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I have been commuting to work for a few months now, and generally I enjoy it. Unfortunately I've noticed that on the way back (never seems to happen in the morning - I set off quite early) I will often find someone rides much too close behind me, i.e. within half a bicycle length, trying to draft.

I think it is the same person or a small number of people (I ride the same route at the same time every day.)

This person (these people) will ride this close for a couple of miles - there's a fairly long main road with an on-road cycle path. I think riding this close to my back wheel is rude and dangerous because I could need to stop for any reason (car turns without signalling, small child runs into road, mechanical failure).

I'd much rather he kept back or overtook me, but I feel I would catch up and we'd be in the same situation. I'm not going to slow down because somebody is being rude.

For example, I turn off a main road into my village. In one instance I signalled very clearly, well in advance, and after a pause started braking, only to hear the other rider actually skid behind me. That to me indicates that this person is much too close and isn't paying attention enough to do so safely.

1) Is it reasonable to feel that this person is too close and riding dangerously?

2) I'm going to try to say something next time this happens, but I'd much rather concentrate on the road and not look over my shoulder trying to talk to someone who probably can't hear me over traffic. Is there a clear (polite!) signal I can give that will indicate I'd like more space?

Thanks!

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    Possible duplicate of Is it considered rude to draft other random cyclists? – Rider_X Aug 26 '16 at 17:12
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    Not a duplicate. I'm asking whether, just as wiggling an elbow means 'your turn', there's a signal (other than the two-fingered salute) that means 'I don't trust you to ride that close to me'. Assume talking isn't an option because of speed, noise, it being a different person every day etc. – Ben A Aug 26 '16 at 17:31
  • I've clarified the part of your question that's not already answered in the linked near-duplicate above. If that's not ok please revert my changes and make your own clarifications. – Móż Aug 26 '16 at 20:58
  • A sharpish position change, so your wheels are now 40-50 cm closer to the outside of the roadway, would signal intent to a cyclist up your back wheel. – Criggie Aug 26 '16 at 21:42
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    The cycle lane is so narrow that 40-50cm would put me on the pavement. Thanks though – Ben A Aug 26 '16 at 21:46
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Just wave him past, that's what I do. I don't draft and I'm not interested in someone drafting off me. Nor am I particularly interested in being polite to someone who is interfering with my ride or looking around worrying about them.

Waving someone past is a pretty universal hand signal I would think. I use it with cars, cyclists, and anything else.

  • He doesn't seem interested in overtaking but yours is the only answer that doesn't presuppose I'm a moron so thanks! – Ben A Aug 26 '16 at 22:03
  • @BenA to make things even clearer you can also try sitting upright and waving through well prior to your turn. In you slow the pace a little too most will get the hint loud and clear. – Rider_X Aug 27 '16 at 1:58
  • I would also suggest gradually slowing down, until the other rider gets the message and passes. – andy256 Aug 27 '16 at 2:34
  • The drafter is not paying for the time lost in this stupid game. – ojs Aug 27 '16 at 12:43
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If it is the same person day after day just talk to them. If it was me then I'd say

"Hi, I've noticed you follow me quite closely most days. I'm sure that you are a pretty good bike handler but I'm quite average. So you are putting yourself at risk by following me so closely. Please could you just not do it? It makes me nervous and uncomfortable. I'm sure you understand, Thanks"

If this doesn't work then next time wait for them to be behind you and then shout "stopping". Stop and let them go by. If they stop and wait for you then just tell them you aren't moving until they go. Keep doing this and they'll get the message. This wastes your time first thing in the morning ( which is not ideal..) but safety is more important than speed, you need to get rid of this nuisance

