Tuesday Coffee Talk - Drafting Etiquette

Tuesday Coffee Talk is a chance for use to share, vent and discuss topics related to our community

Most of use have had this type of experience, you're out riding the roads, maybe alone, maybe with a friend and you come up on another person or group and "latch on" in their draft. Maybe with no intent of staying there for the entire ride but at least for a minute or 2. Then it happens, the rider you are drafting on slows down, way down, or they tap their brakes, ride all over the road, do a farmers blow.... you get the picture. The first time this happen to me I was riding in a community ride (Iron Horse) and started drafting a random person, once they noticed me they started to ride all over the road and then asked me not to draft. I was so shocked I didn't know what to say back but I thought, "YOU ARE ON A COMMUNITY RIDE BUDDY".

But some don't feel comfortable drafting, maybe sometimes it is technical skills and sometimes they just want to ride in a bubble with their ipod and not be bothered with anything that goes on in the world or have to enter someone else's bubble. Most of the time if I ride up on a person or group I usually ask if I can set in (but not always).

So what the deal here folks? How should one ride up and draft off of another rider? Or on the flips side, if you don't feel comfortable with someone drafting off of you, how can you tell the rider to ride on by?

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I just slow down

Usually I don't mind drafters but there are time when I just want to be, with what you call, "my bubble" and when I'm riding with that intent I usually just slow down, sometimes uncomfortable slow. It kind of gets creppy at times I go so slow. Hello don't you get it!

I've always asked if its ok

I've always asked if its ok to hook on. I usually don't mind if someone latches on (pro tip: don't be creepy!). If I'm doing intervals or something that requires concentration, I'll just say that and they usually get the idea.

I think the only time I was around when some random bloke got firmly discouraged from jumping on the group was when my teammates and I were doing a motor pace session and a guy jumped in, but there were legit safety reasons for that and the coach was the one who handled it, not me.

I guess it's like anything else, use common sense, don't be a jerk.

drafting etiquette

There is nothing more magical than a well "oiled" draft line however my concern has always been for safety when I join, or another joins.
I will not draft another rider that I come upon, I have no idea of their skill level and their draft experience, even something as simple as calling out hazards. They may be all kitted up but they still could be "all hat and no cattle"
I will however ALWAYS announce my arrival and my passing as a simple courtesy and rider safety.

If I have another rider "latch on" I will let them know my route with upcoming major turns/intersections and my ride purpose, climbing/speed/distance/recovery. They can then choose to visit for a bit, stay or pass immediately.

stranger danger

My answer... don't draft a stranger and if a stranger jumps on your wheel, ride faster until they are gone. Cooperative, safe, and effective drafting requires mutual trust and skill... qualities that are unknown with any "stranger". Even if they seem quite good and normal, you never know how they will react to sudden and unexpected events and their reaction can have severe consequences for you.


I've thought of this before. Denver seems to be particularly full of people riding by themselves and joining on with other riders (in my experience) is always awkward and some people actually do not want anyone to join them; which is okay. Personally, I'm all for folks joining with me and helping out since I can't always get a group together to ride with. I think that there are more people who wouldn't mind strangers joining with them but we don't have a culture that makes it easy. I've thought before we could just have a small sticker somewhere on the back of our bikes, seat stay or seat tube or something, that indicates "hey, I'm a draft friendly rider. If you want to join on with me and we can both share the load of the ride together, I'm all for that. Who knows, maybe we'll even have a conversation. Then we can both go our separate ways whenever necessary. If you or I can't handle the speed of the other for too long, no harm done, enjoy the rest of your ride" I think there's lots of people who would be up for it we had a way to make it easy. Then we might not see so many people riding 10 bike lengths apart from each other weirdly wondering if the other person wouldn't mind haning out for a while. Anyway, just coffee talk.


It's common in the horse world to tie a colored ribbon around a horse's tail to signify various things. For instance, a red ribbon usually means the horse is prone to kicking if crowded and a blue ribbon means the horse is a stallion. I think the same system could be used for cyclists:
Red - Don't draft me, I don't hold my line well
Green - Don't draft me, I randomly blow snot rockets
White - Don't draft me, I'm doing intervals
Yellow - Don't draft me, it annoys me
Blue - I'm a stallion. Just try and stay on my wheel!

People need to lighten up

When pulling up behind/beside someone whether on a daily ride or during an event ride, I normally ask: "do you want to trade pulls" or if the person/group is clearly much faster, I'll ask: "do you mind if I sit in?" Normally, I'm fine if someone wants to sit on my wheel but appreciate it if they announce themselves so I don't inadvertently cut them off or something. I'm even fine with a little informal, friendly competition on the local hill climb! Agreed that the local culture is or has gotten less accepting of impromptu drafting since I last rode seriously in the '90s and I think it's unfortunate. Some of my most memorable "event" rides have been with a group of like-minded similar-speed people I've met along the way. If someone's on my wheel, I don't consider them a threat to my safety, and if they pull through, i can usually tell pretty quickly if they're someone who I'm comfortable following closely. As has been mentioned, if I have an agenda not conducive to a group, like intervals or sprints I'm fine telling someone and am fine if they decline for a similar reason. It's supposed to be fun and you can never have too many riding buddies!

I would agree with all of the

I would agree with all of the above. I have noticed the culture has gotten somewhat more adversarial in the dozen or so years I've been here, but I don't think that's necessarily a Front Range thing, just a modern, living-in-a-crowded-world thing.

That said, there is nothing better than encountering a cooperative drafting partner when you're shot tired somewhere north of Berthoud after you've already been grovelling for hours in the wind, and all the both of you want to do is get back to Boulder without dying.