First race and have dumb questions [UPDATED]

I have been riding off and on for 8 years and just this year have got into riding on trainer road and decided to do a race to cap off this year full of rallies. But I have some dumb questions and I don’t know anyone who races to ask these questions to do you guys are going to get them. I will ask them one at a time so I can get feedback on them.

  1. My race is a 46 mile ride with a 2 mile lead out and then three 12 mile loops. Do I need to do a warm up for this CAT 5 race?

  2. Should I have a saddle bag? I figure if I get a flat I am just out of the race so is there any reason to even have my saddle bag on or should I keep a tube and Co2 in my jersey just so I can ride back to the start?

  3. When drafting it is easier to pedal so do I gear up to pedal less or up my cadence? So when I ride with my friends and we draft I find myself either gearing up to keep the same cadence or spinning like crazy. I’m guessing just gear up so I can maintain.

And that is all I got. I will update after the 7th and let y’all know how I did. I know they say expect to get dropped in your first race but I think that is rubbish. I may not win but I WON’T BE DROPPED! I hope. :slightly_smiling_face:

General consensus is that the longer your race the shorter the warmup required.

Maybe ride the course, check out the conditions etc then do some easy spinning with a few harder (short) efforts about 10 minutes before so you’re switched on.

If you know the race is likely to explode from the start I’d increase the intensity.

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Also check what the course is like, if there are any climbs/hills early on then it best to add a bit of intensity to the warm up

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Also, a lot depends on your personal physiology. I need a long warmup, so for a 46-mile race, I’d do a warmup that isn’t as long as what I do for a crit, but I’d at least get the legs going. I realize since you’ve never tried a race you don’t really know what you need. Do you do group rides, and how do you feel when the pace starts HARD, immediately? A 2-mile leadout isn’t particularly long.

(And this is not a dumb question.)


Cat5 race, absolutely warm-up.
Someone is going to go early because they can’t help themselves, and the pack is going to surge a LOT. Might as well be warmed up for it.


Physically, if there’s a 2 mile neutral zone and the race is 42 miles long you probably could get by without a warm-up. But there are several benefits to doing a warm-up besides physical. Often warming up will let you see some of the course. It will Give you an opportunity to do a final shake down of your bike make sure everything is working right. It’s an awesome time to scope out your competitors and chat with your teammates. It gives you something to do. Don’t underestimate this. Tooling around in your bike for 20 minutes at low-watts is going to be way more calming than sitting in the parking lot looking at your watch. Even if it’s only going to have minimal physical benefits. if nothing else, planning for a 30 minute warm-up gives you 30 minutes of leeway if something goes wrong and you end up having to skip it. So my advice is always leave time for a decent warm-up and always ride your bike for a while before you go to the start line


Yes I ride with a group in my home town. I am the one usually leading so I don’t really know how I would do with a fast pace out of the gate.

Thank everyone for the great advice. One thing that I forgot to say is the CAT 5 race starts later in the day and there is a lot of races before mine so I won’t be able to ride the course before my race. I was thinking more warming up on a trainer. :man_shrugging:

I’d probably still do some sort of warmup. There’s a high probability someone will hit it hard out of the gate, and it’s good to be warm and ready. I’d definitely do a trainer–that’s much easier to stay focused, plus you don’t have to worry about getting a flat.

What are your other questions or concerns?

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  • Inspecting the whole course in person is generally overkill. Try to understand the hard points of the course in advance by using strava & google maps. If at all possible, try to inspect the final 2-3km of the course by riding it and know exactly where the finish line is – not knowing the finish, or precisely where the finish line is has been the undoing of many people in their first (second, third etc.) race, even if they are strong and in good position!

  • Road races i’ve done always have a lot of standing around prior to starting, particularly when there are other grades ahead of you. I’ve never warmed up for them, but everyone is different. I do go for a 5mins spin to make sure my bike is together and working properly though!

  • Saddle bag, yes. Some people carry everything for a repair in their pockets, or nothing at all (and hope that a car will pick them up if they flat). Personally, I hate having the weight in my jersey pockets and don’t like the thought of it going into my back in the case of a crash. So for me, a saddle bag is the most compact solution to carrying everything for a repair. It may get poo-poo’d by the odd traditionalist, but whatever…

Some people also cite fast access as a reason for putting it in their pockets, but I don’t think this is really a problem, as if you flat it is just race over - you’re not going to get back to the bunch.

N.B. The possible variation to this would be if you’re running tubeless and you only carry a plug/plug insertion tool, 1x CO2 and a CO2 head… I might just put an elastic band around that and throw it in my pocket…

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I’d warmup a little bit. As others have said, there is likely to be attacks early and you’ll want to be ready to hang on through those surges. Not much. Get the blood flowing to the legs and break a little sweat then stop.

I’d carry a saddle bag with tools and flat repair. Yeah, race is over, but I wouldn’t want to have to rely on a chase car to pick me up and get me back to the line. Kind of a personal preference if you want the bag or use jersey pockets. I want my pockets empty for nutrition and an extra bottle for long rides and races, personally.

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I’m with the others… I carry a small saddlebag with a tube, CO2, and levers. Even if the race is over for me, I want to be able to get back without having to wait for the SAG vehicle. Plus, for Cat 5, you really just need to finish, so trying to finish is important for you.


