on my wheel I just up it to try and drop them so I can get back to being alone even if it “messes with my program”. If you say “mind if I sit on” then I have no problem with it. I mean, where is that person supposed to go if not on your wheel? It’s just a courtesy thing to ask.

  5. Kieselguhr Kid

    There’s no right answer but it’s probably best to ask permission rather than beg for forgiveness on this one.
    I’ve had days where someone sucking my wheel just encourages me to go faster and means more fun for both of us (these experiences usually earn a smile and a “thanks” from the wheelsucker, an acknowledgement that I’m faster but a shared appreciation for the fun of riding fast). I’ve also had days where I didn’t want the responsibility of having a wheelsucker back there or I could tell it was someone who was just using the opportunity to rest a bit then sprint for his turn-off which I would have no warning was coming just so he could feel he’d beaten someone. I try to be accepting but my competitive side doesn’t like that. These ones are extra annoying when they are just fast enough you can’t ride them off your wheel or when stops/traffic mean they keep catching back up to you.

  6. Rik Van Looy

    Rider B should have just let Rider A go on his merry way. Deciding to jump on someone’s wheel during “just a ride” doesn’t even make any sense. They weren’t competing for anything or training together. When Rider B is driving his car does he feel the need to keep up with all of those that happen to pass him? If Rider B wants to “train” then he should make arrangements to do with like-minded cyclists. It would be different if Riders A and B both decided to have an impromptu training session ocne they met on the road. Of course, this would require communication and common courtesy on both parts.

  7. producifer

    When I’m riding alone, I usually prefer not to be talking. Drafting without “permission” is preferable to a stranger yammering away at me. If someone is annoying you by drafting, you can simply stop for a minute & then resume- no need to talk at all. It works for this misanthrope.

  8. Peter

    Personally, I really get annoyed when people pass me without a wave or a greeting. I am equally annoyed when people hop on my wheel unannounced and without asking if it is okay with me. I feel like they are putting a responsibility upon me to point out pot holes, glass, or other dangerous obstacles. This takes away the pleasure that I might be seeking to zone out or perhaps to zone in. Also it sometimes hinders my ability to blow my nose or fart with little care.

  9. John Patrick

    In this situation, if rider B is faltering on the hills, there is no reason not to make him suffer. GGANRFF…Ride on.

  10. andrew

    Usually, if someone catches you from behind, they are faster than you. So they ought to just keep going, instead of sitting on your wheel. I know this is what I try to do. It’s harder when you’re catching and passing a whole group of people- there’s usually someone there who wants to break off and go with you. Which is fine, unless they surge ahead and then can’t handle the pace and just screw everything up.

  11. Alex TC

    As my mom always said, a little courtesy can only make good. Sure doesn´t hurt. You never know the state of spirit of the other person, so a nice word or asking politely is enough, whatever the case may be. From then, it´s up to A and B.

  12. EatiusBirdius

    Wait, you mean you can actually catch up with people? Man…I need to experience this. 🙂

    Now that you have knowledge of my abilities, lets just say I’m always the one getting passed. That being the case, lets just pretend I could catch up. I would definitely ask for the privilege to suck someones wheel. And since we’re pretending, if I attacked on a hill, I would most likely give them “The Look” as I flew past and then start yelling out the blow by blow details in my best Liggett impression.

    Hope that gives you some impression on what’s it’s like for the guy that is always off the back.

  13. grolby

    My main objection isn’t really someone stealing a draft per se, it’s that someone coming up behind me and following me is friggin’ CREEPY. I have no idea why the people who do this wouldn’t realize how incredibly rude it is. Would you slide in behind a random person on the sidewalk and walk directly behind them for block after block? Not if you have a normal level of social ability.

    Luckily, it’s only happened to me once, which is how I know that it’s creepy. I found that it annoyed me enough to really crank up my pace – it was clear that this was a less-experienced, weaker cyclist than me. To my aggravation, the increase in pace didn’t send the message that his presence was unwelcome, his breathing just got louder. So after a little while of this, I gave a good strong kick to dislodge him and settled back into my fast rhythm, and that did the trick. It was pretty passive-aggressive; in the future, I think it would be better to just call out a limpet on the rudeness of their behavior.

