Most cyclists have ridden in some type of group ride or paceline formation. Ususally, each person in a
paceline takes a turn riding in front, breaking the wind. Many cyclists, however, overlook the most
important rules of riding in a paceline, simply because those rules remain untold. Many of those rules
also apply to a less formal group ride situation. The rules are designed to keep the group's speed high
and to avoid accidents. So, this article is designed to tell the "untold story" of paceline and group
The essential purpose of the paceline is efficiency. In other words, the group is trying to keep their
speed consistently higher than any single member of the group could maintain on his or her own. This
efficiency is possible because it is as much as 30% easier to ride behind someone, where the wind resistance
is considerably lower. In addition, the group is trying to avoid the accidents that can arise when cyclists
ride within inches of each other. Many cyclists, however, seem to forget the purpose of their formation.
To illustrate some common mistakes, consider whether the following scenario sounds familiar.
Imagine that you are riding along in a single paceline, and you are the third rider in the line.
The rear wheel of the rider in front of you is about 12 inches from your front wheel, and you are
enjoying the draft. Suddenly, you notice that the rider in front of you, who has just taken the front
position in the wind, is now 5 feet ahead of you. This front rider's sudden increase in speed has caused
a gap, and when you notice the gap, you put forth a hard effort to close the gap, and so does each rider
behind you, like an accordian. Eventually, this gap
closing effort tires the persons in the paceline faster than would otherwise be the case. To avoid
this problem, the front rider must watch the speed on his or her computer just before his or her turn at the front, and then maintain that pace within one-half mph or one kmh. If the speed of the paceline needs to be increased, wait until you have been pulling on front for several strokes, and then SLOWLY increase the speed. A gradual increase in speed will avoid gaps and help keep everyone behind you fresh.