Riding in pacelines

PaceA paceline in nice, cool weather

A couple of weeks ago, the B ride from my club started 45 minutes ahead of the A group. Since we rode the same route, we had a chance to watch them pass by us while they were heading out to the turnaround.

The first six riders had formed a paceline, and what a sight they were! Really moving fast along a country road, and visibly putting distance between them and the less organized group following.

Paceline riding is something I haven’t done much. In the MS ride, I latched onto a couple of small lines, and found that I could keep up with them, but I only got to pull once. They quickly fell apart.

Apparently, most of the riders I encounter haven’t done a lot of paceline riding either. We tend to bunch up in clusters, rather than lines. Even in a bunch, there’s some wind blocking, but it’s nothing like it could be if we were in an organized line.

But then again, one thing I do know about pacelines is that you must be confident in your co-riders. If you don’t know how they’ll behave when you’re wheel-to-wheel, it’s probably not a good idea to form a line with them.

Watching the Tour has inspired me to try to get into some pacelines again. There’s plenty of info online about how to do it, such as this item from Examiner.com, a site featuring articles by experienced freelancers.

I’ll also bet a lot of Bike Noob readers know something about pacelines. How about sharing your insights on it? Let’s all get better together.

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8 thoughts on “Riding in pacelines

  1. This one hits very close to home. Having recently gone down hard in a pace line, I will part with this piece of advise I have learned with the scares to proof it:
    Unless you ‘TRULY’ know the person(s) you ride with in a pace line, stay off the back wheel of the rider in front of you at least two feet. You will still get the benefit of the draft but you will have plenty of time to react. Unless you are racing, there is no reason at all to be within inches of the rear wheel of anyone.

  2. Good advice above. I’ve never felt comfortable joining a fast paceline of “strangers” during organized rides. I don’t trust that they will follow the “rules” as I know them and have a familiar enough riding style. I have a couple of riding buddies from way back and even though we don’t ride together often anymore, I know their style well enough to paceline with them…even after years of not riding. But when we first started riding we rode together ALL the time and TRULY got to know each other. We also progressed in our riding abilities at the same pace…so that helped too. I think if you have the same people riding with each other of nearly equal ability, then it’s worth a try. It’s an awesome feeling to be able to ride with a few friends almost effortlessly at a pace 2-3 mph greater than normal…even with the pulls!

  3. I’ve only done small amounts of paceline riding, and while I see the benefits of drafting, I much prefer to ride solo. As they say, “unless you’re the lead dog, the view is the same.”

  4. I must concur with all of the above. Pacelines are far to dangerous for use in organized rides where you have riders of varied skill levels and speeds. There was a recent thread on the GOBA list serve (Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure–An eight day family oriented tour around parts of Ohio that draws 2500-3000 riders each year in June) where pacelines where discussed ad nauseum. The summary was there were a few groups who were pacelining. A paceline member complained about a person that stuck his arm straight out as they approached. He thought he was taking a swing at him. Turned out he was making his case for three foot passing in the only way that could be done in the seconds before he was overtaken.

  5. As a former racer, I agree with the above. A successful paceline depends on the skill of all participants. If you’re interested in riding in pacelines, make sure you can ride smoothly, both in terms of following a line and keeping a steady pace. For following a line, a good exercise is to find a road with little or no traffic and a painted stripe at the edge of the shoulder. Practice riding on the stripe without deviating more than an inch or so from either side. For keeping a steady pace, work on developing a smooth spin. For that, nothing beats rollers. When riding in a paceline, the most important thing to watch is the wheel immediately in front of you, but maintain a general awareness of your surroundings, as well. My best advice is to find a group with some experienced riders and practice with them. Good luck!

  6. Our cycling group’s beginner Sunday ride (Team Mcallen Cycling) is a great way to get introduced to double-paceline riding. The pace varies between 13-18mph, so even if there are problems, the group can react very quickly. After riding a couple of weeks with the group, we all have a pretty good idea what to expect from each other. The only issues seem to come up when you have newcomers, not necessarily new riders, that have never ridden this way before. It takes them a couple of rides to get used to it, as the group offers them advice and tips to get them up-to-speed. The good thing about this is that as the beginner riders progress through the ranks, they will have excellent paceline riding skills.

    -RamonH

  7. All above is great sdvice. Paceline riding is great fun, but takes lots of concentration. 6 inch gap provides 30% watt saving and keeps you fresh when you get to the front. More advide. Never overlap wheels in a paceline (thus the concentration). When you are 6-12″ off the wheel ahead you have to be able to respond to quick speed changes. You can’t drift off mentally in a paceline. Also regarding turns at the front. Generally the length of the pull is determined by the size of the line, but I advise short pulls of 30 seconds or less. Keep the thing rotating (that’s how you learn to do it smoothly) and pull off BEFORE you get tired (retreating riders to windward). It always happens that someone goes up front, trys to show their “form” and then stays for 3 minutes or until they blow. It’s good to have a line director who can shout out corrections and encouragement.

  8. Pingback: Riding in pacelines – do you know how to do it? BikeNoob.com blog « Adelaide Cyclist

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