The double echelon

The double echelon is also called the chain or the carousel. It’s like a chain of riders who are constantly rotating..


Once you take the lead you move over and you are overtaken by the rider behind you. That way, two rows arise: on the windward side a row of riders that move to the rear, allowing the other row of riders to move forward in their draft.

On head
As with the single echelon, you should not accelerate when you take the lead. That is not always easy. Look at your speedometer. Or keep the same cadence. Rather than remaining on the front for some time as you would do in a single echelon, you now move over into the windward side right away, while maintaining your speed. The rider that was riding in front of you and moved over for you to take the lead is now fading to the rear. The two echelons are only a short distance apart, 10-15 cm (4-6 inches) should suffice.

To cross
As you’re taking the lead, your predecessor is fading backwards. As soon as your wheels don’t overlap anymore, you yourself move over to the windward side. If you’re unsure whether your wheels don’t overlap, check by looking down underneath your arm
See also: Keeping your Line
Your predecessor may signal that you can move over.
A simple “Yes” is sufficient. The crossing should be done (very) gradually. Then you do not run the risk of surprising your predecessor. The closer the two echelons ride beside one another (elbow to elbow), the less distance you have to cover to move over to the other echelon, and the easier it is.

Once you have moved over to the windward echelon, depending on the strength of the wind, you may have to decrease the pressure on your pedals a bit. By doing that, the next rider automatically, i.e. without acceleration, tales the lead.

Check your speed and your psychology
It’s hard not to accelerate when taking the lead. Because you catch more wind you have to put more pressure on the pedals to not ride slower. But how much more? Look at your speedometer. If you ride in the second position, check your cadence and keep that if you take the lead. Learn also to know by feel and not just by looking on the meter. Let the riders behind you coach you. It is not only technically difficult just to maintain the correct speed, but also psychologically. You do not want to be any less than your buddies, and you might even be tempted to show off. Or if it’s just a temporary collaboration, you want to hurt the others a little, thereby weakening them a bit.
See also: Mindset and group dynamics

As the next rider moves over into the wind, you need to take his wheel right away, and don’t leave a gap. You need to fiddle around a bit with your speed to do so. The more gradually he moves over, the easier it is.

The two echelons should ride as short as possible next to one another (elbow to elbow). That way, the group is as compact and aerodynamic as it can possibly be.

Joining, that hurts….
When you’ve reached the rear,
you move over to the leeward side, and start to accelerate again. This is the most difficult point! It may be that at that moment, the group starts to accelerate, and you will then suffer. Signal in time: “Easy!” or “Hold!”. If you’ve taken the wheel, your “Yes” signals that you’ve joined and only now can the group start to accelerate.
Again you can pass turns by calling “In between”.

Back to the front
You’ve now joined in the echelon that moves forward. The chance to catch your breath. Still, you and the others in your echelon have to peddle. If there is no acceleration when taking the lead, that is possible. If there is an acceleration, gaps may open up, and they have to be bridged. Do this gently by increasing the pace ever so slightly. That way, you dampen any speed differences and the whole group moves more smoothly. It feels like a well-oiled chain.

1.5 echelon
As a group runs a double echelon and someone stays in the lead, then the double echelon turns into a single echelon. The windward echelon moves to the rear of the leeward echelon, and joins, leaving a single echelon.

Once a number of riders move over right away, then a double echelon is formed again.

Alternating between a double and a single echelon (running a 1.5 echelon, so to speak) you can much better deal with the differences in strength within a group compared to just use a single or double echelon exclusively.

See also: Which echelon?
See also: Echeloning and communication and collaboration