Drafting a recumbent no drag at all

By Michael Collier

Zach Kaplan on the HP Velotechnik Speedmaching that he rode in the Aug. 2 Mt Tam Double Century. Photo courtesy of Zach Kaplan.

Zach Kaplan on the HP Velotechnik Speedmaching that he rode in the Aug. 2 Mt Tam Double Century. Photo courtesy of Zach Kaplan.

On long endurance rides a cyclist’s best buddy is another bike to draft, especially when confronting a stiff headwind.

A few days ago, a bit of luck and good timing conspired to give me a much-needed lift halfway through the Mt. Tam Double Century in Northern California.

I was dieseling alone when I came upon a member of my bike club just before a turn onto Chileno Valley Road on the border of Marin and Sonoma counties. We took a turn right into a westerly wind and chatted a bit before it dawned on me to try and draft my friend, Zach Kaplan.

He was riding a recumbent, which is 30 percent or more aerodynamic than a traditional road bike — lower to the ground and with much less drag than the body of a full-grown adult creates on a diamond-frame bike.

Getting creative

Zach, who is one of the strongest and most generous cyclists I know, was game for a little experiment. I locked in behind him, hunched down in the drops of my road bike.

Over the next several miles, we passed at least a dozen other cyclists on regular bikes, with Zach pulling me steadily as I held an extra-low position.

Our impromptu test worked better than I would have imagined.

Working together

Zach didn’t exhaust himself because he was riding his usual pace, while I caught enough of a slipstream to regenerate enough energy to power me forward into the last 80 miles of the ride.

That is what you call teamwork, and that’s why working pace lines on ultra-distance rides is smart.

Chileno Valley Road in Sonoma County is known for its westerly headwinds. Photo courtesy Santa Rosa Cycling Club.

Chileno Valley Road in Sonoma County is known for its westerly headwinds. Photo courtesy Santa Rosa Cycling Club.

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