The Basic Ride Formation: “Tight and to the Right”
Our goal as a disciplined and well organized club is to share the enjoyment of the road with our club members as well as the general public. We are well aware that we have to share the road with motorized vehicles. To reduce the potential conflict between these two groups we travel at off peak hours; Saturday and Sunday mornings and we frequent only the least travelled roads possible at all times.
In order to further protect ourselves we travel two abreast or in a double paceline. This is an internationally recognized cycling formation used by professionals and amateurs around the world. The main objective of the double paceline is to reduce the length of the line of cyclists in order to allow vehicles to pass with greater ease and increased safety. It encourages drivers to make full lane changes when passing which provides a safer gap between the passing vehicle and the cyclists.
Aggressive drivers may attempt the dangerous pass between the center line and the group, “known as threading the needle”. At the Uxbridge Cycling Club we have implemented a compromised position we call “Tight and to the Right”. The idea is to take a traditional two abreast formation and position it as far right as is safely possible. Our goal is to accommodate the approaching driver with a clear view forward so that they make a clean and safe pass as soon as possible.
In order for us to accomplish this, we as a club, are required to ride in a formation that is ‘tight’ and well disciplined.
By ‘tight’ we mean:
- Cyclists are to be 2-3ft apart laterally at the shoulders and,
- 2-3ft apart front to back (wheel to wheel).
The group’s primary goal is to maintain the cohesion of this formation. It is the individual discipline of each rider to hold their position in a smooth predictable manner and not create gaps or overlaps which jeopardize the ride quality and safety.
HOW WE ROTATE
We use two methods to rotate cyclists within a basic “tight and to the right” formation. One we refer to as a Social Paceline and the other as a Rotating Paceline. If your group has a Ride Leader, they will call out the appropriate formation for the needs of the group but any cyclists within the group can call out a suggestion.
This is our standard rotation used while warming up or just cruising along. In the Social Paceline we start from the premise of the two abreast formation where everybody is 2-3ft apart laterally and fore/aft. The two leading cyclists are breaking the wind and setting the pace.
The lead cyclist on the right, after a reasonable period of time (ie 1- 2 minutes, its flexible) asks the cyclist on their left to “Cover Me”. That means the leading left cyclist will gently ride forward and fade right to shelter the right side of the group. In turn the left side of the group will gently advance forward to the front of the group beside the right line. Those two riders will now lead the group for whatever time they feel comfortable with, again it’s negotiable. All passes are to be done smoothly and gently and make sure that your rear wheel is clear before you fade right.
A very important point to rotating a group: While you are in front of the group, the group is at your mercy. Anything you do, good or bad, will affect the entire group. If your pass is smooth and steady, then the group will remain smooth and steady. If you accelerate aggressively it will start to shatter the group and create gaps and confusion. If you half wheel the lead rider beside you it will offset the whole group or create gaps. We all have a responsibility to the riders behind us to move in a smooth and predictable way and watch the road surface ahead.
There is no obligation to go to the front or stay at the front for long. If you are not able to keep the pace of the group or are uncomfortable at the front there two main options:
i) Simply continue to rotate instead of holding your spot at the front and indicating to the person behind you to rotate in front of you.
ii) Remaining at the rear of the group itself while the group rotates in front of you.
Either way, your ride captain will be there help you choose what might be best.
This rotation is different from the Social Paceline in one fundamental way: The act of rotating is constant. There are no static moments. When the left lead rider moves smoothly and gradually forward and clears the right line of riders, he/she then gently fades to the right. The transitioning lead rider must be careful not to touch wheels with the passed rider’s by checking under their arm for the rider’s wheel. The right rider can assist by calling out ‘clear’ when the passing cyclist is safely ahead. As soon as that first rotation is complete the next one begins as if all the cyclists in the group are part of the same chain. In the Rotating Paceline all the cyclists should be moving through the rotation at the same speed.
Important points to execute the Rotating Paceline:
- Do not attack or surge off the front when it is your turn to pull. You are supposed to go slightly faster than the receding line. Surging or attacking will cause gaps and jerk the speed of the line around. Pull smoothly and gently to the front and be there to shelter the riders behind you, not gap them.
- When you’ve just moved over to the head of the slower lane, it’s useful to shift a single gear easier. This will naturally slow you and create the space for the next rider to slide ahead of you. Conversely, when at the back of the slow lane and moving over to the faster lane, shift up to a harder gear and increase your effort slightly.
- Do not leave gaps within the line when you are in the back of the rotation. All riders need to focus on maintaining the same gaps all the way around the rotation.
- Riders wishing to miss a rotation can do so by sitting a bike’s length back of the group and allowing the group to rotate through. It’s best to call out to the rider ahead that you are not pulling through to avoid their hesitation.
- It’s also helpful for the last rider on the advancing side to call out to the last rider to remind the last receding rider that they need to transition next. Gaps often happen when the last rider misses the transition.
- The rotation can go from left to right or vice versa. Experienced cyclists will tailor the rotation so that the advancing line is sheltered from a crosswind. We generally opt for the left to the right rotation because the HTA specifies passing on the left.
SINGLE FILE PACELINE
We make every effort to ride on the quietest roads at the quietest times. Occasionally busy roads are required for short distances to bridge us to the next quiet section. At these times, we will ride single file. This includes Toronto St. in Uxbridge. Otherwise all our group rides are typically two-abreast and tight-to-the-right.
This is a formation where the cyclists are spread diagonally across the road to gain shelter from a crosswind. This formation is unacceptable for group riding in our community. It completely blocks the lane and is counter to our “Tight and to the Right” strategy where the driver is to be given a view up the left side of the lane.
PAST ROTATING APPROACH
In the past on very quiet sections of road the “double-peel” approach has been used. For greater consistency and to eliminate periods where we might be four-abreast, we will NO LONGER be using the ‘double-peel’ rotation method.