Monday, June 25, 2007

Tactics - Crappy Driving = Crappy Racing

On the way in to work today, I saw a red Prelude. It stood out for a few reasons:
1. It's a 1993-ish Prelude. The high end version of that car came with the H22 engine, a 190 HP 2.2 liter engine. And that engine fits in my Civic. And if I put a stolen one in my car, it could get crushed, like this other 1993 Civic.
2. It was red. My Civic is red.
3. The driver was the dumbest driver I'd seen in ages.

I drive on three highways on my hour commute (give or take 15-20 minutes). I saw the Prelude on the first highway, just about at the time I got on the highway.

For the next hour I watched the driver hunt for openings in traffic. And the driver went nowhere.

I should clarify - the driver hunted for openings in traffic next to the car.

The driver did not take into account what was in front of that opening next to the car.

And so the driver would swerve into a different lane, accelerate forward perhaps 20 feet, and slow. Because there was a big truck or a slow car or something in that lane.

Sometimes you can't see these slower vehicles. But this Prelude never seemed to check as the driver would pass a little car to get stuck behind a big truck.

The Prelude would pull away on the hills (my car is short a lot of power). But even in my easy going fuel efficient driving style (I'm trying to break my current record of 44.x mpg per tank), I'd catch up with the Prelude shortly.

Finally, ready to merge onto my third highway, I used a bit of gas to get into the very clear right lane.

And passed the Prelude, stuck behind some slower vehicle, before I got off the highway.

So why this post?

Think about the Civic - a low power, econo box car. So it dreams of having twice the power - the reality is that it's quite a slow car. The Prelude - a much more powerful car, able to accelerate away at will from the Civic.

In a straight up race, the Prelude would win every time. Heck the Prelude would win if you started in second and only shifted into fourth.

But the Prelude didn't travel the long stretch of highway quicker. In fact, the weaker Civic did.

I'm the Civic. Not just the driver.

I am the Civic.

When I ride, I'm not the Prelude. I might have acceleration but I have only a few accelerations in my legs before I have to rest. I don't have that fat power curve which fills the minute and 5 minute areas with incredible 500 or 600 watt numbers. My power curve, starting at the minute mark, peaks at about 440 watts. Then it declines rapidly to by 10 minutes I'm in the low 200 watt range. Wattage over an hour? Forget it.

I am the Civic.

Yet I manage to be competitive in some races. How is this?

It's because I ride like I drive when I'm trying to get over 44 mpg in the Civic. I use energy only when I have to. I stay in the draft. I coast when I can (or soft pedal if I'm really cooked - soft pedaling is better when you're cooked). This way, when the last few laps show up, I have something left to give.

When I ride differently I usually end up watching the end of the race from the side of the road. Sometimes I race like that intentionally. Usually I don't.

So what's this got to do with you?

Well, unless you're so strong that you ride everyone off your wheel and win by lapping the field a few times, you probably run into situations where you feel like the Civic in a field of Preludes. And when you do, you too should ride like a Civic. Save your energy. Protect your spot in the field. Draft. Don't move up on the outside. Sit in. And recover.

Because you'll live to fight it out later.

One way you can practice this is to drive like a Civic. Use the traffic around you. Be aware of when the car ten cars in front of you starts to slow. Ease off the gas. Be aware of where all the cars are around you, beside you, even behind you. Fill gaps if you think they'll put you in better position. Leave them if you know you'll just get boxed in.

Who knows?

You might race a bit more efficiently the next time you line up for a race.

And in the meantime you'll be driving a bit more efficiently, a bit more predictably.


suitcaseofcourage said...

Driving is racing is driving. Interesting article on the illegal street racing. Great way to take your morning commute and create another great post with great advice!

Aki said...

I see so many parallels between driving in relatively heavy traffic and racing in a peloton that I had to draw a comparison somewhere. The Prelude worked perfectly as I was with the car for virtually my whole commute.

And like I see some pretty illogical driving moves, I also see the same kinds of moves in the field. If one rider thinks about how to ride in a field a bit differently because of the post, then I'm happy.