Cycling Reflections

Table of Contents

Drafting with Strangers

I regularly ride on the Cambridge-Bedford (MA) bike path, where the majority of the faster riders greatly enjoy drafting, but a minority experience such not merely as neutral, but as a severe violation of their personal space. The extremes of response to drafting are striking, ranging from the (frequent) warm, hearty thanks for making the ride a lot more fun - my general feeling - to the (much rarer, but emotionally traumatic) screaming at you and - quite dangerously as the lead rider - slamming on the brakes.

Determining into which group a particular stranger falls is not always trivial. Moreover, asking the question of whether one can draft can be potentially as (and sometimes more) intrusive to the person being asked than the drafting act itself. And certainly it is more disruptive for the asker than simply trying to keep up with someone ahead who is a bit faster than oneself - particularly when one is too out of breath to speak...

Avoiding drafting altogether is a sorry solution, for in the majority of cases it results in far less fun rides for all involved, less exercise for both the lead and following rider, misses out on potentially interesting conversations, and sometimes even misses an opportunity for a real friendship. Avoiding drafting out of hand is thus as bad as not smiling at someone you pass on the street because you fear they may not smile back - definitely not the right way to live, in my view.

Having spoken to others on the path, I realize I am not alone in this dilemma - i.e., no one wants to give up spontaneous drafting, but at the same time, no one wants to draft behind a rider who does not welcome it. While I can try to make clear I encourage drafting by various behaviors such as slowing down to let trailing riders catch up, making hand signals about road hazards, etc., turning around to tell the person behind they are welcome to draft (if they are close enough to hear...), I realized there was a much more immediate, direct, and low maintenance solution.

Specifically, I could print up cycling shirts with a fun, friendly graphic showing two riders slip-streaming, and text saying "I Welcome Drafting". While this would not directly address the uncertainty of drafting a stranger ahead, certainly I could wear such shirts whenever I rode, so if I passed someone on the path (or they came up behind me), they would immediately know I welcomed them zipping into my slipstream (which if they did so enter, would imply with near certainty that they would also welcome me in theirs).

I hope to spontaneously draft with you on the bike path or elsewhere, and hope these shirts assist in creating fun and relaxed interactions for riders everywhere; if enough other people begin wearing these shirts, it could even start a mini "movement"!

(FYI: If I get sufficient requests, I will also print out a "Stay Back - Don't Draft!" shirt for those people who feel that way.)

Push and Be Pushed

I frequently see pairs of riders (often couples) with vastly different abilities, where in consequence, the stronger rider is often frustrated due to getting virtually no exercise, while the weaker rider is exhausted and discouraged.

This is easy to solve, without an expensive tandem bike, simply through pushing.

(... In process, 8/1/10.)