Yesterday I caught up with a much stronger rider who was struggling with an injury but really wanted to finish. Moral support aside, we tried to get him on my wheel on the flats (which happened to often have a headwind, so even at 20-25 km/h it was well worth it). Up and down hill it seemed better to go independently. But we met up with some other friends so there were 4 of us in total. This gives a few more options.

The rider in question was tough and I'm sure could have done it without help, but in another club/context I could find myself trying to look after a rider who was in real need of an easy ride back. In case it makes a difference, let's assume from yesterday that we're happy (and practiced) with riding pretty close together, but not race-peloton close

How can we best position ourselves (in a small group) to shield the injured rider?

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    Add coffee stops. Proclaiming "I'm stuffed lets stop for a cuppa" means they don't have to ask for the stop. A 10 minute pause does some serious wonders.
    – Criggie
    Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 19:03
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    @Criggie, we had a few of those!
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 19:17
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    yep - its a pride thing, not leaving it for the most affected person to call a break/rest
    – Criggie
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 2:46

2 Answers 2


This question was analysed both numerically and by drag measurements in a wind tunnel by a research group of the Technical University Eindhoven-NL. You can find answers in a couple of free-access papers :



A short summary for a small group is: arrange the strong riders in an inverted v-shape (strongest one up front) and put the weak rider in the middle of the back row so that he is shielded both from the front and from the sides.

A more extensive academic review paper is https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167610518303751

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    Most roads disallow riders to be more than 2 abreast, hence why we have the rotating double line group. I guess collapsing it to ~one dimension means the weakest rider should be at the very back?
    – Criggie
    Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 19:02
  • The full paper almost perfectly addresses yesterday's situation, when I compare Fig. 9a to Fig. 9e (4-rider diamond vs. straight line). I only say "almost" because the middle pair in Fig. 9a seem closer together laterally than I'm used to riding (if they've got my 450mm bars, their hands are only 150mm apart). They may also be closer longitudinally. This configuration, with 4 riders, also fits with a max 2 abreast configuration (@Criggie). The paper also hints that the back marker position I naturally find myself in is beneficial even though I leave quite a gap.
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 19:21
  • I expect I'll accept this tomorrow, I'm only hanging on to be fair to all timezones.
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 19:22
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    I think the Blocken et al. analysis was based on zero yaw, so the diamond shape shown in Fig. 9a protects the last rider the most only under that condition. In the real world, the three leading riders should alter their configuration depending on the direction of the wind to give the trailing rider the greatest protection.
    – R. Chung
    Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 21:41
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    @ChrisH Migrating geese worked out a pretty effective arrangement. In zero yaw the diamond is slightly better than a line but it requires a bit more discipline when going around turns or when avoiding road hazards. In addition, it's easier to rotate in and off the lead position in a line (the three in the lead can rotate and leave the last rider out of the rotation) rather than in a diamond.
    – R. Chung
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 2:15

When you're in font of the rider that you want to help, then the more aero you are, the less shelter you give.

Riding in a low body position, head tucked and arms narrow makes it easier to ride at speed, but means that you aren't puching through the wind as much for the rider behind you.

You'll want to sit as upright as possible, arms a little flared with your head held high to push as much of the wind as possible, with the added bonus of this slowing you down as well. If you really want, you could even unzip the jersey a little to have it flapping in the breeze a bit.

The last thing that can make a huge difference is how you pace the effort. The rider sitting in will generally get more of a draft the faster you ride. This means that when riding the flats or downhills, you can go about as hard as you want, then on the climbs you just ease up to a comfortable pace for him. In a headwind, it is very easy to hold a wheel, whereas a tailwind will make it far easier to drop him.

You also want to absolutely minimise surging when you ride. When you want to accelerate, gradually ramp it up rather than jumping away and putting a gap into him. Things which make it much harder to sit on are weaving about while riding or getting out of the saddle regularly, throwing your bike back. If you hold your line and make a hand gesture before getting out of the saddle, then the rider behind can sit much closer to you safely.

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    That's a very good point. I thought I'd it at the time but not while writing the question. I'm not sure slowing me down was a bonus in this case but I did try to sit up fairly straight. After 240km I found I needed to keep changing my hand positions though, including using the clip-on aerobars to relieve my back and forearms.
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 11:43
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    While it might help with comfort, the aerobars aren't doing any favours for anyone trying to sit on. The other thing that i forgot to mention is how to pace the ride. I'll edit the answer with those details now. Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 10:04

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