Ask A Random Triathlete: Bike Drafters and Cadence Questions

My advice is better. Because I am a triathlete. (Photo: Clifford/Flickr)

It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for more advice from a random triathlete. This week we talk about what to do if you see others drafting, besides fucking do it better, and we discuss ideal cadences. As always, submit your own questions via the forum, as a comment below, or email/message me. I can’t promise any actual insight or information, but I can promise that I’m a triathlete and I do triathlons.

Now that we are representing the TRS Tri community, and wish to maintain professionalism and represent TRS in the best light possible, how do you suggest we address bike cheaters drafting on the bike course?

Brake. Hard. If someone is drafting off you, that’s probably the most accurate way to represent TRS. I mean, sure, whatever, there are some downsides to this strategy. But no one said being on the TRS team was easy.

The other option is to aggressively and awkwardly confront people in the finish area. How do you know who to confront? A good rule of thumb is anyone who biked faster than you was probably cheating.

Of course, the problem with either of these vigilante strategies is 1. you’re not effectively harnessing and directing your righteous anger, and 2. you look like a douche.


Pro tip: It is impossible to judge drafting based on a photo. [Matthew Vandersande]

I could have stopped and yelled at every single person I saw drafting at Galveston 70.3 last weekend, but not only would that have made the stupid bike leg take even longer than it already did, but I’d have been yelling at the wrong people. I should have been yelling at the race directors and every goddamn one of you who have perpetuated these annoying draft-fest courses. Some of those people crammed together at Galveston were cheaters, but most were just byproducts of math. You can’t fit 2,000 triathletes spread out at three bike lengths apart over 56 miles within the given timeframes. I mean, come on, that’s basic SAT word problem algebra right there. I know America is bad at this, but you’d think with the Chinese running everything now we’d finally figure out these simple calculations. If you really want to do something to address bike drafting, stop signing up for flat, packed, “PR” courses.

And even if you figure out who is the cheating cheater, not the accidental cheater, and you have a secret chip on your shoulder about never becoming a police officer, there really is no way to yell at someone in your age group and not look like a excuse-filled douche. My solution to this: yell at cheaters in other age groups. If we all yell at everyone else, then, bam, problem solved. Sort of.

I’ve recently started working on increasing my cadence on the trainer. I’m not training to race but rather for a century ride this summer. My question is this: when I reach the cadence I’m aiming for (90), how long do I sustain it before backing off? I’m assuming somewhere between when I see the bright white light but before I topple off the bike and make the bloodstains on the basement floor that @DawnC so much would like to see. I would like to finish the 100 miles without having to pack a lantern and a sleeping bag. 

Here is my advice about how to ride a century at 90 rpm: Don’t.

Why do you need to ride at 90 rpm the whole time? Why is this your goal? You don’t get extra points for doing the whole 100 miles at 90 rpm, and, honestly, that sounds terrible. I mean, does this guy look like a winner:

I know everyone jumped on the high cadence bandwagon like 10 years ago, and I’m not saying it doesn’t have its uses at times or as a drill — a drill — but I’m not convinced that riding high cadence is really the answer to all your biking problems. I mean, I wouldn’t take Sutto’s advice on everything, like maybe not personal or life decisions, but I’m pretty sure he’s right about this. Here’s some more science-y stuff about how ineffective amateur riders (and I’m assuming you’re an amateur rider?) are at utilizing a high cadence.

So, how long should you sustain your 90 rpm before backing off? Uh, not very long?

About the Author

Kelly O'Mara
Kelly is a reporter and writer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She quit triathlon for a few years, because triathletes can be annoying, but now she's back into it and only hanging out with the non-annoying triathletes. She blogs about stuff at Sunny Running.