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# New to Pacelining.. How to gauge uphill effort on speed-rated rides?

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

# New to Pacelining.. How to gauge uphill effort on speed-rated rides?

06-11-16, 07:09 AM
#1
Sy Reene

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New to Pacelining.. How to gauge uphill effort on speed-rated rides?

So I've started to dabble in a few group paceline rides. Prior to that I just went on general follow-the-leader group rides, or solo.

The rides in our club are categorized by speed. eg. B17 is the speed that should be held on the flats, etc.

So, the dilemma, or what I'm trying to understand, is how to gauge what speed to ride at when leading the paceline but when you're not on the flat? For example, we hit a slight uphill, I was leading and I think I ended dropping to 13-14mph. It didn't take long, and started hearing "gapping" or "off the back". FYI, none of us riders are equipped with power meters. Later it was explained to me that I should always attempt to ride with the same approximate effort as I was expending on the flat. Tough to do perhaps without a power meter.

This also seems wrong to me somehow; or at least I've always been used to the notion that hills are naturally supposed to be harder. Looking at some online watt calculators, if eg. 17mph on a flat = 140 watts, then hitting a 3% grade means I need to drop to under 9mph, and I would also need to somehow know I was on a 3% grade (because if it was 4% then I need to be under 7mph, etc..).

Thoughts?
06-11-16, 09:07 AM
#2
Drew Eckhardt
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene
Later it was explained to me that I should always attempt to ride with the same approximate effort as I was expending on the flat. Tough to do perhaps without a power meter.
That doesn't work when the group isn't close enough to the same build and leanness.

Let some one who climbs slower lead, agree to regroup after climbs, or slow down until the complaints stop.

This also seems wrong to me somehow; or at least I've always been used to the notion that hills are naturally supposed to be harder.
Speed on flat ground comes mostly from your power to drag ratio. People not pulling need about 1/3 less power than they otherwise would.

Speed up-hill comes mostly from your power to weight ratio. As the hill gets steeper the benefit from a pace line disappears.

People come in all shapes and sizes so the relative effort for them to keep up varies based on the terrain.

Big mesomorphs have a lot of muscle and power without much more drag than smaller people so they work at a smaller fraction of their maximum on flat ground; but upper body muscles and big bones which add weight without speed reduce their power to weight ratio so they're not as fast climbing.

Ectomorphic climber types have less power relative to our frontal area so we're slow on flat ground, but don't have any excess weight slowing us down up-hill.

Middle age spread barely slows you down on flat ground, but is a big deal up hill. Most American adults are over-weight and over a third are obese.

As an athletically lean ectomorph, maintaining the same effort on climbs you're going to drop people.

I'm 5'9.5" and weigh 135-137 pounds sans middle age spread. 33"-26"-34" chest/waist/hips. XXXS to XS jerseys. On my last group ride I had to wait 12 minutes for the stragglers to catch up after climbing half an hour at a pleasant tempo pace.

OTOH on flat ground a healthy 180 pound rider at the same power to weight ratio has 1/3 more power; and even in his draft I'm working at the same fraction of my maximum that he is. That isn't sustainable when people are working hard enough they can only take short pulls.

An extra 65-70 pounds didn't noticeably slow me down on flat ground; although at the same fitness I needed a 39 ring with the same cog I'd pair with a 50 at a good climbing weight, and took a third longer to finish climbs.

I generally avoid group rides.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 06-12-16 at 09:34 AM.
06-11-16, 11:30 AM
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Bottom line: when you're out front, you set the pace. Ride the hill at the effort you think is appropriate.

If people go OTB, just soft pedal past the crest and wait for the catch-up, at which point you can either resume or drift to back.

Main thing with pacelining is not to slow too suddenly on the climb, so the group maintains momentum.
06-11-16, 12:46 PM
#4
Raiden
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Your group sounds like a bunch of wieners. Find a new one lol.

If this is a bunch of fit people, racers even, this style of pacelining is useless. No race is going to be nice to them like this. The guy in front of you is pulling away? Either you make up the gap, or someone from behind or beside is going to aggressively fill that gap. Boo hoo I can't keep up please slow down isn't a thing. HTFU.

