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HomeRotating Pacelines

Rotating Pacelines

A rotating paceline line is just that--in constant rotation at a constant pace. Everyone pulls through, continually moving through the accelerating line, off to the receding line and then back on to the accelerating line. Here's what a pros' single rotating paceline looks like: Link

To do a rotating paceline you should already be very comfortable riding closely in groups. In pacelines, ideally you'll need to be within 12-18 inches of the wheel in front of you and the rider next to you. You must concentrate. To review how to ride in groups generally, see Group riding. To understand how SPBC rides, see SPBC Group Riding Practices.

You should be fit enough to ride at the determined pace for the entire ride. That means at a 24 mph pace, you'll be at 23-24 mph except when turning or slowing for lights, stop signs, etc. In a group of 10, that means that 10 percent of time, you'll be pulling the group. The rest of the time, you might expend about 30% less energy than the rider pulling—but you'll still be going 23-24 mph.


Please consider carefully the above before joining a paceline. If you want to try it, here's what we think you need to know:

It's about the group, not you.

What determines whether the ride is great is whether at the end the group feels like it's accomplished something together. Every move you make should help the group maintain the pace and work together.

Single Rotating Pacelines

Single rotating pacelines should rotate into the wind, meaning if the wind is coming from the left, you rotate counter-clockwise. If the wind is from the right, you rotate clockwise. With a direct headwind or tailwind, the direction isn't as important. One thing to consider, however, is that if it doesn't make a difference from an energy usage standpoint, rotate clockwise so the left line is passing the right line, as that adheres to Florida law regarding when you can be out of a bike lane or not “as far right as practicable.”



This is especially true if you don't know all riders in the paceline. To this end:


Talk to one another, when necessary.


Call out “Last” when you are beside the last person in the receding line. That tells him to get ready to move over into the advancing line. If you don't call out, many times he'll need to accelerate to catch your wheel, which we don't want to do. It's especially important to call “Last” if the order of the riders has changed. Generally, look to move into the advancing line when your front wheel is about even with the last advancing rider's bottom bracket.


Call out “Clear” when it's safe for the lead rider in the advancing line to move over to the receding line without hitting your wheel.


Steady is paramount

Do not surge when you become the lead rider. Your goal is to maintain the same speed you had when you were on the previous leader's wheel. You don't need to look at your speedometer. Maintain the same gearing with the same cadence. It will feel harder as you now have no protection, but you will maintain the same speed. To help yourself, get lower to reduce wind resistance. You should spend only a few seconds at the head of a rotating paceline before pulling off.


Pulling off the front

Pull off to the receding line as soon as you pass the front wheel of the first receding line rider. She should call “Clear,” but if she doesn't, use your peripheral vision. When you can no longer see the receding rider in your peripheral vision or you overlap by about one-quarter the receding rider's front wheel, begin to move over. Do not go a bike length or more past them before moving over. Again, it's about maintaining a tight paceline within inches of one another.


Soft pedal when you need to

When you pull off the advancing line, soft pedal to reduce your speed about 0.5 to 1 mph. That allows the person in the advancing line to maintain the agreed upon speed and pass you before moving over. If you need to slow down a little more to avoid hitting the rider in front of you, sit up straighter and let the wind slow you down.


But always pedal, pedal, pedal

Do not coast in a paceline. If need be, soft pedal. Coasting causes the accordion effect and surges in speeds.


If you struggle...

Never “let someone in” a rotating paceline. If you can't maintain the pace, pull through to the front and over into the receding line. When you get to the back of the receding line, stay there to continually draft. You will need to communicate with the group what you're doing. Which means telling riders receding in front of you that they should move over to the advancing line. Do not draft behind the advancing line as you will be in the peripheral vision of the rider who is attempting to move into that line, possibly causing confusion. When you're ready to get back in the paceline, talk. Let the other riders know.


Steady head, too

Try not to move your head to see what the other riders are doing. Use your peripheral vision. Turning your head often causes the bike to drift in the same direction.


Mind the gaps

Do not let gaps form between you and the rider in front of you. Closing those gaps causes changes in speeds. And the objective is to maintain a steady speed.


If you'd like to try riding in a rotating paceline but aren't fully confident in your skills, find a paceline group riding at a little slower pace than you usually do. That way, you can focus on the skills. It's the small, subtle adjustments you make during a rotating paceline ride that makes it work smoothly.

St. Petersburg Bicycle Club, Inc.

PO Box 76023

St. Petersburg, FL 33734


The St. Petersburg Bicycle Club, Inc. (SPBC) is a non-profit, social and recreational club that exists to promote safe, satisfying bicycling opportunities to both club members and the general public of all ages and skill levels, through planned activities and events.

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