If you've been in this sport for long, you've probably seen it happen. An enthusiastic person shows up for his (or her) first ride with the local club. He's a bit intimidated by the lingo he overhears, but that's nothing compared to his anxiety about what to do and how to do it once the ride gets underway. Before long he's trailing behind, spooked by the interplay of bike wheels and feeling as wanted as an IRS agent in a Super Bowl pool.
Pro athletes develop simple techniques that become automatic. A three-point shooter's follow through or a golfer's silky stroke are techniques they've honed until they no longer think about them. Pro cyclists, too, develop characteristics that separate how they look on a bike from the rest of us. It's not simply a matter of appearance. Unlike golf, when you're riding, you can get scuffed up out there. Looking like a pro means safety as well as style.
Pacelines are organized. They have specific rules. But in big groups like you find in centuries or charity rides, things will be unorganized. This can intimidate even experienced riders. Sooner or later you'll find yourself in a big group amid some riders with sketchy skills. It pays to learn how to survive (and also make yourself welcome) in a crowd.
I'm a new rider, age 46, and have fallen in love with cycling. I've begun to do local weekend group rides. I'm improving fast. But I'm amazed at the amount of etiquette (for lack of a better term) in this sport. I often draw other riders' ire by doing things that I have no idea might be offensive -- like standing to stretch in the paceline. What gives? How do I learn this stuff?
I just moved to a new city and I can't figure out what's going on in the pacelines. Where I come from, the rider at the front pulls for one or two minutes, then signals (hand gesture or elbow movement) when he or she is ready for the next person to come through. But here, the lead rider goes as hard as he can until he blows up. When the pace slacks off, someone (not necessarily the second rider in line) comes blasting up to the front and off we go again. Which paceline approach is correct?
When non-racers ride in pacelines, they often stop pedaling when they are getting too close to the rider in front of them. Experienced riders usually admonish them to "soft pedal" instead. Is the pause useful rather than dangerous? What is the best approach?
I'm new to road riding and enjoy going with our local Sunday group. But I don't understand why the pace is so variable. We're cruising along talking, then suddenly the pace increases drastically or several riders go sprinting up the road. What's going on?