If this is a very mixed group of ages and fitness, then they need to drop the aggressive paceline rules and just make it a ride with regular regroups. Or split the faster and slower riders. In this mixed group, I would make friends with the slower riders, and see what kind of speeds they do on flats, hills, etc., and remember and adjust accordingly.
06-11-16, 05:12 PM
#5
kbarch
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@Drew Eckhardt provides meaningful insights, but your club is striving for a certain kind of ride that the other guys either don't understand or don't appreciate, so don't listen to them. The point of the kind of consistent effort ride that (I believe) you're participating in is to be fully aware of what the group is doing as a unit. It's not about how easy YOU think the hills are, it's about how easy (or not) the GROUP finds them. The climbers may have to dial it back a little while the heavy folks have to pick it up. And even though consistent effort is the mantra, everyone realizes that at some point the effort required to make progress generally won't be enough to get you up a grade at all, so you just have to use your judgment, based on what you understand about the group. Usually, if a significant grade comes up, the leader may let the group break up (on steep, rough or technical descents as often as on steep climbs), but it will be explicit.

I used to participate in such disciplined rides, and I'd get yelled at for going too fast up hills. But it wasn't because I was stronger than the others: on the long flats, I'd be the one calling out "gapping." Right about the time it started to click - when I started to get it and really appreciate the consistent effort of a unit, not charge up hills then struggle to keep up on the flats - I had to move and couldn't participate anymore, so now all the group rides I do are anarchy.
06-11-16, 05:25 PM
#6
Lazyass
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Same effort on climbs as on flats? What kind of club is that? Do they ride up hills at 5mph or something?
06-12-16, 12:36 AM
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gregf83
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Originally Posted by Lazyass
Same effort on climbs as on flats? What kind of club is that? Do they ride up hills at 5mph or something?
Any reasonably fast group will have the guys out front riding as hard, or harder, than they would on a sustained climb.
06-12-16, 03:00 AM
#8
Lazyass
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Originally Posted by gregf83
Any reasonably fast group will have the guys out front riding as hard, or harder, than they would on a sustained climb.
I've been riding in groups for almost 30 years. Climbs generally require more effort lol
06-12-16, 03:02 AM
#9
Lazyass
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Originally Posted by gregf83
Any reasonably fast group will have the guys out front riding as hard, or harder, than they would on a sustained climb.
I've been riding in groups for almost 30 years. In A groups I can coast a good bit of the time when drafting. I've never coasted behind someone uphill. Climbs generally require more effort lol
06-12-16, 04:01 AM
#10
Trakhak
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The club's designation of a B17 group (17-mph average on flat terrain) likely means that there is an A19 group, going 19 mph or thereabouts on flat ground, and/or perhaps an even faster group. That's the group for the riders looking to do race pace and hammer on climbs.

Sounds as if Sy Reene should either jump into the A group or respect the preferences of the B group.
06-12-16, 06:00 AM
#11
Sy Reene

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Originally Posted by Trakhak
The club's designation of a B17 group (17-mph average on flat terrain) likely means that there is an A19 group, going 19 mph or thereabouts on flat ground, and/or perhaps an even faster group. That's the group for the riders looking to do race pace and hammer on climbs.

Sounds as if Sy Reene should either jump into the A group or respect the preferences of the B group.
You're quite right, there are other rated rides going up into the 20s. I do respect the preferences of the group, or at least want to. I was looking for advice on how to gauge, if one is leading, what effort (and therefore what speed) one should put into especially climbs. On top of this, assume each week the group's constituents change.

Are A-rides all really races to the top when there's a hill, and keeping the paceline together isn't a priority?
06-12-16, 06:16 AM
#12
gregf83
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Originally Posted by Lazyass
I've been riding in groups for almost 30 years. In A groups I can coast a good bit of the time when drafting. I've never coasted behind someone uphill. Climbs generally require more effort lol
The OP's original question pertained to the conductors of the bus not the passengers 🙂
06-12-16, 06:21 AM
#13
gregf83
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene
You're quite right, there are other rated rides going up into the 20s. I do respect the preferences of the group, or at least want to. I was looking for advice on how to gauge, if one is leading, what effort (and therefore what speed) one should put into especially climbs. On top of this, assume each week the group's constituents change.

Are A-rides all really races to the top when there's a hill, and keeping the paceline together isn't a priority?
Depends on the ride and the group. It's certainly not uncommon for guys to ride their own pace up a hill and regroup at the top. Climbers are not going to plod along with the sprinters.
06-12-16, 06:40 AM
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Pirkaus
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The group I ride with, we take our own pace on climbs. If someone gets to the top and wants to ride more, they turnaround and ride back to the group and climb again. It really depends on who's in the group and how each one feels, we are relaxed and have no set agenda. YMMV
06-12-16, 06:52 AM
#15
bakes1
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[QUOTE=Sy Reene;18836950]So I've started to dabble in a few group paceline rides. Prior to that I just went on general follow-the-leader group rides, or solo.