  14. Adam

    I think a quick, ‘mind if I jump on’ is appropriate though not necassary. I also think a ‘thanks for the ride’ at the end is courteous. Sucking wheel and then jumping someone is the equivalent of being in a car, shooting up the empty turning lane and then trying to merge in at the front to go straight. You’re not a genius for thinking of that, and yeah, I guess it’s legal, but that doesn’t mean you’re not a tosser.

  15. grolby

    Peter – my honest opinion is that you are under no obligation to point out obstacles to someone who is on your wheel without your explicit agreement. The appropriate approach to pacelining is the same as the appropriate approach to sex – explicit consent from all parties involved. Same deal with blowing your nose. If they haven’t asked or you haven’t invited them, pretend they aren’t there and blow away.

  16. Ransom

    I’m with Peter, and I think grolby makes a fair point, but the bottom line is that if something happens in front of me I don’t want to be worrying about the unknown behind me who may collect me if I slow a bit quickly.

    It can be an awkward question. When I catch somebody, it’s not always because I’m going so fast I blow by them, and if I’ve been going a bit hard, it can be difficult to ramp it up enough to pass at a reasonable pace and hold it there long enough to establish a gap.

    It happens too often to want to have a conversation every time I pass (or get passed), but like walking down the street or on cruise control on the highway, sometimes the closing speed leaves you either following or being followed longer than seems polite, and then there are all those little subconscious adjustments to speed people seem to do just when you think you’ve got your actions sorted out…

    Perhaps Miss Manners has some delightfully common-sense answer to this one. I don’t.

  17. armybikerider

    Doen’t bother me. If a guy wants to draft, let him. It’s a free country. I’m with Producefir on this question. I ride alone 90% of the time precisely to get away from people and “zone out.” I’d rather they sit behind me than ride beside me and want to talk.

    What really annoys me is the dreaded “half-wheeler.”

    1. Padraig

      Everyone: Thanks for all the terrific responses. Like Grolby, I have to admit that it creeps me out that someone would just suddenly jump on my wheel without at least saying hi. I make a point to say hi to other riders I see, and if they’re too far away (like the other side of the street) I at least nod. I suggest to riders in my book “The No-Drop Zone” to ask permission. Etiquette goes a long way. For new riders who don’t understand what the fuss is, I liken it to tailgating. You expect it in NASCAR, but you don’t expect it in your neighborhood. I think a simple, “Mind if I jump on?” does wonders.

      There is an oft-told tale around these parts of a rider riding so close to a buddy of mine that she overlapped wheels and because he didn’t know she was back there, when he went to turn, she ran into his wheel and took him down. She jumped up immediately and started saying over and over, “I didn’t do antyhing.” Trashed his rear wheel, if I recall. Her name was Ginger and from then on, we call that move “Getting Gingered.” We use it any time someone causes a crash from behind.

  18. gene r

    I see nothing wrong at all drafting under those circumstances. After all it wasn’t a race or group ride. If your riding your own pace was does it matter if someone is on you wheel? I’ve been on both sides of that coin. It’s nothing.

  19. RayG

    I don’t like strangers on my wheel because they have no idea what I’m going to do next. And if they’ve got on without me knowing it, I’m not going to be able to tell them. And I’m not exactly un-erratic. Or sociable.

  20. Alex TC

    “The draft is mine, I’m producing it therefore I demand you to ask permission to ride my wheel?” LOL I’m kidding here but hey… Come on… OK, sometimes it IS annoying when someone simply sticks to your wheel without saying a word… but creepy? Sucking wheel is part of cycling since they invented the velocipede. Shadowing someone on a sidewalk, on the other hand, not. If I want to ride alone for whatever reason, I’ll just up the pace, do a Jens Voigt or (quite probably in my case) slow down untill he gets bored.

    1. Padraig

      Tashkent Error: You have a talent for comedy. I’d develop that.

      RayG: And that point is, no one should require you to be either of those.

      Alex TC: For me it’s creepy like someone-you-don’t-know-getting-in-your-car-with-you creepy. It’s a bit familiar when it’s not part of a group ride. Personal space and all.

  21. The Potato Man

    For me it depends what sort of ride I am doing. If I am doing a cruisy recovery style ride then I couldn’t care less what you do, I’ll just keep riding as if you weren’t there.