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    Thanks for your answer - I plan to talk to him if the opportunity arises but it's actually rare to be stopped at a light for more than a few seconds. "I'm sure that you are a pretty good bike handler but I'm quite average." - why would I say this? I don't need to stroke his ego or belittle myself to get results. As an aside, I can't be sure it's the same guy because he's one of the MAMIL horde... – Ben A Aug 26 '16 at 14:44
  • +1 for talking, but I'd either wait for a red light to speak or pull up beside him and say something more like "Heya! pause until paying attention " then various phrases from "Are you drafting me on purpose? Its a bit new for me - I've never really done that before. Can you take the lead and show me how to draft better?" or "Mate - you're too close and you're scaring me. Can you go ahead please?" As cyclists, the power of a brief word is something denied to vehicle drivers. The nearest they get would be motorbikes or opentop cars. There's power in a quick chat. – Criggie Aug 26 '16 at 21:47
  • Downside with talking - there are also cyclists who are zoned out in their earphones and won't hear you, and then there's those who carry the metaphorical car around them and will stonily ignore everything including conversation attempts. – Criggie Aug 26 '16 at 21:49
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    And a fairly polite way of taking off from the lights is saying loudly "...after you..." and not moving off. That's quite universal. – Criggie Aug 26 '16 at 21:49
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    Thanks Criggie, but 'pulling up alongside him' is difficult when I'm in front, and I'm not going to wait at lights just because someone is being rude – Ben A Aug 26 '16 at 21:56
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The term for what the riders behind you are doing is "drafting". It's a common, convenient and easy way to work together and minimize wind resistance. Using the search you can read through many other questions and answers about this technique

One of the questions that turns up in that search looks at your situation from the other side: Is it considered rude to draft other random cyclists? I recommend you take a look at the answers there.

Is it reasonable to feel that this person is too close and riding dangerously?

For a rider who has never ridden in a paceline, or actively worked together with another rider against a heavy head wind, drafting can be very uncomfortable, particularly if some random rider just tucks in behind you.

Is there a clear (polite!) signal I can give that will indicate I'd like more space?

For a riders that have worked together before, there are a lot of non-verbal cues and signals that make drafting easier. Probably most important given your example is to use the "Slowing/Stoping" signal: Left hand down, slightly extended from the body for visibility, fingers and thumb extended, palm to the back. In addition to making the sign, I would say loudly "SLOWING". You should do this anytime your pace is dropping significantly, whether you want the person to pass you, or you want to turn, or you are slowing because of an intersection or obstacle.

At that point you can let the rider pass without comment, let them get a bit ahead of you (only 10 or 15 seconds of slower riding should be enough), and continue on your merry way. If however, after reading the other posts about drafting, you want to try it, I would simply say "Do you want to work together?" If the response is positive, then I would tuck in behind them and ride a minute or so (60-70 pedal revolutions). If they draft a lot they will probably wiggle an elbow or something and pull to the left so you can ride through and they can tuck behind you. If they don't a simple yell of "my turn" should prompt them to let you pull through.

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    Thanks - I know it's called drafting and I've read the other questions I could find. I'm not going to signal that I'm slowing down if I'm not slowing down and before my turn I'm not going to do more than signal my turn in plenty of time. I suppose I could make a general "wave backwards" motion but that wouldn't be very clear. I would happily let him pass but he makes no attempt to and doesn't seem to want to take turns. Also, I don't particularly want to take turns drafting - it's a busy road with a narrow cycle path and I'm not in a rush. – Ben A Aug 26 '16 at 13:56
  • That slowing/stopping signal is so contrived - I wouldn't know what they meant. Could be "I have a sweaty palm/inner forearm and need some airflow to cool it" to "I'm stretching my muscles" Locally, any signal that means releasing the handlebars is a gamble, with new potholes appearing overnight. Voice seems more reliable IMO. – Criggie Aug 26 '16 at 21:53
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You only have three options: to trust other cyclists behind you, or slow down and let them pass you, or accelerate, when riding with unknown people. It will happen eventually with other riders and I would say that the only choice is to have a bit of trust and actively check before any stopping or turning. Just like you do in a car or motorbike, and signal said turns or stopping. It does not seem practical to talk to everyone on your tail. Have a bit of trust, nobody wants a crash. Just be aware of your environment and avoid abnormal movements. I mean, this is what we do everyday, trust that other people will control their vehicles, and keep attention focused when o the road

  • Nobody wants a crash, but many people do so anyway. – ojs Aug 27 '16 at 12:46
  • @ojs my point is that this situation is bound to happen often, and like in any other traffic situation, you need to trust a bit the rest of users, which doesn't mean that you don't make sure you are safe when changing direction or speed. But waving to pass won't work if someone is comfortable at your same speed an doesn't want to go faster or slower, or there is a long line of vehicles behind you. – gaurwraith Aug 27 '16 at 16:36

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