The rides in our club are categorized by speed. eg. B17 is the speed that should be held on the flats, etc.

So, the dilemma, or what I'm trying to understand, is how to gauge what speed to ride at when leading the paceline but when you're not on the flat? For example, we hit a slight uphill, I was leading and I think I ended dropping to 13-14mph. It didn't take long, and started hearing "gapping" or "off the back". FYI, none of us riders are equipped with power meters. Later it was explained to me that I should always attempt to ride with the same approximate effort as I was expending on the flat. Tough to do perhaps without a power meter.

This also seems wrong to me somehow; or at least I've always been used to the notion that hills are naturally supposed to be harder. Looking at some online watt calculators, if eg. 17mph on a flat = 140 watts, then hitting a 3% grade means I need to drop to under 9mph, and I would also need to somehow know I was on a 3% grade (because if it was 4% then I need to be under 7mph, etc..).

Thoughts?[/QUOTE

Sounds like a serious group of 17mph paceliners...
06-12-16, 06:56 AM
#16
kbarch
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene
You're quite right, there are other rated rides going up into the 20s. I do respect the preferences of the group, or at least want to. I was looking for advice on how to gauge, if one is leading, what effort (and therefore what speed) one should put into especially climbs. On top of this, assume each week the group's constituents change.

Are A-rides all really races to the top when there's a hill, and keeping the paceline together isn't a priority?
It's likely that's not the case, if, as I was saying before, the idea is to maintain a sort of disciplined group unity. If 'consistent effort' is a mantra of the group rides generally, normally the leader will explicitly indicate whether hills are times for breaking up and regrouping after. It's actually LESS likely that breaking up on hills will occur with better-trained fast groups of this sort.

Gauging effort in these situations isn't so much about awareness of speed or power numbers as awareness of the people in the group and the profile of the road ahead. Try to pay some attention to what's going on behind you. It takes practice, and a lot of awareness, but as you make your way through the paceline, you'll get a sense of where you fit in the group, in which situations you'll be accommodating others, e.g., taking hills a little easier than you might otherwise, and in which situations you'll be the one accommodated, e.g., hanging behind the big guys going into the wind.

Yes, hills are always more work than flats. The thing to keep in mind on this kind of ride is how hard is the group planning to work overall? How much more effort is reasonable for any particular hill in that case? A few will be like you ordinarily suggested - no more appreciable effort at all, just take an easy gear. But when you come upon a 14% ramp or an extended 7% climb, yeah, everyone is going to have to put in some more effort, and the A guys can be expected to put in more effort than the B guys, but it's not like the A riders will all of a sudden start hammering while the B riders struggle to keep from falling over.

Last edited by kbarch; 06-12-16 at 07:11 AM.
06-12-16, 01:59 PM
#17
milkbaby
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I live in Florida where we have speed bumps but no serious hills. However, the inclines are still enough to split a group due to the varying weights and fitness of riders in a group. Whether this is OK or not depends on the group.

One group I ride with emphasizes keeping the group together until a few miles to the finish when the fitter riders may split off. Another group is OK to split up over the rollers but regroups at predetermined spots. You just gotta figure out each group's individual preferences and unwritten rules.

As far as judging effort uphill when trying to keep a group together, I just go by my own perceived effort and breathing (also used to use heart rate until my chest strap monitor died) as well as some glances backwards to make sure no one is dropped.
06-12-16, 02:58 PM
#18
caloso
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene
So I've started to dabble in a few group paceline rides. Prior to that I just went on general follow-the-leader group rides, or solo.

The rides in our club are categorized by speed. eg. B17 is the speed that should be held on the flats, etc.

So, the dilemma, or what I'm trying to understand, is how to gauge what speed to ride at when leading the paceline but when you're not on the flat? For example, we hit a slight uphill, I was leading and I think I ended dropping to 13-14mph. It didn't take long, and started hearing "gapping" or "off the back". FYI, none of us riders are equipped with power meters. Later it was explained to me that I should always attempt to ride with the same approximate effort as I was expending on the flat. Tough to do perhaps without a power meter.

