Pace lines...where did they go?

New to TR, smart training, and the forum and loving it all. So I had a great cycling coach in the early 2000’s and he knew I enjoyed group rides so worked them in to my training without issue. I regularly went on multi hour training rides with fairly large groups and pacelines were just the norm. I’ve gotten back into regular group rides this past year and the “proper” or “old school” pace lines have vanished like a fart in the wind. Example: steady double pace line where the riders on the right are constantly moving up toward the front, each rider pulls for 30 seconds to 1 minuteish then shifts left and soft pedals while riders on the right pass and so on and so on. It resulted in a smooth rotating training effort where the slower riders got faster and no one or very few people blew up unless you just couldn’t hang on to the very back. Through the summer I have ridden with a dozen or so different groups and no one does this anymore. They do this insane double pull for who knows how many miles then the two lead riders split and let all the riders through the middle resulting in the group being FOUR wide. Upon asking ride leaders(if there is one) I have been told it is safer!??..IT IS NOT. Is this the new norm or have I just not found the right group to train with?

Do you mean a double paceline? Depending on the size of the group and road it is pretty common. Also two lines cause cars to have to wait for a spot to get around so normally safer IMO.

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Ride with a different group. However it seems to me its never the same exact rotation depending on who shows up and you just adapt to whatever forms by consensus of the group. Sometimes it single paceline hammerfest and other times its double lines and often its not the orderly rotation you describe and you just have to adapt.


For me and my peers, often the following applies: a single or rotating paceline during our hard rides when speed is important and talking is not, a double paceline for long endurance rides when talking is important :wink: and speed is not. Also the road and traffic, among other variables, dictate if the paceline is kept single file or prevents an echelon. It hasn’t changed for me since I starting racing/training in 1985 but then again, I ride with many of the same people.


Pace lining is becoming a lost art on group rides which is where this skill needs to be learned. It really sucks when you get in a race situation that calls for some good group work and half the folks have no idea what to do.


Just want to make sure we’re all on the same page…you either have a

  1. “paceline” where riders pull then peel off and drift back, or
  2. a “rotating paceline” where there is constant double row of riders with one row shielding the other (I.e rotation clockwise when wind is blowing from the right, counter-clockwise when wind is from the left).

The rate of rotation can be arbitrary, from constant to staggered with the front pair pulling for a bit and then one of the front pair moves up and across to rotate the group.

A “double paceline” is an kind of an oxymoron.

Anyway…I would chime in and say that if your group is not pacelining, and you’d like it to, then ask to start rotating. Or find another group. It’s pretty common practice to have pacelines and I don’t think it’s something that’s disappearing. My 10 cents.


I have seen the split pulling off and object when it happens as it is dangerous making the group 4 wide.
Yes a paceline is single line with front rider peeling off after his turn whereas with two lines you are talking about a sticky chaingang as we tend to call it. Most groupr rides I ride with adopt this.

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I appreciate all the comments. It seems like at least in my area the " sticky chaingang " or “double paceline” most defiinitely an oxymoron has become more of the norm. It’s not that I can’t adapt but it just seems a bit strange and to me doesn’t promote either safe or effective training for the most part. The weaker riders don’t really get stronger and the strong riders pull for miles and miles. At least with old school it was a constant double line of riders that traffic could gauge getting around. This double/quadruple thing is sometimes 2 wide and sometimes 4 wide and traffic has no clue when it’s going to change. I must agree however it is easier to have a conversation.

Most group rides around here can’t even organise a single file group properly. Group ability is often too mixed.
There are more social group rides than more serious training ones.
For serious outdoor work i have to go solo.
Traffic is usually too heavy on narrow roads for two abreast anyway.

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Double paceline can be safer in some instances because instead of a line of 40 riders to pass it is a clump of 20. Much shorter passing time, but depends on conditions of course.

It is annoying doing a double paceline though when the two guys at the front just hang there forever and you’re in back looking at a 110bpm.

In our ride we paceline and rotate according to the wind. It’s all part of the process of becoming a more seasoned rider. In fact we can usually tell when there is a newcomer.

