Biking Behaviour (part 12) – The Wheel Sucker

 

If you're going to suck someone's wheel, it might as well be Tom Boonen's (Photo: THS D90 - Flickr CC)
If you’re going to suck someone’s wheel, it might as well be Tom Boonen’s
(Photo: THS D90 – Flickr CC)

 

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?

The newbie?

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.

 

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25 comments

  1. Wheel suckers deserve their own special place in hell. The worst type of all is the one who lets you drag his arse mile after mile but has the temerity to come around you to take the hot spot sprint at the end of the ride. Or the guy who sucks your wheel for five miles on the flats and then blows your doors of on the first hill, never to be seen again!

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    • If you don’t want a wheel sucker behind you, move aside… how do you expect those following you know you want them to take over if you don’t move aside? Not to mention the extreme effort required to get past you if you don’t ease off. Leave the bitching for the girls.

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  2. hard to believe as it may be this happens to me sometimes too. at first I am quite flattered as it makes me feel like a proper cyclist, then I realise it’s more the motorcycle style faring on my bike and my 150 kg waistline they are interested in following and not me at all. I can understand why riders in a race need to seek every possible advantage to stay in the game but I haven’t quite worked out why someone out for a workout would want to reduce the benefit of their ride by using my slipstream, or would want to spend their day off looking at my rear end. I think I might get one of those car stickers which says ‘if you can read this you’re too close’ and stick it on my shorts, or maybe just forego the shorts all together and see if that helps preserve my personal space

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  3. I’m usually happy to pull anyone along, aside from making me feel like a hero, I just carry on doing my thing. Unless that is the person behind begins half wheeling, which is both annoying and dangerous on city streets. What to do? Simply slow down and force them to overtake you.

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    • i did that before,slowing down to make a cyclist overtake me.but the imbecile slow down at the same time waiting for me to speed up…i just stop,and he turn the opposite way.im so angry that i followed him and be the wheel sucker…he stop and went the opposite way again so i followed him again and i wait for him to race me…and he went the opposite way again.i didnt follow him…but im watching him riding away from me opposite way…

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      • theres this one too that i was on my way on the hills side of my town…i pass em resting on a shade…after few minutes he just invaded my slip stream and draft and sprint away from me.im a climber i can speed up even without pedalling out of the saddle,after a mile i knew we will enter the hills…i count 10 sec bcuz i knew he will explode before climbing…and i did pass his remains…his trying to get behind me but too late,..

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    • the meanest thing i ever done to a wheelSUCKER:
      i pedal at 40kph,and block his view,inch distance between us,i ride towards a road block caution sign.and at the exact split second i dodge the sign…very nice crash:)

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  4. How about this one !! You decide with a ‘Mate’ that you are going to attempt a pre defined 38km KOM. When you start riding you realize that your friend isn’t in quite the same form as you but should be able to hold your wheel. Taking in 800m’s of climbing within the circuit and having to wait for 60 seconds at the top of one of the climbs, the finishing 10km is flat, into a light wind and you need to go fast to beat the already existing KOM, he doesn’t come around at all. You also ride him off your wheel a couple of times but slow up to make sure you get around together. My thoughts at this point are that I am currently in good form and if I keep this going I can get around without any help at all and still get the KOM. As you come around the last corner with 150m to go, he jumps from behind and sprints to take the KOM by 3 seconds. :-I not a word from him, a smile, a take the mickey just an acceptance that he will of picked up a KOM lasting just under 70 mins and did ‘ZERO’ work for the entire ride. Not only that, but when Kudos and comments come his way for the KOM, there is no acknowledgement to his lack of effort to achieve it! What would you do??

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmmm, that’s a tricky one.

      One the one hand i’m tempted to applaud this ‘mate’ for such a blatant disregard for the etiquette of cycling – if you’re going to be a wheelsucker, you may as well go the whole hog and REALLY be a wheelsucker!

      On the other hand, he has clearly crossed a line here. You will need, for now, to adopt a Zen like acceptance of this behaviour whilst simultaneously honing your form and fitness in secret.

      Then, next time, you simply ride him off your wheel and away into the distance, and end the debate for good.

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      • The problem is – I did ride him off my wheel on a few occasions !! but not only did Iwait at the top of a climb but took a rev off when powering Tony Martin style on the flat finish into wind. The debate doesn’t exist apart from I was clearly mugged with my thoughts that he is a mate and would honor the etiquette.

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