Friday, September 26, 2008

Pacelines - How to ride in a group*

The essence of group riding is riding the paceline. It allows cyclists to travel faster with less effort and provides a better social experience. (It is also a foundation of racing.) Pacelines do have some inherent danger and require communication among the riders. But a good paceline is a wonderful thing.

The basic SINGLE paceline is simple. The riders align behind one another to take maximum advantage of the "drag" effect of the cyclists to the front. The cyclist in the front will set the group's pace, when the lead rider decides it is time to change, that rider pulls off to one side and drifts back to the end of the paceline.

The new lead cyclist increases effort SLIGHTLY (just increases the amount of pressure on his pedals) to maintain the group pace. A good paceline is smooth. A good paceline is built on trust. The riders have to be confident that the others in the group will communicate well and ride safely.

diagrams and more info here ---> Pacelines - How to ride in a group*

* Adapted from Bicycling Street Smarts:by John Allen, drawing taken from the book


Adrian_O said...

when I first started road riding I had no clue how to ride in a group or what it was meant to keep the paceline. It wasn't until I did my very first Saturday morning group ride that I started to ask questions about developing good riding skills within the pack, how long to pull, when and how to move out of the front and smoothly make the transition to the back, how close to follow someones wheel, and what it means when someone yells out "CAR-BACK!". The reason I posted this is to give those newbies that information that was passed on to me. I'd rather hear and read encouraging things from more advanced riders than things like "you don't belong in this group", simply because I'm new to the cycling scene. At any time if any one has ANY questions about group riding or cycling in general please let us know? What do you think about group riding etiquette?

kew said...

The most important thing to remember is to not be afraid or intimidated to ask questions -- ANY questions.

Cycling groups can at times be standoffish and intimidating to novice cyclists.

teamFIRE does a great job in making new riders feel welcome, IMO. All questions are fair game.

Adrian_O said...

KEW - I agree. Don't feel like you have to be perfect at it either. With time and experience you'll start to feel more comfortable.

Bob K said...

Before I went on my first group ride, I read as much as I could find about riding in groups. At my first group ride (Husker Monday ride) I just tried to stay in the back and tried to ride smoothly and watch what all the other riders were doing. As I rode more, people like Adrian and Aaron and Dave R. would give me advice or tell me techniques for climbing, what to do in a paceline, etc.

Two threads on were helpful - Unwritten rules of a group ride, and We're going to yell at you. The first focuses on straight-ahead information, while the second is quite informative, but has a lot of elitist roadie attitude that makes it kind of fun to read.

Bob K said...

As far as what I like to see from other riders when riding with them in a paceline - stuff I've (hopefully) learned to do over the last year and a half of riding in groups:

Ride smoothly and predictably in a straight line.

Keep speed constant - no yo-yoing.

Try to soft pedal instead of coasting if you get too close to the person in front of you. Try not to use the brakes - sitting up or pulling out a little into the wind works if soft pedaling still puts you too close to the wheel in front.

Don't overlap wheels.

Don't ride too close to the gutter when in the right side of a double line.

Don't surge when it is your turn to pull - check your speed just before the person in front of you pulls off, and try to maintain that speed.

When I see people not using these techniques, I try to stay away from them or ride in front of them. I usually let somebody more experienced and skilled than I help teach them - I'm usually too busy trying to do all of the above to try to help other riders.

Barry said...

Excellent post Bob K! I too am a member over at and find it to be a great resource.

I've noticed that a lot of the groups that ride around here don't do the paceline that Adrian mentioned, instead they'll do a rolling paceline (not sure of the name of it) which is a very advanced technique that I think only teams do. If the groups would practice a normal paceline, pull for a few minutes/seconds and roll to the back, I think we'd see the learning curve improve.

Bob K said...

Thanks, Barry.

I agree with you - I think a single paceline where the leader pulls for a short period and then pulls off to the back is the easiest way to learn.

Bob K said...

Another thought - the rotating line which is depicted on Adrian's blog is fast and beautiful to watch, but it is difficult for beginners like me to pull off - I think mainly because you have to pull through rather than just rotating to the front. It seems to me to require more energy with less rest.

gravy said...

Okay, I say it...

Adrian... I think you're the only one that likes the "drag" effect.