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Paceline Cycling: Your Guide to Riding Competently in a Group

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When it comes to group riding, the best way to do is by paceline cycling. This is because; it gives the cyclists the chance to ride faster without actually putting in much effort. Moreover, it is an excellent social experience. It might seem difficult especially if you are doing it for the very first time but with practice, you would see that paceline is a delightful thing.

paceline cycling
Paceline Cycling is a Delightful Activity

In a group of riders, there should be both experienced and novice riders. Basically, it should consist of people who do not feel the need to prove themselves every time. Now, when we talk about group rides, there are two kinds of groups. One, where people work collectively to meet the goals and the other, where people try to show that they are better than the others. A good paceline cycling group is preferably the second category.

In this kind of riding, to ride effectively and safely is the key. The advantage of riding further back in a paceline is that you would be able to save up a lot of energy. As you are getting to rest, you would be able to go much faster as compared to when riding solo.

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Keep reading to know all about paceline cycling.

Types of Paceline

Types of paceline riding
Types of Paceline Cycling

There are four major types of paceline cycling. The position of the wind is the determinant factor here for the positioning of the line.

Type 1 - The Single Paceline

The single paceline is where the rider in the front is supposed to pull off in either direction. This shifting would be would be dependent on the direction of the wind. Also, it is said that the rider coming from the front and going backward should not remain in the traffic's lane. Whichever direction is followed, it has to be ensured that all of the riders in the group are doing the same.

Type 2 - The Double Paceline

The double paceline is almost similar to the single paceline with just a slight alteration. In this kind of setting, there are two single pacelines positioned next to each other. The riders riding in the front are supposed to pull off in reverse directions. When the riders in the front decide to pull off simultaneously in reverse directions, the pacelines are comparatively smoother. If not, one of the lines would have to hurriedly get the riders on the side.

Type 3 - The Rotating Paceline

It is one of the most interesting and satisfying pacelines of all. But, it requires greater skill, effort, and focus. In this style of riding, there are two lanes, one is the faster (advancing) line and the other is the slower (retreating) line. The slower or the retreating line is generally positioned according to the position of the wind. If there’s no wind, a tailwind or a headwind, the slower line generally remains on the right.

In a rotating paceline, the rider at the front of the fast lane clears the rider positioned in front of the slower lane. The advancing rider then moves into the slower lane and eases his pace. Now, the rider who was behind him would continue the same pace of the faster lane until it’s time for him to switch over.

The speed here is changed during the switching-over time by soft-pedaling. However, when moving from the retreating to the advancing lane, you would have to put pressure on your pedal.

Type 4 - The Echelon Paceline

This is the kind of paceline where the riders ride in the crosswind. The riders here would find cover from the wind naturally by riding in an angle as depicted in the image. The Echelon could either be single or rotating paceline. Whatever the pattern is, the rider in the front would usually pull off into the direction of the wind.

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General Rules of Paceline Cycling

Paceline cycling
Paceline Riding Has a Set of Rules to Follow

Now that you are aware of the different types of paceline riding, let us have a look at a few general rules that you must follow as a rider.

Rule 1: Maintain an Appropriate Pace

More than often, the riders commit the mistake of going way too fast when it’s their turn to be on the front. But, that is not how things work in paceline cycling. The people who do it are ones who want to show off their cycling skills or the ones who feel that being in front means that they are supposed to ride faster.

However, the proper way is to remain attentive of the effort and average speed of the entire group. When you are riding in a team, your aim should be to be with them and do your best to maintain the pace that the group is following. Even if you are in the front try to keep the group together.

Rule 2: Paceline is an Implicit Agreement

With paceline cycling, you have implicitly made a pact with each and every member of the group. You have made a promise to put in your maximum effort, work together to further the goals of the group and ride steadily and most important, safely.

When you enter a paceline, you ensure the group that you are well-aware of the basic rules of this kind of riding. You would accomplish this by making vigilant so as to ride along with the group, neither too fast nor too slow. The goal here is to remain with the group, no matter what.

