In our article “Group Riding 101,” we detailed the key basics of riding in a group. In this article, we will go into the most common group riding pacelines, the single paceline and rotating paceline, and how to properly work your way around a paceline.
The single paceline consists of an acceleration (“fast lane”) and deceleration (“slow lane”). This is a very commonly used paceline because it is fairly easy to navigate, takes up minimal space and can be modified to the needs of the group very easily.
The only variation from the single paceline is that there is a constant line of riders in the deceleration lane and the acceleration lane rotating fluidly from one to the other. “Pulls” on the front are usually very short with the rider in the acceleration lane passing the rider’s front wheel in the deceleration lane and then they drift into the
deceleration lane waiting for the next person to pass them. This is the beautiful paceline that you often see in breakaways of large races where riders are constantly moving up to the front and then rotating to the back.
Getting off the front of the group is something that is a highly desired end. Legs are burning, lungs are screaming, the heart is pumping at capacity and the desire to end the effort is nothing short of coveted. Before jerking the bars to the left, you must consider the position of any riders in the direction of your planned direction (cars too). As you are passing the rider, you should wait to begin drifting over until your hips have passed the hoods of the rider that you are overtaking. Once you begin pulling off, you will signal the rider behind you that you are wanting him/her to take your position with a flick of the elbow. When pulling off, you are trying to leave just enough room for the rider to be able to pull past you, ultimately keeping the group tight knit and more aerodynamic. Pulling off to the center line not only decreases the efficiency of the group by decreasing the draft of the rider behind you. It endangers you by putting you in the path of potentially passing vehicles.
Getting Back On
The hardest part of the paceline, for many, is getting back into the paceline. The number one mistake that cyclists make is to wait too long to accelerate to try and get back onto the paceline. If your group is consistent in rotating through, you can continue to look for the same rider at your shoulder as a marker but you will often have to sight back to find the last person. Once the last person is found, you will wait until your front skewer is even with the other rider’s rear skewer. At that point you will want to provide two to three powerful pedal strokes and drift in behind the rear wheel of the last rider.
Ready to keep improving your group riding knowledge? You’ve graduated from 201 and are ready for the next level: Group Riding 301.