Club Tool Kit

Paceline Tips

Pacelines are a lovely thing. They allow a group of cyclists to share effort and move more quickly than a single rider could on their own. They also require skill and the ability to stay alert.

So what is a paceline? A formation of riders, usually a double or single line, sharing the work at the front of the group, and sharing rest among the riders in the draft. The higher the speed the more the riders benefit from the draft and the higher the skill required. Rotation is often based on speed or wind direction.

A bit about etiquette

  • Don’t jump into a group’s paceline without asking. And when permission is granted join from the back. Note: this also applies to solo riders. Never just grab the wheel of somebody without asking.
  • Be careful when blowing one’s nose or clearing ones throat. The nice people behind you don’t want to be on the receiving end of that gift. Best to do these things when on the back or out of the line.
  • Don’t wear headphones in a paceline. Being able to hear both your fellow riders and cars is key to safety.
  • Calmly call AND point out obstacles in the road, no need to shout. Do this regardless of where you sit in line. Sometimes snapping fingers and pointing is helpful.
  • If you have aerobars, do NOT ride in them. This is extremely dangerous and there is no real aero advantage in a pack. The risk is not worth the reward (because there really isn’t any reward).
  • Ride at the back if you are unable to pull through at the same speed as the rest of the group. When you are recovered, you can join back in the rotation.

And now for the how-to and safety part:

  • Ride in a straight line and avoid over-lapping wheels.
  • Avoid abrupt braking when trying to control your speed.  Instead scrub speed by moving slightly out of the draft of the rider in front of you; sit up and catch more wind; “soft pedal”; or even brake slightly while continuing to pedal. Abrupt braking causes a lot of anxiety in the line as well as creating an accordion effect that nobody appreciates. It’s also quite unsafe.
  • When riding on the front, always be looking ahead for road hazards or obstacles so you can anticipate them and move around them gradually and smoothly. Avoid swerving and keep the group safe!
  • Only ride as close to the rider in front of you as feels safe. If you do let a big gap open, speed up gradually to close it smoothly and steadily.
  • Always signal when slowing, braking or turning.
  • Watch for road hazards by looking ahead - not at the rear wheel in front of you. You can try to look at the front hub of the rider in front of you. This should help you see any hazards that lie ahead.
  • When your turn at the front is done, signal to the rider behind you that you are coming off by flicking an elbow indicating it’s their turn to come through. ALWAYS check to be sure it’s safe to pull off before you do.
  • When you pull through to take your turn on the front - maintain a steady pace – do NOT surge! This is not the time to accelerate and drop the rest of the riders in line.
  • Know your place in line - know who has been riding in front of you in the rotation. This can help you when you know when you’ve reached the end of the line when dropping back. BUT always make sure you are clear to pull back into line before moving. Somebody may have gotten out of order.

Keep it smooth and have fun!