Thursday, January 12, 2012

Group Riding - Paceline 101

For many, riding in a group is a social thing, but for training, it is completely different.  The group training ride has an objective, and moves along as a cohesive unit to accomplish this.  Working  as a single or double paceline requires some practice, confidence, and an alert sense of self or there can be dire circumstances for yourself and others around you.   

     1. Ride a straight line!
The safety and comfort of a group is greatly enhanced by an order of predictability, ie. riders will maintain a straight-line and will not be scattershot in and out weaving to and fro.  If you get dropped and there are riders behind you, do not drift into the middle of the road – maintain a straight line so that other riders might safely come by you.
2. Communication

Again, the safety and comfort of a group is enhanced by each riders' ability to spot and communicate hazards to the rest of their partners.  Riding close to each other has its aerodynamic advantages, but also closes down visibility.  Calling and pointing out bumps, holes, cars, etc is a must for a smooth ride, with minimal flats or other more dangerous events.

3. Beginning a Pull
When it is your turn to Pull the group, begin by ‘pulling through” which means maintaining the current pace without interruption.  If you are a stronger rider, you can begin to pull at a faster pace by gradually easing into the Pull.  Do not dramatically accelerate as you begin your Pull as all this does is yank the paceline like an accordion and cause people to get dropped or unnecessarily stressed.

4. How hard a Pull?
This is a function of how long you are pulling for (shorter pulls can see stronger pace), what the group training objective is, and whether you are trying to keep the group intact.  A common mistake that I see newer riders make is to pull for too long, where the rider’s pace clearly diminishes within their Pull, and which slows and frustrates the group.

5. Ending a Pull
The rider concludes the Pull by demonstrably pulling off to the side and once clear soft-pedals.  DO NOT finish your Pull by soft-pedaling or even stopping pedaling while in front of the group. 

6. Maintain your Distance
Riders should take care to generally maintain a consistent distance from the rider in front.  This consistency helps the group better settle into a rhythm of safe  predictability.  Descents can see wider spacing for safety. 

One tip for maintaining distance is to focus on the riders further ahead of you in the group and use peripheral vision for the rider immediately in front of you.  This forward focus helps you better anticipate changes in pace.

7. Time Trial Bikes

Time Trial, or triathlon bikes, are suitable for a paceline, but by no means are you supposed to go aero while behind someone.  Hands should be kept in the pursuits (bar end with the brake) to make sure you are ready to brake or turn if necessary.  This also makes the rider have to be in-tune with the gearing required as shifting requires more effort.

8. Mixing riders of different abilities
Learning how to effectively ride in a group allows riders of different abilities to share in a common workout.  Tips in addition to all of the above for making this work:
-         Stronger riders to the front – seems obvious, but….
-         Weaker riders should situate themselves further back in the paceline – let stronger riders pull you along without the pressure of you having to maintain a strong pace at the front. 

Here is an example of a paceline we performed along Bolinas Lagoon a month ago. Take note of some of the mistakes, but great use of intervals and reintegration once complete.

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