Solo rides are awesome. The wind in my face, watching the scenery fly by, setting my own pace, and conquering long distances on my own is what makes the cycling experience so enjoyable.
Sharing that experience with a small group is even better.
Riding with a small group, I can cover even longer distances because I use less energy at a time when I ride in a paceline. I'd venture out to say that knowing how to ride in a paceline is a skill any cyclist should have and is essential during cycling races.
Here are a few pointers to help you safely start riding in a paceline.
Practice riding in a straight line before your first group ride. A core piece of riding in a paceline is riding in a straight line. The steadier you are the better draft others will catch behind you. You'll even catch a better draft from the others in front of you.
Get on a line and relax, you don't want tense muscles. Practice maintaining a certain pace and look 20-30 feet ahead of you, not directly at the ground.
Before the ride meet with the group you'll be riding with and go over the safety rules. Make sure you know the pace everyone's going to keep and be comfortable with keeping that pace.
During the ride, just fall in line. Keep your front wheel 1 to 3 feet behind the rider in front of you and ride in a straight line behind everyone. NEVER look at the rider's back wheel. Look ahead 20 to 30 feet, like you practiced alone, and relax. Continue to turn the cranks without putting pressure on your pedal (soft pedaling) to keep good spacing.
If you find a gap between you and the rider in front of you, slowly accelerate. The last thing you want to do is over accelerate and bump the rear wheel of the rider ahead of you. The rider ahead of you will likely just be annoyed with you and it's very likely that your front wheel's going to cut too hard and fast for you to correct before you go tumbling to the ground, taking everyone
behind down with you.
Share the work and be ready to take the lead when it's your turn. Keep a straight line at the agreed upon pace, so the rest of the riders in the group can benefit from your draft. NEVER eat, drink, stand up, stretch out, or make any other small movements like this while you're at the front. The riders behind you will feel these movements in the draft and these movements can completely throw off the entire paceline.
Keep in mind that your job is to keep everyone behind you safe. Call or point out obstructions like downed tree limbs, potholes, cracks in the road, etc. Yell "x" bikes passing when passing a pedestrian so the pedestrian knows how many cyclists to expect to go whizzing by. Swing wide
of those irregularities in the pavement to give everyone behind you enough time to react and
When you're done being the first rider make the agreed upon hand single (chosen before the
ride), look over your shoulder to make sure you're clear, and move over to the agreed upon side
of the paceline (chosen before the ride). Stay 2 feet away from the paceline and start soft pedaling. When you see the last rider coming up, start applying pressure to your pedals again and fall back in line.
You shouldn't have to accelerate at all if you do this correct. This is the time where you can eat, drink, stretch, stand up, and make as many movements as you'd like since no one's behind you.
If you decide you're too tired to get back in the paceline, leave a big gap when the previous front
rider starts falling back, signaling you need a little extra time to relax. Don't get lazy and take the
caboose the entire ride, you'll be the laughing stock of the group and you'll gain a reputation amongst the other cyclists for not pulling your weight in the group.
Riding in a paceline is an easy, but essential part of cycling. It's even quite fun to be part of a team working together in an otherwise individual sport. When your team gets the rhythm of the paceline down, it's poetry in motion.
**Justin is a regular contributor to the Sierra Social Hub as part of #TeamSierra. Learn more from him on his site: The Weekend Warrior.
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How to Ride a Bike in a Paceline
By Justin Fricke
September 12, 2014
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