Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Bikes: Rivendell A.Homer Hilsen, Paramount P13, (4) Falcon bicycles, Mondia Special, Rodriguez Tandem
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Whether it's inexperienced people in pacelines that have caused accidents or whether it was the actions of the paceline itself that cause the pileups is a matter of debate after each TOSRV. What commonly happens is a group of bike riders that are experienced riding with each other form up a paceline just like they do on all their weekend rides and they rocket on down the road at a smooth but fast pace. Usually the paceline forms into a double paceline (two abreast). Other riders who do not even know these guys (and gals) jump on the back to take advantage of the draft. Some may be experienced and some may have no experience. Most of the time they are not doing any worse then the front of the paceline as long as nothing goes wrong. As speeds change there is a bit of yo-yoing on the back but it seems that everyone catches on what to do fairly quickly and if they aren't catching on they usually get nervous and drop off.
But here is where the trouble lies. TOSRV is made up of thousands of riders and many of them are cruising at respectable speeds of 13 or 16 mph but not in pacelines. They may be riding beside one friend and although they are not taking up the entire lane they have a good 2/3's of it. A double paceline approaches from behind and if they are polite they may warn "On your left" or they may choose to pass silently by inches from the passee. But a double paceline may not have room to pass two riders abreast and remain in the lane without passing over the double yellow line. The rules of the road dictate that the overtaking group pass safely, which would mean they pass the slower riders single file, which would not be easy to do, so they just swing out and try to pass as quickly as possible. But it's not so quick because the twenty riders at the front of the paceline have forty riders behind them and sooner or later there is a car coming from the other direction and now the paceline that has bulged out around the passed riders has to move in quickly and the riders caught behind suddenly have to slow down to not hit these slower cyclists. Bad things sometimes happens.
So who's at fault? The passed riders for not going to single file whenever a paceline approaches from behind? Who's to say that pacelines riding two abreast have priority over slower cyclists riding two abreast? It's actually the opposite.
The guys at the front? They'll maintain that the road was clear ahead and that they had room to pass, at least for the twenty of them belonging to club X who are presumably riding as a unit. If they had room to pass without crossing the yellow line then they're probably right.
The riders who have jumped on the paceline from the back such that it is so long that it takes a great long while to pass other cyclists? I would assign a good deal of blame to them, whether they are experienced paceliners or not.
Over the last ten years TOSRV has mellowed considerably since the go-go 1980's and 1990's with 6,000 riders. The largest demographic group today is the 40-49 year olds followed closely by the 50-59 year olds. Not a geriatric takeover, same exact riders, you can do the math. So there are not as many pacelines, they are not as big as they used to be. And the slower riders being passed are also riding straighter lines and keep to the right a little better. It all has to do with experience gained over the last ten or twenty or forty years.
It remains a well organized and fun ride to do. It's long history makes it well known throughout the bike world and a great many later mass rides were modeled on it. The overnight format gives participants a greater sense of adventure. There is no quitting early to take a shortcut home. There is a heightened sense of comraderie with your fellow travelers as you meet newly made friends for dinner in Portsmouth.
Long answer for a simple question. But if you have any other questions about TOSRV I can go on and on about it.