Most of your time during a Group ride will be spent riding in one of three types of pacelines: single paceline, double paceline or double rotating paceline.
Single Pacelines and Echelons. In a single paceline riders line up directly behind the rider at the front. The front rider maintains a constant speed for a short period of time (from several seconds to several minutes) and then signals to the rider behind, by flapping his left arm that he is rotating off the front. The front rider slowly steers to the left of the paceline, slows down and drifts to the back. The rider assuming the front position must maintain the established speed. They are not to force the pace; this is a major cycling faux paux!
An echelon is a special type of single paceline used when there is a significant crosswind. In an echelon, the trailing riders angle off the lead rider in a progressive offset (like geese flying south for the winter). The direction of the offset is opposite the direction of the crosswind. For example, if the wind is coming from the left side of the road the lead rider will line up close to the centerline and the trailing riders will be staggered behind him to the right. The lead rider rotates off the front on the opposite side of the offset. It is important to note that wheels are often overlapped in an echelon increasing the risk of accidents. Also, you should only establish an echelon when it is safe to take up the entire width of the road.
Double Pacelines. A double paceline is similar to a single pace line except two lines are formed and two riders lead the group. When the lead riders are ready to rotate off the front they should first communicate to each other their intent. They then signal to the riders behind by flapping their outside arm, check to insure that someone is not overlapping their rear wheel, and then slowly and gradually move to the outside and let the group come through the middle. Do not suddenly veer off to the side; peel off in a steady and controlled manner.
Double Rotating (Circular) Pacelines. A double rotating paceline is significantly different from a double paceline because the two lines are travelling at different speeds. The faster line is advancing and the slower line is retreating in a circular motion. The retreating line is set up on the side that the wind is coming from. If there is no wind, headwind or tailwind, the advancing line is on the right and the retreating line on the left.
The key to a rotating paceline is that when the rider at the front of the advancing line clears the rider who is on the front of the retreating line, the advancing rider moves into the retreating line and softens up his pace. The rider who was behind him continues the pace of the advancing line until that rider switches over.
The rider in the advancing line should never surge. The idea is that you ride to the front and float to the back in a constant rotation. Smooth switches, and keeping the distance between riders in the paceline as small as possible will keep the paceline smooth.
Special Note: On some steep climbs and descents the benefits of a rotating paceline are significantly less. “Lock” the rotating paceline until reaching level terrain.