Advanced Group Riding Skills
Advanced group riding skills
If you’re used to riding with others and are comfortable with basic group riding skills, it’s time to take your group riding up to the next level with some advanced techniques. These techniques are ideal for road racing, breakaways and team time trials. The two most commonly used advanced techniques are the through and off and the single pace line. These are both used to keep a high pace over flat or rolling terrain, and most groups alternate between the two, depending on the number of riders and the type of road.
The through and off technique
This technique is ideal for larger groups on roads where it is safe and the local laws allow cyclists to ride two abreast. It’s the classic method to efficiently keep the speed of the group moving forward. A fast ‘through and off’ is a constantly flowing machine consisting of a fast line and slow line. It’s a lot like a double pace line, except that riders continually rotate. By taking short, hard turns at the front, the peloton can constantly push the pace, which is why this technique is used at the highest level.
The move at the front of the double pace line goes like this - as the rider in the fast line draws level with the rider in the slow line, the slow rider should ease off the pedals slightly to allow the fast rider to move over and slot in front of them.
The rider who was behind the fast line rider will then do the same, pulling the group along and then easing off once in the slow line. While the turns in front may be hard, they are also brief, lasting between mere seconds to a minute, depending on the pace you are keeping and the speed of rotation.
Riders in the slow line will begin to drift backward in relation to the fast line and recover a bit. From an individual rider perspective, once the last rider in the fast line has gone past your front wheel, it’s a matter of getting back on the gas, moving across and accelerating back into the fast line. Call ‘last rider’ when you rejoin the fast line, which allows the next person in the slow line know that it’s safe to pull into the fast line once you are clear.
Smoothness here is key to keeping this a safe and efficient process. The changes in pace are subtle as are the slight increases or reductions in effort. The slow lane rider shouldn’t coast completely and the fast lane rider should pull the pace along but not sprint. This technique allows a brief moment of recovery for each rider as they take the slow line, before increasing their efforts again in the fast line. Rotation can be clockwise or anti-clockwise depending on the prevailing wind direction. Through and off’ is a technique that needs practice and effective communication to get right, but pays dividends in terms of a real sense of collaborative effort and speed gains.
The Single Pace Line
The single pace line is the ideal technique for groups with six riders or fewer, or on roads where riding two-abreast isn’t suitable.
Turns on the front are usually longer than with the ‘through and off’ technique, which allows a greater recovery time. The exact amount of time spent on the front can vary depending on the skill and stamina of the individual rider, but the most important thing is to keep the speed and effort level consistent. A stronger rider may do a minute or two while a weaker rider may only handle 20 seconds.
The front rider’s job is to drive the pace along in a smooth and consistent style. Once a rider is finished pulling they will ease out of the pace line and begin to drop back down the line, without easing off the pedals completely. Once the former lead rider has dropped back level with the rear of the group, the back-marker will call ‘last rider’ and they can the slot in behind them, taking care not to overlap wheels.
In the line, each rider stays on the wheel of the rider in front until they peel off. At this point, the new front rider will need to increase their effort in a smooth and consistent manner, concentrating on maintaining the speed of the previous rider.
Both of these techniques require excellent team work, trust and cooperation. It makes the individual sport of cycling into a true team effort, and once mastered, each rider becomes a valued cog in a high-speed, mile swallowing machine.