A great way to finish rides faster and less tired is to join a paceline. A rider drafting behind another will use 10-30% less energy than on her own. It can also be a good way to crash. There are dozens of recommendations on how to ride in a paceline, some contradictory. Here are a few basics.
Ride to your ability. You may be more efficient in a group, but if the group consists of racers, you will burn out and get dropped after a few miles, more exhausted than when you started.
Ride steady. Avoid speeding up, slowing down, or moving too much back and forth, especially sudden motions. If the person in front of you slows, don’t tap your brakes as you might exaggerate the motion, causing a ripple back through the pack. Instead move a little to the left, catch some wind, and slow gradually.
Ride ahead of yourself. New riders often stare at the tire of the person in front of them, then get surprised when the speed changes. Instead look down the road and anticipate changes such as hills.
No Superman. When you are drafting, you can take it a little easy and not over exert yourself. So when the person in front peels off, you feel rested and ready to fly! Don’t do it. Keep at the same speed, otherwise you will fly off the front, which stinks for the person behind you who no longer has anyone to draft. When you are at the front, curl your toes a little to keep from mashing on the pedals.
Change early and often. It is better to take a pull that is too short, and hand over the lead than to stay out in the wind for a mile, get toasted, and then fall off the back. If you are next up and not feeling great, skip it. Otherwise you will end up dropping out of the pack and that benefits no one. Every pack is different, so follow the example of others. Are people swapping every 1/4 mile or 1/2 mile? Every minute or two? That is your goal, but don’t cook yourself.
Drop with care. When you peel off, usually to the left, give a little wave to the rider behind you so they know you are not just dodging a pot hole. Sit up, stretch a little, take a sip and even nibble. Now you are at the back and can recover. When the next person drops back, tell them you are the last rider so they know to pull in.
Drop at the top. When you are in the lead, it is better to drop at the top of a hill than the bottom. At the top the next person can start gradually while you coast to the back. Every hill, every transition is different, so use your best judgement.