This also seems wrong to me somehow; or at least I've always been used to the notion that hills are naturally supposed to be harder. Looking at some online watt calculators, if eg. 17mph on a flat = 140 watts, then hitting a 3% grade means I need to drop to under 9mph, and I would also need to somehow know I was on a 3% grade (because if it was 4% then I need to be under 7mph, etc..).

Thoughts?
Don't overthink this. Perceived effort is perceived effort. So if it takes 6/10 RPE to go 17 mph on the flat, then do 6/10 on the hill and don't worry about the speed. Also, if it isn't a constant rotation and you're on the front for awhile, look over your shoulder or under your armpit every once in awhile to make sure you're not dropping people. None of this requires knowing your power, the grade of the road, or the wind speed.
06-12-16, 03:25 PM
#19
PepeM
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When you start hearing 'gapping' or 'off the back,' ATTACK. Crush their souls and show them who's boss.
06-12-16, 11:05 PM
#20
HazeT
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Originally Posted by gregf83
The OP's original question pertained to the conductors of the bus not the passengers 
Ouch!
06-12-16, 11:15 PM
#21
HazeT
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How long are your pulls? if you have a heart rate monitor that can give you a ballpark of your effort going uphill. For the pace & effort policy I would guess it is an introductory group or a very diversified one where the ride leader puts more emphasis in keeping everyone together versus pushing a few limits. If those are the conditions, stick to it or move to the next faster group, at some point you will find the group that pushes you enough.
Generally my group will not even look back if you fall OTB on the flats/rolling, but on long climbs they usually wait a reasonable amount of time to regroup on top. Even still they will probably only wait so much, if you can't make usually people form a 2nd group or finish solo.
06-13-16, 03:16 AM
#22
kbarch
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Originally Posted by HazeT
How long are your pulls? if you have a heart rate monitor that can give you a ballpark of your effort going uphill. For the pace & effort policy I would guess it is an introductory group or a very diversified one where the ride leader puts more emphasis in keeping everyone together versus pushing a few limits. If those are the conditions, stick to it or move to the next faster group, at some point you will find the group that pushes you enough.
Generally my group will not even look back if you fall OTB on the flats/rolling, but on long climbs they usually wait a reasonable amount of time to regroup on top. Even still they will probably only wait so much, if you can't make usually people form a 2nd group or finish solo.
That's probably not the kind of ride this is. It's not necessarily merely about staying together, it's probably about working together, too. Indeed, if you hear "gapping" often, you're probably suited for faster rides, but not everyone who CAN do A24 rides wants to do them all the time, and if you happen to be on a B17, you need to ride that way the whole time. Like @caloso was getting at, it's not rocket science, and it's not really so much about how hard YOU are working, it's just about being aware of how the group is working.
By the way, in my old club, A, B and C didn't necessarily designate a pace, they designated the skill level expected; A rides were the most disciplined, on B rides they expected you to know how pacelining worked and to stay close to the wheel in front, and C rides were more introductory and pace was effectively more about staying together than working together, but in all cases, "consistent effort" was the mantra unless explicitly stated otherwise, and a single ride of the more advanced sort could have more than one pace - a relaxed first part, and a TT pace at the end, for example.
06-13-16, 05:32 AM
#23
OldTryGuy
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When I ride in a "not familiar group," I start at the back and see how things flow. Even "A" rides can vary so why be a smart a\$\$ and do something stupid from the get go, like powering up a climb, if that's not what they do.

Coasting a good bit of the time when drafting in an "A" group, means the drafter is an ANIMAL or the ride is not that fast.
06-13-16, 10:56 AM
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goenrdoug
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Originally Posted by OldTryGuy
Coasting a good bit of the time when drafting in an "A" group, means the drafter is an ANIMAL
06-13-16, 01:46 PM
#25
Bandera
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There are three distinct flavors of "paceline" that I see locally.

1) A racing club in full team kit riding in a paceline to rapidly and smoothly cover considerable distance with no drama.

B) The so-called "Fast Paceline" ride, a testosterone poisoned rabble lacking real pace, technique or road sense that specilaizes in half-wheeling and imaginary racing.

III) The "Social Ride" is endlessly sub-divided into ever lower speed groups that seem to all plod along while shouting about an endless array of "road hazards".
"Hole!" "Car Back!" "Car Up! "Car in Parking Lot!" "No Car!" "Pebble!" "Stop Shouting!"

Only 1) has the faintest idea of how to ride a proper pace with cohesion, B) specializes in dropping women and new riders while III) seems more concerned about shouting than making any progress.

-Bandera