Out on the road, the wheel-suckers are everywhere.
They are the cyclist who sits on your wheel – tucked nicely in your slipstream – and studiously avoids taking their turn in the wind; they conserve energy, enjoy an easy ride, and leave you to do the donkey work.
The correct etiquette, of course, is for all riders to take their turn into the wind and thus share the effort of the group. But when you come across one of these wheel-suckers – either friend or stranger – unless you are the kind of hard-nut who sees everything in black and white, there may be more to them than meets the eye.
In other words, what kind of wheel-sucker are you dealing with?
Perhaps the cyclist clinging limpet-like to your rear wheel is new to the sport, and is as yet unfamiliar with the concept of wheel-sucking.
However unlikely it seems, particularly when you are mid-effort and wondering why they’re not taking a turn, this freeloader is actually deferring to your greater knowledge and experience.
They are respectfully allowing you to take the lead – by watching you ride yourself into oblivion, admittedly – but their heart is in the right place.
Without the required grasp of the physics (or indeed etiquette) of the situation they are blissfully unaware that you are working twice as hard to keep things moving along.
You could politely offer to tutor them in the finer points of cycling behaviour (do this with a serious face, so they understand that this is not a joke), or you could get your message across by repeatedly scowling, grunting, and generally being less than clear about the misdemeanor.
After all, if they want to be part of this game, why shouldn’t they figure out the rules like the rest of us did?
The weak link?
Maybe your new friend clinging to your wheel understands the way these things work, would love to take a turn on the front, but is simply not strong enough to find a way into the wind and take the strain?
In the spirit of teamwork you, as the stronger rider, could slow to a manageable pace at which they can take a turn on the front. You should do this with the minimum of fuss and certainly without talking about what is happening.
That way the wheel-sucker is allowed to maintain some dignity and self-esteem.
You may choose to snigger and belittle them later, behind their back (on social media), but that’s your call.
Alternatively, as with the newbie (above) why not get your message across by repeatedly scowling, grunting, and generally being less than clear about the misdemeanor.
This will not solve the immediate wheel-sucking problem, but may motivate your friend to train harder and do their share next time.
Wheel-sucker and proud of it?
This is a thorny issue.
The cyclist sitting on your wheel understands the way these things work, and is deliberately wheel-sucking.
Firstly, you are within your rights to launch a volley of abuse in their direction, questioning anything from their parenthood to the quality of their bike. If you take this option, make sure you’ve read the situation correctly – to openly question another cyclist’s bike is no laughing matter.
Secondly, if you have a sufficiently appealing personality you may be able to diffuse the situation with a joke – perhaps rather than question the quality of their bike you might focus on their riding style or choice of kit.
However, be warned – it takes someone with the wit of Oscar Wilde to diffuse a full wheel-sucking situation with humour alone.
The only other option is nothing less than a fight to the death; you stamp on the pedals, drop them with a display of primal effort, and ride off into the distance.
But beware, if you attempt this and don’t succeed you will look a fool.
Also, they’ve spent the last five miles conserving energy in your slipstream.Be careful, is all I’m saying.
Ultimately, whatever your reading of a wheel-sucking situation, and however you choose to deal with it, you must deal with it.
Left unchecked they’ll only multiply.