There are a few different types of pacelines in cycling.  Each of them are required at different times and situations.

1. The Echelon .  To be used in crosswinds.   It’s an effective way to negotiate crosswinds and cut through them like a knife.  See this previous post for more about echelons .  Just one thing to remember – pull off into the wind

Etiquette: Don’t be the guy who pulls through too hard. This will force the rider who just did his turn at the front to step on the gas just to catch you while you’re pulling through.  Instead, roll through smoothly, pull off in front of the lead rider and ease up to let the next rider come through.   Did I already mention pull off into the wind?

2. Rolling Turns. This is when you smoothly rotate through riders taking turns at the front.  The rider on the front will not be there for more than a few seconds before the next rider smoothly rolls through and pulls off in front of the guy he just passed. Once the rider rolling through pulls in front of the lead rider, he is now the lead rider and should back off the pace slightly so that the next rider pulling through can come around.   This style of pacelining is done when group efficiency needs to be at its highest. These types of turns work best in small groups or in break away situations.   If the group is too large, you’ll find that the whole group won’t participate in rolling their turns and only 5-10 riders will be doing the work at the front.  This is why breakaways usually fall apart if they are too big.  Everyone will stop working if there are too many riders sitting on.  If it’s just a training ride, most riders don’t mind doing all the work at the front and having others get a free ride at the back.

Etiquette: As above, Don’t be the guy who pulls through too hard.  Unfortunately, there is always someone who does this, so the worst place to position yourself is infront of the strongest rider or that rider pulling through too hard (i.e. in front when pulling through, behind when drifting backwards).  Also, if you’re going to sit in and not work with the group, stay at the back.  Don’t roll through half way and then decide you don’t want to be at the front when your time comes. This will mess up the rhythm of the group.  Instead, stay at the back and when it’s your turn to come into the faster moving line, give a verbal indication (like “Yup!”, or “Go”) to the guy in front of you so that he knows that he needs to prepare to get on.

3. The Paceline. This is when the rider at front will stay there for an extended period and then will then pull off and drift back in the group while the next rider will do the same.  This is usually done in high pressure situations in races where speed is a priority, not efficiency. It can also be in situations where you need to control the bunch. These include:

  • - bringing back a breakaway
  • - a small group trying to quickly bridge a gap
  • - a leadout train at the end of a race coming into a sprint finish
  • - a Team Time Trial
  • - Controlling a breakaway.

Etiquette: You can pull through hard on these types of turns. This is the point.  The rider who just finished will be spent and will drift back quite a few places to recover.  If you’re that rider who just pulled off, the trick is not to drift back too slowly or you’ll have to accelerate too hard to get back onto the group and you could easily get dropped.  Drift back at a slightly slower pace, but keep your speed up so you can get back on and concentrate on recovery once you’re safely in the group.

4. Track Turns. This is almost the same as a paceline but the rider on the front pulls off after about 100m.  This is a less intense and smoother way of taking turns in a group.  Team Time Trials will often use this method of group work.

5. Sociable Turns. I don’t know what these are called, but they’re a great way to get a chat in during a recovery or social ride.  Nice and easy.

Etiquette: Do not make this into a hammer session.  No half-wheeling .

And what about rolling turns on the climbs?
“Rolling Turns” and “climbing” should not be used in the same sentence.  The whole point of rolling turns is to cut down on wind resisitance.  Once the road goes up, wind resistance becomes minimal and you’re  fighting against gravity. Everyone will have their own pace on the hills.  Let the paceline, echelon, or group turns resume after the climb is done.