Paceline Riding

NSC has a variety of ride types. From newbie-friendly loosely gathered people along the road, to 5,000-mile-per-year riders that crave paceline riding. But importantly, we're happy to help people who want to expand their experience from the casual riding to pacelines. New to paceline riding? It's great fun, and lets you ride farther and faster with less work. Done well, it's poetry in motion. Done badly, it's nerve-racking and can be dangerous. How to do it well?

  • Keep your speed smooth and steady. Don't jam on the brakes - feather them. Don't coast - soft pedal. Be predictable in everything you do.
  • Stay about half a wheel back from the rider in front. If you don't trust the rider in front - or yourself - increase the gap a bit.
  • Don't overlap wheels. In other words, don't let your front wheel be alongside another rider's rear wheel. If you touch wheels, you'll hit the pavement.
  • Look ahead, not down.
  • Listen and watch for signals, especially in larger groups:
    • "Car up" means there's a car ahead in the opposite lane; "car back" means one is about to overtake. On busy roads, don't call every "car back;" just the unexpected ones.
    • "Runner up" doesn't mean you're in second place - there's a person running on the side of the road.
    • At a crossroads: "car right," "car left," "clear right"...
    • Left and right turns are indicated by the standard hand signals: left hand out for left turn, left hand up or right hand out for right turn. Stop or slowing are indicated by right hand down, palm back.
    • Pointing down means "road hazard": a hole, storm drain, or whatever. Sand and glass usually elicit verbal comment. A rider to the left of the paceline pointing to a space between bikes is saying "Lemme in!"
  • There's no avoiding it. Sooner or later you'll find yourself at the front of the line. It's time to do some work and take a pull. Keep the speed steady. Speed up and you'll ride alone - maybe off the front, probably off the back before long.
  • If the situation does call for increasing speed, do it gradually. Speeding up quickly stretches out the line like a spring, stressing everybody as it comes back together.
  • How long is a pull? In a big, fast pack maybe 20-30 twirls of the pedals. On a long Sunday ride with a few friends, maybe a couple of miles.
  • OK, you got to the front and you're cooked. Don't slow down and disrupt the pace. Don't be a hero and stay out there. Instead, pull off and go to the back.
  • Stay out there too long and you'll find that it's the most common way to get dropped from your pack; you'll be too tired to stay connected to the end of the train, and you're history.
  • When you're making your way back, stay close to the line - you'll still get some benefit from the draft. Don't let your speed drop too much, or you won't catch on again.
  • When you're pulling off the front, do not slow or stop pedaling as you begin to pull off, lest the person behind you run into your wheel. Save enough energy to make sure you're continuing to "pull" off the front of the line.
  • Finally, you made it to the back again. Time to sit in, eat and drink, shake out your hands.