Group Riding consists of two or more riders traveling in a loose group (i.e., spaced several feet apart) who are not drafting. See below for an explanation of drafting! Although group riders may be riding parallel to each other, they are four to six feet apart. On narrow roads with moderate to high vehicle densities, parallel riding is not safe. If there is six or more feet of clean shoulder or bike lane width in the same direction of travel, then parallel riding can be done safely. A shoulder or bike lane of eight feet is better.
Pace Line Riding consists of two or more riders traveling in a tight group in the draft of the rider(s) in front of you. If you are the leader of this pace line, than you are creating the draft for others. The draft envelope behind a single bicycle is about six feet long and behind a tandem is about eight feet. The closer your front wheel is to the rear wheel of the rider ahead of you, the stronger the draft. Riding in a pace line draft can save 20 to 30% of your energy output. This energy savings is what allows the pace line group to travel at higher speeds. Concentration on what you are doing in a pace line is essential. That is, there is no time for sight seeing.
* Never Allow Your Front Wheel To Overlap The Rear Wheel Of The Rider Ahead Of You!
* Never Weave or Drift In A Pace Line!
* Never Suddenly Slow Down or Attempt A Quit Stop!
Violation of these "NEVERS" accounts for most of the accidents associated with pace lines.
Note that group riding also requires concentration on what the other riders and traffic are doing. In pace lines, concentration is essential. Hand signals to your fellow riding partners keep everyone alert to what is ahead of your group. Sometimes, voice signals are better and faster. In either case, hand signals and voice signals must be echoed from the front to the back and from rider to rider. If you break the communication chain, you may be responsible for injury to one or more fellow riders. So pass that hand and voice signal down the line - Please!
Hand Signals need to be held for four to six seconds so the riders behind you have a chance to react and signal the riders behind them. If you are the current Lead Rider of the pace line, then initiate your signal three to five seconds before reaching the location associated with its purpose. When suddenly slowing or stopping or coming upon pot holes, communicating with loud voice commands, such as "SLOWING," "STOPPING" AND "HOLE" are best. By the way, the current leader needs to plan and initiate a change in the travel path before the group encounters other riders, debris, rocks, pot holes and the like. The leader needs to visualize his (her) bicycle as a vehicle towing many trailers. The leader must hold the new travel path well past the slower riders, debris, etc., until it is safe to move over to the right slowly. All too often, the leader of one group of riders passing a slower group of riders will pull over to the right too quickly. The other riders of the faster pack will initiate the same maneuver. Since there is a time delay in this process, each successive faster rider gets closer to cutting off the lead rider of the slower pack. This can create a pile up.
The Draft Envelope in a pace line of fewer than six riders is about six (6) feet long (about the length of one bicycle). If you are further behind than six feet, you are out of the draft. Larger packs of riders riding in parallel will create wider and slight longer drafts. The same is true for one or more tandems. Cross winds change the position of this envelope. If the winds are coming from the left, then the envelope is moved to the right. When riders in a cross wind situation ride in a diagonal formation, it is known as an echelon. For winds coming from the left, then it is a right echelon. (Winds from the right generate a left echelon.) Often on the many narrow roads in
, it is difficult to safely ride in a left or right echelon with the usual moderate to high traffic densities. California
When the current leader rotates from the front to the back, then point your left or right elbow at shoulder level with hand next to that side of your body. This forms an arrow that will not get confused with left or right turn signals or on the road debris signals. Hold that position for three or four seconds to show the direction you are pulling off the line and to give the rider directly behind you time to adjust to taking on the lead pull of the pace line. As you initiate the rotation process, be aware that you must not slow until you are completely to one side. The new leader must be careful not to change the speed (pace) or sprint (which is what most beginners do). If the new leader wants to change the speed, then change it smoothly so that the other riders will not create a bungee cord effect. In pace lines, riders need to have a smooth cadence (RPM) despite where you are in the pace line. Once the previous leader is well to the side of the pace line, then he (she) can slow. Many riders try to maintain a pace near that of the pace line. However, your goal is to get to the back of the line and in a draft to rest. As you near the end of the line, it is useful to come up out of the saddle to stretch and regain the speed of the pace line. NOW you can rest.
* Always provide hand signals to signal debris, other riders, autos, pedestrians, turns and pace line rotations.
* Give these hand signals for four or more seconds in advance.
* Pass the appropriate hand signal down the pace line from rider to rider.
* Always maintain a space between your front wheel and the rear wheel of the rider ahead of you. Avoid wheel overlap! NOTE: there is an exception to this in left or right echelons. (See below.)
* Keep your eyes up at all times so you can see what is happening.
* Avoid looking at the ground in front of you or the rear wheel of the rider ahead of you.
* Protect yourself by being slightly off to one side of the pace line (left is best) so you can see what is ahead. This is especially true when you have not practiced with the riders. By the way, this means that your head is out not your entire bike. And yes, you lose some effectiveness of the draft for safety.
* Always look at the arms and shoulders of the rider in front of you. This gives you the best indication of a quick turn or change in direction usually associated with debris or obstacles.
* Maintain a constant speed in a consistent direction of motion. That is, no surging (fast - slow: the bungee cord effect) and no weaving (unpredictable direction of travel).
* Never suddenly slow or attempt a quick stop without a voice signal first. "It results in pile ups!"
* Maintain your speed when pulling off the front of the pace line. Once you have cleared the front of the pace line, decrease your speed and get to the back quickly for a deserved rest.