The Social Paceline
GCC road rides are conducted in a double row ‘Social Paceline’ for greater safety and efficiency. This is an internationally recognized cycling formation used by professionals and amateurs around the world. The main objective of the double row 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. The practice creates a larger ‘collective object’ of the cyclists – something to take notice of and for cars to drive around like a slow moving farm vehicle.
Motorists often try to ‘squeeze’ past a single line of riders when a vehicle is coming the other way because they think there is just enough room. They won’t do that when the double row of cyclists occupies half the lane and not leaving enough room for them to ‘squeeze’ past. This doesn’t always make for happy motorists as they are delayed for 10 to 30 seconds, but it is far safer for the cyclists that the car waits to pass. We often avoid causing this frustration among motorists by choosing quieter roads or certain road directions at certain times of day for our routes.
There are only a few rare instances where it is safer to ride single file. This is usually when a route must use part of a busy road. Typically the lead rider will call out ‘single file’ and raise a hand with one finger up to indicate the group is switching to single file.
When group riding in a double row, riders will need to take turns leading the group. We use the Social Paceline to rotate the riders. The Social Paceline is similar to a Rotating Paceline with an important distinction. Instead of continuously rotating, the Social Paceline has two riders leading the group at the front holding their positions. The front riders rotate the formation after 30s-3min. Here’s how it works:
- Riders on the front align front wheels side by side roughly one metre between shoulders. They set the pace for the group ‘pulling’ the paceline. When one of the riders on the front feels it’s time to rotate (30s -3 min or they’re tiring), they call out “Rotate”. A rotating hand gesture is often used to signal riders behind of what’s happening. Either rider can make the call to rotate as they feel the need.
- The lead rider on the left gently accelerates the left column smoothly forward one bike length while the lead rider on the right maintains the current pace of the right column.
- When the lead rider on the left is safely ahead of the rider on the right, the right hand rider calls out “Clear”.
- Then the rider on the left moves to the right in front of the rider on the right and the last rider in the right hand column moves over to the back of the left column when there is space to do so.
- The left column continues to move ahead until the lead riders re-align.
- The left column gently reduces its pace to match the column on the right. The last rider in the left column calls to the last rider in the right column “Last rider” – this lets the rider on the right know that there is no one behind them. The group continues at a steady pace until the next rotation is called for.
The Social Paceline allows groups to better maintain the same width and a ‘tight and to the right’ formation at all times. The predecessor of the Social Paceline was the Butterfly Rotation which was the standard not that long ago. The two front riders widened their gap so much that the full double paceline of riders would come up the middle between them. This created a dangerous period when the group was riding four-abreast. It’s easy to see why the Social Paceline has become the new standard.