A Letter to Halfwheelers

by CycleChick on April 10, 2012

Dear Riding Buddy

It’s early in the season and we’re all excited to get outside and ride, whether we’ve spent hours in the basement on the trainer or making fun of those that do. Either way, it’s easy to forget some of the rules of riding with others when you finally do hit the roads for real. Halfwheeling is easily one of the fastest ways of raising the hackles of your riding buddies. It’s a cardinal sin of group riding etiquette – right up there with blowing snot at the front of the line – so let’s nip it in the proverbial bud.

Before you get your chamois all in a bunch, we’re writing this for your own good. While halfwheeling is generally considered a dickhead thing to do, we’re pretty sure  you’re not a dickhead. Chances are you’re new to the group, or don’t even know you’re doing it.

Just to review, halfwheeling generally occurs while riding in a social double paceline. This formation is very common on large group rides, because it’s a great way to ride with people of varying abilities who want to enjoy each others’ company. When done properly, it looks something like this:See how nice and organized that is?  This is a rotating paceline, where the first two riders take a turn at the front for a little while, then carefully move to the back of the group, like so:

This gives everyone a turn at the front, as well as a nice long rest between turns. It’s important to keep a relatively even pace throughout the rotation, so things stay predictable, organized and safe. A good way to do this is checking your computer right before you get to the front and maintaining the same speed once you get there. It’s also important to keep your handlebars in line with the person beside you. Think of it as a way to almost hold hands with someone other than your spouse without getting in trouble.

Here’s where you come in: the Halfwheeler. Once you reach the front of the line, you increase your speed, thereby pulling ahead of the person beside you, like so:

This makes a big mess of the paceline, either staggering it like this:

Which happens because your buddy has decided you can go fuck yourself and maintains the original speed, while the riders behind you are forced to speed up to keep in the draft. This makes them unhappy.


Your buddy feels the need to match your testicular fortitude and speeds up to join you, at which time you decide this game is SUPER FUN and speed up again. People start to struggle with the increase in speed, causing big gaps to open and pandemonium to ensue, kind of like this:

See? You’ve made a big mess of things behind you, but are completely oblivious because you are so far ahead of everybody else. Without meaning to, you’ve told your riding buddies “Hey, I’m way faster than you and if you want to ride with me you need to go faster”.

It’s unsafe, uncool, and makes you look like a bit of an asshole.

Which, as I’ve mentioned, we’re pretty sure you’re not.

What you are is strong and fast, and there are plenty of ways to feed your need for speed rather than ripping off the legs of your poor riding buddies. So cut that shit out and let’s ride.

With love and affection,

Your Poor Riding Buddies


excellent, epic post.

by Vannevar on April 10, 2012 at 6:57 pm. Reply #

I’m pretty sure I’m the green splotch.

by John Heim on April 10, 2012 at 7:16 pm. Reply #

You do look nice in green.

by CycleChick on April 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm. Reply #

Hey…not even involved and I feel oh so appropriately informed! Kind of like lane swimming etiquette. DO NOT GET ME STARTED….

by Meg on April 10, 2012 at 7:19 pm. Reply #

Haha! No doubt. I’m sure when I started swimming with Masters I broke every rule in the book. It’s a miracle they didn’t drown me.

by CycleChick on April 10, 2012 at 8:02 pm. Reply #

Love your post !
Riding with a half wheeler can be a real drag. Most of the time, they are just very inexperienced and don’t know that it’s affecting everyone. One tactic we used to use if we ran into a halfwheeler or two within a group, was to change the way we ‘change off’.
Instead of the 2 at the front moving out and to the back, we would ‘echelon’. Even at a slow steady pace, it can keep a group tight and gives you new people to talk to all the time.
Doing this sometimes gives the inexperienced rider so much to think about that they forget all about halfwheeling and just try to ride smooth.

ie- If the wind is from the right, the right front person moves to the back of the pack, the left front person moves to the right, the back right person moves to the left, and the back left person moves up a spot on the left side.

