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Old 05-29-12, 05:35 AM   #1
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Drafting and taking the lead.

I've found a riding buddy that's pretty close to my abilities. So we went on a 40 miler last Sunday. During the ride we were forced onto a major two lane highway going into the wind. So we started drafting each other and picked up the pace. Neither of us had done this before so we discussed it after the ride. So I'm wondering how we should do this so that when (if) we're in a bigger group we are following a standard method. I think the next ride we should practice this.

1.) How often to switch?
2.) Are there signals to learn?
3.) What kind of drills to do?
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Old 05-29-12, 05:48 AM   #2
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#1 Switch before you blow up. Stronger riders may pull longer. The bigger the group, generally the shorter each riders pull is.
#2 Depends on the group I guess, the guys I ride with normally pull off without any signal.
#3 Practice being smooth and steady in a paceline. Nothing worse than following a herky jerky.
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Old 05-29-12, 06:04 AM   #3
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1. It varies, and depends on the type of paceline. Sometimes stronger riders will pull longer. Do your share, but don't burn yourself out. If you burn yourself out, you may not recover and if so, will drop off the back. In that case, you can't participate and help the others in the paceline, and you make things more difficult for yourself.

2. Possibly a flick of the right elbow, or more surely, the guy in front will slowly drift to the left signaling the rider behind to take over pulling.

3. Work on your bike handling skills. Be steady and predictable. Get comfortable following from a distance less than the diameter of a wheel. Keep your eyes up and not on your front wheel.


I was in a very cooperative paceline yesterday. The teamwork made a very difficult ride (70+ miles with lots of climbing, temps in the 80's with humidity) manageable, and we all got back in fairly good shape.
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Old 05-29-12, 07:21 AM   #4
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In a true paceline, there is a constant double-column rotation, usually clockwise, so the side that is drifting back is away from traffic. As you pass the front rider on the right, you move over in front of him/her while maintaining your pace, then ease off very very slightly so the rider to your left moves gradually in front of you. You can say "clear" when he/she reaches the point to move over in front of you. It can also be helpful to say "last" when you are at the end of the side moving up and pass the back rider on your right, so he/she knows to move over behind you. Experienced groups typically say nothing; it all just happens. A rotation balances the pulling, and if you don't want to pull, you just stay back, and never shift over to the side moving up. That is totally acceptable, because trying to pull through and not making it breaks up the rotation. A fast group doesn't want that to happen, so the strongest riders will be rotating at the front, with weaker riders drafting behind the rotation.

What is being described with the elbow flicks and such is a less organized (less efficient) and more casual approach to share the pulling. When a group really wants to make time, it goes with a true rotating paceline.
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Old 05-29-12, 07:36 AM   #5
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The Giro had a day when about 8 riders were in a chain and it was a joy to watch. As a rider got to the front he just rode to the side and another rider took his place. You could see why it is called a chain. But a couple of remarks by the commentators made me realise a few rules. The lead rider pulls at 100%- not 110- he does not increase speed or power as he gets to the front. He might have to put more effort as the lead rider but it is one continual "Chain" movement for the group. And you have to know the other riders and trust their capabilities.

The other situation is where you have a few riders trying to maintain speed. Such as where a team are trying increase speed opr catch up with the pelaton. Saw Sky do this several times and the lead rider will put in effort for a long time. 2nd in line will not be working as hard-somewhere around 90% and third is where it gets noticeable as the 3rd rider is at 75%. Each at the same speed so 3rd rider back is being pulled along with less effort. This is why you saw Cavendish holding 4th in line while his team mates were bringing him to the front for the final sprint. That rider on the front will be working hard and if he does it for an extended period- that will be his stint and race finished.
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Old 05-29-12, 08:22 AM   #6
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AZ: Ah Ha. I can now see why the double paceline works so well. One of the things I wondered about was that with only two of us each time we passed each other we lost the advantage of drafting during the pass. In bigger groups you're drafting while you're over-taking. Really cool stuff!
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Old 05-29-12, 08:35 AM   #7
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My observation is most rookie cyclists take too long of a pull when on the front. I suppose they are trying to show how strong they are. Ideally, the pull should be 15 to 30 seconds unless there is a big disparity between riders. Of course, road conditions, traffic and safety trump timing and riders should only exchange when it is safe. An elbow flick depending on the direction of the wind works well. In team time trial on the aerobars, elbow flicks are not required and racers know the timing and drift into the direction of the wind.

