I am engaging in a friendly race with a co-worker. He has told me he plans on drafting behind me most of the race to save energy.

I want to make it hard for him(without doing anything mean spirited) to draft off me. In general, in racing situations, what strategies can you employ to stop competitors from drafting?

In this specific case he is a probably a better more experienced rider and I am the novice.

UPDATE: Thanks everyone for the advice. What I decided on doing were some intervals so I was not going at a constant pace. I wanted to go my own tempo, and if my coworker wanted to draft bad enough(he didn't) he would have to go my tempo. A side note, I got a better bike which may have more to do with the win then preventing him drafting, but a win is a win.

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    A box of thumbtacks. Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 21:37
  • 15
    Go slowly? Go so fast he can't keep up? Eat beans for breakfast? Take off any mudguards and ride through every puddle possible - ideally on a wet day? Or make it a time trial so you're doing the same route but not together. Strava works well for this last suggestion.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 23:23
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    And him telling you his plan is a form of psychological warfare - he could be bluffing and trying to put you off because he doesn't know whether can keep up at all.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 23:24
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    The "Hot Network Questions" sidebar didn't tell me what site this question was from. I was about to jump in and recommend "The Maxwell Q. Klinger Method".
    – IQAndreas
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 2:02
  • 2
    Fit a pannier rack and strap a pool cue to it, pointy end backwards?
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 13:42

6 Answers 6


In road racing there are lots of way to try and gain an advantage (or not to give others an advantage). Because this is a friendly race, I will break it down into friendly, indifferent and hostile tactics.

Update 1: The OP updated their question to make it clear that they were a beginner and the other rider was a more experienced road rider. So I have added a paragraph at the bottom discussing the importance of how a tactic or strategy is executed.

Update 2: A fun video: How To Get Rid Of Wheelsuckers

1) Friendly tactics

These tactics are intended to keep the competition friendly by letting your friend draft, but with the intent of making a decisive move at some point to win, which will clearly demonstrate that you were the stronger rider on the day.

  • First over the line wins - Simply put, keep the ride relaxed until near the end, then launch and maintain a strong attack that your friend cannot match. This keeps them in the "competition" until the end, they save face by staying in until the end and you save face with your devastating tactic. You can even let your friend take pulls to make it look fair. The down side is that they may come away thinking the competition was closer than it really was.
  • Sustained Efforts: There are a couple situations where the advantage of drafting is reduced, you can then use these situations to launch a sustain effort in an attempt to ride them off your wheel, thereby gaining the advantage.
    • Climbs: As many others have pointed out, a significant climb is a good way to put distance on another ride. Depending on how badly you want to rub it in you can control the distance.
    • False Flats: False flats are sections that appear to be flat but are actually have a slight incline. If you do not have a computer that shows this (e.g., Garmin) the slight inclines can make you feel very slow. Attacking with a sustained effort on a false flat is a great way to put a gap on someone, especially if you know it is a false flat, but they do not.

2) Indifferent tactics

These tactics are a little more aggressive than (1) and may be fair game depending on your friendship and views on competitive behaviour.

  • Surge Attacks - If someone is drafting a good way to shake them time a short attack where you can put a bit of distance and break their draft, thereby negating their advantage.
    • Fast/Faster - For example you can ride at a strong tempo, wait to see if they are straining then do a short burst attack to gain a gap. They will be tired from holding on earlier and now suddenly out in the full wind. This will demoralize them greatly.
    • Slow/Fast - Similar to Fast/Faster you will be using changes in speed to break a draft. In this case start to casually slow down, this will usually leave someone wondering what is going on... then attack to open a gap and break a draft.
    • Change direction and surge - If you change directions suddenly (e.g., zig or zag across the road, but no zig-zagging) while surging you can instantly remove the drafting advantage which can make it more difficult for the drafter to close the gap. (thank you @altomnr)
    • Catch them when they are sleeping - Wait until there is a real lull in the "competition" to suddenly surge and break the draft.
    • Conversation to attack - At some point get into a friendly conversation, build a story and just as it starts to get really interesting (and your friend lets down their guard)... attack! Catching someone off guard is a quick way to break a draft.
  • Using the wind: If you live in a windy area and you know the route you can
    • Attacking into a headwind: this can be used in multiple ways. One of the best ways is if you have an out and back course with a head wind on the way out, attacking a few km before the turn-around can be a decisive way to score a victory.
    • Guttering: If you get a cross wind (that requires an echelon in order to draft, you can ride next to the edge of the road to "gutter" the drafting rider. Because draft position is effectively off the road-way and they cannot move off the road way into the draft they lose the ability to draft and have to do the same amount of work. This is a good time to attack.
  • Repeat attacks: If you are in a lot better shape you can launch a series of repeat attacks in quick succession. They may be able to hold on to one or two attacks, but stacking the attacks will eventually wear them out.

