6 Tips for Getting Started in Bike Racing

6 Tips for Getting Started in Bike Racing

If you're new to racing and considering it, these tips can help you prepare.

by David Newcomer 

There are so many beautiful things about the community of cyclists we support at Pactimo. We are lucky to have so many customers that share a passion and enthusiasm for cycling, a breadth of experience and accomplishment, and a personal tangible, often-times measurable commitment to riding bikes.

July brings many of us together for the Tour. Chatter at the water station at work turns to today's stage, yesterday's crash, or an upcoming climb that Bob in Accounting tackled last year on vacation. We find a renewed focus on the competitive aspects of our sport, despite the seemingly ever-present controversies, challenges of quality coverage and long hours. I still find myself keyed up for every stage and I know I'm not alone. 

And while it's well into the season for local races, there's still time to toe the line. Or maybe you're considering cyclocross for the fall. I've been thrilled to see numbers rebound recently here and particularly happy to see the number of youth out on course lately!

If you've never raced and are considering it - or maybe it's been a while since you've mixed it up on the road - here are a few tips to consider for your preparation.

  1. Get a License – Local racing is supported by a small group of dedicated, over-worked, underpaid officials, race directors and their volunteer staff. Show some love. 
  1. Attend a USA Cycling Beginning Racer Program  – Yes, you can ride a bike. But racing is a whole different animal. USA Cycling offers programs to help you learn basic pack skills, cornering, sprinting basics and race preparations. The program and instructors bring many other skills to practice that are often forgotten by your friends with more experience. You'll also earn a couple points to help upgrade in the future!
  1. Consider a Club – Finding a group of like-minded, similarly driven individuals to train and ride with is a terrific way to get the skills needed to race. You develop some amazing friendships, support networks, and maybe a helpful level of accountability (beyond Strava). 
  1. Pick a Race! – And maybe start with something like a Time Trial or Hill Climb that isn't quite as intense as a criterium right off the bat. If you're comfortable with a pack, but maybe not the pace a crit can bring, a road race is a fun place to start as well.
  1. Equipment  – The bike and equipment you race on is important, but don't let it become a limiter. I've always encouraged people to consider the Jack White approach to bikes: It's not the guitar, it's how you play it. If you need to build up slowly, do so. But don't make excuses because you're not racing the latest and greatest available. Showing up is more respectable. That said, make sure your bike is in good working order and you'r not going to be sidelined by a mechanical issue. 
  1. Checklist  – Take a few minutes to consider what to bring for the day. There are a few good checklists out there (I really like this one from TrainingPeaks - it's got everything!) Before, during and after the race are all important to think about. 

Every once and a while you're bound to make a mistake and forget something. One of my favorite early memories of racing, though, is the result of oversight on my part. It was a race on the eastern plains of Colorado - windy, rainy, dirty and cold. A road race set up as an out and back on straight farm roads with little to offer in terms of visual interest or terrain, but with a well-deserved reputation for variability and unpredictable conditions. 

I didn't do great, but held in there for a respectable finish. What I'd neglected, though, was a change of clothes and food afterword. Teeth chattering as I tried to squeeze a final, stiff-with-cold, gel into my mouth, I heard a tapping on my window. I rolled down the window and my new teammate, Josh, was outside my car. 

"Hey, Bro. Want a sandwich?"

It may have been the best turkey and avocado I've ever had.

About the Author

David, Customer Service ManagerA lifelong commuter and amateur racer in road, CX and MTB, David Newcomer has experience with just about every aspect of our sport. A former race director of the Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hill Climb, and Executive Director of one of the largest cycling clubs in Colorado, he brings a wide range of experience to share with others. David is the Customer Service Manager at Pactimo and host of our podcast "On the Road with Pactimo." You can reach him directly at dnewcomer@pactimo.com