Paceline Roles Update
RLCC PACELINE BASICS
Purpose: In keeping with the mission of RLCC to promote a culture of safety and respect at all rides, this document was prepared to introduce the basic skills required for safe, fun riding in a smooth paceline group.
Paceline riding consists of two or more riders traveling in a tight group in the draft of the rider(s) in front of them. The front rider of the line creates a draft for following riders. The draft envelope behind a single bicycle is about 2 meters long. The closer your front wheel is to the rear wheel of the rider in front of you, the stronger the draft. Paceline riding can save 20%-30% of your energy output while maintaining the speed the front rider has established.
For safety reasons RLCC limits groups to six cyclists. At the beginning of a club ride, cyclists of similar ability will usually group themselves accordingly.
RLCC rides paceline in a clockwise direction. Rationale for this: in Nova Scotia cyclists must follow the same rules of the road as motor vehicles, therefore we are required to pass on the left.
Joining a group ride for the first time can be intimidating. Don’t worry, RLCC have experienced club riders ready to help you out. Remember, one of the best ways to learn is to watch from the back of the group. Let your fellow group riders know you are new, and would like to sit out the paceline rotations at the beginning of the ride. Stay at the back, get the feel for the pace, watch and learn. Do not feel pressured to get too close to the wheel in front of you. If at any time you feel the pace is pushing you beyond your capabilities then let the rider in front of you know. You can drop back from the group; someone will stay with you. To prepare yourself for a group ride, consider a few practice rides drafting behind one cyclist you are familiar with.
Paceline Basics Expectations in General:
Be aware, be focused, concentrate. This is not the ride to admire the scenery! Constantly monitor what is going on in front of you, behind you and off to the sides.
Do not fixate on the wheel in front of you. Look at the head and shoulders of the rider in front of you, regularly glance 3-5 riders ahead.
Ride steadily, predictably, in a straight line, NO SUDDEN MOVES. Avoid weaving, surging. Remember you are part of a group moving in unison. If needed adjust your speed softly, gradually… “feather” your brakes or soft pedal to slow, don’t slam on your brakes.
Use hand signals to indicate a move out of or into the line. Remember there are other riders close to you, NO SUDDEN MOVES.
Point out/announce hazards. Only the first few riders can see the road. Point to and call out hazards such as Gravel! Hole Right! or Hole Left! Pass these signals down the paceline rider to rider. Other common situations include overtaking slower riders “Rider Up” or a car pulling out up ahead “Car Up!” or a car following closely behind waiting to pass the paceline “Car Back!”. Sometimes for a hazard it may be hard to find the exact words in the moment, so just alerting everyone with a loud “Slowing!” or “Stopping!” will suffice.
If riding a section of rough road and you do not feel safe taking a hand off the bar to point, then don’t. Safety first! Just call out the hazards, loudly.
Maintain a steady pace. Remember, you are not working as hard as the lead rider. Just because you can go faster, doesn’t mean you should. Your own personal goals for speed become secondary to the group pace when paceline riding. Leave your ego at home, or ride alone.
The flip side…never feel compelled to push beyond your limits. That’s when accidents happen. If you are more comfortable staying at the back then stay there, just let the rider in front of you know “staying back!”.
More on that Steady Pace concept: Many riders do not realize the little things that can cause accidents in a paceline group. Imagine someone is cycling behind you watching your rear wheel. Any adjustments you make to your position should be undetectable. For example, if you stand up on your pedals. There should be no slowing in your pace. When you sit back down in the saddle…there should be no slowing in your pace. This takes practice!
Never Ever Overlap the Wheel in Front of You! This is a golden rule and if broken has the potential to cause disaster.
Paceline Etiquette: Wait to drink until at the back of the line. Likewise, if you need to spit or expel bodily fluids in some other way, wait until you are at the back of the line.
Railroad Tracks. We have them on a few of our ride routes! They are extremely slippery when wet. As much as is safely possible try to ride across them at a 90-degree angle. Most experienced riders will slow considerably before crossing.
Paceline Basics Specific to Group Position:
Rider in Lead Position: The Lead Rider is setting a steady, smooth pace and safe straight line, indicating hazards, anticipating traffic light changes, indicating speed changes. When descending a hill, Lead Rider needs to keep pedaling and not “coast”. If Lead Rider coasts down a hill, the others behind are bunching up and braking. After slowing for a hazard, corner, traffic light, intersection, railroad tracks etc. Lead Rider is responsible for very gradual resumption of pace so as not to drop those riders at the back who may still be negotiating the hazard. When the Lead Rider hears the Second Rider announce they are taking over…the Lead Rider must smoothly adjust their speed downward a notch to allow the Second Rider to overtake without having to increase pace.
Rider in Second Position: Watch for a safe opportunity to pull through to the lead position. Watch for any indication from Lead Rider that they want you pull through. The length of the pull by any Lead Rider depends on many factors including head wind, size of the group, strength of riders. When ready, visually check back to make sure there is no traffic, move slightly to the left and announce to the Lead Rider you are ready to pull through saying “On Your Left” or “Coming By” or something similar. Do not increase speed as you pull through, the Lead Rider should adjust their speed slightly downward to accommodate you passing without increasing your speed.
Group Riders: Follow through the pull smoothly. The last rider as they are about to pass the retiring leader should announce “Last Rider” as that is a cue for that retiring leader to regain their speed and hop on the back of the paceline before a gap appears.
Riders Near the Back: The last or near last riders typically keep an eye out for what is happening behind the group…announcing “Car Back” as needed or anything else coming along behind the group that everyone should be aware of “School Bus” “Dump Truck” etc.
There is no substitute for practice when it comes to riding safely as part of a paceline group. These guidelines were prepared with the intent of introducing the basics. For anyone ready to join a group, every ride will build on these basics. Start slowly, communicate with your fellow riders and stay safe.
Updated March 2023