|Cyclists training together often work in a group. One of the techniques that help us is pacelining. Pacelines are especially effective on relatively flat courses. Riders share the work by alternating the lead, protecting each other from the wind and riding in the slipstream of others (drafting). Drafting is much easier than riding at the same speed alone since the riders ahead shield you from the wind. It is estimated that at 25mph about 20% less energy is required riding behind another rider than riding on your own. With more riders even more energy is saved. Your speed may pick up 5 to 10 mph. It will make the 100 miles seem like 80!
This is how a basic paceline works:
After taking a turn riding in the front, the lead rider moves off and joins the group at the back of the line.
Imagine 5 riders riding across the page:
E D C B A --->
Rider A, finishing a turn at the front, referred to as a "pull", signals and moves off to the left, slows down and then rider B takes the lead. Rider A drops in behind rider E. Rider E must let rider A know that they are last in the line.
<--- A<--- A
A E D C B --->E D C B -->E D C B --->E D C B A --->
Shortly thereafter, the time depends on many factors, rider B does the same thing:
<--- B<--- B
B A E D C --->A E D C -->A E D C --->A E D C B --->
And so on...
Group Riding Principles:
Certain principles apply when you are riding in a group. These principles are vital to the safety of the group. Learn them and you will be welcome in the paceline. Start slowly, later you'll be able to better anticipate what happens when riding in a fast line.
No Sudden Moves:
Don't suddenly turn right, left, speed up or slow down. It's dangerous since any slight move impacts the riders behind you. It's a domino effect. Always keep pedaling while in a paceline.
The front rider, relinquishing the lead, moves over to the side and then slows down slightly. Don't slow down before moving off the front. The rider assuming the lead keeps the same speed as the previous lead, don't speed up - don't "surge". Keep pedaling even and steady.
Give Others a Turn:
The idea is not to prove how strong you are by hogging the front, but rather to learn to work together in a group, ride together and feel comfortable changing positions. There is plenty of time over 100 miles to test your strength.
Pull Off in a Consistent Direction:
When riding in a group, we will generally pull off to the left unless the wind is extremely strong coming from the right of the line AND we have a wide bike lane/shoulder. Your coach may then decide to have you pull off to the right so that the lead rider can be blocked from a severe side wind coming from the right. Whichever way the group is working, pull off the same way. There are advanced techniques for double pacelines.
Signal Your Intentions:
When pulling off, there are many ways to signal and different coaches have their preferences. One signal is to wiggle your elbow or make a forward motion with your hand on the side of your body that the next rider will come up upon. Occasionally a rider will create a gap in the paceline. If you are going to fill it instead of going all the way back to the end of the line, you can point to the gap, make sure you have adequate room and then move in.
Draft Reasonably Close:
Keep as close to the rider in front of you as safely and comfortably as you can. Try not to let "gaps" open. The ideal distance is 18 inches, however even 36 inches can work.
Ride Close Side-to-Side:
When you drop back to rotate, try to ride close side-by-side as well. This helps to avoid impeding other traffic and is also more efficient - a tighter group is more aerodynamic.
Warn of Road Hazards:
If there is plenty of time, everyone can avoid the hazard. If there isn't much time to avoid glass or a pothole, sometimes it is safer to ride over the hazard than violate Rule #1, no sudden moves.
Warn of Upcoming Cars:
Large groups sometimes impede the flow of traffic. Riders in the back should warn the group of upcoming cars. Call out "Car Back".
Use Brakes As Little As Possible:
Braking wastes energy you've used building up speed. It's also dangerous for the riders behind you - the domino effect. Your coach will instruct you to continue pedaling even when applying light pressure to your brakes. You can also slow slightly by simply sitting up into the wind.
Don't Exhaust Yourself Pulling Too Long:
If you are weaker than other members in your group, take the front, but only for a short time - a few pedal strokes. Take your turn in front to practice technique and keep the paceline flowing smoothly.
Don't Fool With H20 Bottles or Food when Leading:
Wait until you've pulled off the front to eat or drink. Also, try to be in the "right gear" and not change gears when you are leading.
Don't Overlap Wheels:
Ride behind the rider in front of you. If the rider in front of you moves over slightly and you are overlapping their back wheel, it is your front end that will be unstable and it is you who will go down.
Stop Signs & Traffic Lights:
Obey the rules of the road. The entire group must stop now and then. The front riders should not take off too quickly after a stop - there is an accordion effect and the riders at the back will have to "catch up".
Look back occasionally and make sure that you aren't leaving other riders behind. If you have "dropped" riders, they should have called out "gap" but you may not have heard them.
Moderate your pace on short uphills. As the front rider, don't try to prove that you are the best climber if you want the group to stay together. Many times pacelines won't stay together on an uphill or downhill grade.
The front riders must pedal - not coast, or the riders behind them will have to use their brakes to avoid running into them.
Yells & Screams!
Riders (and your coaches) often yell or bark commands or advice. It's not meant to be mean or rude. There is little time for full sentences and often difficult to hear above traffic and wind noise. Don't take it personally.