Safe(r) Riding Suggestions


pacelines: Effective pacelines can be summarized in one word: Tranquilo! Pacelines are great in that they increase the average overall speed of a group substantially without tiring anyone out too much. But they require discipline and restraint. Here are the basics:

  • Don't overlap wheels.
  • Don't hit your brakes unless you have no other choice.
  • Don't do anything sudden.
  • Don't fixate on the wheel in front of you, or you may not see hazards approaching. Keep your head up and maintain the gap with your peripheral vision.
  • Don't accelerate when it's your turn at the front; yes your effort will increase due to the wind in the face, but you want to keep the speed steady, so check out your speedometer before it's your turn at the front and keep to that speed ±1 mph
  • Do call out/point out any hazards that could cause a crash -- people near the back can't see much, so if there's a pedestrian or cyclist coming the other way, say something loudly; see "hazards" below for more.
  • To scrub off excess speed, first try raising your torso to take more wind. If that doesn't do it, only then ease to the right or left to take more wind and thus slow down. Only failing that should you GENTLY ease onto your brakes, and only do that if you have no other choice.
  • Rotation: take your pull and then look over your shoulder to both indicate your intent to peel off and to check for anyone overlapping your wheel. Do not veer when you look! When clear, ease to the side (which side depends on the road in question) and ease off the power to float to the back of the line (double-pacelines are different beasts, but many of the same rules apply, btw.)
  • Tiring: fear you are about to get dropped? You have two options, and they are not shameful:

    1. Take a short pull: when it's your turn at the front, pedal a few strokes and indicate your intent to peel off, then do it. People will get the picture.

    2.Stay on the back: when someone comes around to return to the back, smoothly indicate to them they should pull in front of you, and make some room for them to do it. Warning: you may get dropped if you don't execute this carefully.
  • Finally, the most important rule in all of pacelining: DO NOT USE AEROBARS! This should be obvious but people still do it. It's extremely unsafe and will make everyone behind you very nervous. See "aerobars" below.

Other safety tips

  • aerobars: Don't use 'em unless you are by yourself. NEVER use them in the middle of a paceline! They are extremely dangerous in that situation - unstable, no access to shifters/brakes, etc. The only exception is for a coordinated team time trial (TTT), which should only be undertaken in controlled situations.
  • hazards: Only call them out if they are a possible hazard, such as a pothole that could damage a wheel or cause a crash. Pointing out every leaf blowing by will lead people to ignore your warnings ("crying wolf", in other words).
  • signaling: There are "correct" (DMV-style) signals and there are signals that people understand. Use the latter - simply point which way you plan to turn, extending your arm and index finger. Note: do not use a very fast motion coupled with a fist, which is known as a "Right turn, Clyde!"
  • taking the lane: When there is little or no shoulder and cars are coming uncomfortably close, simply take over the center of the lane (look first!) This is perfectly legal and is safer than getting sideswiped by a giant mirror on an F-250 SuperDuty. When there is sufficient shoulder again, look and ease back over to the right.
  • going straight in an intersection w/ right turn lane: Don't take the right-turn pocket! This is lame and will piss-off drivers (for good reason). Ease left a bit so you leave room for the right-turners. You can temporarily block the straight-goers until the light turns green. If you do find yourself in the right-turn lane and drivers are stacking up behind you w/ blinkers on, give them room and a friendly signal to pass. Don't be obnoxious for no reason.
  • following a rider you know is about to try to get over (usually to the left): If you are following someone who you very well know is about to attempt to ease into a left-turn lane or similar, it is incumbent upon you to not block their vision - thus you should ease to the right, and stay back at least 3 feet, as they will likely slow and swerve a bit when turning back to look if it's safe to get over. Assume, even if you are small, that you almost completely block their rearward vision, especially if within a few feet of the person.
  • tandems: All responsibility is the captain's; the stoker is always blameless. See The Proper Method for more info.