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How to ride in a double paceline

Most club rides are ridden in a double paceline – two parallel rows of cyclists where the lead riders change position at regular intervals.

Riding this way takes a bit of practice, but its reward is much greater speed and efficiency than riding alone.

By riding immediately behind other cyclists, you are ‘drafting’ or sheltering from the headwind. (There is always a headwind – even on a calm day. If you are riding at 30 kmh you are facing a 30 kmh headwind.) This shelter means you can ride at a given speed using up to 30% less energy than if you were riding alone.

Here’s how it works. A group of ten riders travels in two adjacent lines of five. The two riders at the head of each line are spending the most energy because they have no shelter from the wind. The following riders in each line are drafting and using much less energy.

At regular intervals – 2 mins, 5 mins etc. – the lead rider in the right-hand line accelerates very slightly and moves ahead and to the left, so that he overtakes the rider on his left and is now leading the left-hand line.

All the riders in the right-hand line move up one bike length, so that the rider who was second is now the leader of the right-hand line.

The rider who was last in the left-hand line moves to the last position in the right-hand line.

This process shares the hard work of riding at the front, and allows those following to recover.

In strong headwinds or on uphill roads the amount of time each rider spends on the front will be shorter. The group leader will call ‘Roll up’ when it’s time to change.

The lead riders alert the rest of the group to hazards – potholes, pedestrians, cars, dogs etc. Standard warnings are:

  • Hole left/right/centre
    (Don’t just shout ‘hole’, because only you know where the hole is; the riders behind will hit it before they see it.)
  • Car up’ or ‘Car back
  • On the left/right’ (to warn of pedestrians, parked cars, dogs, etc.)
  • Stopping’ If you need to exit the group, use a hand signal to alert following riders and look behind before you move.

Pacelines are only efficient (and safe) if everyone rides close together at a steady pace.

  • ‘Hold the wheel’ of the bike in front, i.e stay within a metre of the back wheel ahead of you, closer as you gain experience.
  •  When you’re in the right-hand line, don’t veer towards the middle of the road and allow a gap to form down the middle of the two rows.
  • Ride directly behind the bike in front and look ahead over the rider’s shoulder. Look up the road and not down at his rear wheel.
  • If you need to stand up on the pedals for a hill or headwind, shift to a smaller sprocket first. This means that your bike won’t kick back towards the rider behind you when you stand and start pedalling slower.

‘Rolling up’ in a double paceline