    If I am doing a hard ride then you’ll have to earn that draft. I will use you as motivation to go harder and will surge up the hills to try to drop you. In doing this I will try to look as comfortable as possible and put out the vibe that I am not trying that hard and am dropping you easily.

    If you attacked me and rode away up that hill then I will console myself that you had my draft and were thus fresher than I was for that climb. Of course I would also think you were a douche for needing to beat some random guy you had been drafting for the last 5km. This rarely happens though, the people who tag onto other people like this generally need a draft to maintain the pace.

  22. James

    If I was rider A (which I never am) I would have been blowing snot rockets constantly when the 2nd wheel suck occurred. Hell, I probably would have blown snot rockets when he first sat on my wheel without saying something!

  23. kosh

    Rider B is improving by attempting to hold the wheel of a clearly stronger rider.

    It is good training. Why should rider B not challenge his legs on a hill? And by selecting a popular route, rider A (being obviously experienced) should expect this to happen and has no legitimate complaint or reasonable grounds for annoyance. However, for Mr B, it is also polite to greet or thank rider A.

    I have been both A and B. There is no wrong being performed here.

  24. Gnome

    The road is a social affair. Interact with respect, panache & diplomacy at all times. Both rider A and B failed equally to uphold this pact of our collective existence.

  25. Norm

    The etiquette comes into play before the hill, that is, as soon as one rider makes a decision to draft on another. Say “hello”… one of you, say it. The rider desiring draft should initiate the greeting, but if that rider is a newbie or merely unfamiliar with the niceties of cycling, then the rider giving draft should just pull aside gently, say howdy and see what’s up. If the rider desiring draft is a decent person then the twain can work out if they should ride together and –if so– riding and maybe conversation can follow. If the rider desiring draft acts dodgy then I usually steer clear, follow about 5 bike lengths back, then either make a right turn (or is it a left) at Albuquerque, or if I’m confident I can sweep past the rider at some point I’ll do so quickly.

  26. Champs

    Wheelsucking will always happen, because nothing is more motivating than another rider down the road.

    The situation is more or less a game, but there aren’t many absolute rules. It *is* Rider B’s responsibility to leave bigger gaps where there are possible turns and never to half-wheel.

    As Rider A, I give B some free time on the wheel just to see where things are going. I carry on as if nothing is happening, using those moments to size up the new trailer on my hitch.

    As Rider B, staring at the back of your head isn’t the kind of ride I had in mind, because I could just go on a group ride and do the same thing. It’s probably just recovery time from the difficult gap I instinctually closed.

    Whatever these characters’ motivations, they should have a feel for each other after a brief evaluation period. It could be that we work well together—that’s when I say hi. If the feelings aren’t so great, either rider can A) attempt a devastating attack to drop and shame the other, or B) swallow some pride and slip back. It’s not really a race, but egos are on the line all the same.

    Now ride, and get yourself some humility.

  27. spiff

    Rider B is my riding partner whether I’m with him or not.
    In DC known as the “Beech Drive Bandit”.

    If you pass him at the right speed he will jump on your wheel without thinking about it,man,woman,young or old. For some its a competitive nature. He says that cycling is about chasing or being chased. And around here between the racers and club riders, there is more than enough competitive edge(ego)to go around.

  28. Ken

    The road is free and open to everyone so unless they get in front of me fall down and take me down I’m happy someone else is riding their bike. Even better if they are friendly- appear to be enjoying themselves. I try to extend this attitude to non-bicyclists- pedestrians, cars, motorcycles, trucks, skateboarders, uni-cyclists, triathletes.

  29. gmknobl

    It’s okay for a little bit. I don’t mind pulling and I don’t mind following. Usually if they are following me, they can’t keep up after I get up a head of steam. Usually if I am following I can’t keep up but for five or ten minutes then I say thanks and they go on into the distance.

    But for more than a bit, ask if you can draft, especially uphill, or say thanks for the draft. If you happen to be in comparable shape or you can climb better but don’t mind going slower, tell them you’ll take a pull if they want. That last is tricky though. You have to go fast enough to give let them push themselves a wee bit if they want but not so fast that they can’t follow. And if they want to rest, it’s polite to go slower and let them keep up. Hopefully on the flats or rolling hills they’ll let you draft.

