Today we rode 81 miles from John Day to Baker City (still in Oregon). Total elevation was about 4000 feet. Three tough climbs and three descents. I got a coaching tip on how to corner around turns on a descent, and it felt good. It was the same awesome scenery that I have been enjoying for the past few days.
Back home, I usually ride alone. I seem to prefer it that way–I wake up and leave on my own schedule. I ride whatever distance I feel like riding. I don’t worry about whether I am too fast or too slow. I can pee whenever I want. So what I have never done until today is go out with say 4 or more people of similar ability and ride in a “paceline”. I assume that most people have an idea of what a paceline is: you ride close behind another cyclist in order to have the bicyclist in front serve as a windbreak. You don’t work as hard, and the whole group increases speed. The bicyclist in front works hard for a little while and then exits left and to the rear of the line. But here’s the thing: it’s pretty dangerous. In order to take advantage of the windbreak effect you need to be right on the wheel of the rider in front of you, but never overlap and never touch wheels. That would almost certainly lead to a crash. Everyone must ride smoothly. The lead rider is supposed to announce road hazards or point with a hand (if speed permits taking the hands off the handle bars) at glass, garbage in the road or anything that the others behind can’t see. You don’t just take a break from peddling or change cadence except for changes in road elevation. Ever. A well coordinated paceline is poetry in motion, but lots of pacelines are far from that, and hence there are lots of accidents every year from the failure to follow all the “rules.”
Coming in to Baker City today, for about the last 20 miles or so, the road was slightly downhill, and the wind was at my back. I road in a paceline with four of the best riders in the group and loved it! We were going about 28mph and it was effortless. The miles flew by. I should be more afraid of this, but somehow I wasn’t. I had to admit at dinner that this was my “first time,” and got a look of shock. For the reasons that I just stated, experienced riders are afraid of novices. But i think that there are going to be a lot of miles in barren places in South Dakota where I think I will be riding in a paceline.