Paceline Basics – Do it Right and Everyone Benefits
It’s really not too difficult to do. It’s very straightforward. All you have to do is line up single file one cyclist after another and maintain the same pace as the rider in front of you. Take advantage of drafting (staying close to) the rider in front of you so you don’t have to cut the wind. When you are at the front of the line you keep the pace constant until you tend to get tired. Then you gradually steer your bike to the left and slow down while the line of cyclists that were behind you pass you by. Just as the last cyclist in the line is about to pass you this will be your signal to steer your bike to the right and speed up a bit so you become the last cyclist in the single file line. The process repeats over and over throughout the ride. A constant strong pace is maintained. Nobody gets dropped. And nobody has to wait for other riders.
One problem that happens somewhat often when a group is learning the basics of paceline riding is a cyclist in the middle of the paceline gradually falls out of the slipstream of the bike in front of him or her. This is referred to as "creating a gap" in cycling terms. How can this be avoided? Well, there are two answers. One, a cyclist should never let a gap exist in the first place. If a rider is working too hard compared to his natural capabilities, then he should push hard to hold the wheel in front of him and then take little or no pull at the front of the paceline before pulling off to fade to the back of the line. An alternative measure would be to sit on the back of the paceline and remain at the back of the paceline for the entire duration of the ride. You can do this by letting a gap open between you and the rider in front of you when a rider fades back to the back and needs to get back in. Then you close in on the rider you just let back into the paceline. Two, if you cannot wait to get to the front of the line, then you can speed up and steer your bike to the left so the rider behind you can move in front of you and easily close the gap to create a solid paceline. You in turn fade to the back of the paceline and probably stay there until you get a little rested.
It is possible to get tired in a paceline and not be able to take a pull at the front of the line before the ride is over. When this happens you should consider just sitting on the back of the paceline until you get your energy back or the ride ends. Believe me, it is possible to get your energy back after sitting on the back of a paceline for 10 minutes without taking a pull. However, another option is to talk to the ride leader and inform her that you are tired and the overall pace of the ride is too much for you. Could it be slowed down a little. Cyclists can get just as much training effect out of a ride that averages 15 mph as they can from a ride that averages 17 mph. The faster ride just means that the cyclists were taking shorter pulls at the front of the paceline. If everyone in the paceline takes longer pulls at the front (except the tired riders), then the overall pace of the ride will slow. And this is what the physically challenged rider needed to happen.