Perks of the Puller

The term pull is used often with the person in front but I’ve often wondered if it is really a euphemism for train engine doing all the work, but they really have no more weight on them than if they were riding solo breaking air. From my understanding of race cars, when cars are lined up, there is a small multiplier effect on the front car that gives them tiny percentages of power since their drag is reduced down the chain.

Does this sound right? Will the lead rider actually go faster while ‘pulling’ if they have another rider drafting behind them? It is often touted that the subsequent riders save +30% energy and that is not what I’m after. What are the affects to the leader while they’re in front?

If you watch the Specialized Win Tunnel videos, they addressed this a bit (around 1:40 in):

They found that the puller saw a benefit of about 4% from having someone behind them.


They can’t both get a benefit surely? It must be easier for one and harder for the other, otherwise you’d have a perpetual motion machine.

That’s a great article based on some thorough testing, must read. The effect that causes the leading rider to have less aero drag is called “subsonic upstream disturbance”. Leading rider in front of a 121 person peloton enjoys a drag reduction of 16% compared to an isolated rider.

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Pretty sure I saw similar discussion on Eurosport during one of the GT’s last year that the filming moto being too close behind a solo group or breakaway rider actually benefits them slightly.