Last week, one of our regular contributors, Rick Schultz wrote Jim Langley and I with a question about paceline rules. Specifically, Rick asked if there are any hard-and-fast rules about rotating based on wind direction.
Rick, like most (but not all) of us, is a very experienced rider. But the fact is, we can all use a reminder from time to time of all the intricacies that add up to safe, fun road riding. And with spring right around the corner, we're apt to be doing more group riding soon. Heck, even the pros crash in pacelines on occasion, so maybe they would benefit from a refresher too.
This paceline primer includes a combination of advice from me, Jim and from Coach Fred's ebook Solutions to Road Cycling Challenges.
A Paceline is a Pact
When you form a paceline, you've made an implicit agreement and a promise to everyone else in the group. You agree to work together, safely and steadily, to further the group's goals. You're also promising to know the basic rules of paceline riding by making yourself alert in order to ride together as a group.
No False Moves
The essence of paceline riding is predictability. Any abrupt moves or unexpected actions dangerously disrupt the paceline. If a rider near the front gets squirrely, his reactions will radiate through the paceline like a sports crowd doing the wave.
Don't Get Grabby on the Brakes
If you're getting too close to the wheel in front of you, soft pedal to let your bike slow gradually, then smoothly resume applying power. If that's not enough, feather the brakes, but never grab them. You can also move over gradually until you're slightly out of the draft, sitting up slightly so your chest catches more air. You should be able to slow enough to regain the correct spacing to the wheel in front of you.