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!

Faster cycling by pace-lining

Want to ride faster while lowering your heart rate? Then pace-lining is what you need.

I was on a ride, and we started a paceline. How this happened was random, we were going along single-file then the guy on the front ‘slowly’ pulled off the line by easing to his left (since we were on the right hand side of the road) clear of the next rider, then slowed down slightly (just a mile or 2 per hour). The next rider keeps the same effort that the original rider had that was pulling the group, but decided he didn’t want to pull the whole time, so he slowly pulled over, allowing the next rider to come through and do his share of the work.

Suddenly, we had a paceline going, and as it became my turn to pull through the rider in front of me was less experienced (not a problem) he pulled through well, but after he eased off the paceline he didn’t slow down. Now since I was maintaining the same speed/effort for the group I was not passing him – he soon looked to see why not and once he realized it, he slowed down slightly to allow us to pass him, and continue the paceline.

This is 1 of the most common mistakes by novice riders, to either pull through too hard and/or not slow down or to pull for too long and running out of energy and not pulling off the front to allow other riders to continue the rotation.

The 2nd biggest mistake (and more dangerous) is that when a rider is down with their pull, they swing wildly to the side to allow the next rider to come through…. unless you are on the veldrome or your a lead out man for a Pro sprinter, you should not do this. It is just too drastic of a swing to the side, and again others are counting on you to be a safe rider.

If the group is doing a consistent paceline there is no reason to signal that you are pulling off the paceline, each rider knows everyone is doing a pace-line. Just slowly ease to the side as you pass the rider that was ahead of you, this gives the next rider a smooth transition from drafting you, to pulling the rest of the riders. And when you do it smoothly the rider that you are passing should get plenty of time to adjust their speed to comfortably start drafting from you with out any random moves.

Team Time Trial

When riders do or have to make drastic changes in direction or ‘lines’ that they are taking is a main cause of accidents in a group. Unexpected movements is dangerous to the other riders around you, try to minimize them. When each rider in a group moves around the road smoothly accidents are minimized because where each rider is going becomes obvious.

Although it is the responsibility of each rider to not hit the rider ahead of them, it is also good to keep in mind that you have other’s well being in your hands based on your actions. No one is perfect, but there are some riders I will avoid or go around ASAP! Yet, there are some riders that I have no problem drafting behind them as long as possible.

The steadier and consistent of a rider you are, the more respect you will gain from other riders because no one wants a cyclist ahead of them that is unpredictable!