December 15, 2017

Cycling Pace Line, Ron Saetermoe

If you ever cycle with other riders you should attempt to ride in a “pace line” for at least a portion of your ride. You’ve seen this in the Tour de France when the riders ride in a single file, closely following one-another.

The benefit of riding in a pace line is that the rider(s) following the first rider don’t have to work as hard to maintain the same pace. It is estimated that you can save as much as 30% of your effort if you ride in a pace line.

Working in a pace line can also help weaker riders keep up with stronger riders. Generally riders take turns at the front of the pace line which is called “taking a pull.” However, weaker riders may take shorter pulls than stronger riders.

Prior to riding in a pace line you should discuss your plans with the other riders. For example, how hard are you going to ride, how long will your “pulls” be and which way will the lead rider drop off.

Riding in a pace line can be extremely dangerous, however, if not done properly. Here are some tips to help keep you and those around you safe:

• You’ll get the best draft the closer you are to the rider in front but it is critical that you don’t let your wheel overlap with theirs. This is called “half-wheeling” and if your wheels should touch you may go down.

• Keep your line at all times. You must maintain your concentration while in a pace line and ride in a straight line.

• Keep your speed steady at all times. Because you’ll be riding so closely together it is important not to drop off or speed up or you could cause a crash.

• Return to the end of the pace line when you pull off. There are exceptions to this rule, for example when there is a sufficient gap between riders that you can safely pull in.

• Use verbal and hand signals. If you’re dropping back, slowing or stopping be sure to give as much notice as possible to the other riders. Since the riders behind frequently can’t see out in front the lead rider must point out any obstacles or debris in the road. The signal when the leader wants to drop back is to raise the appropriate elbow while keeping the hands firmly on the handlebars.

• Consider counting pedal strokes. If you average a cadence of 90 then if you count 90 pedal strokes that will be about a minute. If you’ve agreed to one minute pulls just count 90 pedal turns rather than try to look at your watch.

Pace line riding is a blast if you’re with a group and everyone does it right. You’ll really be able to blaze down the road and get a great workout in as well.

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