Just find a different group or ask hey anyone want to do a paceline? Or if you’re in Chicago area, come ride with us!


@Paul_Palmer If you’re ever in Maine in the summer, drop in on the Thursday night Maine Beer Company / LL Bean group ride. The lads who lead it do a great job of getting the paceline going. So too with a few of the other group rides in the area organized by Community Cycling Club of Portland (CCCP comrade), Portland Velo Club, and Merrymeeting Wheelers. Sure… the pacelines are not always dialed in, especially early in the season. But by early summer some of the rides have it down. I guess paceline fluency is pretty good around here.

We just go with a single paceline - one side moving up and pulling and then the other dropping back to slide back in. The roads are too narrow to go wider and as it is, 2 wide takes up a lot of room and there’s no need to raise the hackles (even more) of folks behind the wheel of a car or truck.

Rode the 149 mile B2VT last June and we had a core group of about 10 which at times swelled to 18 or 20 that used the paceline for hours to keep the pace strong but the effort steady. It was a beautiful thing.


I’ve been thinking about this with the group I ride with. I feel like we have one speed and it’s fast. Even on days when we say we are going to go easy, we have one guy who thinks gains are only made by hammering, we end up going fast. I try to get on the front and slow things down a bit but, usually I end up getting the group coming up on my side. It’s pretty annoying and no one is any faster for it. I’m gonna try to get guys to incorporate more short pulls or longer endurance pulls and less “hero” pulls. Everyone wants the “hero” pull!

A constantly rotating pace line is fun but I disagree that is what should be done on every ride, sometimes you have to do a 2-3 minutes on the front per pull to give guys rest but keep the speed up. Double wide pace line has its place but shouldn’t always be done.

This is my experience as well - I’ve been riding and racing for many (many) years in the central US, but now have moved to the west coast. Here it is apparently the “safer” thing to ride two abreast and the front two split and the rest pull up between. It just makes me nervous because of the four wide thing - I never experienced this before on busy streets. The one advantage (that I can think of) to this over a rotating paceline is that you can chat with one person much longer.

The other odd thing is the single paceline - everywhere else I’ve ever been, the lead person on the paceline pulls off to the left. Now, it’s apparently the “safe” thing to pull off to the right - unfortunately if there is a curb or other obstacle, you just have to keep up the pace even if you’re gassed. it’s been decscribed to me as safer, because the group protects the one rider falling back.

Apparently the key is the elbow flick - you’re supposed to tell the person behind you which side to pass on by flicking that elbow. Of course chaos ensues if anyone misses the elbow flick.

Not really…he is referring to the second example below. Two ascending lines of riders, with two riders dropping back on either side of the group (hence his reference to being 4 riders wide)


The only correct direction to pull off is INTO the wind. If the wind is coming from the left, then you pull off left and vice versa. If you pull off with the wind, it becomes a clusterf*ck in the back as everyone tries to jam into the draft…both riders moving up and riders coming back.

You are also likely to overlap wheels with the rider behind you (see echelon illustration above) and possibly take the whole group down.


Pacelines are alive and well in my club. We usually use the ‘2 lane rotating’ method, but sometimes switch to the ‘single lane’.

With a good, disciplined group, especially guys who ride together regularly, it is highly efficient.

I did experience riding in a group with the ‘double peel off’ (2 front guys peeling off left and right and drifting back) and I have to say it was pretty uncomfortable. They took up a lot of road space.

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Maybe everyone needs to pull a bit harder. A hard pace soon resorts to a pace line :wink:

We do it. But we are one of the more experienced bunches in town. Doing it at the pace we ride (40km/hr plus) is dangerous with those who are not up to the task. As a result, if we have new comers to a bunch we don’t pace line. As to the four wide thing, we stopped doing that over 5 years ago. Now we rotate the same as a pace line, (move up, across, and back down) but turns are long - several minutes. This way we are never more than two breast. The other bonus to this (ie, not a pace line) is that we have the opportunity to do long turns.