One of the most effective ways to maintain your speed and conserve energy during Storming of Thunder Ridge is to ride in a paceline – a single line formation of cyclists in which each rider takes turns at the front “pulling” the group behind them and “drafting” in the slipstream created by the riders in front of them. When drafting, a rider will expend significantly less energy!

You don’t have to be a pro to ride in a paceline. Just follow these tips from Paula Dahl. In addition to her roles as Event Director for Storming of Thunder Ridge and Cycling Event Director at the YMCA of Central Virginia, Paula annually logs over 8,000 miles on her bike and is a wheelsucker extraordinaire.

  • Get Close, But Not Too Close – Drafting is best achieved when you get close to the rear wheel of the rider in front of you to get into his/her slipstream. The closer you get, the more efficient you will be. An experienced rider will get within inches. Stay within your comfort zone – anywhere between one to four feet is efficient. But don’t risk your safety or that of the group by getting too close.
  • Keep It Together – For a paceline to work right, riders must maintain a steady and consistent pace. Sudden changes in speed by accelerating or braking will negate the energy-saving benefits of the paceline. Try not to allow gaps to open between you and the rider in front of you. If a gap does open, close it slowly so you don’t gap, in turn, the riders behind you.
  • Know Your Role – One of my favorite cycling expressions is that a paceline is like a mullet: it’s all business up front and a party in the back,   When you’re leading the paceline, focus only on your pull (this is not the time to eat, drink, fiddle with your computer or adjust your clothing). Maintain the same speed as the rider who pulled before you and navigate the group safely through any road obstacles, turns or stops. After you’ve taken your pull, rotate to the back of the paceline to draft, refuel and recover.
  • Share The Workload – Don’t stay out in front all day; rotate and let other riders take pulls. Typically, pulls last thirty seconds to two minutes. However, stronger riders may wish to stay out front longer. It’s also okay to take a shorter pull if you’re feeling tired. Be sure to maintain the same speed as the previous rider. And, if you find you can’t sustain the pace, pull off and recover. As a courtesy, try to rotate on flats or at the top of hills so you don’t leave it up to the next rider to pull the paceline up a gradient.
    • Be Respectful – A good paceline helps make a day in the saddle more efficient and enjoyable. So do you part and ride safely. Accommodate riders of different experience levels. Communicate clearly because you may be riding with cyclists you’ve not ridden with before. And help out by taking pulls. You’ll have a great day and perhaps make new friends.