Pacelining with strangers

Posted by SuperClydesdale on January 16, 2012 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

Pacelines are fun and exciting, and can be really exhilarating as it allows sustained speeds that are impossible outside of a peloton.   Since most of us are not peloton-ready (I was unceremoniously replaced on BMC’s team just prior to the 2011 Tour de France – go figure), pelotons are a common “thrill ride” for the recreational cyclist.

It should never be forgotten that pacelines are freaking dangerous.  Every year, I hear of a few crashes within my area related to pacelines.  Most of the time, it’s inexperience of riders that can manifest itself in any number of ways:

  • Sudden change of pace by a rider
  • Failure to call out obstacles
  • Lack of respect for the responsibilities of being the lead rider

While a paceline is fun, you are depending on the people in front of you to do the right thing.

I’ve come very close to crashes when people in front of my suddenly braked without notice.  I’ve done the same thing to other riders, I’m sure.

I just got back from visiting my good friend Chris.  He’s a long-time riding partner and one of the nicest people on the planet.   He’s enjoying day #3 in the hospital recovering from a number of injuries, headlined by a disclocated hip.  Just typing “dislocated hip” makes my stomach tingly with sympathetic discomfort.   A shiver runs down my spine just thinking about it.  The hospital won’t release him until they are certain that he’s safe to go home.

Chris’ malady springs from items #2 and 3 above.  His first mistake was riding in a paceline with a stranger.   Pacelines are risky enough with people you ride with frequently.    At least with riding buddies Cialis, you know their habits, and have (hopefully) a comfort level with their ability and willingness to call out obstacles and know the wisdom of refraining from sudden braking.   A cool, steady pace is nice too, but predictability is critical.

Like a formation at an airshow, where the formation follows the leader, if the leader makes a mistake or has a problem, the entire formation pays the price.

In Chris’ case, he didn’t realize that the guy he was following was a moron.   Chris assumed because the guy was incredibly fit and had racing team apparel on, that he was experienced and knew his obligations at the head of the paceline.  Wrong.  These guys were keeping a pretty good pace (23-25 mph on a twisty bike trail).  Suddenly, the guy made an emergency maneuver, and left Chris staring at a steel 4×4 at the edge of the path.   He basically led Chris, who was 3” behind his wheel, right into the pole.  Chris didn’t have time to react, nor did the guy behind him.  The dumbass in the front gets away unharmed, and the two guys behind him hit the pavement.  Luckily, only Chris hit the pole.   Frame snapped in two.   Disclocated hip, probable torn ACL, probably rotator cuff injury.    To make matters worse, Chris’ house is full of stairs.  He’s going to be struggling mightily for a while.

So, some lessons learned:

  • Don’t paceline with strangers, unless they are your new teammates on your professional team
  • Don’t paceline on a bike path.  Too narrow.  Not meant for high-speed rides.
  • Ride mountain bikes instead of road bikes.  When I hit an obstacle, I want it to be my fault.
  • wisco said,

    Sound advice. I remember being in a paceline at a Fall Century ride several years ago and some idiot swerved into the line pushing me off into a ditch. I somehow stayed upright, but man that was a scare! Now I just enjoy the day and let the foolish and inexperienced zip ahead in their ragged pacelines.

  • wisco said,

    Sound advice. I remember being in a paceline at a Fall Century ride several years ago and some idiot swerved into the line pushing me off into a ditch. I somehow stayed upright, but man that was a scare! Now I just enjoy the day and let the foolish and inexperienced zip ahead in their ragged pacelines.

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