    Sometimes, when you run into a newbie, it’s good to explain things to them. Everyone has to learn sometime.

    To sum up, ask nicely and say thank you either way. Like your mom used to say, say please and thank you.

    And yes, I’ve been Gingered too. The worst time was when I caught up to some people, passed them on a long downhill section. They caught up and stayed there on my wheel – two people. Then when I was tiring a bit, I moved quickly off to my left and slowed. They complained I had almost caused a high speed accident! A) It was not a race but a ride. B) You didn’t have to draft off me. C) Sometimes stuff happens and you have to move quickly (not that time) so ALWAYS leave enough room for quick maneuvers.

  30. randomactsofcycling

    It’s amazing how many riders here are so much faster than everyone else and able to up the pace at will!

  31. Jon

    As an expat living in an asian country, I have found that every ride I do will become a competition with local riders if I allow it to happen. I have been both rider A & B, but usually if I don’t want to up the pace to drop someone, or I want to have some peace I will just slack pace enough that they will pass me. Even then though, I will usually say a quick hello/goodbye.

  32. A Stray Velo

    First of all someone should have said hi and the rest of the questions could have easily been answered during that conversation. The fact that it went on further with no one ever saying anything is a bit comical.

    For being a pretty social sport I’m still amazed at how often situations like this occur.

    I personally find it to be a bit rude if someone drafts without asking. So usually I move left and slow down. Then I say hello and try to determine if this is a friendly cyclist or weekend warrior trying to add another notch to their belt so he/she can tell everyone on Monday how many riders they passed while out on their Sunday ride. If it’s the later, I wish them a nice and either go a different direction or ride really slow.

  33. A Stray Velo

    Ride. Wish them a nice ride I meant. A little too quick on the submit button.

    Sometimes I wish we could edit our comments here…

  34. Neil

    Manners aside, there is an issue of safety. The front rider isn’t always aware there is someone behind him; maybe he’s listening to music, maybe he’s hard of hearing, etc., and the possibility of wheels overlapping or being rear ended is not an insignificant risk the following rider is imposing. At least say hello and let them know you are there. Say “how’s your ride” and you’ll know immediately whether they are ok with you tagging along.

  35. Souleur

    good to be in a group, after getting busted 17hrs yesterday ‘by the man’

    I have to admit, being a lone wolf rider in the midwest, this is not an often occurance, but it does happen

    It all depends on who is who
    And it matters none in that the unwritten Rules of our road/cycling should be followed, and most have already spelled them out in their own eloquent way

    For instance, if I am rider B, and come up on someone, it is incumbant on me to offer ‘good morning’, ‘great pull’, and then go pull for a bit, switch around if it be the case, share a little, and at least give fair shakes that if a hill is coming and he is cracking that fair is fair.

    -on the rare occasion however, that this is a KNOWN rider A I come up on, and after ‘good morning’ we both know…here she goes, breaking legs are all fair and when he cracks, he drops.

    If I am rider A, and a wheelsucker latches on like newborn nursing in the morning, I’m with Kosh…whatever blows out my nose, or spit comes out is fair game. Its the price to pay for being at least a bit lazy…to pull up and not pull, or for being worse, a lazy douchebag. Which is even worse if they latch on and suck for a while, then drop me like a bad habit on a hill. That just hurts on many levels.

    Great ride Robot

  36. Nick

    It’s interesting that most of us seem to be assuming we’re getting wheelsucked and not that we’re the wheelsuckers. I’m sure people on here have stolen a few moments of respite behind a stranger without following the etiquette they’d prefer others to employ.

    The stronger I’ve become on the bike the more I get this. If somebody gets competitive when I’m just cruising along, I tend to laugh when they “attack.” If I don’t want them there, I just give them a wave to pull through and pass me. I find that I’m often leap frogging people though, because a lot of training involves intervals. If I know I’ll be going back and forth past somebody on a popular route, I usually say something to them (“sorry, I’m going to be going back and forth a little bit”). I especially say something if it’s a woman I’ll be leapfrogging. They get enough jerks who can’t stand to have a woman be faster than them. I don’t want to mess with their enjoyment b/c they think I’m another one of those guys.

  37. Jody

    Whether I am rider A or B I say hello. It is a chance to make a new friend. Never know when I’ll meet a new training partner.

