Whether you’re riding with a group of mates on the weekend or competing in a staged race, riding alongside fellow cyclists can be an exhilarating experience, and is one of the unique aspects of road cycling.
Olympic gold medallist Brad McGee has experienced every aspect of cycling, both on the track and road. Currently the Cycling Performance Manager at the NSW Institute of Sport, he has put together three excellent reasons you should try your hand at bunch riding.
1. To go faster
Thanks to the benefits of aerodynamics, a group of cyclists rotating their positions from front to back create more speed than is usually possible for a solo rider (notable exceptions to this rule include NSWIS athlete Amanda Spratt).
In professional world tour racing, we use a basic calculation that predicts a group of riders are able to catch a solo rider that has broken away from the pack at a rate of 1 minute for every 10kms.
2. To have a rest
Nothing beats the feeling of tagging on the back of a peloton and enjoying the free draft that literally drags you along for free speed.
A rider ‘sitting on’ a group of riders can save around 40% of the power needed compared to riding alone! So if you’re a weekend warrior just starting out, joining a group and sticking at the back of the pack will help you maintain the pace of your fellow cyclists.
It is a great feeling to connect with a group of cyclists and roll the ‘echelon’ as one unit. An echelon in cycling is where riders take turns at the front of the group, and it can form a life of its own!
Each participant is responsible for holding it together.
Try too hard and the peloton suffers as a whole, disintegrating into chaos and disorder. Don’t try hard enough and it’s you the individual, that will find yourself exited from the group either by your own doing or from the intent of another (who is protecting the peloton of course, it’s nothing personal)!