Group Ride Skills: The Rotating Paceline

posted in: News | 0

Hey Gurus,

The Tuesday/Thursday morning (Gene Kelley) B Ride utilizes a rotating paceline when it moves north along the coast and sometimes on Cannon before reaching Faraday, and sometimes again on College before the descent toward Palomar Airport Rd.  Lately, it appears the paceline has become a bit frenetic.  So this is a friendly reminder.  Continuing education, if you will.  To those who are unfamiliar with pacelines, please read and consider using this method on your group rides (Note – There are several different types of pacelines [including echelons] but we will just focus on the rotating paceline).

In a perfect world, a rotating paceline would allow the entire group to move at an even speed throughout the rotation, no gaps would form, no braking or surges would be necessary and those in the recovery lane would get a nice break before traversing to the advancing lane.  The idea is to bring a continuous flow of fresh legs to the front for several seconds resulting in the group’s ability to move significantly faster than a 2 x 2 rotation, for example.

You will notice that when we head north along the coast the rotation moves in a clockwise fashion and the recovery lane is to the right (or east).  This is because the prevailing wind is coming from the west.  This allows more protection from the wind and, hence, better recovery.  Generally speaking, if there were Santa Ana conditions, the rotation would move in the opposite direction (counterclockwise).  A number of you would probably argue that an echelon is more appropriate in a cross-wind.  And you would be correct, except we need to consider that we only have so much space to operate (ie, the bike lane).  So let’s stick to the paceline, eh?

Things to consider:

  • Endevour to maintain an even pace when moving up the advancing lane.  Do not accelerate when it is your turn at the front.
  • After completing the move from the advancing lane to the top of the recovery lane, dial your effort back a scooch so that the next person who is in the advancing lane can make the transition.
  • We are in close quarters, so no sudden movements.  Two small corrections are much better than one large one.  Meaning, feather the brakes instead of grabbing them.  Even better, sit up or move into the wind slightly (air brake).  Better still, feather the brakes and pedal simultaneously (soft pedal).
  • Look up the road toward the front of the group.  DO NOT focus solely on the wheel in front of you.  Be aware of your surroundings.  This allows for proactive vs. reactive riding.
  • When traversing from the recovery to the advancing lane, let the person in the recovery lane know they are the last in line by saying “last!” (normally after two or three rotations this becomes unnecessary).  Similarly, when the advancing rider passes the person at the top of the recovery lane, tell them when they are “clear!” to move over.
  • If you are tired and need more recovery, do not move to the advancing lane.  Stay to the rear of the recovery lane and allow the others in the group to rotate.  If there is confusion, you may need to tell those in the recovery lane to rotate over in front of you.
  • THIS MISTAKE I SEE FAR TOO OFTEN – If an advancing rider surges, then moves over to the recovery lane and leaves a gap between themselves and the next person in the recovery lane, do not add another mistake by moving to get in front of the “Gapper”.  PLEASE, allow that individual to dangle off the front and the next person in the advancing lane simply moves over and fills the gap.  This method serves multiple purposes – it punishes the “Gapper” for their infidelity to the group by making them continue to expend precious energy, it saves the person in the advancing lane from burning matches to try to get in front of the Gapper, it allows those in the recovery lane the opportunity to (gasp) recover, and the accordion effect is eliminated allowing for steady but faster speeds.  See?  Everybody wins and the Gapper is justly punished for their transgression.
  • As always, call out stop lights, hazards, other cyclists, etc.


Follow Swami's Cycling Club:

Founded in 1989, Swami’s Cycling Club is one of the premier and most recognized clubs in southern California. We are composed of more than 300 male and female cyclists in the San Diego region who participate in the entire spectrum of cycling activities from the adrenalin-pumping action of racing to mountain bike and fitness rides.

Latest posts from