A pace line can function as a thing of beauty or create a complete mess of your day.  Drafting allows everyone in the pace line to collectively go faster and save energy.  Here are the top 10 focal points when participating in a pace line or drafting.  I feel it is best with 4-8 cyclists in a pod.

  1. COMMUNICATE.  The success of the pace line depends on everyone being communicative and predictable.  Calling out road hazards well in advance allows the entire team to plan and adjust.  If you see unsafe or dangerous behavior call it out.  Make sure that everyone in the pace line understands the rules.
  2. BE PREDICTABLE. No sudden accelerations or decelerations and ride a straight line avoiding and zig zag motions.  You may zig and clip the wheel in front or in back of you.
  3. AVOID BRAKING. The best draft happens when wheels are separated by 1-3’.  If someone jams on the brakes it is very likely that the cyclist behind them will collide with that wheel possibly creating a chain reaction down the line.  If you have to slow down increase your drag by creating a large frontal profile.
  4. YOU’RE FINALLY IN FRONT. When you take a turn at the front do not “accordion” the pace line by accelerating.  Keep a constant pace.  It is considered quite rude to enjoy the draft of the person in the front and reward them with a sprint when they are at their most tired.  Signal [flick your right elbow] when you are done and move to the left allowing the pack to gradually ride past.  Gradually slide to the back.
  5. DON’T BE A HERO. If you are one of the weaker cyclists in the group make it a short 15-30 second duration.  Alternatively, you can stay at the back as long as you let the others know what you are doing and create a gap for riders coming to the rear after they take a pull.
  6. TRIATHLETES STAY OUT OF AERO. Unless you are at the 1st position – in front – stay out of aero bars.    If you want to push your own air than get out of the pace line.  2x period.
  7. “Spinny McFreewheel. Spin your crank.  There is nothing more disconcerting than to hear the sound of a bike freewheeling.  Soft pedal your crank at all times.  You aren’t necessarily applying power to the wheel but you are keeping the rear wheel from freewheeling.  Don’t be a “Spinny McFreewheel”.
  8. FUEL AT THE BACK OF THE PACE LINE. That is the safest place to hydrate and get your calories.
  9. KEEP LOOKING FORWARD. You should always be looking the same direction as your bike is moving.
  10. WORK AS A TEAM. If someone goes off the front do not chase. Let them ride ahead of the group a hundred yards pushing their own air while as you are working as a team.  About 10 minutes later you can ride by and their only chance of making it back with the group is to grab the last wheel.  All athletes are motivated differently.