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Pace Line Basics

Consistency -> Predictable -> Safety

Riding in a pace line requires each rider to abide by safe practices in order for the group to ride safely.

Each rider needs to practice safe riding. By riding consistent (e.g., straight, in-line and smoothly) the paceline behavior becomes predictable and makes for safe and efficient riding.


  1. Obey the Rules of the Road.
  2. Ride no more than 2 abreast. This excludes riders being passed or dropping back.
  3. Stay to right of the road, but allow for a safe distance between you and the edge of the road.
  4. Stay out of the road when stopped to allow traffic to pass.
  5. Do not ride aero bars in the group.
  6. Do not ride fixies or other bikes that behave or handle like a road bike.
  7. Do not take your hand off the handlebars if you are not comfortable with riding with one hand.
  8. Keep your hands near your brake levers.


  1. Call and point out all hazards (e.g., bad road, car back, debris right, road kill, holes, bumps, gravel, sand, pedestrians, etc.).
  2. Call and use hand signals for turning and stopping.
  3. Always use loud verbal warnings and repeat the warning down/up the pace line.
    1. Car back – to warn of vehicle approaching and passing from the rear.
    2. Car up – to warn of an approaching vehicle.
    3. On your left – when overtaking another cyclists or pedestrian.
    4. Etc.
  4. Call out any changes such as slowing and stopping to ensure everyone is prepared and not surprised.

Single Pace Line Riding

  1. The lead rider is in control and responsible for the group – call all out hazards, maintain consistent speed, ride a safe line, etc.
  2. Speed/effort should be such that all riders can ride without having to drop out of the group. Also known as “riding to protect the weakest rider.”
  3. Keep the speed (or effort in the hills) consistent.
  4. Riders need to maintain safe distance from the rider in front of them and do nothing erratic (speed changes, braking, swerving, etc.)
  5. Dropping off the lead – the lead rider maintains speed while signaling to the next rider (by tapping right rear) and pulling over to the left out of the pace line. Only then does the rider decelerate and move to the rear of the pace line.
  6. Lead rider should not lead for a long time unless agreed to otherwise by the group. For example, pulls shouldn’t be any longer than 3 minutes or 1 mile. Shorter is better.
  7. Rotating lead riders maintains a strong and healthy group.
  8. The lead rider only needs to lead as long as they feel comfortable doing so. If needed, it is okay to immediately rotate back if you do not want to pull the group.
  9. Always rotate to the rear of the pace line. Breaking into the middle of the group disrupts the rear and doesn’t provide an even opportunity for all riders to lead.
  10. NO SUDDEN MOVEMENTS – ride straight, steady and smooth. Any disruptions will get magnified as they pass on down the pace line. Don’t panic and stay relaxed.
  11. Use soft pedaling to avoid speed changes. Feather brake when necessary.
  12. If you have a mishap (flat tire, mechanical, etc.), don’t panic. Don’t slam on brakes. Smoothly more left out of the pace line and slow up – while announcing to the group you have a mechanical and are slowing. Once you are clear of the pace line, then move off road.


  1. Ride a comfortable distance behind the wheel in front of you. Begin riding 2-3 feet away and work up closer as you feel comfortable. You do not need to get any closer than 6 inches. Remember – if your front wheel touches the wheel ahead, you will likely be going down.
  2. DO NOT OVERLAP WHEELS – This is what causes most crashes and injuries. Do not overlap wheels.
  3. Do not do anything abruptly. Do not slam breaks. Do not quickly speed up. Do everything as smoothly and slowly as possible.
  4. Avoid gaps – if a gap opens up, slowly close it. Do not attack it, because that will just add a gap behind you. Slowly pull your group up to the group ahead of you. If you cannot close it, rotate back and let a stronger rider pull the group up.
  5. Do not suddenly stand up on your bike. If you need to raise up, signal back to the rider behind you to give you space and slowly raise up.

Double Pace Line Riding

With larger groups it can be safer to ride in a double pace line to reduce the length of the group a car needs to pass. It also makes the group move visible on the road. All the items above that apply to single pace line riding apply with the following additional items.

  1. Ride two riders abreast and even with one another.
  2. Maintain enough distance from the rider next to you to feel safe, but don’t ride too far apart from one another.
  3. When the riders leading the group at the front decide to pull off and go back, they (1) signal by tapping their rear, (2) the riders then both move over one spot to the left, (3) the left most rider decelerates and drops back, (4) once the left most rider has dropped back out of the way, the right most rider then moves over another spot to left out of the pace line, (5) the right most rider can now decelerate and drop back to the rear to the pace line.
  4. In order to keep the pace line speed smooth and steady while the riders on the front are rotating off, it is important that they maintain the paceline speed until they have safely moved to the left out of the pace line. Only then should they begin to decelerate and move back.


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