BETTER PACELINE RIDING DON’TS AND DOS
Like many of you, I paceline in group rides. I do them with a small group of buddies, in larger groups with the club I belong to, and in centuries, fondos and charity rides with lots and lots of people around.
They are fun, at times exhilarating, and create community among cyclists you may have known for years and those you meet for the first time simply by showing up.
They can also be dangerous.
Riding in sync with a group, or specifically paceline riding, requires a discipline almost as demanding as synchronized swimming. But unlike synchronized swimming (which I have only watched on TV, so I may be all wet about this), you seldom get to practice paceline riding before it’s time to perform. You can also have a much worse outcome if you touch wheels in a paceline than if you touch arms in a pool.
I’ve become a self-appointed safety advocate within the several hundred-person club I ride with. One summer, I sent short messages or “drips” each week about how to ride safely to the member list. Things like singling up when cars are coming behind you or not blowing through stop signs. I analyzed a member survey of safety threats, worked with our board of ride leaders to come up with a bunch of initiatives and have followed up with them during the season to encourage they push the program forward.
I’m a nag, an irritant, a kill-joy. “Dear Safety Officer” was the way a friend recently addressed an e-mail to me. Ugh.
I’ve thought about changing my name, riding with a different club, growing a beard or even the hair on my legs to escape the reactions some must have when they realize that I’m that guy ruining their joy of riding by sending out all those messages about safety.
Riders want to ride, free themselves of the stresses of life and not be reminded of how it will all go up in flames if they put one foot wrong. They don’t want to hear about all the things they need to do right, let alone all the things they shouldn’t do wrong. And most people I ride with are good riders or at least fancy themselves as such and they know all about this safety sh*t.
They’ve been there. Seen their share of accidents. Been in a few themselves.
Well, perhaps. But, there continue to be accidents. Unfortunately, it’s part of the cycling no matter how long you’ve been riding. And, new riders show up for group rides every week. Every paceline is full of people with different experience than you have. They may have learned from a group with a different paceline approach or ethos than yours. Or they may have never formally learned; they may have just jumped in the pool, tried to follow along and picked up a few things along the way. (Yeah, I’m pointing to myself on that last one. You?)
For all of you who know how to ride a paceline or think they do or would like to learn more, here’s the list of Don’ts and Dos I put together and sent out to my club members. The items on this list come from what I’ve learned riding pacelines over the years and from riders far better than me that have studied paceline dynamics, successes and crashes.
I won’t moralize further. If reading this list saves you even a little road rash from a fall let alone the broken collarbone, 3 broken ribs and concussion that one of my club mates suffered recently from a slow-speed wheel touch, that’s good enough for me. I can go back into my pain cave with a small victory and refocus on not falling off the back of my next group ride.
PACELINE RIDING DON’TS AND DOS
What’s been your experience? What’s right, wrong, missing from this list? Let me know in your comments below and enjoy every ride, safely!