The clip above shows how this paceline works, though at a much quicker rate (as in racing). For group training purposes on longer rides the group rotates in the same way, just at a much slower rate.
Difference in fitness and abilities
Some riders are stronger than others and are better able to sit on the front of the group for longer periods of time. In these situations, the stronger riders should still rotate every 5 minutes; however those that do not want to take a turn on the front should rotate after anything from 15 seconds to 1 minute. In order to maintain proper formation those not wanting to take a turn on the front should still rotate so that the dynamics of the rotating group is maintained at all times.
It is each rider’s responsibility to hold the wheel in front of them and not allow gaps to open up as such gaps break up the formation and causes unnecessary expenditure of energy in closing gaps again as well as being subject to more wind resistance. Also, in order for a gap to open, both side-by-side riders would allow the gap to form. Such gaps should be closed immediately and if the riders behind see it forming they should give those in front a shout.
When climbing small hills on rolling roads, those in front should maintain the same effort, keeping the same heart rate and power (the speed will drop significantly, depending on gradient) and should not increase output as the formation will break up. If some riders begin to struggle they should shout to the front of the group to ease off and the 2 riders on front should back off a little.
If there are long or steep hills then the group can break up, however once at the top the riders in front should ease off completely until the entire group is back together and reformed.
Eating and Drinking in Group Formation
When riding in a disciplined group the time to eat is when on the back of the group, therefore time the food intake accordingly. It is also safer to finish eating as the rider moves up the outside of the group rather than when on the inside. Drinking from a bottle can be done at any time for experienced riders; however it is safer to reach for a bottle when on the back of the group or on the outside line of riders. Practice pulling a bottle from the cage, drinking and replacing it again without looking down. Place the bottle to the side of the mouth so that the head does not have to move and the eyes can keep looking forward.
Advantages of Proper Group Formation
Group riding in proper formation comes with many advantages and very few disadvantages. A proper, rolling group will improve everybody’s fitness as the speed will be higher because the workload is shared, allowing for adequate recovery between turns on the front. It is also far more sociable as all the riders get an opportunity to chat to each other.
Riding in a proper group formation requires more concentration and awareness of others in the group. In order to ride safely there are a few things to consider at all times:
- Very few of us have the skills of a pro cyclist and therefore should keep our hands on the bars at all times. Remember that if you go down in a closely pack group you will also take others down too. If you take your hands of the bars then you are risking those behind you.
- Never overlap your front wheel with the back wheel of the rider in front of you; if one of you swerves then it will be you who will go down.
- Pot holes, large bumps, loose grit and gravel should be called by the front rider and repeated down through the entire line. If calling, indicate the obstacle (holes/gravel/etc) and side (left/right/middle) where the obstacle is. Alternatively hand signals can be used to point out obstacles however adequate notice should be given to allow those behind to see the signal.
- Obstructions should be called or signalled as per obstacles above. Such obstructions can be parked cars, pedestrians, dogs, cars pulling out of gateways, etc.
- Turns should be clearly signalled together with a call to indicate the direction of the turn.
- Due consideration should be given to other road users and in particular vehicles. If traffic has built up behind then the group should temporarily move into a single line until the traffic has passed and afterwards should immediately reform again.