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Zen and the art of "wheel sucking".

I have a confession to make I actually love to "suck wheels". Before any perverts out there start hitting this site in search for directions on a bizarre new fetish, let me introduce you to "wheel sucking" from a cycling perspective.

"Wheel sucking" is a term used to describe the practice of cycling behind another rider with wheels a few centimeters apart. This practice allows the rider "sucking wheels" to gain an aerodynamic and consequently a physiological advantage by reducing the amount of work done he/she has to do. Some have claimed that this practice allows the "wheel sucking" rider to perform 30% less work. The advantage of "wheel sucking" is magnified when the size of the front rider is large, when there is a considerable headwind and when the front rider is moving at a significant speed > 30 km/h.

Detractors of this practice and they are many often look down and despise the humble "wheel sucker". These detractors can easily be generalised as people who are testosterone filled and excessively aggressive. Furthermore these people often think with their crotches (no offence to the fairer sex, hence the term crotch). Unfortunately they do not possess the characteristics and are unable to be enlightened by the Zen that accompanies a "wheel sucking" journey.

Humility is an essential component to attaining the Zen of "wheel sucking". Start the bike ride with statements like " I’m feeling lousy", "I had a hard day at the office" or "My bike is heavier than yours". Statements like these allow the rider seeking "wheel sucking" Zen to disappear amidst the pre-ride bravado. It also volunteers others to offer their wheels for you to latch onto when the ride starts.

During the ride get into the "zone". You"ll know you’re there when you suddenly start hearing nothing but the melodic humming of the bicycle chain and other moving bike parts. Often peace and tranquility in the "zone" can be disrupted by calls to pull or "do some work up front". For any true blue "wheel sucker" this disrupts the essence of disappearing into "oneness" of a pack ride. To avoid such situations you can always feint weakness leaving a gap between you and the rider in front, often resulting in a charge from the "machomen" to close the gaps. Alternatively you could be gracious and allow the rider returning from his pull in the front of the pack the wheel of the rider in front of you. These acts often work as the aggression of a fast ride often results in riders wanting to get ahead of each other. To attain Zen stay calm, and be at peace especially on a fast pack ride.

So what happens if there’s a break? A true practitioner of wheel sucking never gets caught out in a break. A genuine "wheel sucker" sees all that happens around him/her. A break is not perceived as such but rather it is a huge suck, dragging and pulling the wheel sucker from one zone to another. In the immortal words of a wise Jedi "feel the force", use the pulls of these breaks to move with the breaks. When one does so, it’s like the shifting of the sands, effortless.

Do wheel suckers ever win? Always! Just look at Boogerd’s victory over Armstrong at the Amstel, 1999. Never forget humility, especially if you want to keep riding with the pack. What good is a wheel sucker without a wheel to suck?

Peace all and ride heaps!


P.S. This is how NOT to do it. (pix provided by beef)

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This page was last updated on 05/30/02.
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