  38. DavidA

    These posts are so great!! Since cycling is such an individual type of sport it attracts a lot of shall we say interesting characters. People who define themselves by the “inner” conflict and the ability to overcome it, i.e. not tall enough or coordinated enough for traditional team sports, socially ill at ease with others, fascinated by leg-shaving and the challenge of pushing the body/machine to untold limits etc. etc. In other words alot of oddballs with sometimes strange anti-social behaviors. I don’t really get too creeped out by rider “B” because I have my own pace and set training program to do….all you can do is laugh when they jump you on the hill and take it as a compliment that they have just dropped some climbing PRO in the alps of the TOUR in the drama played out in their head….that being said they need to be safe with their bike handling skills if you decide to slow down or stop or turn suddenly and run into you because their eyes are glued to your back hub.

  39. Wayne

    I will give you a different perspective. My wife and I ride a tandem. We often pass singles on the flat and they love to jump in our huge draft. This has happened thousands of times and we have been asked if it is OK exactly once.

    It really doesn’t bother me to have someone drafting. There is no way they are bringing down our rig with their tiny little bicycle. Usually we take it as motivation to go hard and drop them before any hill coming up because they always jump by us. Always.

    Bottom line is that it does not bother me at all. Enjoy your your ride, don’t give it to somebody else.


  40. Alex

    No need to swap spit, or get chummy; Rider B pulls up to draft Rider A, and declares (audibly!) ” on your wheel”. If B is too winded, or not strong enough, sit on and shut up. If B feels good, take a pull, establish parity, and only then, after a couple of pulls, B can attack.

  41. dacrizzow

    it’s cool. it may depend a bit on the aggressiveness of the “drafting” but i see it as more of an “hey, what’s up?” rather than anything else. i’ve met some very cool people while doing this and having it done to me. we cyclists tend to get in our own heads a bit too much and get wrapped up in these “rules.” it’s good to have them shaken or challenged from time to time.

  42. DVeritas

    “Sitting on” implies there’s someone creating the slot. If you can find the slot, ask if you can slide in and, should the the lead rider slide left, honor it and begin the dance…for as long as the wave holds up. Enjoy it.

  43. Tim

    Riding here around DC has become a bit disheartening. Wobbly riders, and riders impeding traffic(we’re going to lose the fight for the hearts and minds if we keep pissing off the people in cars), and oscillating group rides are ubiquitous. I know we have the right to the whole lane, and I’ll take it if I need it.

    And then there’s the nose blowers. I keep a good 10 meters back from anybody in a team/club jersey until I know I can make a pass stick, because if one gets anywhere near these folks it’s a shower of boogers. Trust me, buddy, I don’t want to be anywhere near you. Just let me get past before you blow your nose on me.

    So, someone behind me is less of a bother than even approaching a cyclist, so I guess I don’t mind. I still like riding my bike, and I ride with people I trust, but it’s a kinda lonely road these days. Does anybody remember when oncoming cyclists would wave at each other?


    A. Curmudgeon

  44. CAT4Fodder

    I am fine with it…except when the rider in the rear then tried to “attack”. If you want to draft, and then offer to take a pull…cool.

    And yes…if you think of it…Rider A’s ride was not really obstructed by the actions of B. But there is something unbecoming of drafting and then attacking to win the so-called CAT 6 points.

  45. Gummee!

    If someone latches onto my wheel and doesn’t say anything, I don’t get worked up, but I also don’t point out obstacles, etc. Its up to them to figure it out.

    Now, if they say ‘howdy! would you mind if I sit on your wheel for a bit?’ and I agree, then I’ll treat em just like any other person I ride with consistently and point things out, make sure that I miss things so that they’ll miss em too, etc.

    AFA the ‘attack’ from the OP: Let em. Its real easy to ‘win’ a 1-horse race.

    Riding up and down the coast in Sandy Eggo I used to get that all the time. Also had buddies that told me about them ‘beating this guy to the top of the hill…’ Ummm yeah. Did he know he was racing?! I know *I* was generally looking at the scenery having an easy day.

    Having said all this, I don’t recall the last time someone came up on my wheel. Its usually me catching someone. I’ll make it a point to ride up next to em and say ‘hi!’ then try and strike up something of a conversation. There’s not too many people riding out where I am, so seeing ANYone is an odd occasion.


