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Paceline suggestions and tips for Club Riding

Coastal Cyclists took the time to compile the following paceline riding rules, suggestions and protocol for club riding. 

Very well stated and suggested reading for any club rider


* Wear a helmet.

This is so obvious. Without one, a simple low speed fall could permanently change your life.


* Obey all traffic laws and signs, including not riding in a right turn lane if you're not turning right!


* Always look towards the front of the paceline to anticipate anything that's about to happen.


* Do not stare at the wheel in front of will not be prepared to react to things happening further ahead.


* When you take the "pull" at the front of the paceline, your job is to maintain the constant agreed speed of the group.


* Do not exceed the group speed limit. If you're not sure about speed, simply maintain the speed of the person you just replaced. This is not time to prove your manhood by how much faster you can go. You don't score macho-points. No one will be impressed...quite the opposite! You can explain to your Strava followers that you really could have pulled 5 mph faster, but were being considerate!

* If the person pulling takes and keeps the paceline above the agreed speed, just let them go off the front. They'll eventually catch-on to what happened.

* OK, there are some rides when there's not an agreed pace. Be guided by what's "normal" on that ride. Maybe that one is a contest! Go for it.


* When you're pulling and go around corners or cross roads accelerate back to full speed gradually.

Some riders will slow down more than you did or will have to wait for a car to pass...your objective is not to drop them! This is a "group ride", so keep the group together.


* Keep about a 1-2 ft gap between you and the rider ahead...maybe a bit more if you don't have experience riding with that person, or if riding closer makes you nervous.


* Keep the distance to the rider ahead constant so you're not the cause of the "accordion effect"...the paceline expanding and compressing.


* Do not use your aero bars unless you are 20 feet off the back of the pack and riding solo.

This has been the cause of at least one serious crash locally. Don't do it.

* If you're practicing for a tri event, you can't draft in don't on a club ride.

* If the rider in front of you is doing it, don't follow them.


* Do not wear headphones.

You will miss hearing warnings from other riders or sounds about things happening in the surroundings. It's dangerous!


* Do not use your brakes except in an emergency.

If you need to slow slightly just ease up the pressure on the pedals. Don't stop pedaling...that's likely to panic the person right behind you. They'll wonder what you're going to do next and will likely also stop pedaling. And on it goes down the paceline.

* If you must brake, use your back brake gently and signal the rider behind you that you're slowing first.

* If there's a crash in front of you or some other catastrophe, the best way to avoid injury and to avoid involving those behind you is not to brake, but steer to one side or the other. That provides the riders behind you with more distance to decide what they're going to do.


* Do not overlap the wheel of the rider in front of you.

If they swerve slightly to avoid something or just loses concentration, you'll hit wheels and YOU will go down...and then maybe those behind you as well.

* If you do bump, turn your wheel toward the wheel in front of you to try to recover. Try not to panic...maintain control of your bike even if you ride off into the grass to come to a stop.


* Don't allow a gap to open up in front of you.


* Keep the paceline together.

If someone accelerates and opens a gap, close it gradually. If you can't close it, signal that you're pulling out of the line and let the rider behind you close the gap.


* Don't stand up in a paceline.

You may think you're maintaining your speed, but the bike hesitates when you stand and could cause you to hit the rider behind you. If you need a "butt break" signal that you're getting out of the line and move out before standing.


* When you pull off the front pat your butt and waive the riders though on the side you want them to pass.


* Be aware that some less experienced riders may not realize that a "chicken wing" elbow wiggle is a conscious signal and you may need to use the butt-pat and please - be very obvious in your intentions.

* If you're just joining an established ride, ask what the usual signal is and fit in.

When you pull off the front, do it on a straight section of road, if possible, so you're visible to vehicles while drifting back, and not when there is a vehicle wanting to pass.


* This is much easier if you have a mirror of some kind...either on your helmet/glasses or on the bar end.
The pros don't use mirrors. But those of us ordinary riders who do, wouldn't ride without one.


* Never slow down before signaling that you're pulling off the front. And never pull off without first signaling.

If you don't effectively signal, the rider behind you may think you're just swerving to miss a pothole and follow you. Then when you do slow down (thinking no one is behind you) you'll cause a crash.


* If you're too tired or just not strong enough to pull, when you reach the front of the line, just signal and pull off after a short distance.

Folks will understand. And, generally, they'd prefer that you not pull, than for you to get worn out and be dropped after your pull, requiring someone to go back and check on you. It's will not lose macho-points.


* When you pull off the front and drift to the back of the pack, begin to increase your speed when there are still a couple of riders left at the end of the line, and then smoothly move onto the back. If you don't do this, you may allow a gap between you and the last rider. On a windy day, you might never get back to the group.

* If you are the last rider, it's considerate to call out "last" to let the rider drifting back know that she needs to pull in right behind you.


* If you see a pothole, road-kill, boulder, glass, etc. point to it and call out so the rider behind you can avoid it.


* Your objective is to warn of something that a rider nominally following your wheel might hit. So, if the obstruction is more than a couple of feet away from your line on either side, don't point it out. They won't hit it unless they're not following you. And if they're several feet off your line, they'll see it coming.

* If you notice it late or don't think it's safe to point, at least shout a warning.

Warn of moving obstructions.


* Call out any potential concern, such as a car approaching from behind, a car pulling out ahead, a dog crossing the road, an approaching runner or walker, etc.

* For the most common...vehicles...don't worry about whether it's a car, truck, golf cart, etc...just say "car back" or "car up". You're just letting other riders know that there is something behind or ahead they need to focus on.


* When you're riding up an incline, give yourself more space behind the rider in front of you.

If the rider ahead downshifts and it doesn't go smoothly, he may stop pedaling momentarily or just try again to shift. On a hill, it's the equivalent of that rider braking. We've had a very serious crash locally for this reason. Beware! This can put you in the ICU.


* It is very common for riders to stand and pedal on a climb. There will be a change in speed when they do.


* If you have a mechanical issue, let someone else know.

You may think you don't need help and don't want to disrupt the ride. But on most rides, someone will go back to look for you. They won't be happy if that's a several mile odyssey! You may run out of CO2, need a second tube or have some other issue requiring help. You don't want to be out there alone.

* Be sure you have everything you need to change a flat.

Folks are happy to help you do the work, but they expect you to have brought what you need.


* Have identification with you.

If you crash, you might not be conscious or coherent. Who should responders contact?

* Get a "Road ID" , "Smart ID", similar device, or at a minimum - put your emergency contact info in your seat bag.


* Do not grab food or your phone out of your pocket in the paceline.

We want to get better at riding together, so if you see someone doing something unsafe, have a quiet conversation with them, one on one, after the ride. If you're on the receiving end of a comment, accept it as concern for your and others' safety. The awareness you get may save you from a hospital visit.


If you want to keep it simple, remember at least these 3 rules:


*When you're on the road, behave as if you're a car...following all traffic laws.


*In a paceline, never do anything that will surprise the rider behind you. That means signaling before you slow down, turn, swerve to avoid a pothole or object, stand up, give up the pull, etc.


*Share the road, and think of every encounter with a non-cyclist as their one and only impression of who cyclists are. Did your behavior leave a positive impression?

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