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Old 08-04-10, 11:37 PM   #1
HawkOwl
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My First Pace Line

Wow. The weekly group ride that I've been going with for the last month or so. Very nice bunch. They wait for me when they need to and give me pointers to improve. Couldn't ask for a better bunch.

Anyway, tonight I rode the six miles to the start point and then we took off. A nice comfortable pace to the first turn around. Then a few who had schedules to keep did a 180. I decided to run with the others for awhile. They waited for me at a turn so I kept with them as we went up and up and up the hills.

A good thing I did because we had a malfunction and I was the only one with the tool.

On the way back after a long down hill we were on a long flat. We set up a pace line. Now, I'd done close riding and even some drafting before for short distances. But this was the first time I'd ever had the chance to do it long enough to play, experiment and learn. Wow! By myself I'd do 18 or 19. In the line I could easily do 21. When I'd drop back it got Tough which demonstrated the aerodynamics involved. I'm not strong enough yet to take a turn in the lead. But I'm going to work on it so I can do my share of the work.

Now I see why road bikers love pace lines. Even with my introduction I can see that not only are they more efficient; they are things of beauty when done well.
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Old 08-04-10, 11:49 PM   #2
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Old 08-05-10, 12:46 AM   #3
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Riding a pace line is a very basic skill all cyclists should master, but it's amazing how many guys are intimidated by this. If you ever want to go in a mass-start race, you've got to be pretty good at it. But even for recreational riding, you can still get a good draft about a bike length back. There are lots of little tricks to learn, and doing it is the best way to acquire this knowledge. Eventually you will get to the point where faster riders will not be able to drop you on the flats, so just keep at it.

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Old 08-05-10, 03:45 AM   #4
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Consider how easy that next century will be now.
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Old 08-05-10, 07:54 AM   #5
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Now I see why road cyclists love pace lines. Even with my introduction I can see that not only are they more efficient; they are things of beauty when done well.
True Latitude65, And the key words there are "when done well." Good to hear you learned from a good group of riders who know how to pace line safely.

The other side of that coin reads "A sloppy pace line is a dangerous place to be." As long as you keep riding with your group, you'll be fine, but be wary of pace lines on organized rides. There will be some good ones, to be sure, but there will also be some that you'll want to opt out of!

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Old 08-05-10, 08:11 AM   #6
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I love a good paceline, but I'll bail at the first sign of an "accordion".
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Old 08-05-10, 08:15 AM   #7
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I may be speaking out of turn here, but I wouldn't let your inability to take a pull because of any perceived lack of fitness bother you too much. If you have the handling skills to work in the line safely, all you need to do is take a short turn at the front. IMO, even if you're only able to maintain that speed for 20 or 30 turns of your crank (or even less), doing that much each time to get to the front will be appreciated and admired. And it beats hanging at the back to let the last leader into line in front of you. That involves a fair bit of decel/accel that can be tiring in its own right.
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Old 08-05-10, 07:06 PM   #8
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I may be speaking out of turn here, but I wouldn't let your inability to take a pull because of any perceived lack of fitness bother you too much. If you have the handling skills to work in the line safely, all you need to do is take a short turn at the front. IMO, even if you're only able to maintain that speed for 20 or 30 turns of your crank (or even less), doing that much each time to get to the front will be appreciated and admired. And it beats hanging at the back to let the last leader into line in front of you. That involves a fair bit of decel/accel that can be tiring in its own right.
Yep, I'd like to do that. When the guys behind me accelerated to the front for their turns I got the idea of how they were doing things. So, I tried to accelerate to get in front like they were doing. No go. I just didn't have the horsepower. No one actually expected me to take a lead this time. But, for this is just another reason for me to work hard on my fitness.
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Old 08-05-10, 07:38 PM   #9
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Yep, I'd like to do that. When the guys behind me accelerated to the front for their turns I got the idea of how they were doing things. So, I tried to accelerate to get in front like they were doing. No go. I just didn't have the horsepower. No one actually expected me to take a lead this time. But, for this is just another reason for me to work hard on my fitness.
Not sure I understand this - in a good pace line no one is accelerating - rather they are keeping a constant speed, usually at a pace which is higher than what one would be able to maintain for an extended period of time. If people are shooting forward to jump to the front that, IMHO, is not a pace line but sounds like a pack ride. That can be done with success as well and is usually what I find on my club rides.

What you should have experienced is when you are one rider back from the front doing say 20 mph that rider peels off and the line passes him by, you are already going at 20 and you keep that pace as the lead rider for maybe 10 to 30 secs and then you peel off and drop to the back. The only accelerating you do is to grab back onto the last wheel. If you can't hold the pace then you would drop back right away. What I also don't understand is that as you must have been close to max while you were drafting otherwise you could have done at least a short interval in the lead, I am surprised you weren't quickly spit out the back - this is what happens to me when I can't do at least a short pull. Sounds like interval training might be in your future.

I apologize if I miss understood what you were trying to say.
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Old 08-05-10, 07:41 PM   #10
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cyclinfool is right - there is no acceleration involved in a pace line. The guy in front drops off to the back where he tucks in behind the last guy. No one "goes" to the front. You "end up at" the front because the previous leaders continue to peel off and drop back.

Accelerating to go to the front would be antithetical to the whole point of a pace line, which is economy of effort for the group as a whole. If your group was doing anything like that, they weren't riding a pace line.

Last edited by CraigB; 08-05-10 at 07:46 PM.
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Old 08-05-10, 07:43 PM   #11
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It's fun aint it? I think some of you are talking about a common problem where the person who gets on the front is all excited and speeds up. It totally ruins the flow. You've gotta pay attention to your speed/cadence to make sure you keep a steady pace. That's one way to start the evil accordion. The only speeding up or slowing down should be when you're out on your own circling back to the end of the line.