‘Echeloning’ isn’t just for going fast.

by Erick on April 10, 2012 at 7:53 pm. Reply #

I meant the right front person moves back a spot.

by Erick on April 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm. Reply #

Thanks Erick, a great suggestion! I love riding in an echelon, and we don’t seem to do it often – unless we have a hell of a cross wind to contend with. It’s a really fun way to ride and does mean everyone needs to work together. Of course people will always find ways to “misbehave”, like refusing to slow down when it’s time to slide back into the “slow lane”. But I guess that’s another post for another day.

Thanks again. Hope to ride with you soon.

by CycleChick on April 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm. Reply #

Hah ! Here I am trying to overexplain the echelon, not doing a very good job, and you know all about it.
Guess I had better dust off the old Bianchi and come out on a ride or two.
See you soon !

by Erick on April 10, 2012 at 8:28 pm. Reply #

I’m pretty sure I was the pink jersey, which didn’t turn into a pink blotch, instead, turned around when things started looking messy and went for coffee… :D

by Michelle on April 10, 2012 at 8:49 pm. Reply #

HAHA! Exactly right Michelle.

by CycleChick on April 10, 2012 at 8:53 pm. Reply #

Math is hard. I had a very bad experience with a rotating echelon once. It was never explained to me what I was supposed to do, wheels got overlapped, lack of fitness and ADHD took over and it was carnage.

by His Bradness on April 10, 2012 at 10:41 pm. Reply #

half wheelers don’t understand echelon…… they only work for themselves.

I never knew what it was called, you know, Seems to happen to me all the time. For the first couple years I figured I was the one going too slow. Now I’ve learned to do option B and just let them pull ahead.

The polkadot jersey on the half wheeler…. genius.

by Kim on April 10, 2012 at 11:53 pm. Reply #

Been there and done that!

Back in my late teens my cycling buddy and I were riding in a large pack of about 20-30 riders in the double paceline configuration. If I remember correctly… we caught up to this group from behind. We moved up through the group to the front and when we got there the two of us picked up the pace. (ya we were 2 yahoos) After a good five minutes of pulling, we knew we had someone still behind us and thought we would peel off. But… there was only one other to peel off behind. We had left the pack way behind but ended up pulling a guy in his 60’s riding a fixed gear bike, with no brakes. He thanked us and went on with out us.

So we weren’t half-wheelers, we were just dickheads and had another 70+ miles left to go!

Oh to be young again!!

by Drewm on April 11, 2012 at 2:12 am. Reply #

that’s my polka dot jersey. See in Portage, that was a bad habit I picked up and did not know (honestly!) that it was wrong until my Coach Jayson corrected me! So thanks for putting out the message for everyone. I’ll go back and hide in my shame now….

by Nettie on April 11, 2012 at 3:32 am. Reply #

We still love you Nettie! Thanks for your confession. We’ve all done stuff like this, largely because we just didn’t know better. Nice to hear stories like this from such accomplished riders.

by CycleChick on April 11, 2012 at 12:47 pm. Reply #

Brilliant post; informative, funny AND with cool drawings!

by Michael on April 11, 2012 at 12:39 pm. Reply #

Thanks for the suggestion to check your computer just before you go to the front.

I was in a single paceline once where i did not check my speed. I got to the front and did not notice that I had upped my pace ever so slightly. Then I hear the two guys still on my wheel yelling that we’ve dropped the back two guys.

Boy I felt dumb. But you learn from experience, and from CycleChick.

by Randy on April 11, 2012 at 7:40 pm. Reply #

Fools. They should have known better than to try to hold the wheel of The Assassin.

by CycleChick on April 11, 2012 at 7:53 pm. Reply #

[...] 5. A Letter to Halfwheelers Being a relative newcomer to cycling, I have to be careful not to get all preachy about etiquette. I don’t want to get caught saying something I don’t know anything about (because God know that never happens) – plus I don’t want people to worry that when they ride with me they might end up as the weekly ‘don’t’ on this blog. The best part of this post was the number of people who tried to guess the identity of the unnamed perpetrator(s). Still not telling. [...]

by Top 10 of ’12 « Winnipeg CycleChick on December 28, 2012 at 11:21 pm. Reply #

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