Paceline Rules for Club Riding

Wear a helmet.  

*    This is so obvious I left it out the first time. Without one, a
simple low speed fall could permanently change your life.

Obey all traffic laws and signs, including not riding in a right turn lane
if you're not turning right!

Always look towards the front of the paceline to anticipate anything that's
about to happen.  

*    Do not stare at the wheel in front of you...you will not be prepared
to react to things happening further ahead.

When you take the "pull" at the front of the paceline, your job is to
maintain the constant agreed speed of the group.

*    Do not exceed the group speed limit.  If you're not sure about
speed, simply maintain the speed of the person you just replaced.
*    This is not time to prove your manhood by how much faster you can
go.  You don't score macho-points.  No one will be impressed...quite the
opposite!  You can explain to your Strava followers that you really could
have pulled 5 mph faster, but were being considerate!
*    If the person pulling takes and keeps the paceline above the agreed
speed, just let them go off the front.  They'll eventually catch-on to what
happened.
*    OK, there are some rides when there's not an agreed pace.  Be guided
by what's "normal" on that ride.  Maybe that one is a contest!  Go for it.

When you're pulling and go around corners or cross roads accelerate back to
full speed gradually.  

*    Some riders will slow down more than you did or will have to wait
for a car to pass...your objective is not to drop them!  This is a "group
ride", so keep the group together. 

Keep about a 1-2 ft gap between you and the rider ahead...maybe a bit more
if you don't have experience riding with that person, or if riding closer
makes you nervous.

*    But keep the distance to the rider ahead constant so you're not the
cause of the "accordion effect"...the paceline expanding and compressing.

Do not use your aero bars unless you are 20 feet off the back of the pack
and riding solo.

*    This has been the cause of at least one serious crash locally.
Don't do it.
*    If you're practicing for a tri event, you can't draft in it...so
don't on a club ride.
*    If the rider in front of you is doing it, don't follow them.

Do not wear headphones.  

*    You will miss hearing warnings from other riders or sounds about
things happening in the surroundings.  It's dangerous!

Do not use your brakes except in an emergency.  

*    If you need to slow slightly just ease up the pressure on the
pedals.  Don't stop pedaling...that's likely to panic the person right
behind you. They'll wonder what you're going to do next and will likely also
stop pedaling.  And on it goes down the paceline.
*    If you must brake, use your back brake gently and signal the rider
behind you that you're slowing first. 
*    If there's a crash in front of you or some other catastrophe, the
best way to avoid injury and to avoid involving those behind you is not to
brake, but steer to one side or the other.  That provides the riders behind
you with more distance to decide what they're going to do.

Do not overlap the wheel of the rider in front of you.  

*    If she swerves slightly to avoid something or just loses
concentration, you'll hit wheels and YOU  will go down...and then maybe
those behind you as well. 
*    If you do bump, turn your wheel toward the wheel in front of you to
try to recover.  Try not to panic...maintain control of your bike even if
you ride off into the grass to come to a stop.

Don't allow a gap to open up in front of you.  

*    Keep the paceline together.  If someone accelerates and opens a gap,
close it gradually.  If you can't close it, signal that you're pulling out
of the line and let the rider behind you close the gap.

Don't stand up in a paceline.  

*    You may think you're maintaining your speed, but the bike hesitates
when you stand and could cause you to hit the rider behind you.  If you need
a "butt break" signal that you're getting out of the line and move out
before standing.

When you pull off the front either wiggle your elbow on the side that is the
direction you're pulling off, or pat your butt on the side you're pulling
off.  

*    Be aware that some less experienced riders may not realize that the
"chicken wing" elbow wiggle is a conscious signal and you may need to use
the butt-pat.
*    If you're just joining an established ride, ask what the usual
signal is and fit in.

When you pull off the front, do it on a straight section of road, if
possible, so you're visible to vehicles while drifting back, and not when
there is a vehicle wanting to pass.

*    This is much easier if you have a mirror of some kind...either on
your helmet/glasses or on the bar end.
*    The pros don't use mirrors.  But those of us ordinary riders who do,
wouldn't ride without one.

Never slow down before signaling that you're pulling off the front.  And
never pull off without first signaling.  

*    If you don't effectively signal, the rider behind you may think
you're just swerving to miss a pothole and follow you.  Then when you do
slow down (thinking no one is behind you) you'll cause a crash.

If you're too tired or just not strong enough to pull, when you reach the
front of the line, just signal and pull off after a short distance.  

*    Folks will understand.  And, generally, they'd prefer that you not
pull, than for you to get worn out and be dropped after your pull, requiring
someone to go back and check on you.  It's OK...you will not lose
macho-points.

When you pull off the front and drift to the back of the pack, begin to
increase your speed when there are still a couple of riders left at the end
of the line, and then smoothly move onto the back.  

*    If you don't do this, you may allow a gap between you and the last
rider.  On a windy day, you might never get back to the group.
*    If you are the last rider, it's considerate to call out "last" to
let the rider drifting back know that she needs to pull in right behind you.

If you see a pothole, road-kill, boulder, glass, etc. point to it and call
out so the rider behind you can avoid it.

*    Your objective is to warn of something that a rider nominally
following your wheel might hit.  So, if the obstruction is more than a
couple of feet away from your line on either side, don't point it out.  They
won't hit it unless they're not following you.  And if they're several feet
off your line, they'll see it coming.
*    If you notice it late or don't think it's safe to point, at least
shout a warning.

Warn of moving obstructions.

*    Call out any potential concern, such as a car approaching from
behind, a car pulling out ahead, a dog crossing the road, an approaching
runner or walker, etc.  
*    For the most common...vehicles...don't worry about whether it's a
car, truck, golf cart, etc...just say "car back" or "car up".  You're just
letting other riders know that there is something behind or ahead they need
to focus on.  

When you're riding up an incline, give yourself more space behind the rider
in front of you.

*    If the rider ahead downshifts and it doesn't go smoothly, he may
stop pedaling momentarily or just try again to shift.  On a hill, it's the
equivalent of that rider braking.  We've had a very serious crash locally
for this reason.  Beware!  This can put you in the ICU.
*    It is very common for riders to stand and pedal on a climb.  There
will be a change in speed when they do.

If you have a mechanical issue, let someone else know.

*    You may think you don't need help and don't want to disrupt the
ride. But on most rides, someone will go back to look for you.  They won't
be happy if that's a several mile odyssey!
*    You may run out of CO2, need a second tube or have some other issue
requiring help.  You don't want to be out there alone.
*    Be sure you have everything you need to change a flat. Folks are
happy to help you do the work, but they expect you to have brought what you
need.

Have identification with you.

*    If you crash, you might not be conscious or coherent.  Who should
responders contact?
*    Get a "Road ID" , "Smart ID" or similar device, or put a card in
your seatbag with contact info on it.

Do not grab food or your phone out of your pocket in the paceline.

We want to get better at riding together, so if you see someone doing
something unsafe, have a quiet conversation with them, one on one, after the
ride.  If you're on the receiving end of a comment, accept it as concern for
your and others' safety.  The awareness you get may save you from a hospital
visit.

If you want to keep it simple, remember at least these 3 rules:

When you're on the road, behave as if you're a car...following all traffic
laws.

In a paceline, never do anything that will surprise the rider behind you.
That means signaling before you slow down, turn, swerve to avoid a pothole
or object, stand up, give up the pull, etc.

Share the road, and think of every encounter with a non-cyclist as their one
and only impression of who cyclists are.  Did your behavior leave a positive
impression?