The Chainlink

Paul Rozelle wrote this rather long piece about riding in groups on brevets....I thought I'd do a little copy and pasting here....  I don't know Paul but "Thanks Man!"







Paul Rozelle a href="">> Feb 22 06:37AM -0800 ^

Especially for PBP aspirants, this brevet season is a good time to
practice safely and enjoyably riding in or near large groups of other
cyclists. Group riding – drafting, pacelining, and just plain riding
in the proximity of others – is, like other cycling skills, best
learned through practice and repetition.
Some randonneurs may think they don’t need these skills. They ride
their own ride, and they never ride in groups. At PBP, this is
impossible. The mass starts involve many hundreds of riders bunched
within minutes of each other. Even those taking the free start times
will, at some point, have to navigate around others. I am not an
expert on the subject. My aim is to raise awareness and start the
conversation. Contribute your ideas, suggestions, and tips and
hopefully the 2011 PBP contingent will be a safe, experienced, and
confident one. Here are some thoughts on group riding essentials for
1. BE PREDICTABLE. Every group riding skill and rule is an offshoot
of this one.
2. Signal intentions. Let other riders and drivers know your
intentions. Point in the direction you’re turning and vocalize it
beforehand (Americans, please discard the bent left arm for a right
turn; it’s not widely used elsewhere). It’s less important that you
speak a language that can be understood by others than that you say
*something*. Your words might prevent a nearby sleepy or distracted
rider from causing a crash.
3. Announce hazards. When there are other riders near you, especially
close behind you, announce road hazards to them. Again, forget about
the language barrier. Say something – anything! – and point out the
hazard. If someone ahead of you announces a hazard and points, then
do the same thing automatically. Don’t wait to verify the information
for yourself. Trust them. Do what they do. If you don’t trust the
people you’re riding close behind, then do not ride close behind
them. Period.
4. Overtake other riders safely and politely. If you are overtaking
another rider let him or her know it. Announce your approach. “A
gauche” is roughly “on your left” in French and it’s a good default
call-out. The idea is to let the rider know you’re there. You might
ride a straight line as smooth as silk, but never assume the person
you’re overtaking can or will. Your move to the left to overtake
should be made gradually, well in advance of the overtaken rider, and
with full knowledge of what is behind you. (If you have a mirror, do
NOT rely solely on it. You must look, too.) Causing a faster rider
or group to alter pace so you can make your pass is a faux pass. Many
outside the United States are used to rigid lane discipline and they
cycle the same way. The typical American attitude of “I have as much
right to the road as anyone else,” if expressed in your cycling at
PBP, will likely get you yelled at at best and involved in a crash at
worst. We Americans are guests at PBP. We should try to conform our
riding to the expectations of others, rather than expect that others
will accommodate our individual preferences.
5. Similarly, keep to the right of the lane, unless overtaking
another rider.
6. That said, do not weave about the road. Bobbing in and out of a
lane of parked cars, for example, is a sure way to get crashed out.
Maintain a steady speed in a straight line.
7. Pass on the left, if at all possible. Give riders known to be
from countries that drive of the left (the U.K., Japan) additional
time to move right. They’re not used to it; some may move left when
you announce, “a gauche.”
8. Make no sudden or unannounced moves. Oftentimes the best course
of action (meaning, the least bad!) is to strike the stick/pothole/
roadkill/whatever-it-is that suddenly appears inches from your front
wheel rather than attempt unplanned, radical evasive maneuvers that
might end up putting you into a pitch-over fall, chopping another’s
wheel, or result in your striking the object anyway, but doing so off-
balance and with a turned front wheel. A flat is easier to fix than
missing teeth.
9. Do not overlap wheels. When riding near others, ride beside them
and even with them, or ride far enough behind them so that any sudden
moves on their part (or yours!) will not cause your wheels to touch.
The rear rider will likely go down in such a collision (as may others
behind that person). The responsibility for not overlapping wheels
belongs to the trailing rider. If you are in a disorganized cluster of
riders and overlapped with another rider or otherwise unsure if a
rider nearby knows you are in her blind spot, announce your presence.
Do not be offended if someone lightly touches or pats your hip or
butt. That’s a common signal for “I’m here,” letting you know that a
rider is overlapped with you.
10. Eat, drink, stretch, check what’s behind you, and adjust clothing
without changing your line or your pace. If you cannot do these
things smoothly, then it is your responsibility to do them well away
from other riders. If fidgeting with your stuff causes others to slow
or swerve, you are exhibiting poor road citizenship.
Some riders might want to go fast(er) or conserve energy and,
therefore, want to work together with others to set pace and break the
wind. Intentionally drafting others has its own set of skills and
generally and internationally observed rules, in addition to those
listed above. Like most rules, they can be bent and broken, but 99%
of the time – and, on PBP, unless you’re at the pointy end of the 80-
hour group -- you’ll want to observe them. Here are some additional
considerations for pacelining:
11. Be smooth. This is the “be predictable” rule on steroids. No
sudden or unexpected turns, stops, accelerations, or movements within
or off the front of the paceline. If you come into contact with
another rider, do not react suddenly. It happens. People can bump into
each other (usually shoulders or handlebars) and so long as no one
freaks out or reacts suddenly, no one will get hurt.
