OK, disclaimer time: let me first make a "I make no apologies for this"-kind of apology. This blog is very much in the category of confession to a guilty secret. I'm not recommending this behaviour; I'm not saying it's clever or cool. But it is fun, and I'm definitely not the only one who thinks so.
Second disclaimer: it's not my idea. The inspiration comes from my favourite cycling film, Breaking Away. I won't bore you with a plot resumé but let me just recommend you watch this sequence, in which our cyclist hero picks up a ride behind a tractor-trailer, takes a tow in the slipstream and covers the 50 miles into Bloomington, Indiana in about half the time it normally takes him. (The truck driver actually gets a ticket for speeding!)
Here goes, then: one of the unspoken pleasures of urban cycling is catching the bus.
And I don't mean leaving the bike at home and using your bus pass or Oyster card. I mean getting tucked in behind a doubledecker on a clearway and slipstreaming it at 30mph. The trick is to "catch the bus" when it's just pulling away from a stop, so that you can get close and match your speed as it accelerates. Obviously, this is only worth doing when the road ahead is reasonably clear and it's only possible if the driver hasn't got a lead foot.
But if you're lucky, and especially if it's out of rush hour and the bus doesn't have to pull in at every stop, then you can get an effortless high-speed tow for half a mile or more. And the buzz you get from a bus ride is … well, it's a buzz.
Risks? Well, yes, it's not risk-free. You have to ride close enough (a few feet) to be out of the wind and get the full suction effect. That means you need to be quick on the brakes and agile enough if the bus suddenly decides to brake or pull in. It also means you get no sight of the road surface ahead, so you need to "ride light" over dodgy drain covers and the like. And you won't want to pick a smoky bus unless you don't mind turning your lungs into kippers.
But if you're confident and sensible, there's nothing to it; and I've never had a "moment". The only annoying thing that happens sometimes is missing the bus – and being overtaken by one with someone else riding behind it at twice your speed and wishing you were there.
Own up now. Have you ever tried it? How do you go about it? Even if you haven't, you must have seen it done. So what do you think: is it wildly irresponsible or a perfectly legitimate way to get your urban cycling kicks?