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Old 08-05-10, 08:30 PM   #12
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Guess I'm not experienced enough to know the nomenclature difference between a Pack Ride and a Pace Line. In this case one guy, about 20 years younger than me, got in front and told me we could practice drafting. I latched on and experimented with where best placement was and the aerodynamic effects. After a bit one of the other folks who had been riding behind me accelerated and took the lead. We sped up a bit. This repeated a couple times until we were just over 21. Still I was able to keep up without excessive strain. But, no way was I able to pull out, overcome the aerodynamics and advance to the lead.

I'd read about Pace Lines and thought this was just a variation. Whatever it was I learned quite a bit.
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Old 08-06-10, 05:18 AM   #13
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Like I said, the whole point of a pace line is maximum sustainable speed with the least possible effort. When you think about it logically it makes perfect sense that the easiest way to share the lead is for the current leader to drop back and let the next one in line take their turn until the whole group "cycles" through (excuse the pun). Anyone who accelerates to the front is wasting precious energy.

Your group may well have been practicing drafting - that's simply a technique that is used in any number of circumstances, including (obviously) pace lines. But that doesn't mean they were actually practicing pace lines.
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Old 08-06-10, 06:51 PM   #14
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Like I said, the whole point of a pace line is maximum sustainable speed with the least possible effort. When you think about it logically it makes perfect sense that the easiest way to share the lead is for the current leader to drop back and let the next one in line take their turn until the whole group "cycles" through (excuse the pun). Anyone who accelerates to the front is wasting precious energy.

Your group may well have been practicing drafting - that's simply a technique that is used in any number of circumstances, including (obviously) pace lines. But that doesn't mean they were actually practicing pace lines.
Actually, when we were back at the start that is exactly what they told me. We discussed where to ride, where to look, etc. Quite a debriefing and very educational. So, now it looks to me now that they were doing a pace line but adding a wrinkle just for fun.

To me it doesn't matter whether it was conducted to the "letter of the law" or not. What matters is that I got a chance to ride in the pace line, observe how people called hazards, signaled intentions and looked out for each other. Except for the method of changing lead it looked like what I've read about pace lines and what you all have described. I have no doubt I wasn't expected to take a turn in the lead. Next time I'll suggest we establish a pace and then change leads by dropping back so I'll get a chance to practice that.

Actually, since everyone knew each other and had ridden with each other, some more than others, we had the freedom to do what we felt like. No strangers in our midst to accomodate.

The only downside to all this is that if my education and performance continues to improve as it has this summer I'll no longer have the excuse that I'm a newbie.
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Old 08-06-10, 07:06 PM   #15
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Latitude65,

Keep in mind that every group has it's own dynamics on group rides. The larger the club or organization the more regimented the group ride will be. I frequently ride with a bunch of guys who are all good riders and when someone sends out an email invite any number of the 30 guys and gals on the invite list will show up. Sometimes 4 riders are there and other times up to 15 riders make the start. Some days we ride as a group or peleton where there really isn't a formal pace line but rather guys taking pulls of any length of time with some never coming to the front. Some times on windy days we will be forced to have a rolling pace line just to fight the wind and some days everyone wants to hammer and we do the rolling double pace line. Yet on other days some of the riders have specific training objectives and will take most of the pulls or even go off the front for a bit to get "extra work". The key is that you know your place in the group and what they expect. Ask and you will receive. What I mean is after the ride ask how you did and what you can do to improve. You may not like to hear the answer, but take heed as the riders need to trust that you are on the same page as the group. At first I was anxious and apprehensive that I would cause a problem or not be able to ride at the groups pace, that is normal. After a few seasons it is all second nature and the rides with buddies are special.
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Old 08-06-10, 07:11 PM   #16
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Right On

You've confirmed what I thought. This is great group that is free with their advice and encouragement.
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Old 08-06-10, 07:29 PM   #17
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Right On

You've confirmed what I thought. This is great group that is free with their advice and encouragement.
Does indeed sound like you have made some special friends.
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Old 08-07-10, 03:52 PM   #18
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Great job and really glad you have a group that can help get you introduced to riding in a Paceline. It can be so much fun when done correctly and the riders are of somewhat the same skill level. It's interesting you observed the benefits so quickly as well. My heart rate drops quite a bit when I jump in a line and they are not pushing the pace too much. You can certainly ride a lot further, faster with a balanced group.

Note: when you're last in line you really have to be careful to not get dropped. If a group slows and then accelerates, should you lose the wheel in front of you, sometimes it's just too hard to catch back on. The perfect spots aerodynamically is around the 3-5 positions-assuming no crosswinds.

The key to riding out front is to ride within your abilties-not so much the abilities of the whole group. If you ride out front for too hard and too long trying to show the group how strong you are, you might not have enough left to stay with the group. I always hate it when I drop off the front the next guy leading the group is a much stronger rider than me. It leaves very little time to recover.

Just stuff I've learned the hard way--it's discouraging seeing the group ride away from you but I have LOTs of experience with that!
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Old 08-07-10, 05:27 PM   #19
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I'm not going o ride with you any more. Pace lines - shmace lines - phooey!!
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Old 08-07-10, 06:36 PM   #20
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Not even if I promise I won't get sucked into making it like an eastern religion and also to buy the ice cream the next time?
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Old 08-07-10, 07:11 PM   #21
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Not even if I promise I won't get sucked into making it like an eastern religion and also to buy the ice cream the next time?
REAL MEN don't need help getting up hills!

What kind of ice cream?
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Old 08-07-10, 07:25 PM   #22
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Whatever they have.
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