Each year, if not each new semester, we get a crop of new cyclists that come
out to ride. Some of them are “One Hit Wonders” and some ride with our group
for four years. They all learn a lot about the road and this is my attempt to
shorten the learning curve.
Pace line technique.
Rule 1: Never stop pedaling. I say that only half jokingly. When you are at
the front of a pace line of any size, two abreast or single file, never stop
pedaling, especially down hill. There are exceptions, long or steep descents,
but they are rare in Auburn. When you stop pedaling you slow down and riders
behind you have to put on their brakes. When was the last time you rode
someone off your wheel on a descent?
Rule 2: Pull through. When you are not as strong as the other riders in the
group you should still pull through even if your pull is only thirty seconds.
The reason is that when rider(s) pull off the front the progression needs to
be preserved. If you pull off with the rider(s) in front it confuses others
in the pace line. Pull through, do a short pull and then tell the riders
around you that you are pulling off. The riders around you can then adjust.
Rule 3: Pull through at the same pace as the person in front of you. On long
rides it’s better to pull at the prevailing pace of the group for ten minutes
than it is to bump up the speed 3 to 5 mph and only pull for 2 minutes. By
pulling longer you are getting a better work out and giving weaker riders a
longer break. At the faster speed you end up dropping someone and then you
have to wait at the next turn or stop sign. It didn’t get you anywhere any
faster. The group can only go the pace of the slowest rider and if you
protect that rider from the wind you will get to your destination faster.
Rule 4: Never half wheel in a two abreast pace line. I’ve never understood
why people have to try and be a half wheel ahead of me in a pace line,
especially when we’re trying to carry on a conversation. I’ve decided it has
to do with either lack of self confidence or lack of cycling etiquette. Which
one is your problem?
Rule 5: In a pace line never ride more than two feet behind someone. This
rule has caveats for speed and noobs. The point of a pace line is to keep a
tight formation for drafting, conversation amongst the group and to allow cars
to get around faster and safer. If you get too strung out you loose all three
of the benefits.
Rule 6: Never ride more than two abreast. If nothing else it’s the law, but
it makes you look like you don’t know the rules of the road or that you are a
rookie. You don’t have to ride next to someone to carry on a conversation or
listen in on one. You just have to ride a tight pace line.
Rule 7: If you consistently get buzzed by cars you are riding too far to the
right. I know it’s counter intuitive but a good friend named Mike Munk told
me that when we rode together in Montgomery, and he is right. If you take up
less of the road cars have little incentive to give you room and will pass you
with oncoming traffic, which is not safe for anyone involved. By moving to
the left you force cars to take you and oncoming traffic into account when
trying to pass.
Rule 8: We only drop our friends. That saying is on the back of a club
jersey from North Carolina and is not always right. Friendships are more
important than your average speed for a ride. Ten years ago I might have
argued this point with you but today I realize its truth. Some day you will
need help and others are more likely to help you if you are nice to them as
Rule 9: Wait for riders in your group. This seems like a rehash of the rule
above but it’s not. Groups naturally form on the road, people of similar
ability find it more enjoyable and easier to ride together. Often it is
better to keep these groups rather than one large group. Don’t be afraid to
split a group into similar abilities, just make sure everyone is accounted for
and has a buddy.
Rule 10: Always carry a spare tube that fits the wheels you are riding. If
you need a long stem tube, make sure you have one.
Rule 11: Ride into the hill. Riders see a hill coming and slow down trying
to prepare for it. You will only get stronger riding into the hill rather
than being intimidated by it.
Rule 12: If youíre going to get dropped on a hill, move to the back of the
group or the far left before the hill starts. You will not disrupt the pace
line and if the group has read this list of rules you won’t get left either.
Rule 13: If you have to stand on a hill keep constant pressure on your pedals
when you stand. I have nearly been wrecked countless times by some rookie
throwing their bike when they stand on a hill because they just don’t know any
better. You can tell what caliber of rider someone is by how well they stand
on a hill.
Rule 14: If you need to shift while sitting on a grinding hill give two hard
pedal strokes, then soft pedal and shift. Less tension on the chain makes it
easier to shift.
Rule 15: If you need to shift while standing on a hill, shift on the apex of
the rocking motion. When standing I shift when my bike has been rocked to the
far right and my left pedal is not fully weighted. There is less tension on
the chain and it shifts easier.
Rule 16: Snot only at the back of the pace line or into your glove. I’ve
been snotted on enough to make me sick, don’t give someone a reason to tell
you off or get even.
Rule 17: Spit only at the back of the pace line or onto your shoe. You can
actually spit in a pace line if your careful about the wind and where you
spit, but most people don’t think hard enough about it. If you aim for your
shoe when you spit, traveling fast enough you will neither spit on yourself
nor on the person behind you.