Question: 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? — Paula N.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Where do you live? I’ll try to avoid rides in that area!
Generally, the paceline etiquette you enjoyed where you lived before is standard behavior.
But I’ve ridden with people who do what you’re describing — ride at the front until they croak. The result is a ragged paceline, inefficient use of energy and a bigger chance of crashes because people are unorganized and riding too near their red line.
In short, riding this way is really not much fun, either. It’s tense, dangerous, unproductive riding.
It’s difficult for a newcomer to change what sounds like is an ingrained habit in your new group. Once you get to know the riders, though, you could attempt to have them try the more standard pattern.
The benefits should be obvious once they give it a shot. But failing that, at least you know the local “rules.” You can be ready for the helter-skelter nature of the rides and the risks posed.