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Inline secrets from the world's top skaters and coaches

This week's tip:

Draft Quest!

By Eddy Matzger

It used to be my ultimate draft was the Cal Berkeley Women's Cycling Team, which left campus on their workouts every day at 2:45 p.m. I'd be at my max as they pulled me through the hills behind the campus, where I learned how to travel at greater than race pace for sustained periods of time. They motivated me to stay with them at all costs.

Nowadays, I'm still in search of the perfect draft. If I'm in a large metropolis, such as in China or Thailand, I find an expat cycling club and tag along with them on their early morning forays. It's a great way to be shown new territory for future solo skates and also to get in a huge workout.

In China, growth is still rampant, so new roads are being laid in every direction, presenting a bewildering choice of directions in which to take off. I used to forgo the bike lanes and skate right out in the road, searching for heavily laden trucks whose top speed is between 30 and 35 miles per hour. It's entirely possible to catch them as they lumber by after a stoplight, and slowly crank yourself up to speed, literally getting vacuum suctioned along at an unbelievably fast rate of speed.

It used to be that skating in the bike lanes was a bit hazardous, if not fun in the way of a video game. Everybody's competing for the same space at different speeds, and being agile is paramount. Electric bicycles used to only top out at 15-18 mph, so I could weave my way up through traffic, picking targets off one by one.

Occasionally an LPG scooter would come along and pace me along for a while.

skatefarmthailand adThese days, battery technology has improved tremendously, so electric bicycles now whiz along at 20-25 miles per hour or more. Training potential has increased exponentially. Many are the mornings I've been escorted a long way by a group of enthusiastic factory workers on the way to the job site. They laugh amongst themselves and make me work harder by throwing out a barrage of questions while I'm sucking wind behind them. "Lei bu lei?"--"Tired or not?" is always the opening line.

Once I leave the big city behind I need to get a little more opportunistic about my drafting. In Ningbo, around Dong Qian Lake, I'd fall in behind fishermen on mopeds. Their baskets on either side provided a nice wide, and sometimes aromatic windbreak. In Suzhou, I'd latch on to the watermelon transports, essentially a cart full of fruit attached to a motorcycle. They zip along at a leg-locking speed, coasting only momentarily to burn through an intersection or two.  In Thailand, similar motorized carts are perfect for drafting on long, empty stretches, as are the tractors with 20 foot steering columns that pull trailers at a serious clip.

Drafting Tips

1. Get up to speed in a separate lane as a potential draft comes from behind. You don't need to be traveling at the same speed, just fast enough to hop in behind as they go by and sprint to catch the pocket of air behind them that will pull you along.

2. It's a good idea to skate in a place where the operator can see you in their rear view mirrors. You'll be able to trade smiles and the driver will be sure you're still there.

3. In the event of a gasoline powered draft, skate up extra close or in echelon to avoid fumes.

4. When behind a truck or any other vehicle, the more you value your life, the more off to the side you should skate in order to see any obstacles. If it's a really big transport, though, it may be possible to see all the way under the axles and cab and be able to react quickly enough to any irregularities.

5. Don't skate in the red zone for too long. You might get wobbly and make a mistake that takes you down (it's happened to me). Relax, and treat it as an interval, not an above threshold workout. Know that the next great draft is somewhere on its way!

[Editor's note: Drafting motorized vehicles — especially in traffic — is dangerous! Eddy makes it look easy. But that's because his skills ... his ability to control his speed, change directions and stay on his feet — are extraordinary.]


eddy matzger in shanghaiEddy Matzger is one of the winningest skaters in the history of inline racing and leader of the popular Eddy Matzger SkateFarm and Roadshows. He makes his home in Floyd, VA, site of the Skate Farm. When he's not skating in the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains, he's traveling around the globe, where he's in high demand as a teacher and coach. His latest venture is SkateFarm Thailand, an all-inclusive skate getaway. His longtime sponsor is Twincam bearings.

Eddy's web site



Related reading:

Skate Tip of the Week Archive
Beginners Guide to Outdoor Racing
Beginners Guide to Inline Skating




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