Getting started in the world of bike racing can be a daunting prospect. Obviously, you need to be fit and you need to be fast – but beyond that, what else do you need to know before you line up for your first race?
We recently asked Cycling Weekly readers what advice they would give to someone who wants to start racing, and a selection of their replies are below.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start racing? Let us know in the comments section below.
Forget about the actual racing part of racing for the first year or two. You’re not good enough yet, unless you happened to win the genetic lottery. It’s fine. You could kill yourself trying to stay with the front group, or you can learn to read a race instead.
Drop off when you know you’ve lost. Get into a small group. Treat them as though it were a breakaway off the front. Use this time to learn observation, patience, and tenacity.
You win by being smarter than other riders, not by being faster than them. Worry about winning after you’ve learned to get to the end. By the time you’re strong enough, you’ll already have learned to read the race by racing against the back markers.
As you get older, this works less well, mind – it’s mostly teenagers and people in their early 20s that are actually willing to race for the difference between last, and second to last.
I recently returned to racing after a 15-year absence. To be honest, I found it easier than I thought for a few reasons. Firstly, knowledge and experience. Secondly, muscle memory. Thirdly, my selection of handicap races and distance that won’t destroy morale and cause training to go back. This is different from the new racer starting out, I know, but I would encourage anyone to give it a go. Age is only a number.
Get a proper coach. Don’t expect too much. Race and learn.
One step at a time, you’ll do it. Some practical advice: buy a used bike and choose the right frame size. Don’t bother buying on the web. Buy it from your local bike shop, because you’re likely to get a bike fit that will save you from injuries. And deals on clothing, parts and spares. Wait before giving up. You’ll think about it eventually. Cry if you need to, but remember how hungry you are and how much you want it.
Strong legs, big heart and most of all deep pockets.
Be prepared to crash! Fourth category races are notoriously dicey and if you damage your pride and joy racing her then you will need to be able to afford to fix her! You will get dropped – don’t worry with each race you will learn and slowly get better. Follow the racing line, everyone is taking the corner like that for a reason (it’s the fastest, safest route). Be vocal, sneaking up on other riders will result in half-wheeling-type crashes.
Don’t bother starting when you’re 50. I tried it and its chuffing hard work. First criterium I got dropped at the first corner. I’ve come last in all five races I’ve entered.
Don’t! It’s a trap. The better you get the more it hurts.