So you’ve been riding with a buddy or two, and you’re getting the whole drafting concept pretty well. Now it’s time to close the gaps and ride in a tighter paceline. But before you do, there’s a few things you need to keep in mind – and dare I say, practice – before closing in.
1) Don’t stare at the wheel in front of you. You’ll regret it. Instead peak over the shoulder of the rider in front of you, and judge your distance from the rider’s back, not their bike. If your distance to their back is consistent, the distance between your wheels will be, too. If you’re riding behind someone bigger, pull slightly off-line (SMOOTHLY!!!) to check the road ahead. Don’t rely on them to be your eyes.
2) Don’t hit your brakes. At least, not hard. Braking has a ripple effect, causing harder and harder braking down the line. Practice bleeding speed by one or more of the following methods:
- Soft pedal – ease up on the pressure
- Sit up – break out of the aero position to catch more wind
- If you’ve gotta brake, feather the brakes – squeeze them lightly while still pedaling
3) Don’t stop pedaling. Riders get into a rhythm behind you, and if you stop pedaling two things happens: first, it breaks the rhythm. Second, you start to lose speed (another ripple effect down the line). If you feel like you need to stop pedaling for some reason, try shifting gears and cadence instead, or if you really have to stop pedaling, make it as brief as possible.
4) Never, ever ride between two pacelines. Not only is this bad etiquette, but if something goes wrong, there’s nowhere for you to go, and a crash in the middle of pacelines can be nasty for everyone.
5) Use your signals. If you need to drop out of a line, don’t just pull off. The riders behind you will naturally start to follow your lead, messing up the line. Instead, indicate that you want to move off the line by pointing in the direction you’d like to go (towards the ground, at an outward angle). Then pull out of the line smoothly. And if a rider in front of you pulls out of the line, speed up evenly as they clear the line so you can close the gap. Don’t burst the speed suddenly, or you’ll break the line behind you.
The safer you ride in a paceline, the more enjoyable it’ll be.