Paceline cycling
Paceline Cycling is Fun When All Ride Together

Rule 3: Remain Alert

When you are riding in a paceline, you have to keep your eyes open and be alert at all times. Do not look at the wheels of the rider instead look past the rider ahead of you. Also, keep looking further ahead in the group in order to predict a probable obstacle. If you remain alert, you would also be able to judge any kind of change in pace or discern the condition of the road.

In paceline cycling, if you decide to leave, you are usually required to move towards the left. However, it would be best to talk to everyone before starting. Also, don’t get distracted by other things on the road. Just remain attentive of the rider in front of you.

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Rule 4: Do not Stop Abruptly

Even a minor change in your direction or speed could disrupt the riders who are behind you. If you stop suddenly, it might even cause a crash. Not halting suddenly is one of the most important cycling paceline etiquettes. In this kind of riding, it is everyone’s responsibility to maintain a flow. At times there might be small obstacles like small stones, sticks or pebbles ahead of you. In such situations, it would be best to ride over them and not halt suddenly.

Rule 5: Make Adjustments Along the Way

When people are riding in a group, it is almost impossible for everyone to put in equal amount of effort. This is especially true if you are riding on an uneven terrain. You would be required to make small adjustments all along the way according to the need of the situation.

If you don’t, the line would either come really close to each other or spread out with huge gaps in between. You could make use of cycling paceline hand signals to let the other people in the group know about the change. Other techniques that might help you would be:

  • Air Brake
    This is one of the easiest and safest way to reduce your speed is by sitting upright and catching some wind. It won’t cause any effect on the line and you would be able to slow down a bit.
  • Soft Pedal
    Pedal softly or take light pedal strokes if you feel that you are getting too close to the rider ahead of you. This would help you in adjusting your speed.
  • Feather Brake
    As you are pedaling, begin to pull the brakes very gently. Speed can be adjusted when shifting up or down as and when required.

Rule 6: Do not try to Pull for Longer Time Periods

When you are the lead reader, there is no reason as to why you should remain in the front for longer time period. You might be trying to impress the group but that is not how things work in paceline cycling. Usually, the riders are supposed to rotate from the front after riding for about two to three minutes.

If in the group, there are a few riders who are comparatively stronger than the others, they can be given the chance to pull for a few more minutes. They could pull for say five to seven minutes in order to even out the efforts put in by everyone. These things must be discussed with everyone beforehand so that everyone is aware of what’s happening.

Rule 7: Interacting is Essential

People don’t usually talk in a paceline unless it is a double paceline or a rotating paceline and everyone is riding at a rather relaxed pace. The danger is high when the entire group is riding at a pace. In situations where you notice an obstacle, it would be advisable to let the other members of the group know about it.

Paceline Cycling
Group interaction is Topmost Priority

You wouldn’t necessarily have to shout to them. Simply point it out. However, in situations of greater risk like a turn or an intersection, it would be best to speak out loud. Guesswork should best be avoided in high-risk situations.

Once you gain enough experience, you could even get yourself paceline bikes. These have been created especially for this kind of riding and therefore would aid you efficiently. Other than that, you would be glad to know that there are other paceline products available in the market like the paceline prosthetics.

Summing Up

Group of women cyclists
Ignite the Passion, not a Competition!

When you are riding in a group, it is best to discuss the roles of everyone before starting. The most efficient paceline cycling is where every rider in the group has similar strength. If not, the stronger riders of the group should make longer pulls to make it up for the weak riders. Other than that, just remember that pace lining is a skill and you need adequate practice to master it. You would need to put in hard work, effort, dedication and most importantly, you must have the will to challenge yourself.

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Now that you are aware of the theoretical part, it’s time to go out and hone your skills. We hope that you found this article useful. If you have any other valuable tips to share with us, please feel free to do so in the comment section below.

Happy Riding!

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