Wind. There is nothing better for managing wind than a pace line of riders. However, the rotation should be into the wind so that the riders going to the back shield the advancing riders. On the exchange, the front rider signals or moves slightly giving the next rider room to take over. For a couple of seconds, the front rider shields the next rider from the wind as he takes over. If the exchange is made in the wrong direction, the advancing rider feels the wind and increase in power sooner. Now road conditions and safety trump this and riders should always exchange in the safest way possible. But if there are wide bike lanes, it is easy to rotate in either direction.

Constantly rotating pace lines work really well and rotate into the wind as I described above. I have found very few groups who can actually do this other than racing teams of racers who train and race together. One has to be very smooth and comfortable with a lot of skill.

Stronger riders... If you are much stronger than the other rider, double or triple the time at the front but do not increase pace. If you are bored and it is too easy increase the cadence and spin at 110 to 115 rpm. That will give you something to do marking time in the line.

Weaker riders... Do not overstay your welcome at the front. I cannot tell you how many times weaker riders get on the front and want to show the strongmen that they can "do their fair share" or that they are not weak. You are weak and everyone knows that and accepts it. What is not wanted in a weaker rider to pick up the pace, hog the front and fatigue early so that he is of no value later in the ride. Plus there are stronger riders who are bored with the pace and want the front so that it is harder. Remember, it is always going to get harder not easier as the day progresses. The best riders know their limitations and manage their energy so let the strong men do the work. That is really appreciated by everyone. If the pace is hard in the line, when you get to the front take a couple of pedal strokes and pull off. There is no shame in that.

Reading the pace line... Look ahead and not at the wheel in front. Do not overlap wheels. Use your peripheral vision to gage the distance of the rider in front and glance occasionally at the wheel to check your distance. In time this skill is easily learned and looking at the wheel is not required. Always have a plan in the pace line. What would you do if the guy in front slams on the brakes? What if he crashes? Do you have an escape route? Do you know all the people really well in front of you and their ability and habits? If all the options are bad, then increase the distance of the bike in front or get out of the line. Fast technical descents require separation of riders. Clear open good roads with wide bike lanes and light or no traffic offer good opportunities for group / pace line work with options if something goes wrong. And it will go wrong. Count on it and plan on it. If you have a plan, you dramatically increase your survival and keeping the rubber side down.

Pedal / coast riders... Do not pedal coast pedal coast pedal coast. First it is annoying to the person behind and the goal of everyone in the pace line is to be a good wheel to follow. A much better way to manage power is to keep the legs spinning and touch the brake slightly to kill a little speed if required. Of course if there is a downhill section then coasting is fine. What I am talking about is on flat ground. The goal is to be a smooth and predictable as possible.
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Old 05-29-12, 08:54 AM   #8
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Here is a link to diagrams of how the different approaches work:

http://www.lostrivercycling.org/paceline.html

And here is an example of a kick-ass pro paceline.


One way to eliminate the pedal-coast issue is to shift to a lower gear and increase cadence - makes it much easier to match speed with the people around you.
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Old 05-29-12, 09:08 AM   #9
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Lots of good information doled out so far. I would add that if you have cadence on your computer watch the cadence when you are about 3rd or 4th from the front. Determine the average cadence, and when you are on front pulling maintain that cadence. Nothing blows the pace line or aggravates others more than the guy who picks up the pace every time he pulls. Don’t be that guy who thinks he is helping by doing harder work than everyone else while causing gaps in the line and blowing up the guy who just pulled.

Depending on your groups skills there may be times riding up small hills or rollers that riders will go OTS. When going OTS be sure to accelerate slightly to remain neutral or to close the gap in front rather than "throw the bike back" while going OTS. When someone throws the bike back it causes a chain reaction behind the rider that can end up in a crash. (and take a State Championship away, just 3 miles from the finish, when you are the only one left from your age group) Some pace lines, when riding up small hills or rollers, will spread out then reform once again after the hill.
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Old 05-29-12, 09:13 AM   #10
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Lots When someone throws the bike back it causes a chain reaction behind the rider that can end up in a crash. (and take a State Championship away, just 3 miles from the finish, when you are the only one left from your age group)
Take a deep breath now Jet, and repeat after me: "The past is the past.. it's the races to come that matter.. things happen in races.. acceptance is the key... "

Here is another good link with diagrams: http://www.bikeiowa.com/uploads/arti...dPacelines.htm
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Old 05-29-12, 10:51 AM   #11
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This is very interesting and timely info, as I'll be expected to participate to the extent I'm able in the team paceline at the TdC in a couple of weeks. I've done some less formal work with the training ride groups (1 minute pulls, a tap to the hip to signal pulling off), but at the track I'll be with the "A" group for a few laps before the "B" riders separate. I'm hoping the pre-ride meeting will cover all these tactical matters.
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Old 05-29-12, 11:02 AM   #12
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[QUOTE=Allegheny Jet;14284921] Don’t be that guy who thinks he is helping by doing harder work than everyone else while causing gaps in the line and blowing up the guy who just pulled.