3) Hostile Tactics & Cheating

Depending on how much you value your friendship (e.g., frenemies), there are also some hostile techniques that I have come across in races over the years. I document them for completeness sake to indicate what should generally not consider as a strategy.

WARNING: In no way should the "forcing an error" tactics be used against your friend as these tactics can potentially send someone to the hospital.

  • Forcing an error:
    • Attacking on technical descents: If you are a more skilled descender you can use this to your advantage by encouraging someone to try and keep pace, thereby taking them out of their skill level. People will often over shoot corners and otherwise get shaken forming a gap. At worse you may cause someone to crash and have an injury.
    • Overcooking corners: Another horrible way is to deliberately overcook a fast corners so that you can just hang on, but with the intent of forcing them to go off the road or crash.
    • Riding into hazards: Another way to shake a drafter is take them into hazards such as pot holes, or riding within less of an inch of the side of the road. The idea is to fake them into letting off.
    • Brake checking: There is a special place in hell for those that brake check, but it is effective way to shake someone.
  • Using a vehicles wake. If you are a stronger sprinter jumping into a vehicles draft for a period of time allowing you to surge ahead
  • Lie: While your friend is drafting casually say: "You know I am just not feeling it today... do you want to call it quits?" Then while they are thinking follow this with a decisive strike.
  • Change the goal posts: Near the end if your friend is still drafting suddenly sprint for a arbitrary close finish line. Claim victory! As an extension, in the post finish confusion, attack again to actually win.

The Importance of Execution

The tactics and strategy outlined above will rely heavily on execution, which can be difficult for beginners. Many new riders will only partially commit to a tactic, holding back for fear that it might not work out. The "secret" is that once you decide on a tactic you really have to commit everything to it (i.e., willingness lose and look like a fool). Otherwise it is only a half strength attack which is easier for the other rider to survive. The more experienced rider will be practiced in the determination needed to knuckle down and survive an attack (even though they may be less fit overall). This mental strength and experience can make them a formidable opponent if you do not fully commit to a strategy or tactic.

It can take time and practice for beginners to develop the "killer" instinct needed for success, so don't get discouraged if a chosen strategy doesn't work first time out. Sometimes you just have to keep throwing mud at the wall to get some to stick.

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    @BlamBlamBlam - The only situation where I think brake-checking could be considered acceptable is in mountain biking on a climb when someone is deliberately buzzing your rear tire with their front tire.
    – Rider_X
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 21:46
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    Great answer but some tactics you list under section three are textbook strategies in competitive racing: 'lying' as in pretending to be worn out, being aggressive in corners and descents, and riding very close to the leeward edge of the road (guttering). By contrast, 'brake checking' is mean and drafting a vehicle is cheating.
    – Abe
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 1:17
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    @Rider_X as long as you also agree that drafting someone without asking first is never acceptable outside a race where it's explicitly allowed, then yes, that's fine. But I don't race any more, I just ride on public roads, where drafting is both dangerous and illegal. Brake checking is, IMO, a reasonable response in that situation.
    – Móż
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 2:12
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    @BlamBlamBlam: Brake checking is a great way to cause one of those crashes you're looking to avoid. If you're not comfortable with someone drafting off you (it is legal to draft another bike on public roads), waving them by, flicking your elbow or telling them to pull through is a much less dangerous resolution than brake checking.
    – Ealhmund
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 3:04
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    @BlamBlamBlam a less dangerous way to remove uninvited drafters is to slow your pace, sit up up right and wave them through. Most will look sheepish and then ride on their own... Then attack!
    – Rider_X
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 4:13

Let the co-worker pass and then draft behind them. It becomes a game of chicken to see who goes first.

This is partially why road racing at the professional level is usually done in teams. The team works together letting riders take a turn in the front so that the race moves at a reasonable pace. The other option is to just give a good effort on an uphill section where drafting won't be so advantageous and hope that you can put the other person far enough behind that they can no longer draft once the road flattens out.

