Every July, skinny men on colourful bicycles pedal up mountains in the Tour de France. The riders average over a hundred miles per day for three weeks. How do they do it? Fitness and technology are only part of the story; no rider could be competitive without the invisible boost of the slipstream – the same effect used in NASCAR and by dicing GP racers like Gibernau and Rossi.
At 25mph, roughly 90% of a cyclist’s effort goes into moving air out of his way. Slipstreaming cuts that figure dramatically. In a pack, all but the front row of riders feel the benefit of the draft (there's very slightly more to it than that, and it involves vacuum--the first riders get a tiny benefit from the people behind them), so they take turns slipstreaming to conserve energy. This energy-saving teamwork is the reason a group of riders can catch a solo breakaway with relative ease.
Want to feel the spooky calm of the draft? Get hold of a racing bike and find a bus route along a 30mph street – you’re going to draft a bus. Ride along the route until you pass a stationary bus, then shift into a big gear and accelerate hard as the bus pulls away. Once it passes you, check there are no cars and then duck in behind it, maintaining a distance of 5-10 feet. You should hardly have to pedal, and the wind will disappear. Cover the brakes in case the bus begins to slow.
It is much easier to ride a hundred miles a day if you barely have to pedal. Indeed, a pro rider generates less than 1bhp. So if you cannot arrange the suggested thrills, fear not. Hop on a Fireblade and you’ll be sitting on more power than is in the entire Tour de France peloton.