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!
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Have you noticed in your latest cycling catalogs there are now stability balls and bands for sale – what do they have to do with cycling!? LOTS! Many people have now heard the word “core” and core training, but what does that have to do with cycling, group rides, and racing? Again, LOTS!
Think of your core as being the center structure based upon which all movements start from. When you have to quickly adjust to changes, bunny hop, shift in the wind to remain upright… etc. etc. all these require that the core is engaged, strong and stable.
But, what is the CORE? The core is more scientifically referred to as the lumbar pelvic hip region, and is essentially your trunk without your arms or legs – however your muscles and tendons have a lot of connections and extensions that go past just the trunk area into the legs.
The transverse abdominus is a muscle in your core that is the first muscle (in the body) to fire in response or preparation for movement. If you have a dysfunctional timing sequence (weak core), then the chance that you have lower back pain is great!
We train our clients on how to better engage their core muscles to get the most out of the body!
This information has many effects on you as a cyclist.
If your core is not engaging properly, then you may feel pain in your lower back. The interesting thing is that your back may be stronger than you think. In fact it may just be overloaded because your abdominal muscles are not doing their fair share of the work, and the lower back has to do extra to support your spinal column.
Try pedaling with your abs pushed out for 30 seconds, then try pedaling with your abs pulled in for 30 seconds – big difference.
Check out my post on how to get six-pack abs.
What those bands and stability balls are supposed to be used for is strength and stability in the core. There are dozens of exercises and even more variations of each exercise to suit all ability levels!
Check out some variations in the Video section.
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I had to re-learn a valuable lesson on New Years Day……..and it isn’t what you think, but it was Very Painful.
I went with friends to Athens, GA for the New Years eve, downtown festivities – Good times. New Years day consisted of road riding with the Winter Bike League ride. This was probably the first WBL ride I’ve done in many years. These rides are not for the weak of heart, nor weak leg individual. The only thing that is bigger than some of the names of folks that ride are the tales that are told about the rides!
“There were 60 or 70 diehards in attendance on Friday, but less on Saturday, all powerful pedal-people capable of Herculean feats of pedaling prowess. Even old-time Zealots Steve Carhart, Reggie Pineda, and Gentry Arnette were back from the dead.”
But don’t doubt that the rides are the real deal.
The New Years day ride was 64 miles, which equaled 72 from the house we are crashing at.
Let’s just say that I wasn’t feeling the best this morning from the New Years festivities, but I wasn’t feeling the worst out of all of us either, after all, I did actually get on the bike….
The peeps were up by 8, coffee & breakfast for those that could stomach it….. not me.
The warm-up to the ride didn’t seem to make things any better. The morning temperatures were hovering just above freezing, and we were late. We got to the start and I barely had the energy to sign-in and chat with some of the folks that I haven’t seen in too long. The Mighty ride leader got on with the announcements & the ride, wind, miles commenced. Everyone shuffled up the group as we headed out of town and I wanted nothing to do with it….. I was content to be able to keep the field in site…… I was feeling weak and had no extra energy to attempt to maintain a position with these top dogs Southeastern racing scene!
Slowly, but definitely most anyone that was indeed intent on keeping up with the pack passed the weak member ahead of them – ME. When I looked back, there were only a few stragglers behind me…..the guys that are on the back of most of the big rides around this area – chatting, laughing, not concerned about the group because they know they can turn on the gas at any time and catch up if and when they want.
As the miles ticked away I was tipping up a flask of gel and attempting to rehydrate from my water bottles, the stomach was at least starting to feel better & now willing to believe that what ever I was ingesting was now for the greater good, rather than the opposite of the previous evening. As I was now realizing that we were probably 20+ miles out, the ride itself was starting to take their toll on my legs, each on the brakes, on the gas! section was hurting more and more & I was having to dig more when coming out of the turns that we were going through. At least experience tells me that the accelerations and decelerations don’t have to adjusted immediately – like the old racing dog that I am, I know that I can carefully use the amount of efforts smoothly to close gaps & whenever possible look for other wheels to do the work. But still, I was unfortunately, sitting near the back, I getting the full ‘piano’ effect of the field. This made a tough day tougher!
And then came the hills……ah, the rolling hills around this area can not be fooled! They will slowly sap your energy & they are even more effective when multiplied by the cross wind along the flats leading into them. The hills will not be fooled – they will pinpoint your fitness based on the group around you. I fell off the pace on a climb only to sit on a wheel that closed the gap – that hurt. Always onward the pack marches, they don’t notice what happens behind them, they only move forward. We marched on wind beating everyone from the side, yet no one complains, they just get on with the job at their feet, marching to the pace being set by the front pace makers. Next climb and this one has bite! The front dogs haven’t changed their pace much & the steepness and distance is not to my liking….. I have to call up the team car.
“You ok?” to make the answer more obvious, I give them the wild crossed eyed look, which also implied what I thought of the hill. “K, we will pace you back” – Really? phew!!!! I make it up the climb & sit in behind the SUV, boosting my speed until we are catching up with some of the other riders that are falling off the pace. I pick up my head enough to realize that the the whole pack has slowed down to take a right turn. I come around the car, barely able to raise my hand in appreciation. I keep a high pace, whip through the turn, and finally onto the back of the field. Gaining once again the feeling of safety within the herd.
Onward we roll through the countryside, and all the time now, I’m looking for a chance for this wounded passenger to gain access into the upper ranks of the distinguished riders. Every chance to gain forward momentum is painful, more gel, more water. Slow, Fast…. next roller, Hangin’ On….. must move up.
The next climb that we come to is longer, but not as steep. I can make it I think, it’s more suited for me. As we get into the climb the front guys are steady – good for me, but I’m still digging deeper than I would like. I can feel the quads talking to me – next up, cramps – not yet, spin more, use the heart more and I have done what a couple others didn’t – make it to the top, with the group. As the terrain levels off, I’m taking several deep breathes in an attempt to gulp enough oxygen in hopes of flushing the lactic acid, and slow the heart rate. As we round the bend I see the next climb…. the group had a nearly simultaneous shift of gears, and this time I could not dig deeper.
The pace car comes up and I hear… “take a right & the store stop is 2 miles”, followed by the motor as they pass. Oh, thank goodness! A break. Stoppage, if only for a few minutes….
At the store stop, I chewed on my cliff bar, got a couple sips of some carbonated caramel colored, sugar – the last of the gel flask and topped off a bottle of water. I check on my buds, meet some new one’s and I hear the “let’s Go!”
As soon as I heard this I pulled off a sweet cycle-cross move of hopping back onto the bike, finding out which way the group is head and bolting str8 up to the front 20 riders! We ease through Commerce and as we head back onto the open road, I start to realize… my efforts are easier, the piano effect is much smoother – pedal, coast, repeat. I don’t have the need to kiss my stem every time we take a turn, to catch back up. Ahhh, this is the tempo that I had been hoping for – smooth. Just as I think it is going to be a smooth draft all the way back to Athens, we turn again & I hear the whistle blow – we have entered the attack zone & the strong men will no longer pull everyone along, it is each man for himself. I find the latern rouge & we set a steady pace back home, all the while telling tall tales of the feat of which we have just accomplished – riding yet another WBL.
Positioning in the pack made such an immense difference in my ride this day!! As long as you are a steady rider, it pays to have a good position in the pack. Pack positioning can keep you out of the wind, away from squirrels, and ahead of the piano!
I’m happy to say that Saturday’s WBL – although colder, was so much more of an enjoyable ride because I made sure that I got into a good position in the pack for the entire jaunt!
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