Some days riding seems extra easy.  These are the days when you have “good legs.”  Not in the sense that my wife does, but in the sense of seemingly endless supplies of power and no feelings of strain or pain whatsoever.  There must be untold factors involved in creating this situation, including rest, nutrition, motivation, weather, route, and (of course) luck.  But all these factors add up to consistent preparation and good discipline.  You’re ready to ride, and you ride consistently and within yourself.  Riders who think about these elements can bring about the confluence of all the positive forces more frequently than those who leave them to chance.

I had such a ride a few days ago.  The experience itself and the metrics afterwards validated one another.  If felt absolutely as if my legs were steel rods, pumping away at the pedals.  I could up the pace when I wanted to, slide right back into the steady groove, do whatever my mind conceived as appropriate.  About two-thirds of the way out to my turn-around point I passed a cyclist in a somewhat faded USPS jersey on a black Trek.  Within a mile or two he repassed me (the only one of the day to do so).  I wasn’t sure why; he may have been a tad better on the upgrades or something.  But I found I could easily stay on his wheel.  So I thought “fine; you want to be ahead of me for some reason, so I’ll just draft you.”  Usually I don’t draft, because I’m out there for exercise.  But since I’d hardly ever done it, I thought it would be fun.

Drafting requires that the trailing rider be right on the wheel of the front rider.  And though I’m sure I did not meet professional standards in this regard, I was within 4″ to 6″ of his rear wheel most of the time.  I was really surprised how much effort I could save; the claims of 33% less effort don’t seem exaggerated.  That’s how Lance Armstrong got in position to make his great winning bursts of speed at key points in the Tour de France; his teammates “towed” him along in their draft.  So I let this guy tow me 7 or 8 miles out to Sterling, where the bike trail crosses Rte. 28 near Dulles Airport.  He apparently was going on farther.  So I stopped, rested, and then took full advantage of the tailwind coming home.

This same thing happened again a couple of days ago.  Maybe I am on to something.  But it’s the kind of advantage you can gain only if you have the legs to stay with the other rider in the first place, and the control to keep your bike where it’s supposed to be.  When people draft me I find it annoying on one level, though since I want the workout I don’t really care if they use my slipstream.  But I figure that if these riders want to assert themselves by repassing after I pass them, they are inviting it.  It’s good training in bike handling, too.  And it helps those good legs stay that way for longer.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2010.

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