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    In short-track speed skating (where time doesn't matter, only first across the line) long races (like the 3000m, lasts 4 to 5 mins) sometimes get off to a very slow start for this reason. Races occasionally get called back and restarted by the referee if it's too non-competitive in the early going. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 2:44

The best way to make it impossible for him to draft of you is to draft on him instead. You will then probably just end up taking turns. Competitive bike riding is not only about who is the best, but also who is the smartest and who has the best social skills. Or who - indeed - can act the 'meanest' as you mention this word.

However I personally think you should learn to take this 'mean' out of the equation. The rules are simple and known beforehand: cross the line first and you win. Of course there is still sometimes a different 'moral' winner.

This might be why this colleague is open about his strategy early on. By being open about his tactic he wants to prevent you from feeling the beginner feeling: 'But I was better, drafting is unfair'. I think you should embrace drafting.. Don't go into a race where different rules apply to different riders.

It's great that you ask this question. Really learning to dig the physiology, strategy and tactics of drafting is to experience them. E.g. you have to train hard and then be beaten by somebody who is less strong than you to fully appreciate this. So you could just take this opportunity to learn from your colleague, even if he could be less fit than you. You will find out tactics for yourself.

I'm a triathlete myself. And drafting is one of the biggest controversies in my sport. Especially since in most triathlons drafting is still illegal. This is/was felt to be more sportsmanlike. But for professional athletes (world-class and national championships etc) most races are now draft legal. The reason being that when the sport went Olympic they discovered/realized that enforcing drafting rules turned out to be impossible when athletes levels are so close together (e.g. 50 athletes starting to cycle within one minute, so only a second apart). Also spectator enjoyment suffers from jury influence, since there's always some subjectivity/randomness to it.

A notable exception is of course the Ironman distance, where a larger and more professional jury and bigger separation during the long swim has allowed non-drafting to be kept up. Given it's history this is probably a good thing. But in practice this just means drafting is often done with the required 10 meter distance between athletes. Because at 10 meters wind advantage still exists. And considerable controversy still flares up when athletes are tempted to huddle closer together or ignore the rules. Though that's mostly in the age groups/amateur field, where there is less jury and no camera's.

Embrace drafting if you want to be like the pro's. Or look at a flock of birds in the air. They're drafting! Follow nature..

So besides tactics to prevent others from drafting, it might be even more important to draft well yourself:

  • Stay less than half a wheel away from the one in front of you (unless you're one of those Americans who only learned to ride a bike later in live :P). This is the difference from having 40% advantage to 20% advantage or even less.
  • If the wind is from the front left stay to the back right of the cyclist before you. Or cycle on the right if the wind is from the left

To prevent drafting of course also numerous tactics exist, but they have mostly already been given by others here.

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    Gidday and welcome to SE Bicycles. Excellent detailed first answer that covers new info without rehashing existing answers. Keep up the good work.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 22:11

You can combine strategies from track racing, namely match sprint, and road racing.

In match sprint, the racers typically start very slow in order to not give any drafting advantage. This continues until one of the competitors decides that he/she can sprint to the finish line before the other can pass them and attacks.

In road racing, a common strategy is to break away from other racers and maintain enough distance to keep the other racers from drafting. Climbs are good places to start a breakaway, because the followers have relatively less benefit from drafting than on even ground.

My choice would be to start at walking pace and attack at a suitable climb or near the finish line. Unless the co-worker loses his nerves and lets me draft or resorts in unsportsmanlike behaviour :)


A weather dependent strategy is available when there is a stiff crosswind.

Your wind shadow (i.e. the place where a drafter would want to ride) is "behind" you from the point of view of the wind you experience. You experience wind from straight ahead because you are going fast, and from the side because of the weather. The combined effective wind will come at you under an angle somewhere between those two directions.

With a sufficiently stiff sidewind your wind-shadow will be off the side of the road if you ride all the way on the downwind side, meaning drafting is impossible.


This is apparently an informal race where you can set your own rules. So as suggested by criggie in the comments you might be able to agree a rule against drafting.

In time trials, riders set off at one minute intervals, and drafting is explicitly banned. If one rider is close behind another I think the rules say they have to either back off or overtake.

If there are only two of you in this race you could probably make the rule against drafting work while starting at the same time.

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    Downside of this is traffic lights and external influences making the outcome a little more random. Like playing a dice game instead of playing chess.
    – Criggie
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 7:46

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