Paceline Etiquette Ride and Glide 2005
Be predictable and safe by riding a straight line. Practice this skill by yourself by riding with your wheels on the white line along the edge of the road. You'll find that it's easier if you look ahead 30 feet rather than directly in front of your wheel. Try looking behind you without swerving. This takes a little practice. Put one hand near the stem, the other on your hip or grab the back of the saddle and look over the other shoulder.
Never make an abrupt or abnormal move in a paceline. Smooth, steady and predictable are the bywords. This makes you a pleasure to ride behind. Ride relaxed, especially in arms and shoulders. Elbows may get bumped. If they're relaxed, they'll absorb nudges without affecting bike control.
Ride only as close as you are comfortable with. Two to three feet is OK for starters. Look ahead, not just at the wheel in front of you and ride with your hands near the brakes. If you get too close, soft pedal or move out into the wind a bit to slow down. Soft pedaling is better than coasting. It causes less reaction behind you. If you must brake do it smoothly and with the rear brake so the person behind notices you using the brake. Keep pedaling (soft pedal). Continuing to pedal also allows you to react faster to speed changes which keeps you in contact with the paceline and makes for less yo-yo'ing behind you. You can even brake while you are "soft pedaling"
When you're leading, remember that you're the eyes and ears of the whole group. It's your responsibility to point out junk in the road as well as turns and stops that others may not be able to see because you obstruct their view. People behind you will relay this info to the back of the pack.
Beware of a common mistake; accelerating as you pull through to the front. Check your cyclecomputer while you're in second place. As you take the front, maintain that speed. The former leader will signal by raising a finger or hand off the bars or by sitting up and moving over. He'll slow down, so you don't have to accelerate. Just pull trough smoothly. If you want to speed the pack up, wait a few seconds for the former leader to catch on the back and then ramp it up slowly. You should see your cyclecomputer go up a mile an hour at a time. If you see it jump two at a time you're accelerating too fast. Take your turn at the front and then pull off and let someone else share the work. If you are tired take a short pull. When dropping back, stay close to the line. This enhances the group's draft. Don't wander dangerously into the middle of the lane. Accelerate smoothly as the last rider in line comes alongside so you can move behind his wheel without a gap opening. The last rider in the line may say "last" indicating he is the last in line so it's time to pull back in. Sometimes it's hard to know where the last rider is as you drift back. However if you say "last" make sure you are correct and that no one else has hooked on.
When you are at the front, it's your turn to break the wind and give the others a rest. Any heavy accelerations or changes in speed result in an accordian effect behind you as people have to speed up and slow down even more that you do to stay in the draft. Unless your goal is to break up the pack, a nice even pace makes it safer for the rest of the pack and easier to stay in the draft.
Call out "car back!" when there's an overtaking vehicle. This is especially important on narrow roads when the group is in a double paceline (2 abreast). Riders need time to move over or ease up to let the car pass. In general, since we ride on roads with traffic it's never a good idea to ride more than 2 abreast. There's not enough room on the road and it makes drivers mad if we take too much of the road. "Car Back" is more than just a warning. It means DO SOMETHING. Move over and encourage others to do so as well. We need to put forth a good image on the road. We are riding in an urban environment. We don't have the luxury of closed roads like they do in races. We can't really ride in a "pack" It should be a single or double paceline. Keep it nice an tight and organized. Make it look like we know what we are doing instead of wandering all over the road like that other club.
DO NOT ride with headphones. You need to be able to hear traffic and alerts from other riders
Wear a helmet. If not for yourself, at least for the rest of us. We don't want to have to clean up the mess if you go down and crack your melon open. Think of your fellow riders!
Don't let your front wheel over-lap a rear wheel. If that bike swerves, the contact will usually knock you down. If you do overlap make sure you're at least a foot or two to the side.
Drop back a bit more on climbs. The rider just ahead might stand and decelerate slightly; in effect, moving backward toward your wheel. Also when you stand up make a conscious effort to stand on a downward power stroke and push your bike forward so you don't drop back into the person behind you.
If you have aero bars on your bike, remember that they are NOT to be used in pacelines. You may use them at the back, but not in the middle of the pack or even at the front. You may want to consider not using them at all when on a group ride. It's very important that you have quick access to your brakes and good bike control when in a paceline.
Have fun and if you don't understand what's going on or why don't be afraid to ask. Many times there are a lot of unspoken subtle things happening especially with a group that's ridden together for a long time.