Aerodynamic characteristics as determinants of the drafting effect in cycling

Andy G. Edwards, William C. Byrnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: To determine whether cyclists' individual aerodynamic characteristics influence the magnitude of the drafting effect in cycling. METHODS: Thirteen competitive male cyclists performed two field protocols (individual and drafting). Hub-based power meters were used to measure power output and velocity, from which drag area (Ad) was calculated. The three subjects obtaining maximum (MAX), intermediate (INT), and minimum (MIN) values for Ad during the individual protocol acted as leaders during the drafting protocol. Measures of Ad were then made while subjects drafted each of the three leaders. The drafting effect was specifically quantified as the decrement on measured drag coefficient (Cd) and power output. RESULTS: The mean drafting effect increased with leader Ad (ΔCd: MIN = 35.55%, INT = 41.31%, MAX = 50.47%; Δ power: MIN = 111.1 W, INT = 124.05 W, MAX = 159.23 W; P < 0.0001). Regressions between leader Ad and drafting effect for individual drafters indicated substantial interdrafter variability (slope ranged from 29.4 to 190.5%·m) but little intradrafter variability (mean r = 0.9689), suggesting an interaction between leader and drafter. Correlating leader:drafter ratios for Ad, Ap, and body mass to the drafting effect supported this interaction (r = 0.69-0.78, P < 0.01), but only when data for all three groups were pooled. CONCLUSIONS: Alteration of leader Ad elicits a linear increase in the drafting effect. However, the Ad of the leader does not explain all of the interdrafter variability in the drafting effect, which is specific to the drafting subject but is minimally explained by their aerodynamic characteristics. This interdrafter variability may be attributable to the drafter's skill in obtaining maximum benefit from drafting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-176
Number of pages7
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Cycling tactics
  • Formation aerodynamics
  • Group aerodynamics
  • Peloton

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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