  46. CptCrnch

    Or you could have what happened to me today on my solo ride through southern Lancaster county PA. Caught an open horse and buggy on the downhill but could only sit in behind on the next climb due to wind blowing off the fields. I asked the young courting couple (the male didn’t have a beard which is a sign of being married) if I could sit on until the top of the hill. We had pleasant conversation over the next mile about cycling. I could have passed them but I knew into the wind I wouldn’t open a gap. At the top we said goodbye and sped off into the valley below.

    At the very start of my ride I caught a visibly new rider on the 2 mile climb that starts every ride for me (I live in a valley so the only way out is up). Since I was still warming up a kept his pace and we chatted about some good rides for him to do in the area. For only riding two months and being on an old steel bike he was actually pretty good. At the top of the hill he went left and I right. Hopefully the few minutes we spent climbing together helps him keep riding and to not think all roadies are elitist.

  47. Mark

    I’m glad you brought this up. This almost never happens on my routes around Cambridge (UK), but recently rode along the A1A in Florida and it happened to me on every ride. It kept annoying me that people would latch on to my wheel and remain utterly silent despite the fact that I could easily see their shadow. Then I had a guy come up from behind and politely ask if I wanted to ride together for a few miles so we swapped pulls and had a good conversation. So my vote is no, don’t suck someone’s wheel unless you have the decency to say “hello”, or “mind if I hold your wheel?”

  48. Big Mikey

    Great topic.
    If you’re going to try to sit on, you need to announce yourself, and for goodness’ sake, be friendly. It’s poor etiquette to sit on someone without greeting them and asking for permission. And if you sit on without taking a pull, then “attack” me, we’re done; I’m going to point out that if you aren’t strong enough to take a pull, you shouldn’t be sitting on.

    That said, I’ll sometimes sit on a Cat 6 who just chased me down by running all the red lights I stopped for, but that’s just karma.

  49. waldopepper

    When someone sits on, I turn around and ask where they are headed. If we are going in the same direction, I go over the signals: slowing, debris in the road, move left, move right and…pull through. Yes, a percentage of riders do not pull through at the same tempo, but kick it up, blow up, go off the back. Others say they can’t and I am okay with that. I’m depending on someone I don’t know from hitting a pot hole, a brick, glass, a car, and changing direction. If I find their awareness lacking, I simply say ‘thanks’ and back off.

  50. Bruce

    Sit on my wheel w/o asking and I’ll tap the brakes enough to either scare you or make you frustrated (you guess which one, we’ll make it a surprise).

  51. Clark

    I agree with most of the sentiments here. I find myself being Rider A from time to time during hard intervals at my local training loop in Houston. I would never want to knowingly do something that caused Rider B to crash, and I would also appreciate not having that responsibility hanging around my neck while the world is closing in around me and I’m riding myself out of my skin.

    The argument of Rider B could be that it’s their choice and they are taking a calculated risk riding a stranger’s wheel, but I’d like to think we’re all above that kind of pecking order when we’re supposed to be out enjoying a bike ride.

  52. waldopepper

    Bruce, there are people out there who don’t know they are supposed to ask. These people, when brake checked, will over react, possibly swerve into traffic, or go off the road. If that is shown to be caused by your actions, liability will follow you and that will certainly be both scary and frustrating. Education would be more effective than intimidation.

  53. henrietta

    What a lot of poorly socialised arseholes are coming out to comment.

    Seriously, guys like Bruce especially, you’re a road hazard just by the way you think. I hope you don’t drive.

    1. Author

      @henrietta – Let’s call this your one mulligan. You are allowed to express your opinions here, but you are NOT allowed to call people names. Next time, your comment just gets deleted. Again, we encourage opinions, but we require civility. Thanks.

  54. Bjorf

    I think there is a safety issue here. If you pull up behind someone without letting them know, and they swerve for a pothole or suddenly stop because they saw a quarter on the road it could have bad consequences for one or both riders. Also, tuned-out newbs can be catastrophically startled when they turn around and notice another rider two inches off their back wheel. It is both sensible and good etiquette to say you’re on another’s wheel.

    In the end we’re out there to have fun and get/stay healthy. It doesn’t make sense to endanger ourselves or others by being idiots.