+1
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Old 05-29-12, 11:42 AM   #13
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It is written: Pro 53:12 (Prolink, not Proverbs), a good riding partner, one who often pulls, seldom sucks, and never half-wheels you is more valuable than silver and gold. He is to be treasured, and, if he isn't in recovery, have beer purchased for him by the firkin. Thus sayeth the Dude.
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Old 05-29-12, 12:42 PM   #14
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Good points by several folks already. The pacelines I've been in that work the best are those where riders are maintaining a fairly even pace and simply considerate of the other riders in the group.

I hate it when fresh riders get to the front and hammer or drastically pick up the pace, especially when it's the guy just behind me and I've just done my pull. And it's also not playing nice to jumo out of the pace line going up a hill after the folks in front have done the work--- unless you jump in front to pull them up (speaking of a casual rides versus race). The reason a rider can do that so easily is because they are fresher because they have benefitted from being in the pace line. If your skills are pretty much similar to the group you're not going to get very far up the road before the group catches back up so you're better to just sit in and enjoy the ride.
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Old 05-29-12, 01:14 PM   #15
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Craigb: I am not sure exactly what you mean by the track and the A and B group. If you are training on a banked track with a group, listen up to the instructions. At our track, we run beginner sessions and each rider must complete 3 sessions before we let him/her attend an open session or race. If you are learning to ride the track, slower is better and focus on technique and position on the track. And I assume you are riding fixed gear no brakes. BTW, we spend 98% or our time in pace lines at the track. If trackies can do one thing well it is ride in a pace line close to the rider in front.
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Old 05-29-12, 01:34 PM   #16
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Craigb: BTW, we spend 98% or our time in pace lines at the track. If trackies can do one thing well it is ride in a pace line close to the rider in front.
Amen......
At TNR tonight it's Keirin racing for the A and B groups, the C have the regular schedule. So where did I put my elbow pads?
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Old 05-29-12, 02:02 PM   #17
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CraigB's track is the Indianapolis Speedway.
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Old 05-29-12, 02:05 PM   #18
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Craigb: I am not sure exactly what you mean by the track and the A and B group. If you are training on a banked track with a group, listen up to the instructions. At our track, we run beginner sessions and each rider must complete 3 sessions before we let him/her attend an open session or race. If you are learning to ride the track, slower is better and focus on technique and position on the track. And I assume you are riding fixed gear no brakes. BTW, we spend 98% or our time in pace lines at the track. If trackies can do one thing well it is ride in a pace line close to the rider in front.
"Track" in this case is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Team Nebo Ridge "A" riders go for a sub-4 hour century via an intensely fast paceline. This year there will be at least 2 or 3 "B" riders (like me) participating as well. There's no way in hell I can keep up with them for more than a few miles, but they want the whole group to start together and stay together for a few laps for maximum sponsor exposure. So no, it's not a velodrome, and the banking is almost non-existent as far as bikes are concerned.

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Old 05-29-12, 02:07 PM   #19
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Just one comment on the "taking the lead" part of this thread title:

Just a few weeks ago BikeForum's own Bob Doppolino offered this wonderfully pithy aphorism that I've since been sharing with all the group cyclists I coach:

"You don't take the lead...you inherit it."
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Old 05-29-12, 03:05 PM   #20
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Good points by several folks already. The pacelines I've been in that work the best are those where riders are maintaining a fairly even pace and simply considerate of the other riders in the group.

I hate it when fresh riders get to the front and hammer or drastically pick up the pace, especially when it's the guy just behind me and I've just done my pull. And it's also not playing nice to jumo out of the pace line going up a hill after the folks in front have done the work--- unless you jump in front to pull them up (speaking of a casual rides versus race). The reason a rider can do that so easily is because they are fresher because they have benefitted from being in the pace line. If your skills are pretty much similar to the group you're not going to get very far up the road before the group catches back up so you're better to just sit in and enjoy the ride.
Everything should be smooth as silk, with no surges whatsoever. Quiet and smooth is the sign of a good group. If someone picks up the pace above the ride target/custom, they should get talked to.

