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The best position for drafting in a pack + video

Specialized use their wind tunnel to find the most efficient place to ride

Specialized have used their wind tunnel to determine the best position for you to take when drafting in a group of riders.

Okay, so say you’re on a hard group ride, you’re at the back of the pack on your own and there’s a double line of riders in front of you. Where should you position yourself, directly at the end of one of the two lines of riders or slot in between the two lines?

You’ve doubtless already got an opinion but Specialized’s Aero R&D guys Chris Yu and Cameron Piper decided to find out for sure. They took three riders into the Specialized Win Tunnel and first took aero data of one rider on the rollers.

They then put two of the riders next to one another on rollers and measured the drag with the third rider directly behind one of them, and again with he was slotted between them.

The result: the third rider experienced 45% effort saved when riding directly behind one of the other riders compared to riding alone. The reduction was only about 40% when he rode in between the other two riders compared to riding alone.

“A lot of you may be thinking, myself included, that sometimes when we’ve been in that ride it felt faster in between. That may be because we are cheating and getting a bit closer into that draft zone,” said Chris Yu.

“The bottom line is that the best place to ride is directly behind the wheel in front of you. We don’t want anyone crossing wheels so it’s definitely the safest as well,” said Cameron Piper.

The Specialized guys clearly say that you’re the lone rider at the back in this scenario. If there were two of you, it's good etiquette to follow directly behind a wheel anyway to allow the other rider to do the same.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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3 comments

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davsear | 8 years ago
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I have never had an issue with head winds on my rollers...

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ChrisB200SX | 8 years ago
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This test is useless without Yaw angle.

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pwake replied to ChrisB200SX | 8 years ago
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ChrisB200SX wrote:

This test is useless without Yaw angle.

Well, if you add a sidewind into the equation it's obvious that you position yourself somewhat to the leeward side of the rider in front. It's how echelons are formed and you can actually feel when you are in the 'sweet spot'.
Not totally useless, as it's interesting to note that what is considered good group riding etiquette is also the most efficient position.
Stay curious, my friend....

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