  55. Bruce

    Seriously, the fact anyone assumed I would actually hit the brakes says something about their judgment. As an experienced cyclist, I know enough about drafting to not to pull in behind someone and make assumptions about their drafting skills. Sometimes people (like me) just want to be out on a ride by themselves and not think about someone behind or beside them. Frankly, it’s the only ‘me’ time I get as a busy executive. So if you please, stay off my wheel, unless invited or pre-arranged, or I will indeed gradually slow down until you are so frustrated that you go around me.

  56. waldopepper

    This was your comment Bruce:
    “Sit on my wheel w/o asking and I’ll tap the brakes enough to either scare you or make you frustrated (you guess which one, we’ll make it a surprise)”

    Hit or tap the brakes, it is the same thing: intentional, unpredictable riding.

    How about just waving them through? I see the Cat 2 and 3 guys do it all the time so they can indeed ride by themselves and not think about draftees. They don’t get all aggro about it, go into slo-mo, or dedicate themselves to frustrating others. They are actually enjoying themselves instead of working at getting annoyed.

  57. henrietta

    Bruce, could you be just a little more passive-aggressive? I don’t think everyone’s been completely appalled yet.

    You wouldn’t want to marry him would you

  58. JBuck

    I prefer others ask before they draft – I think of it as more a safety issue than anything else. If someone latches on for an extended time, I’ll wave them next to me and ask them to please go ahead. As for the case study presented, as Rider A I would be a little annoyed and would just ramp up my pace a bit to drop Rider B then settle into whatever I was doing before.

  59. armybikerider

    “…… I want a culture that is less cynical and snobby, less serious about the wrong things. I want cycling culture to be more open and fun.”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  60. flythebike

    I’m vehemently opposed to unannounced drafting. I’m on the bike trail, not in a bike race. There are tons of variables outside of my control while traversing intersections and passing walkers, runners, kids etc. It’s a safety issue at the root. Furthermore, I’m out there to enjoy a ride, and someone sitting on my wheel is a negative distraction. Cash, draft, or a$$, nobody rides for free.

  61. rpb2

    I also prefer that you announce yourself, but I’m not going to get fussed about it if you don’t. There is a safety issue to consider, particularly if the person hanging on your wheel is really struggling to stay there, has music in his/her ear, etc. But it’s also a great way to meet people. I was in Nice a few weeks ago and met a fellow American expat who asked to hang on my wheel for a bit. We had a nice conversation and I got some good routes for the next couple days’ worth of riding. The other day I was doing my “all business” laps of Regent’s Park (London) and was suffering because my lawyer job is not conducive to sleep and fitness. I asked a guy in front of me if I could work in with him for a bit, and he answered by saying “help yourself.” I still don’t know what he meant…

  62. Ron

    I don’t like folks, especially those I don’t know, sitting on my wheel unannounced. With the variety of riders where I live, and the differences in bike handling abilities, it makes me feel quite unsafe to have an unknown and unannounced rider on my wheel. I like my body AND my bike in good working order, don’t need any crashes.

    I’d never sit on someone’s wheels without letting them know. I tend to pull alongside, if we are at about the same pace, say hello and try to assess things. If they want a riding partner it’s usually easy to figure out.

    Reading back through the comments – it makes me sad that the only thing I share with some other cyclists is the fact that we ride, not any sort of communal feelings of happiness, health, well-being. I think wheel sucking unannounced ain’t cool. But, tapping your brakes or something along those lines? Flick your elbow or sit up…or turn and say hello. Remember that not everyone has ridden as much as you & might be completely foreign to etiquette.

  63. Eric W

    I’m more of a transpo rider. Maybe I just don’t imagine each ride as a race. (I’m in Los Angeles by the way.)

    There’s a small areodynamic benefit from another bike behind you. I’d take the areo help as a little less wind to ride into, and more visability for car traffic.

    I do like to know where other traffic is and that includes bikes. In the example above both rider knew where the other was, so “annoucing” didn’t seem nescessary. Would have been nicer to chat for a sec. I’m fine as long as I know where the other bike is, and that it’s within my comfortable riding zone. Two inches for me is probably too close for LA potholed roads, and I would hesitate to tell them if I want more space.

    So, another rider might like to climb fast or desend faster than I do. So what? I’m just riding my bike – you can ride yours.

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