Here is a YouTube video of a bunch of mates out on a training ride that ended badly. I've posted it here to help provide some insight into what can go wrong when you combine these three key elements together. Pacelines, overlapping wheels and aero bars. Read on for some important advice on riding in pacelines.
I'm not too sure as to what initiated this accident but I'm thinking it’s the guy coming through that backs off the speed just enough to cause the second rider to move left to avoid him, taking out the third rider’s front wheel in the process. You can see the third rider is freewheeling at the time when he hits the second rider’s rear wheel. All while he is diving back over to the right. He has to come off the aero bars to reach for the brakes, but too late...
The impact is so great that it takes out some of his spokes.
One of the possible reasons that the third rider is freewheeling into the second rider is that by riding on the aero bars he’s probably more aero than the rest of his mates. This means that by continually being on the aerobars he’s going to have to manage his speed a lot more than his buddies. This becomes even more of an issue because to do so he needs to come off the aero bars to feather his brakes.
He’s lucky to keep it upright with a wheel that’s unstable but unfortunately finally falls off when he rides off the road.
The rider that falls off is the only one on the aero bars at the time. The rest of his riding partners are either in the drops or on the tops of their aero bars.
Here are some pointers when riding in pacelines:
- Keep the speed as smooth as possible.
- Ride as straight a line down the road as possible. If you need to move sideways do so slowly and with the least possible movement.
- When overlapping wheels always be on the lookout for the rider in front of you swinging out on you and never dive at their rear wheel when coming across.
- It takes great bike handling skills and good quality smooth riding from all riders to have everyone riding on the aero bars. Something that takes a lot of practice to master.
- For the same reason that all track riders don't have brakes it's never a good idea to mix riders with aerobars and normal racing bars together, especially in a paceline.
- Avoid the temptation to hit the brakes, better to ride slightly out in the wind to use that to slow you down. The secret is to make these moves out into the wind a subtle as possible. If you ride on the track you get to master this technique very quickly. If you need to brake then feather them to manage your speed rather than grabbing them.
When riding in bunches it is bad cycling etiquette to ride on your aero bars unless you are on the front. Also, it's a good idea to always ride with cycling gloves.