Mastineo Posts: 182
edited July 2009 in Road beginners
Is there an optimum distance to be behind the rider in front? I'm guessing the closer the better, but how big a gap between wheels before no benefit. That last sentence doesn't read well (even to me!). What I mean is, would I still be getting slipstream effect from a rider say 1 metre in front of me?
Links to any research appreciated but personal opinions/experience very welcome.


  • butcher_boy
    butcher_boy Posts: 117
    The distance you would get optimun benefit would change depending on the size / shape of the rider in front :D
  • gtitim
    gtitim Posts: 225
    Hi there, I try and keep it under a metre to get maximum benefit. I haven't seen any research but from personal experience anything over a metre is too far. as butcher_boy says it does depend on size and shape of the rider in front. Also bear in mind that you may be draughting a bunch of cyclists rather than just one which obviously has a greater effect, epecially if they are two or more abreast.
  • GeorgeShaw
    GeorgeShaw Posts: 764
    It depends on how much confidence you have in the person in front. If they're consistent, then as close as possible. But if you watched the TdF TTT yesterday, you'd've seen a few examples where even the pros got too close and nearly took out each others wheels.

    I made the mistake of stretching at the top of a short climb on a long ride the other week without looking. Stretching = not peddling = slowing, and my riding mate touched wheels with me. Luckily we both got away with it that time.
  • Dunkeldog
    Dunkeldog Posts: 138
    I'd say nothing is too close according to the TT guy I saw tuck in behind a passing mini van going down a long hill near to Melton Mowbray the other afternoon!
  • knedlicky
    knedlicky Posts: 3,097
    The slipstream effect is felt much farther back than one might imagine, although it also depends on speed. Some triathlon/duathlon rules say you shouldn’t slipstream anyone within 3 metres in front of you, others even 10 metres in front of you, so clearly some people think there’s an effect 3 to10 m away – 10 m probably true on a descent, but you wouldn’t want to be both in line and closer than 5-10 m anyway.

    If you’ve ever had to catch up a group in front, even on the flat, you’ll also have noticed the slipstream effect extends about one fifth of the speed they're travelling, so 6 m if they're at 30 km/hr. This means you can usually ease up before actually joining the group.

    Otherwise, the closer the better. If I feel confident about the rider in front, I’ll follow him about 15-20 cm away, maybe slightly (10 cm) offset. If I feel less confident, I’ll ride 75-100 cm back.

    Don’t ride too close (less than 75 cm) behind a rider who can’t maintain a gear or follow a line, or if you don’t feel able to quickly react! But also don’t ride more than 2.5 to 3 m back. Then not only is the slipstream effect much less than at 50-100 cm back, but also you’ll find the more ‘ambitious’ riders behind you, move forward and fill the gap, pushing you further back in the train