Also make sure you know the actual distance. Three 12 mile laps laps plus 2 miles is 38 miles.
If that’s the case, and you thought it was 46, you might end up pacing yourself incorrectly and leaving too much in the tank at the end.

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Congrats on trying racing. I did the same this year, and turns out, I really, really like racing. I only have two races under my belt so far, but I have been learning from people with way more experience than me.

(1) You should definitely warm up. My team mates take rollers with them, I take my fluid trainer. Trainer Road has a few warm up workouts that last about 30 minutes, and they work. If anything, I found they gave me structure.

(2) I would not take tools or a saddle bag with me on such a short race. If you have a technical problem, then fixing the problem is not an option, you will typically just hit the time limit and DNF.

To expand on that: don’t go crazy on optimizing your setup. My two races were in the rain, and last time the guy next to me was on carbon rims with 22 mm tires pumped up to who-knows-what-pressure. I was on 28 mm tires at 65 psi and had disc brakes. I felt supremely confident with this setup and overtook tons of people on the downhill. Feeling confident is much more important than losing a few watts in rolling resistance.

Also, I would take one large bottle with me, unless it was extremely hot. And I pack a small bottle with gels, which I would consume prior to the race while waiting for the start.

For each race so far I have tried to set myself specific goals, the first one being to not die (100 % success rate so far!) and then another goal. I race in Japan, so most riders are lighter than me and are likely less powerful in absolute numbers but with comparable or higher W/kg. Hence, I set myself to goal of trying to put the pedal to the metal on the downhill sections to make up for the relative weakness uphill. Oh, and the last goal was to always have a sprint finish.

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Without more information about the racing in your area as well as your own physiology you’re going to get a wide variety of answers to this question. I’d suggest you follow the same routine you’d do before doing a set of hard intervals. If you feel warmed up normally after 2-5 minutes of easy spinning then don’t do a warm-up. If you need to do a few hard efforts to feel ready to go then do that.

Everyone is different when it comes to warm-ups. For a 46 mile race I would do a relatively short warm-up with a handful of 30 second intervals, but no more. Probably I’d do them in my street clothes as I rode over to reg and back - so not a really serious thing :slight_smile:

Again - hard to answer without knowing your race conditions.

Personally I never race with any flat repair supplies and very very rarely see anyone with that in a race. I also don’t carry my phone, money, or credit cards like I would on a non-race.

At lower levels you will see more people with a saddle bag as there isn’t always a wheel van behind the field, but even when I was racing as a cat-5 I didn’t carry this stuff. I take the view that if I flat my race is over and there’s always a way to get back to the start (particularly on a short 12 mile loop) where you’re not that far away.

I’d suggest you bring the bag to the race and scope out the other guys in your field - if you see a bunch of bikes without saddle bags then you should be fine without one. If everyone has one then throw it on your bike

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Unless there is a follow wheel car, you have wheels in it, and you have 2 or 3 super strong and loyal teammates, your race for a placing is over if you get a flat.

So, it comes down to how lucky you feel vs how long you are willing to wait for a ride back to the start. It could be hours depending on how staffed up the race is so, a tube, a tire lever and a co2 in a pocket is not a bad call.

You wont lose the race because of the extra 275 grams in a pocket. On the other hand, you might win the next race is you do a 30 mile solo ride after your flat :wink:

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Whoops you are totally right. It is a 2 mile lead out and three 14 mile loops.

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This is a key point I’d ignored. Carry that saddlebag with everything you might need to get your butt across the finish line. Don’t pay any attention to what anyone else is doing re: saddlebags. Just finish.


Same as @RONDAL, ABSOLUTELY do a pre-race warmup for CAT ANYTHING . . .

There’s a great interview with Shaun Stevens, who was the performance coach for Team Sky that you might find useful (scroll down in the link to find the video). While he is describing warming up for time trials (whether short prologues or 50k TT), the same physiological preparations he describes as necessary for time trialing are the same for road racing.

Regarding saddle bags, you should check with the race promoter as to whether they are allowed. During the first early bird crit clinic/race I did where I had my saddle bag on my bike, one of the instructors told me to “loose the bag” prior to the race (it was pretty embarrassing). The two Cat 5 road races I did this year, there were no riders that I could observe that had them. Per advice from our Cat 1 racers, “For Cat 5 racing: carry a tube, tire lever, and CO2 cartridge in your rear center pocket” [I put these in a plastic bag; Cat 1 racers have neutral support and don’t need to carry this stuff]

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Combining your 2 questions, if you do do a warm up on the road rather than on the trainer, bring a spare tube with you on the warm up and make sure you stick close enough to the start line to always have time to fix a flat and still make the race start.

Better yet, bring a spare set of wheels even if their is not going to be a wheel car or wheel pit. a lot can happen to a wheel between home and the start of a race, not just in the race. As a grizzled Cat 1 vet said to one of my Cat 5 teammates after he broke a spoke 10 minutes before the start of a road race “anyone who shows up at a bike race without a spare set of wheels obviously does not give a shit about racing…” Acquiring an extra set of wheels should be on every newbie racer’s list as they move into the sport.