Brief video illustrating a paceline in action.

Paceline riding:
  • Definition: A line of riders who alternate turns riding at the front, pulling then resting by sitting in, drafting in the slipstream of the other riders.
  • The benefit of a paceline is to allow faster speeds with reduced effort.
  • Think of paceline riding as team riding. It requires cooperation and a lot more than just keeping up.
  • It calls for focused attention, taking responsibility and leading / pulling.
When and when not to ride a paceline:
  • Some roads and/or conditions suggest creating a paceline. Roads with little traffic that are flat to slight up or down work well.
  • Busy roads with lots of overtaking traffic make it very difficult for lead rider rotation, making the paceline hard to manage.
  • Steep hills, either up or down, provide little to no benefit from the paceline. A rapid descent in a paceline can be dangerous.
  • Break up the paceline on steep hills.
  • As terrain changes favoring a paceline, regroup and re-establish the paceline.
SOB Paceline Principals
    1. Ride tight to the right − pull off to your left.
      • Depending on the road and the traffic, pacelines longer than 6 riders should be broken up into 2 separate groups to allow cars to pull in when passing.
    2. Ride in a smooth straight line:
      • Maintain a steady predictable pace.
      • Pedal through small bumps in the road − do not swerve around them.
    3. To adjust your gap:
      • Smoothly and gradually increase your effort to close a gap, don’t sprint.
      • Jumping to close a gap and then slowing down creates a yo-yo effect that adversely affects the entire group. Ride smoothly; ride predictably.
      • Do not swerve or brake without warning, the bike behind will run right up your rear wheel.
      • Slip left or right out of the slipstream to slow using air pressure.
      • And / Or lightly feather your brakes (while continuing to lightly pedal so you are ready to close).
    4. Keep your head up and your eyes scanning:
      • Do not fixate on the wheel in front of you.
      • Use your peripheral vision to monitor the wheel in front of yours while you watch the road and riders ahead. You will better see the paceline slowing or accelerating, as well as traffic lights and stop signs.
    5. Do not overlap the rear wheel of the bike in front of you:
      • If your front wheel touches the rear wheel of the bike in front of you, you risk crashing and taking down riders behind you. The cyclist in front may not feel a thing − they always win in this situation.
      • If you are overlapped with the rider in front, that rider will not expect that you are there, and then he / she cannot safely slide out to the left for whatever reason.
    6. Do not ride adjacent to the paceline unless you are dropping back.
      • Be either in front of the paceline; in the paceline or at the rear.
    7. Keep a safety space with the rider ahead of you:
      • Unless you’re experienced riding a paceline and riding with cyclists you know and trust, there’s no need to ride just inches from the wheel you’re following.
      • Allowing a gap of 1 to 2 wheel lengths gives you room to maneuver in case of mishaps or obstacles in the road.
    8. When at the front:
      • Pedal smoothly.
      • Speed will change with up hills and down hills; the effort you are expending should remain as constant as possible.
      • You will need to keep pedaling on the down hills so that the bikes in back of you do not have to brake in order to avoid riding up your rear wheel.
      • When passing a cattle guard or other significant obstacle understand that the group will naturally slow behind you until through the obstacle, slow slightly to allow a rolling regroup, then resume pace when all are back on.
      • You are the eyes of the paceline – Watch for hazards. Every rider in the paceline is depending on the front rider.
        • Move the path of the paceline well clear of obstacles.
        • Call out / signal obstacles as well as your intention to slow or stop. Not every single hole warrants a shout.
        • Call out hazards, don’t call out little bumps. Ride through rough spots by rising slightly off your saddle and pedaling through.
      • Stronger riders should pull longer, weaker riders should pull shorter. However, everyone who is taking advantage of the paceline should pull.
      • Don’t take monster pulls!! There’s no reason to sit on the front for 10 minutes; you will exhaust yourself.  Generally, give up the lead after 1-3 minutes or 0.3 to 1 mile and let other riders have some fun.
      • When ready to pull off, check for traffic behind you then verbally warn or hand signal the paceline.
      • Move left when clear of traffic still maintaining your speed.
      • Once clear of the paceline, slide gently to the back of the line.
      • Pull in behind the last bike.
    9. When taking the lead:
      • Do not surge or pick up the overall effort.
        • Accelerating makes the paceline ragged and wastes energy, as riders have to surge to close gaps.
      • On similar terrain, when you take the lead, maintain the same speed as when drafting.
      • As you take over you will naturally have to put out more effort. Finesse your effort in order to maintain a smooth transition as you take over.
      • If you are tired, make your turn at the front shorter. No one has to prove anything at the front.
    10. When in the paceline:
      • Communicate to other cyclist.
      • If the pace is too high (or someone has a mechanical) tell the rider in front of you to ask the leader to slow (or stop).
      • Everyone should pass the message up the paceline to the leader.
    11. When at the back:
      • Check behind periodically for approaching traffic and call out “car back!”
      • Because no one is behind you to be disrupted by your actions, now’s the time to take a drink or grab a snack from your jersey pocket. “Snot rockets” only at the back!
    12. Uncomfortable with pacelining:
      • If you are new to the group sit on the back.
      • When the front rider pulls off and moves to the back of the group, move to the left so you are on their wheel and allow the pulling off front rider to move in behind the rider in front of you. Tell them what you are doing in advance.
        • Only do this at the back of the group, as riders behind you may want to pull through and the rider moving to the back probably wants as much rest as possible.
      • Some people don’t want to ride in a paceline. That is fine.  Just ride ahead or behind the group.  If riding ahead, announce you are going ahead so the paceline does not give chase.
    13. Aerobars:
      • When you are at the front pulling, it is ok to use aerobars.
      • Within the paceline, please do not use aerobars.
        • Aero bars are less stable and hands are farther from the brakes presenting a danger to everyone.
      • Riders unwilling to comply with these guidelines should self-select out of the pacelines.
    14. Get out of the saddle carefully:
      • Push harder on the pedal to keep the bike’s movement constant and rise out of the saddle slowly and smoothly as you enter a power stroke on the pedals.
      • Don’t jump out of the saddle; your bike will slide backward, possibly into the trailing rider.
      • If a hill is so steep that you need to ride out of the saddle; it is probably too steep to maintain the paceline.
    15. Good group riding means working together as a team.
      • When you join the paceline, you’ve made an implicit agreement and a promise to everyone else in the group.
        • The agreement: You’ll work together, safely and steadily, to further the group’s goals.
        • The promise: You know the basic rules of paceline riding and you’re alert and ready to ride together.
      • We are a team.
Types of Pacelines

There are four basic types of paceline riding formations (single, double, circular, and echelon), each with its own practical application.  We use only the single paceline, as the others have very limited use to a group like ours (and cannot really be used safely on public roads).

Straight or Single Paceline (This is the SOB paceline formation)

This is the most basic riding formation; all the other pacelines are variations of it. Simply put, this is one straight line of riders, each drafting closely behind the next. The rider at the front breaks the wind for a time, then eases off to the side and soft pedals until he can swing in at the back of the line. In the majority of training and racing situations, this is the most efficient way to ride in groups of two or more.  The benefit of a paceline occurs with 2 or more riders.  More than 6 riders makes paceline management difficult. Depending on the total number of riders in the group, we should split into two (or more) pacelines.

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