Safety & Skills

Safety & Skills

Pre-ride Mechanical Safety

  • Handlebars and headset: lock front brake and rock the bike back and forth to check headset is tight. Hold front wheel with your knees and try to rotate handlebars right and left. It shouldn’t move.
  • Tires: Rotate slowly and inspect for cuts, embedded glass, torn sidewalls.
  • Brakes: Ride forward slowly. Check back and front brakes for smooth, effective stopping.
  • Shifting: Run through all gears on level road to check shifting.
  • Aerobars: NOT to be used during pack rides due to unstable steering and forward position when braking.
  • Anything loose, tight or “just not right”? That’s what the experienced mechanics at your local bike shop are for.

Why a Paceline?

  • Drafting reduces effort by 25 to 40% over a rider “in the wind”. The rider(s) at the front work hard for a short time, “pulling” the riders behind, then “rotate” to the back for reduced effort.
  • A clean, disciplined paceline contributes to safer riding.
  • Rider in front takes all following riders smoothly around hazards.
  • An “under control” paceline contributes to driver respect for cyclists and makes passing predictable.
  • Gives everybody a good workout. Hard effort, then recovery, repeated, is the fastest way to fitness.

Group Riding for Safety

  • Trust is a key ingredient for safe group riding.
  • Paceline leaders are responsible for guiding the group safely
  • Riding in a group, you have additional responsibility to avoid creating danger for other riders.
  • Occupying any part of a roadway to be safe, singly or in groups, is legal. Riding on a narrow shoulder to the right of the white line is NOT safe. It is usually more broken than the lane, has more glass and debris, and encourages cars to pass at full speed without slowing and giving you a metre of space.
  • Double pacelines are legal except where it is posted that you must ride in single file.
  • Ride behind and 1-2 tire widths to one side of the rider ahead, giving you a bit more stopping space in emergencies.
  • Glance AHEAD of the cyclist that you are following. Anticipate, just as in driving a car.
  • NEVER cross the yellow line.
  • COMMUNICATE. Be sure that others know what is about to happen.
  • Use hand signals to warn of road hazards AND steer SMOOTHLY around them in advance.
  • Avoid braking suddenly. If someone drops a bottle for example, steer smoothly around it. If there is a sudden deceleration ahead of you, avoid sudden sharp braking, though this is not always possible.
  • Steer straight lines, and make moves smooth by relaxing your neck, shoulders and arms.
  • Keep hands near brakes BUT relax, trust the riders around you, and trust your instincts.
  • STOP at stop signs. Make eye contact with car drivers and watch car wheels for movement.
  • Best place to eat and drink is while at the back of the pack. Same goes for clearing mucus.
  • If you are last rider, when a rider is dropping back to the rear of the paceline, say “Last Rider”.

Group Riding for Efficiency

  • Maximum draft is within 25cm of the wheel ahead of you, but there is some effect within a wheel length.
  • NEVER allow your wheel to overlap the wheel ahead of you.
  • In double pacelines, maintain less than one rider width shoulder-to- shoulder.
  • Fill in gaps that open in the paceline to maintain efficiency and predictability.
  • If the pace is too fast for you, check BEHIND and around you for cars and other riders, then move safely out of the paceline and “sit up” at the back until you recover.

Skills to Practice on your Own

  • Looking back. While riding alone, practice maintaining a smooth straight line while glancing over each shoulder. Best done with hands on the tops or on the hoods, not in the drops.
  • Drinking. Move your strong hand near the stem on the bar tops, take your bottle with your weak hand.
  • Clipping and unclipping. On quiet residential streets, start and stop over and over until it’s a reflex.


  • Get to know your own stages of effort. For example, gasping means that you will soon have to reduce effort.
  • Tense arms and shoulders, being out of the saddle, pedaling “squares” or “hammering” increase effort.
  • If breathing is okay but your legs are burning, try lighter gears (faster cadence)at the same road speed.


  • It’s good strategy to start long hills at a steady pace in lighter gears and below your maximum power, then increase your effort near the top, rather than going all out at the bottom and fading near the top.
  • Keep effort high until you are really past the top.
  • Climbing seated is more efficient than climbing out of the saddle. Watch the pros!
  • Climbing out of the saddle at lower cadence is necessary sometimes.
  • Anticipate the climbing rider ahead of you rising out of the saddle, as their bike may “go backwards”.
  • Rise out of the saddle on a strong downstroke to keep from suddenly slowing down and endangering the rider behind you.
  • When riding small hills in a pack, maintain speed and stay with the riders ahead of you.


  • Try to maintain the cadence that is comfortable for you by shifting when speed and grades change.
  • Most cyclists are comfortable and efficient between 70 and 90rpm. While alone on a flat road at a fast steady speed for you , experiment two minutes at a time with gearing to find the cadence that maintains that speed with minimum leg- burning , fatigue and gasping. It will take a few weeks to “know”.
  • If you are always below 50rpm when climbing hills, try a gear cluster that gives you lighter gears.


Do you need a professional bike fit? If you are not comfortable on your bike after extended rides, you are limiting your endurance, efficiency and enjoyment. Some quick things to check:

  • After a longer ride, what hurts most?
    • Neck? Relax and drop your shoulders, keep your elbows soft and slightly bent.
    • Buttocks? It takes a few hours to get comfortable in a new saddle. Be sure that your “sit-bones” are on the wide, flat part of the saddle.
    • Knees? Your patella should not be ahead of your pedal spindle, nor too far back. This is important.
    • Lower back? Aim for a slight, 25 – 30° bend in your knee at full extension.
  • If all your gradual, one-at-a-time adjustments do not improve your comfort, have a local bike shop do a fitting.

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