How to paceline

A few weeks ago, I was doing a road ride with the Wednesday night group. We were rolling down the road with a rotating pace-line. As we got to a slight downhill, I noticed that some riders that I hadn’t seen at the front suddenly hopped into the pace-line – but instead of keeping things smooth, it suddenly got all messed up. Riders were either pulling too hard through the pace-line or riders were pulling up to the front rider, and NOT pulling through.

It was like they got themselves to the front of the group ride and suddenly realized they were in a little over their head, and didn’t know how to get themselves out of it. So, I attempted (in a helpful tone) to get them to move over to the left and allow the rotation to continue again.

I have read several articles that tell you how you are supposed to do a paceline, but I think they all miss the mark for 1 important reason:

The paceline is an ever changing thing, and you have to adapt accordingly.

There isn’t always a proper rotation.
1) The lead rider should gradually pull off the front – no sudden side motions. (also, there is no need to point if you make your movements gradually and steady).

2) The lead rider should pull off into the Headwind.

3) Once the lead rider pulls off the front, they should also gradually and slightly reduce intensity and speed to allow the next rider to pull in front of them and then draft off the next rider (assuming a consistent rotating paceline) – think of it from an over-head view, the cyclists going through the paceline should draw an oval, not a rectangle.

A good video example:

4) If there is no headwind then it doesn’t matter which way the paceline rotates. Sometimes you will pull through and no one will be behind you, and suddenly the pack is single-file with you at the front. You can continue your effort if you like, and wait until someone pulls through allowing you to draft, or you can simply flick your elbow and ease back to the other side of the road, hoping that the rider who is now behind you will pull through. If he does, then the paceline has just switched rotation.

There isn’t always a specific amount of time on the front.
Generally in the U.S. we keep a steady rotating paceline, so as soon as you are at the front, you gradually begin to slide over in front of the next rider – this allows the rider being passed to adjust speed to get into your draft, and it allows the next rider in the paceline to adjust intensity to keep the pace steady.

If your group wants each rider to ride at the front for a longer period of time then the intensity of the effort will have to be your gauge for how long you stay on the front. This should allow the weaker rider to rotate off the front sooner, and the stronger rider to stay on the front longer.

All of these things may change on the fly – and being able to adapt is what is important. And always remember that your actions will cause reactions to those behind you, and visa versa, so be steady and as predictable as possible.
When pacelines run smoothly it is the Faster Cycling way for a group to ride together!

How to keep momentum

This week I out on some local Mt bike trails, and I got thinking how I felt really at ease on the trail. This is something that I have always called ‘flow’, or going with the flow of the trail. It is a way of going with and using the trail to keep as much momentum as possible, thus making the ride feel like less effort.

There is something about going a little slower and enjoying the pace, attempting new lines (path that you go over), and general playing around on the bike that sometimes gains valuable experience in how to corner, and how to avoid some obstacles and sometimes to gain confidence conquering others.

On the road bike, you can use similar techniques. Try to avoid things that will slow you down – like in hairpin turns the outer radius slows you down less than the shortest radius through the turn. Even though the outside may be a longer distance, the inside is usually steeper.

Brake as little as needed before the turn, maintain momentum in the corner and pedal as soon as possible out of the turn.

I went up to my cousins wedding a year ago in Vermont. Come to find out, he had built a small pump-track in his backyard the year before. A pump-track is a track built to specific dimensions that allows you to use momentum to keep going around the loop WITHOUT pedaling! The basic way that you do this (and I’m not the best at it) is by pulling up slightly on the uphills and pushing down aggressively with your legs as the bike goes down the back-side of the humps that are on the track. What happens is that you go over the uphill section and attempt to gain momentum on the downhill side of the hump.

I had done this times before, but when I visited my cousin’s pump track that he built in Vermont, I was amazed at how much more effective he is at it than I am – of course it is in his backyard. I would have to take a couple pedal strokes each time going into the higher side – my cousin had no problems and didn’t need to pedal the whole time he was riding the track.

Notice in this video he doesn’t pedal at all (no this isn’t my cousin :), he is using the track to maintain and at some points gain momentum – watch how he pushes and pulls on the bike:

To do this I often pull up slightly going into a obstacle to avoid the front wheel from taking the brunt of the obstacle. This allows me to set-up for the exit choice… On whoops, you have some choices, you can either just roll up and over the top, you can bunny-hop using the front of the whoop as a ramp, or you can gain speed by doing a slight bunny-hop just past the top of the whoop, then pushing down on the back of the bike, once the rear wheel comes into contact with the landing side of the whoop. This way you will gain more momentum/speed going out of the obstacle.

This particular day I was pushing the 2Niner out in front of me with nearly full arm extension as I leaned through the turns. This made each turn feel easier, and allowed me to keep more momentum. When going into some turns it is best to use the brakes as little as possible, and then pedal as soon as possible after exiting the turn.

Use the terrain to your advantage, and you won’t burn as many Matches.