Paceline Riding for Triathletes: 6 P's of Group Cycling


Posted by Coach Mark Turner

Many triathletes I know spend most of their outside riding time riding solo or maybe with one other person. I like to encourage the athletes I coach to find a local riding club that is solid and welcomes triathletes and get in some bigger group riding experience - especially the paceline.

Many triathletes hold the erroneous view that since most USAT and all WTC triathlons are not draft legal that there is little benefit to acquiring group riding skills. This simply isn't the case. The bike handling skills that group riding demands are key elements to having a best bike performance. From handling through tight turns, to comfort level in proximity when trying to negotiate your way through a pack of riders, there are numerous benefits to acquiring the full range of handling skills. With that being said, before you show up for your first group ride consider these 6 P's of paceline riding: Protect, Position, Pace, Predict, Pulls, and Perspective.


Protect: Protect YOUR front wheel. As you learn and grow more comfortable riding on another bike's wheel, always protect your own. The trailing cyclist that “laps” wheels with the rider in front is the one who is going down.


Position: Maintain your position in the pace line. Tactics like soft-pedaling or easing yourself just a bit outside of the leading cyclists slipstream to slow down rather than jumping on the brakes will allow you to maintain a much steadier pace and thus position in the paceline without creating gaps.


Pace: First, ride with a group that is planning a range of speeds you can easily handle before moving up to a faster group. This will allow you to comfortably maintain the group's pace.


Predict: BE PREDICTABLE! Don't ride on a wheel and then drop back two bike lengths. In turns hold your line. Communicate often.


Pulls: This is a huge one for triathletes who join group rides. When it comes to pulls triathletes typically fall into one of two categories: they either don't pull and simply ride off the back of the group for the entire ride or the take a pull that is way too long. Remember short pulls are smart pulls in paceline riding.


Perspective: This final P, Perspective, references a number of ideas to keep in consideration when joining a group ride. Remember you are new to group rides, show respect for the knowledge of the ride leaders. You are not racing and you are certainly not in a triathlon, stay off your aero bars unless you are off the back of the pack.


Keep in mind if you are on your tri bike in a group ride, you should stay on the bullhorns in the paceline (access to brakes) or stay off the back if riding in aero position. 

If you haven't joined a group ride consider giving it a try. Just remember these 6 P's and the group will invite you back.

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