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The 10 Worst Things to Do On A Road Bike in a Pace Line, Riding with the Big Dogs

September 2019
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If you aspire to ride with the fast people in your local cycling club, this list is for you. Riding with the slower crowd, you have a little more leeway as your habits go. People won’t be as worried about aero-bars or the flow in the pace-line, or who pulls and who sits in. When you get too fast for the lower groups and want to jump a level to the faster folks, there are some things that you’ll need to know to be accepted into the crew.

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  1. DO NOT stop pedaling when you’re up front. This includes all downhill sections in which you do not reach escape velocity (40+ mph, give or take)
  2. DO NOT open a hole up for someone who just took a turn up front two bikes back of the front because you’re “tired” or you don’t want to pull. This is one of the biggest dick moves in cycling – even more so than even the ass-drop*, which you surely deserve. You’re in a race? Hey, do what you have to do. If you’re on a club ride, though, do some of the work, or ride all the way at the back, or ride with a slower group. If you don’t respect those you’re riding with enough to pull through, don’t expect them to respect you enough to let you hang.
  3. No aero-bars in the group unless you’re up front. You may get away with that with the 15-mph group, but you won’t when you get off the porch and ride with the big dogs. We won’t allow it – you’ll get run out or berated till you drop (or, see the ass-drop*). Don’t take this too personally. It’s a self-preservation thing and remember the aero-bar rule of thumb; those who think they’re good enough to ride in the aero-bars in a group are half as good as they think they are and twice as stupid.
  4. DO NOT ride unpredictably. When you’re hurtling down the road at 30-mph, there’s no time for sight seeing; 30-mph is a big deal. You’re traveling 44 feet (13-ish meters) per second. A lot can happen in a second, my friends. The point is, riding predictably is required when you’re bar to bar and wheel to wheel. Erratic riders will likely get told to hold their line or asked if we’re playing “hide-and-go-draft” or “dodge the draft” (not to be confused with draft dodging, of course).
  5. Don’t blow a snot rocket without leaving the line to do so. If you cover someone with snot, it will come back to haunt you – and deservedly so.
  6. If the group you’re riding with is a little too fast for you and you do have to suck wheel, don’t interrupt the people doing the work. When they come off the front, open up a gap for them, let them fill it, then get on the new wheel. You’re there at their pleasure, don’t abuse them for letting you sit in.
  7. Don’t sit in behind the strongest guy in the group if you’re one of the weakest. You choose the weaker guys to hide behind because the stronger guys will hang up front longer, thereby wearing you out prematurely.
  8. DO NOT attack on the hills if the rest of the group isn’t. When you’re the weaker link, the tendency is to believe that everyone behind you wants to go faster than you’re capable of going. Again, be steady and predictable.
  9. DO NOT ride in a way that leaves those behind you in the ditch, in a crosswind. What this means, if that last sentence didn’t appear to be English, you have to look out for the rest of the group. This isn’t about riding where you feel comfortable. You ride where the group needs you. When you’re stacked up in echelon and the wind is in the group’s face, you have to ride where others will get a draft off you. If you don’t, scorn will be piled on you, and deservedly so.
  10. The last, and most important item in this list isn’t a “do not”, it’s a “do; do treat those around you like you give a f*** and your ride will go a whole lot better. If you act like you’re the center of the universe, you’ll find yourself riding alone… the center of your own universe.

That’s a fairly decent “what not to do” list, but that leaves us with one last bit of information to deal with. The ass-drop.

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Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I don’t think I’m going to give that one away. You’ll know it when you see it, though. I’ll promise you that.

And if you see it, it’s likely because you’re an ass. Don’t be one.

The TempoCyclist commented on one that should have made the list… Actually, it’s two different situations, same jerk. The guy who sits in the draft the whole ride, then charges off the front on the hills. Only slightly worse is the d***hole who sucks wheel all ride to take the City Limits sprint. Don’t be that frickin’ guy!

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2 Comments

  1. Solid list, brother! 🙂 I’m especially hateful of the rider who sits in the draft for the whole ride never taking a turn on the front, then shoots off the front of the bunch attacking up the climbs…

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