One of the things that the organizers of the Seattle-to-Portland (STP) bike ride emphasize is the importance of learning to ride in paceline. A paceline consists of two or more riders in a line riding close together in order for the riders behind the lead rider to benefit from the draft of the riders ahead. Apparently, the benefit can be up to a 30% savings in energy for the same speed. I can attest to the benefits.
There are lots of places on the web that will teach you the basics, so I thought I'd share some of the less obvious pointers I gleaned from my STP ride last week.
- The riders in front have to communicate because the riders in back can only see the leaders' butts. There are a series of hand signals and calls that are used to indicate a danger ahead, e.g. pointing to a pothole or yelling "car up"). There were a few instances of leaders ahead forgetting and me hitting a big bump by surprise. Not happy. I'm not naming names, but his name rhymes with "truce".
- When the rider in front is looking at the fields on the side of the road, chatting with someone, or seems otherwise preoccupied, he is not looking at the road and hence will not warn you of impending danger. Yell at them to get them to pay attention. The guilty party's name rhymes with "flint".
- When the rider ahead of you lifts a butt cheek, jam on your brakes -- he's about to fart. Let me tell you that riding six inches off the guy's tire is not far enough to avoid the stink, even at twenty miles per hour. I think the gas gets trapped in the draft or something. Truce and Flint were both guilty of this and both had a big smile when they did it. Bastards.
Anyway, if you keep these things in mind as well as the normal tips (like "pay attention" or "don't ram the guy in front") you can easily be a successful paceline rider too.