Okay, so it's your turn to pull. The rider in front of you pulls off
and, for better or worse, you've instantly become responsible for the
safety and comfort of those riders behind you. Now what?
First and foremost be alert. Maintain the pace or adjust it gradually.
Scan your surroundings and the road. Look far ahead to identify,
prioritize, and react to potential hazards early. This will avoid the
sudden swerving or braking which can render you very unpopular very
quickly. Looking further ahead also helps you keep a straighter and
smoother line of travel.
Forewarn other riders, of upcoming dangers or circumstances which may
cause you to slow down or stop. Remember that riders behind you are almost
entirely dependent on the information you relay from the front. Their
attention is usually focused (and sometimes fixated) on the back wheel of
the rider they are following. Relaying information, using hand signals
and/or verbally, is crucial and will allow smoother transitions around
Pedal continuously and consistently. Coasting up front will cause
riders behind you to brake and utter countless profanities. Find your most
comfortable cadence and keep shifting gears, as necessary, to maintain it.
Keep your effort, not your speed, consistent. Variations in terrain, wind
velocity, and direction will cause fluctuations of speed. Gauging and
maintaining a consistent effort, rather than an arbitrary pace, will keep
the ride smoother.
Glance back periodically. This provides vital clues as to the
appropriate pace. An excessive pace will usually string out the riders and
have some gasping for breath. An insufficient pace will result in riders
overlapping and talking (probably about you). The appropriate pace will
keep the riders in a straight and tight line. If necessary, adjust your
pace gradually and incrementally. A look back is always essential after
hills, sprints, turns, intersections, and major road hazards, all of which
usually disrupt the pace line. Soft pedal until everyone regroups, then
gradually accelerate to the original pace.
Be courteous. Calling out "Coming up on your left!" as you approach,
and "Hello!" as you pass pedestrians, skaters, joggers, or other cyclists,
will minimize the surprise element and possibly disastrous results. At
intersections, signal motorists to stop even when you have the right of
way. Most motorists assume they always have the right of way over
cyclists, so attract their attention and establish eye contact. A
"Thank-you" wave here is optional.
Finally, pull off before it's too late. If you are unable to maintain
the pace after pulling off. you blew it! Self awareness is key. Determine
the length of your pull by assessing how you feel, not by distance, time,
or other riders' pulls. Equality is not justice. Your fair share of work
depends upon your strength, endurance, and recovery, relative to the other
riders, and can vary on any particular day or ride. Pulling as much as you
feel you can, be it a lot, a little or not at all, is fair. Doing more is
counter productive. Doing less is better if you're not sure. Experience is
the best teacher and you are the best judge. be just.
Now what? Your turn to relax. Pull off, drop back, sit in and enjoy the