How To Ride In A Paceline
The primary advantage of riding in a paceline is increasing your speed without expending additional energy.
However pacelines also enhance, safety, camaraderie, and the ability to ride longer distances.
The essence of a paceline is to take turns at the front of a single file line of cyclists, push hard or maintain an agreed upon speed, and then move to the left as the other riders pass you. You then “grab on” to the last rider’s wheel and rest in the “draft”. Cycling in the “slipstream” of another rider, is much easier than “breaking the wind” all by yourself. At 13 mph, or faster, a paceline is an effective way to cover ground with higher speeds and lower energy out put. A paceline is also useful when “riding into the wind”, as it gives you a periodic rest from the work of pushing through a headwind. A paceline also enhances safety, as it forces the riders into a single line along the right side of the road.
To participate in a paceline, you must be able to ride in a straight line, maintain a steady pace, and have good bike handling skills.
Keep the distance between bikes at 12 to 24 inches. The closer the better – but a tighter line requires more practice, skill and concentration. While professional racers often ride within a few inches of each other, it is neither practical nor safe for most of us. At 12 to 24 inches you can maintain an effective. yet safe, margin. Never get closer to the wheel in front of you, than your ability to respond to any situation allows. If your wheel “kisses” the wheel in front of you, you (and some of the riders behind you) will “go down”. The rider in front of you usually does not.
Beginners should not ride directly behind a wheel; stay an inch or two to the side. That way, if there’s a sudden deceleration, you can avoid kissing the wheel in front of you. You will also have a better view of the up coming road. Don’t make sudden moves! They endanger others. Minimize the use of your brakes, by watching and planning ahead. Braking slows down the line Then you, and everyone behind you, must expend energy to close the gap with the front of the line. This wastes energy – instead of braking, anticipate. PLUS sudden braking can cause the riders behind you to go down”.
Never overlap another rider’s rear wheel. If the rider swerves and catches your front wheel, you may go down. If you begin to pass the wheel in front of you, “soft pedal” until you regain the correct distance.
After gaining steady experience as a paceliner, try looking down the road about fifty yards instead of focusing solely on the wheel in front of you. This is sometimes referred to as “looking through” the rider in front of you. Try to use your peripheral vision to keep track of the distance between you and the wheel you are following
Experienced riders often us the Echelon technique when riding in windy condition on roads with very little vehicular traffic. When riding in an Echelon, you ride slightly to the left or right of the wheel of the rider in front of you. You want to be on the side opposite of the prevailing wind – wind from the right – you ride on the left. This creates a diagonal line of cyclists stretched across the road. NEVER overlap the rear wheel of the rider in front of you!
It is the lead rider’s responsibility to avoid road problems, as the rest of the group follows his/her line. The leader can either point to a problem, or call out the nature of the obstacle, while avoiding it. Common call outs include “glass, hole, rough road, stopping, and runner up”. When the line passes a single rider, or another group, the lead rider and the rest of the paceline should announce themselves as they pass by calling out “left” or “on your left”.
How long you stay on the front depends on your comfort level and/or an agreed upon limit among the riders. But never stay out front to the point of exhaustion. You must retain enough energy to both catch on to the line when you “peal off”, and to hold on afterwards. When you are ready to drop off the front, move to the left (first check for cars *). With a new leader, the group will maintain speed as it overtakes you. When you are parallel to the last rider, accelerate slightly so you can move to the right and grab onto the line without expending additional energy. Now you can safely REST while being “carried along”.
It is not poor etiquette for weaker riders to skip a turn or to avoid “pulling” completely. The stronger riders will understand that you are doing all you can to just “hold on”. However, if you are capable of taking your turn and fail to do so, you have committed a major breach of etiquette. This will annoy the other riders big time.
The best way to get good at “following a wheel”, is to ride with experienced cyclists. Only practice pacelining when you trust the ability of the rider in front of you. All it takes to become an effect paseliner is practice, practice and more practice.
* Buy a rearview mirror, if you don’t already own one.
© (Descriptions/not image) Bike Highway; Uncle Barn`s Cue Sheet Exchange LLC, 2014 and prior years