How To Get Into Racing?

I started cycling ~2 years go and just started structured training (and TR) about two months ago. My goal is to start doing road races and stage races starting next season. I have never done organized riding before so I figured I would start off doing century rides and Gran Fondos just to get used to the white noise that comes with a cycling event.

My impression is these events are typically sanctioned by US Cycling which is the umbrella organization for state specific cycling organizations and I will need to get some sort of racing license.

How should I approach this? What are some tips? What should I know? What are some dos/don’ts. Should I just do it? I currently have AT set to Rolling Road Races set for one year out with no events added yet. I am looking forward to starting this next chapter of my life but other than finding a local race and just signing up I have no clue what I should do: or is that just it?

Join a local bike club - one with a racing team.
Do their group training rides.
Get a racing license now (USA cycling).
Look on the calendar and pick some races.
Or pick some fondos as well and put those on your calendar.
Do local training races if they are available.
Yes, “just do it”.

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Thanks for the advice. In terms of find a bike club with a racing team: are they typically inclusive or more exclusive in terms of who they let join/race? Naive question but I am totally new to the culture of amateur racing.

In every club/team I’ve been on, everybody was welcome to race with the club jersey. Only higher level racing teams are selective.

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Reall depends on the team…some are very open and inclusive. Others are “bro clubs”. Check with your local shop for recommendations. They can usually give you some inside scoop.

And don’t be afraid to bail on one group if it doesn’t work for you…just make sure you give it enough time to be sure, though.

Ideally, you can find a group with both “A” and “B” rides (or maybe even “C” rides). Start on the slower rides, learn the skills necessary to ride in a group and then work you way up. Listen to more experienced riders and don’t get offended if they may snap at you in a group (sounds harsh, but it is usually the most effective way to get a rider’s attention. There is rarely actual malice behind it).

If there are local practice races, absolutely jump into those.

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Bike clubs/race teams generally are one of two extremes - either they are very exclusive and you have to be asked to join or they are large organizations that will accept anyone who signs up and pays the annual dues.

Job #1 for getting into bike racing is do group rides AND talk to people on those rides who are already in clubs.

Start doing group rides so you can learn the lay of the land in your area. Just look for what club jerseys are most prevalent and start by talking to people wearing those jerseys. One or two group rides per week is great race training (both skills and conditioning) and it will get you connected with the local community. If you let people know you are interested in racing, people will help you out. But unless you just totally crush everyone right off the bat on these group rides, no one is going to be telling you about the local race scene unless you ask first.

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It can unfortunately be a bit difficult in many areas to find information on bike racing. If you are fortunate, your area might have one or two clubs that have been around for a while and you could simply join. They would likely have a some sort of group ride or at least a private facebook group where you could ask questions. If really lucky, perhaps someone(s) willing to mentor a new racer.

To find those types of clubs:

  1. Ask someone locally to point you in the right direction. If you have a good LBS that’s an easy place to start.
  2. Contact your local association (LA’s are the local USA Cycling groups)
  3. Get on Bike Reg, find the next local race(s) and go over as a spectator to see who is racing. If there is a dominant club you’ll figure that out quickly by the jerseys

Links

USA Cycling Local Associations Find a Local Association | USA Cycling

Bike Reg https://www.bikereg.com/

To find local events, for example, navigate to the main BikeReg link. Use the Event Calendar pull down menu and since it’s fall season in the USA, select cyclocross.

I’m in NJ/PA region so to find local stuff I would choose Mid-Atlantic.

Scrolling down the list, can see there are several weekly CX practice events run by local clubs. Even if I don’t race CX, if I wanted to learn more about the local race scene, I can pop over to the weekly practice, find a friendly looking person and ask for help.

Scrolling a bit further, I can see a State Championship event. Those are generally well attended and will have racers, spectators, local association people and USAC officials. Folks will be busy at times but if you go check things out and wait for a quiet(er) time, there will be folks willing to help point you in a good direction.

Absolute worst case to get into road racing. Buy a cat 5 license and enter some spring training races when March and April rolls around. Jump in and give it a go. But it is nice to have someone to help you along with those first events. Its not hard to go racing but some of the things aren’t obvious either.

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Important!

If you are going to race you definitely want to be on a team and have some team kit! Not because its required (its not) but let’s just admit that its pretty cool to be on a team and be all decked out like your teammates. And, if you get dropped in a race but one of your teammates makes it on the podium, you can claim you were working for him to ease your pain :wink: If nothing else club/team kit is usually high quality clothing at a discount over full retail pricing.

Most clubs do their team/club kit order early in the year. Depending on how organized your local clubs are about mid season kit orders, you could get shut out of ordering kit for much of the 2022 race season if you don’t join a club early in the year.

So, that’s one more reason to start your club search soon.

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Except under USAC it is required for UCI teams and cat 1 and 2 riders of the same team. I don’t know about other countries.

Also, I just wanted to say, for me at least, wearing a team kit is literally the last reason to be on a team/club. I get what you are saying regarding cost and quality but, just that it’s all about the relationship with the members that is important. Again, this is what I’ve experienced and assume most are the same.

I was being a little tongue in cheek but, I would not rank team kit the last reason to join a club :wink:

Every year we have people join our club after the spring kit order who end up riding and racing half the season without club/team kit. Not a big deal but for those folks who actually know in advance that “this is the year I will take up racing” and/or “this is the year I’m finally going to join a club,” its worth getting off the ball soon enough to get in on that spring order. That was the point I was trying to make.

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