12. Relax. Riding steady in a straight line can only happen if you
are relaxed on the bike: loose grip on the bars; supple upper body;
smooth pedal stroke. Being relaxed also saves a lot of energy.
13. Change positions correctly. Moving around in a paceline smoothly
and predictably, without upsetting the pace of the group or of any
other rider, is key.
14. Pulling. When you come to the front of the line, do not change
the pace for any reason. If you want to show off, the best way to do
it is to take a long turn at the front, but keep the effort constant.
Similarly, when you end your turn at the front, do not slow down. Pull
off to the side while maintaining the pace as you signal to the rider
behind you that she’s now responsible for pulling. The signal varies,
but is typically a flick of your elbow or a waving/pointing motion
with your hand. Only then do you gradually decrease your speed as you
retreat to the end of the line. Think of it this way: don’t slow down
until you are out of the paceline. Make sure you resume the pace of
the group as you reach the end of the line or it will be difficult to
get back on! For this reason, it’s good form if you are last in the
line to announce to others, as they drift past you toward the rear,
that you are the last rider so that they can increase their pace and
smoothly take the position behind you.
15. There are two schools of thought on pulling off the front of a
paceline. Those with a racing background will pull off on the windward
side. This is because in a crosswind, the line should not be straight,
but angled leeward of the lead cyclist. The rider who completed her
pull gives an additional wind break to the others by remaining on the
windward side during her movement rearward. Others maintain that for
safety reasons you should always pull off to the right (away from
traffic). For PBP, the best course is to pull off on the same side as
the group has been rotating. It’s just like passing the stuffing at
Thanksgiving. Pass it in the same direction it was traveling when it
got to you, even if that direction is “wrong.”
16. When pulling in hilly or rolling terrain, keep a constant effort,
*not a constant speed*. You’ll want to smooth out speed changes as you
encounter different pitches, but once the transition is made, keep the
effort the same. On hills, gaps may form. The group may wait for
those who were contributing to the pacemaking and ride on without
those who were not. If a gap is opening in front of you and you
cannot or do not want to close it, say so -- “Gap!” – and get out of
the way, preferably to the right. This permits riders behind you to
close the gap as efficiently as possible.
17. Karl Marx loves pacelines. From each according to his abilities;
to each according to his needs. If you’re not strong enough or are too
tired to pull, then don’t. No one will be offended. Either
immediately rotate off to the side when you arrive at the front (known
as “pulling through”) or stay near the back of the group, open a gap,
and let the stronger cyclists pull in front of you instead of having
them go to the back of the line. If you can contribute to the
pacemaking, put a deposit in the karma bank and do so.
18. Don’t leave stragglers. If an established group becomes
momentarily separated – typically at an intersection -- as a matter of
courtesy, those in the lead group should soft pedal until the rest
have rejoined.
19. Look down the road, even if you can’t see it. Learn to “read”
developments as they occur several riders ahead of you, which will
help you be smooth. If you stare at the guy in front of you or his
wheel, your reactions will be sudden (and maybe not sudden enough!).
With practice you can tell how far you are off a wheel without looking
at it.
20. Descend correctly. This is the “keep a constant effort” rule on
steroids. The person pulling must overcome greater wind resistance
with increased speed and the following riders will accelerate faster
because drafting is more effective as speed increases. For both
reasons, the person pulling must continue to work at the front to keep
the group from bunching up. A lead rider who coasts downhill commits a
breach of etiquette, and an especially bad one in PBP’s rolling
terrain. It is frustrating to brake down a descent (the result of a
leader who coasts) only to work hard to climb the next pitch, which
could have been cleared with minimal effort had the leader kept
pedaling. Similarly, riders in the pack must space out to compensate
for the greater effects of drafting. Learn to “brake” without using
the brakes by sitting up to catch more wind or moving slightly to the
side, out of the draft.
21. If you’re not comfortable drafting someone, for whatever reason,
then get out of there. Ride alone. Find another group. Take
responsibility for the safety of your own ride. You’ve got poor
standing to complain about getting crashed out by a squirrely rider
when you knowingly sat on his wheel. What did you think would happen?
22. It is poor form to attach yourself to someone’s wheel
unannounced, proceed to draft, and then take off up the road.
Announce you’re there. Offer to do some work. If you cannot work,
ask to sit in. Most riders are fine with this, if they know you are
there. Thank the rider for the pull. Remember, you’re wearing a
jersey that ties you to your country and your club. Ride in such a
way that brings honor and respect to both.
23. Lights. If you are in a paceline at night and you are not
pulling, turn your headlight to the lowest possible setting.
Otherwise you put the lead riders in their own shadow which is
discourteous and potentially dangerous. Even consider turning off
your main light and running only the “be seen” back-up when in the
pack. If you have multiple taillights and can easily shut all but one
of them off, please do so. Make sure your lights are aimed
correctly. Remember that flashing lights of any kind are forbidden on
PBP. If you feel that you need to be lit up like a Christmas tree in
the middle of a paceline, then being in a paceline at night is not for
Paul Rozelle
RUSA #2955


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