Cycling with New People in New Places

Learning a Group’s Customs

What’s the matter? You don’t have problems riding in a paceline at home. You all know each other and have a standard procedure: The rider at the front pulls for 1-2 minutes, then uses a hand or elbow movement to signal the next person to come through. But when you travel to events and ride with other roadies, they don’t do things the same way.

Paceline customs can vary widely. Sometimes riders stay on the front until they croak and the second person has no alternative but to take the lead. Sometimes riders automatically form a double paceline. Sometimes there’s no organization at all. Some riders silently point out junk in the road; others shout “Pothole!”

The result can be a ragged paceline, inefficient use of energy, and a greater chance of crashes.

Here’s Help

If you’re riding in unfamiliar places and pacelines, here’s how to make yourself welcome:

Go over the ground rules. If you have the chance, as when going on a club ride, ask how the paceline operates before you clip in. Don’t be shy. Get on the same wavelength as everyone else.

Observe and adjust. It’s difficult for a newcomer to change ingrained habits. If you’re riding with a new group for only a day or 2, watch what happens and adapt as quickly as possible. It won’t do any good to give a lecture on what you perceive to be “proper” paceline behavior. In fact, it will probably alienate the group.

Be alert. If the group rides together frequently, they know each other’s habits. For instance, they may not announce a turn because it’s understood they always go that direction. Ride as relaxed as you can, but be ready for anything.

Blend in. Don’t go to the front and try to break everyone’s legs. Rotate through as smoothly as possible, staying in the lead only as long as the group average. Part of being comfortable among unfamiliar riders is making them feel comfortable about you.

If you’ll ride with the new group frequently (maybe you’ve just moved to the area) either adopt their paceline techniques or, when you know everyone a bit better, mention better procedures in a way that won’t ruffle too many feathers. If you diplomatically explain the advantages of doing things a different way, they may be eager to try.

(Adapted from Coach Fred’s Solutions to 150 Road Cycling Challenges, a helpful eBook especially for cycling newcomers.)

Republished from Issue 439 of Road Bike Rider by permission of the publisher.

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