New to cycling, how to start racing

I’m about to turn 50 and have long history of endurance training - just for context last year ran half marathon in 1:18, ran 2:50 marathon few years ago. A series of injuries has led me to cycling. Have been cross training on trainer for a few years - last 8 months have been more intense - got my FTP up to 350.

I want to start racing, but I don’t have a lot of bike handling experience and all of my hard training has been indoors. How do I start? Any general bike buying recommendations? Are used bikes a good idea?

Any recommendations would be appreciated

I live in Pasadena CA

It would help a lot to narrate the discussion if you could pick the race you want to do first. You don’t have to stick to that kind of racing forever, but you gotta try something first, right? What speaks to you? Gravel? Road? XC marathon? Tour Divide? :smiley:

BWR CA is tomorrow. Quite a mix of everything. You still have time to register, and some bike shops might still be open for an hour or two. Joking. Mostly…

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In terms of bike handling, I’d say try and find a local bunch ride that is open to newcomers with beginner skills. You may be fit, based on your FTP quoted number, but you need to learn how to apply that fitness IRL.

The local bunchy is a good place to start. But be sure to make it known you’re a beginner and there to learn how to ride among others and learn to handle your bike in the same manner to avoid pissing off those who aren’t as welcoming.

That’s how I learned so it should work for you to. Just remember to allways carry spares and a method of inflating your own tires. :laughing:

Good luck


Those are great times for your age group and obviously have some fitness already! Me personally… I had a trail bike with downhill tires. Signed up for a local MTB race and just showed up. Not much more to it really. Just gotta dive in!

Best of luck to you!

This ^

Pick a race you have a bike for. Race. Then make the decisions on the type of bike for what you think is going to be killer fun stuff. You might even be able to demo a bike.


You ask about bike buying, do you not have a bike at all yet? If yoi do, then no, don’t buy one until you know what you want (unless you are filthy rich, in which case I’m up for adoption).

A local bike shop might be a good place to ask about group rides. Odds are some of the employees do rides with groups and can point you in a good direction. Definitely let people know you are new because you will definitely make mistakes that can hurt people without even knowing it, especially with your fitness level. Slow C/D group rides to learn the dynamics.

As for actual racing, after a bit of riding you learn what racing you’ll want to try. Lots of areas have informal races where you can test yourself, and maybe never even sign up for a real race.

SoCal has a ton of options for cycling and racing. I’m in the IE and have easy access to XC, enduro, and crit racing.

Cyclocross or XCO. Gives some great skills, sorta easy to access, just don’t make it to equipment intensive pro style at least straight away.

1 Borrow a bike and join a club ride.

2 Enter a gran fondo (long bike ride) and see if you like racing it.

3 Realise triathlon is more fun :grin:

My first races were road bike TT, great introduction with no pressure. Good fitness test too.

I would recommend trying out the California Bike Racing (CBR) S.A.F.E rider program. Race number 5 of 7 is coming up May 5th. Not sure if you can jump in mid way but, IMO would still be worth it. Scroll down to get info about S.A.F.E.

Here’s a PDF of SAFE rider program…
S.A.F.E.-Rider-Program-One-Page-Flyer.pdf (133.0 KB)

I’d start with a fondo or gravel event. They will be much more similar to the running events you’ve done where they are racing at a high level at the front and less serious at the back. If that 350w is a real number (not from a peleton, etc.), you will have much more fitness than bike handling skills (which can be dangerous for you and others in a tight/fast pack fighting for positioning). I don’t know anything about the S.A.F.E. program mentioned above, but that sounds ideal to get some skills before jumping into a mass start race.

If you’re going to do any type of road racing, definitely start doing group ridesASAP. Besides being un, you’ll learn alot very quickly. Just riding in a pack, any pack, will teach you some basic handling skills. The faster local group rides will typically have some sections where the gloves come of and it gets racy. That’s great for learning and working on more advanced skiils. You also can meet local racers who will give you the lay of the land.

If running is 90% fitness and 10% tactics; road (or crit) racing is the opposite, more like 90% tactics and 10% fitness. Obviously fitness gets you in the game and is important and the more you have the better, but you learn to race bikes, you train so you can be fit enough to have a shot of applying what you’ve learned.

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At the very minimum you need to get used to riding in a group before racing. However, I’d done several years group rides, and club races (which is the default entry to open racing here in Ireland), and I still think the best thing I did was a race skills training programme not dissimilar to the programme linked above.

Racing skills isn’t just being comfortable in a group, it’s being comfortable with contact both person to person and wheel to wheel, being able to drink (i.e. get bottle, drink, put back bottle) whilst looking up and pedalling, eating, cornering etc.

Hey there and welcome to the TR Community! :smiley:

I’d recommend (like other athletes here) that you try to get out on some group rides if that’s possible for you. If you haven’t ridden with other people before, it can be really uncomfortable and it can take some time to get used to being in a pack of other riders.

You could check out your local bike shops and ask if anyone knows of group rides that meet up around where you live. It’s also a good way to meet some riding buddies!

Once you get some experience on group rides and you start to feel comfortable, you could start hopping into some races. Since you’re in Pasadena, there should be plenty of crits in your area that you could do. Most races will be listed on California Bike Racing (CBR) is also a great series to check out, as @KorbenDallas mentioned.

As for the bike, I’d say race what you have! Used bikes are definitely a solid choice if you don’t have a bike at the moment, though. Try to test ride something you’re interested in before buying so you can check that the bike fits you well.

It sounds like the fitness is there for you, so the next step is getting out on group rides with others! You’ll learn a ton about positioning yourself in a peloton and drafting to save energy, which are critical skills needed to race. It could also be worth checking out some pro race footage on YouTube so you can get an idea of how the best ride in a pack.

Hope these suggestions help – feel free to let me know if you have any additional questions!