15 Tips for Riding in a Paceline

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Don't Increase the Pace on Your Pull

The biggest mistake novice riders make is getting too psyched up when they hit the front and end up increasing the speed several miles per hour. This opens gaps between riders and could blow some of them off the back. It makes the paceline ragged and wastes energy, as riders will have to surge to close the gap.

Granted, it can be tough to know how hard to pedal when you're suddenly feeling the wind. But the solution is easy: Take a quick glance at your computer when you're the second rider in line. When the leader pulls off, simply maintain that speed (assuming there's no wind or terrain change).

Don't Take Monster Pulls

There's no reason to sit on the front for 10 minutes while you try to impress the group. Generally, you should rotate from the lead after 1 to 3 minutes. If there are a couple of riders much stronger than the others, it might be appropriate to let them pull for 5 to 8 minutes to even out everyone's effort. Discuss this with the group so everyone knows what's going on.

More: 10 Rules to Group Ride Like a Pro

You're the Eyes and Ears at the Front

As the lead rider, you're the eyes and ears of the group. You're responsible for the whole group's safety. You must point out road obstacles and watch for traffic at crossroads, shouting warnings when necessary. Try to be an "early warning system," keeping in mind that a shout may take several seconds to trickle down the line and may be "lost in translation" along the way.

Responsibility at the Back

When you rotate to the back of the paceline, you still have a responsibility. It's your job to check behind periodically for approaching traffic and calling out "Car back!" when a motorist is approaching. If the group is in a double paceline on a narrow road, someone will yell "single out" or "single up," and the double paceline will form into a single line so the motorist can pass safely.

When there are no traffic concerns, being last in line is a privileged position. Because no one is behind you to be disrupted by your actions, now's the time to take a drink or sit up and grab a snack from your jersey pocket. If you need to remove a vest or peel your arm warmers, do it while at the back.

More: 10 Tips for Beginning Road Racers

No Aero Bars

Aero bars are fine for time trialing or long solo rides when they can help you to cut through the wind and take pressure off your hands. But aero bars are unwelcome in pacelines. A cyclist using aero bars in the paceline is less steady, and his or her hands are too far from the brake levers to be safe. Aero bars present particular dangers, both to themselves and to the other riders—and they should self-select out of pacelines.

If you have any additional tips or rules for safe paceline riding, please share them in the comments below.

More: 8 Hand Signals for Your Next Group Ride

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