Today was one of those days where the weather is giving you a perfectly reasonable excuse to stay inside and relax while your fitness conscience is saying HTFU.  Unfortunately, when you are a ride leader and you post a ride, your choice is much more limited.

Joel and I had posted a Gruppetto Graduate ride going up to Newcastle and targeting climbs on Callison and Indian Hill roads. The intent is to allow riders who recently completed the Gruppetto training series to transition into Peloton group rides. These rides also allow riders looking for a more casual pace to join.

Another purpose of these rides is to help newer riders practice group riding skills and offer constructive feedback to improve these skills.

Today’s ride finished with a long jaunt down AF.  This is a great road for working in a paceline.  At a stop light, Joel took the opportunity to talk to a rider and pointed out one of the more subtle skills in group riding that can make a big difference in a paceline’s dynamics – soft pedaling.

When you are in a paceline, I find that it is important to keep your head up and pay attention to your surroundings.  I tend to “look through” the rider in front of me instead of locking my focus on his rear wheel.  However, when that rider stops pedaling, my attention will shift immediately to that rider. A lack of pedaling is like a caution light that alerts you that something is wrong and braking may soon follow.

If you are a rider that tends to pedal – stop – pedal – stop, you are likely sending confusing messages to the rider behind you: go – caution – go – caution.  This can be disconcerting.

Rather than stop your pedaling when you need to slow down, there are a couple of techniques to use.  One is to soft pedal.  Soft pedaling simply means you are pedaling slowly without adding any power to the drive train.  The rider behind you will see your pedaling being constant and stay more relaxed.

Another technique is to catch more air by sitting up taller or moving to the side slightly to get partially out of the draft of the person ahead of you.

The important point is to control your speed AND do so in a deliberate fashion that keeps the paceline in a calm state.  So, think about the value in soft pedaling to “communicate” to the rider behind you.  She/he will appreciate it.

Want to learn more about paceline skills?  Check out some of the instructional videos at

By the way, if you want some CF gear like the shirt shown above, you can buy it here.