By Laurel-Lea Shannon
If you’re planning any long rides or charity tours this spring, learning to ride in a pace line will save you a lot of energy. [If you’re not familiar with pace lines, read this article first.] Drafting behind another cyclist can reduce your effort by as much as 30%. When it’s your turn to pull at the front of the line, you’ll have the wind to contend with and you’ll have to pedal harder, but taking a turn at the front is much easier than pulling alone the whole distance over a four- or five-hour ride. Pace line riding takes practice, but if you ride a lot, it’s a skill well worth learning.
To take advantage of the drafting effect, your front wheel needs to be 1 to 3 feet behind the back wheel of the cyclist in front of you. That can be dangerous, so stay alert! Don’t stare at the wheel in front of you. Look ahead and be aware of what’s coming up on the road. Never allow your front wheel to come into contact with the rear wheel of the rider in front of you. If you do, you’ll crash and hit the pavement, and the riders behind you will most likely go down too.
Once you have some experience riding in a pace line, try rotating it with 4 or more experienced cyclists. In a regular pace line, after you’ve finished pulling at the front, you move over to the side of the line, slow down and drop to the end of the line. But in a rotating pace line, the rider at the back of the line pulls out, passes everyone in the line and takes over the pull position. Each cyclist rotates through the fast line and the slow line. That increases your overall speed with less effort.
This video from You Tube shows you how to do it.