Hills, though, are typically a different thing. Most pacelines will intentionally break up for any real hills, so everyone can climb at their own pace, then regroup at the top. That's because, while drafting is an equalizer on the flats, that just doesn't hold true on climbs. Trying to hold a paceline together on a climb, especially if it isn't a group that rides together a lot, can be both counter-productive and dangerous. Traditionally, hills are the place where people do attack, and that's just fine unless the group has guidelines against such things. My team will hold the paceline together for rises of a couple of degrees, but when we hit a real hill, it's everyone for themselves until we get to the top. If you are going to struggle on a climb, make sure you don't pull just before you get to it. Everyone should be fine with that.
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Old 05-29-12, 03:21 PM   #21
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AzTall has highlighted a problem that we have in our group and that is hills. Slopes not a problem but hills have to be taken at each riders pace. What gets me though is the fact that we have one rider that has to get to the top first and if he doesn't- he gets upset. I am the one that used to annoy him more than any other as I would sit behind him all the way up the hill and just pip past him in the last 50 yards. It would hurt me but sitting on his wheel and I was getting a tow most of the way and just change a couple of gears higher and out of the saddle and "Bye". That drafting works.

But this same rider was murder in a pace line. As soon as he got to the front- he would accelerate and break the rhythm of the other riders.we tried talking to him and it never worked so we just left it so that when he got to the front and went- We let him. the rest of us just carried on at our previous pace and saving energy.
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Old 05-29-12, 04:57 PM   #22
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Back in the late 70's our club had a young rider that was pretty well excellently fit and a good pace line rider. he could easily have made productive pulls at the front but he would not move up for anything. (he was capable and we had all seen him tricked into leading and pulling doing very well.) he earned the name of "Wheel Sucker" and toted it on every ride and was called such by even the oldest casual riders. I understand Air Force boot camp was real fun for him.

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Old 05-29-12, 07:07 PM   #23
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I've seen a few references to the need to have decent bike handling skills in order to be safe and effective in a pace line. If you have any doubts about your ability to be a good wheel, you probably aren't. In decades past, you could watch the pros to see how it is done, but they seem to be focusing all of their training on power output and the art of handling a bike seems to be all but forgotten. (Perhaps that's why we saw so many crashes in last year's TdF.)

Back in the '70s when I was first learning to ride in pace lines, rather an essential skill in pancake-flat Davis, CA, I purchased a set of rollers. I still have them and occasionally use them if I feel at all squirrelly. I have seen some newer ones that have bumpers on the sides. All I can say about that is if you hit the bumper you are doing it wrong.

Some folks might find that a bit of cross-training will improve bike skills. Do something that involves total body balance like martial arts or dance. Consider adding some yoga for flexibility; it's nice to be able to look behind you without losing your balance, especially if you are in a group.
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Old 05-29-12, 08:02 PM   #24
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I've seen a few references to the need to have decent bike handling skills in order to be safe and effective in a pace line. If you have any doubts about your ability to be a good wheel, you probably aren't. In decades past, you could watch the pros to see how it is done, but they seem to be focusing all of their training on power output and the art of handling a bike seems to be all but forgotten. (Perhaps that's why we saw so many crashes in last year's TdF.)

Back in the '70s when I was first learning to ride in pace lines, rather an essential skill in pancake-flat Davis, CA, I purchased a set of rollers. I still have them and occasionally use them if I feel at all squirrelly. I have seen some newer ones that have bumpers on the sides. All I can say about that is if you hit the bumper you are doing it wrong.

Some folks might find that a bit of cross-training will improve bike skills. Do something that involves total body balance like martial arts or dance. Consider adding some yoga for flexibility; it's nice to be able to look behind you without losing your balance, especially if you are in a group.
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Old 05-29-12, 08:19 PM   #25
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It's going to depend on who you are riding with. I ride with a large club and our groups are completely random in their pacelining/drafting. In other words, nothing is expected of anyone, (except for safety concerns). The strongest few riders will take the front and hammer and everyone else will scramble to stay on. When the hills come many of us will get spit out the back.
Sometimes a faster racer/beast will pull most of the ride and most times there are many riders who sit in every inch and never feel the wind.
A few weeks back I did one of these rides where 2 racers pulled most of the 65 miles and the group went from 40+ riders down to 8 at the end. I felt like I had been sprinting for hours (probably because I had been).
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