Best number for a rotating paceline?

Hi folks, just wondering what people’s opinions are on the optimum number for a double rotating paceline versus a standard line where you take your pulls for whatever period and then fall back to the rear on your own?

I was in a fast (32mph) 4 person line the other day with my buddies and I tried to instigate 30 second pulls, but the other 3 wanted to pull through and off immediately like a rotating paceline. I found the micro acceleration to catch the back of the line, followed by another micro acceleration when I took my turn holding pace in the wind just a few secinds later to be an equivalent effort to simply pulling the whole thing on my own. The rest periods just weren’t long enough to be of any use.

My gut feel is that the sweet spot to change type is about 6 participants; just wondering on your collective thoughts/experience.

Full rotating pace line (what you are describing is what I think of as a “standard” pace line) is 8 - 10 people. But it depends upon how good at riding pace lines people are. The better they are, the lower the number of people (getting towards your 6) you can have.

If you do the math say that in a fully rotating pace line you are on the front for ~5 - 10 seconds, then at 6 people you are only getting a 25 - 50 second break. Which is significantly less that doing a 4 person pace line with 30 second pulls.

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Well, you 4 were hauling ass if you sustained that speed for any length of time! 30 second pulls are way too long for efficiency, and micro accelerations are the perfect way to blow up the line. Even though 4 people makes for short rests it’s still best to do short steady pulls. Your group will go farther at better speed.

Comparing a single to a double may be tricky as it depends on weather conditions too. Also the necessary number for a good double is much larger than for a good single train, but I’d venture to guess an efficient single line of 10 or 12 people that can work well together could go up against a double with some success considering it takes about twice that to get a double going and then all those must also work well together if they are going to go fast.

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I feel like we are confusing terms here. To me a single paceline would be a column of riders with longer turns and one person falling back at a time. A rotating paceline would be a carousel where there aren’t any discrete turns. A double paceline is basically a single paceline with two columns where the two front riders peel off at the same time. This last one is for very big social rides where you want to chat with the rider beside you.

IMO a group of 4 should be a single paceline if there is disparate ability between the riders. It can also be a rotating paceline if the riders are evenly matched. It’s definitely not an optimal number because there are still drafting gains to be found as the third rider in line. By the time you have 6 riders working together, you should definitely be in a rotating paceline and not a single paceline. Position 6 wouldn’t be getting significant draft benefit over position 3 in a single paceline.


Also keep in mind if you are doing 32mph on a flat road, the person in front is either doing 550W+ or you are being significantly aided by wind. When you’re going fast with the wind, everyone is hurting.


Our Tues / Thursday group can hit 30+ mph on our way back into finish our loop and no one is putting out 500+w.

This (although I would say that a single pace line is the same as a rotating pace line, the structure just changes depending on how many riders you have).

Yes, but on the way out the speeds are lower.

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We usually go from doube to single line when it’s four or less riders. With more than four, the single line becomes too long.


How do you know that?

Regardless, speed out is irrelevant. You said it takes 500w+ to travel 32mph on a flat road. That simply isn’t accurate.

It absolutely is accurate at typical air density and in an absence of wind, which I also specifically mentioned. That 32mph@550W estimate even baked in a pretty spectacular road bike CdA and good Crr. Anyone on the front of a group doing 32mph in the absence of wind is absolutely trucking it or decelerating.

I have plenty of actual data, not estimates, that prove it is not accurate.

Carry on.

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I’d love to see a Strava activity.

Here’s me doing 30.8mph on a -0.8% average grade for nearly 10min at 117bpm and 154W. But that includes both a massive draft, a false flat and strong winds at our backs.

In neutral conditions on a truly flat, smooth road, I’d need to put out 550W or so to maintain 32mph. A 38mph sprint would be 900W or so. This is virtually inarguable unless you’re riding a velomobile or something.

Data > estimates.

Based on the first result on Google for a watts to speed calculator, 32mph should be about 380W.

I’d have guessed right around 400W depending. That’s based off watching the pro’s routinely ride at those speeds and what it takes me to do less.

We do 400w pulls for through and off and average around 24/25 but only on downhills or tailwind sections does that buy us 30mph+

Looking at my Strava crush who smashes round London with the Onyx lot, Alex Richardson etc, they can hit 30mph off of about 320 average for a given segment but no idea what their pulls/drafting watts would be for that.

I used to reckon a 30mph solo lap of Hillingdon took me 500w but I’m about as aero as a :brick: :rofl:

Didn’t they say Si on GCN needed 370 for his ever so close ‘30 mph TT On a road bike’ attempt :thinking:

For me 25mph is 270W. 26mph is 290W. 27mph is, say 313 and so on. As you start going faster the power to overcome aerodynamic drag increases as a cube. Whatever Google calculator you found is pretty far off. Keep in mind I am very, very aero. My daily driver wheels are 69mm deep, I ride 38cm bars, 155mm cranks and I wear San Remos most of the time.

Power13 I don’t care about an out of context screenshot. Link the whole activity and share with us the details of the ride. How long did you spend in the draft? What were the wind conditions? You conveniently cropped out the grade as well.


Si’s TT wasn’t a loop or out and back either so that 370W was almost certainly slightly wind aided.

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I’d love to know how 5w can buy me 7mph. :joy:

20 min of a pull I did today. 22.8 mph avg @ 206w with a tailwind and slight downhill. I weigh 158lbs and rode in the drops or slight bent elbows. Latex tubes conti 5000’s. Stock DT Swiss Alloy wheels.

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Folks also keep in mind Filippo Ganna likely put out 470W to hold 35mph/56.7kph at ~0.18 CdA…in ideal atmospheric conditions (28C, slightly humid to make the air less dense) on a wooden track surface with clinchers pumped up to around 160psi. If you bump CdA to 0.25, consider a geared bike has more drivetrain losses and bump the Crr to account for the fact that we don’t run 160psi and ride on asphalt instead of wooden boards, Ganna’s required power output balloons to, you guessed it, around 550W at 51.5kph/32mph.


These two statements do not align, sorry.

LOL…I live in Chicago, man. Every ride is pan flat. The ride is our regular fast group ride with a smooth regular rotation. You can clearly see from the data when I would take a pull.

So he “likely” put out fewer watts to go faster than your claimed 500w+ at 32mph.

Data > estimates.