10 Tips for Beginning Road Racers

<strong>Riders begin Stage 1 of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California.</strong><br>Photo: Jesse Hammond/ Active.com

If you have recently been inspired to try road racing and you're new to the sport, a reasonable question is, "Where and how do I get started?"

Let me see if I can help:

1. Fitness. Most people come to road racing from a sheer love of bike riding. Maybe you've trained for a few century rides or done other rides. In any case, you enjoy being on the bike and spending hours in the saddle. This is good. If you can comfortably spend two to three hours riding, you're off to a good start.

2. Group Rides. Investigate local group rides. There are several options for group rides, including bike shop-hosted rides, club rides and pick-up rides. Often, bike shop rides and club rides offer groups for riders of differing levels.

More: 10 Training Fundamentals for Cyclists

If they have a beginner group, with a leader that helps with skills, this is a great way to get introduced to group riding. The structure also allows you to ride with faster groups when you want a tough workout, or ride with the not-as-fast-groups when you want to take it easier.

If you join a club, you will enter races under that club (or team) name. These teams usually offer team clothing options for purchase by members. Only the big—and fast—dogs don't pay for team clothing.

Generally, pick-up rides are much less structured and meet at a coffee shop, a store or someone's front door. Some of these rides are open to anyone, while others are by invitation only. In some cases, the goal of the group ride is to...well...race. It is better to know this upfront.

More: High Intensity Interval Training for Beginners

3. Find a Mentor. It is really helpful to have an experienced racer take you under his or her wing. Having someone to help you learn the ropes significantly decreases your learning curve.

4. Watch Bike Racing. Catch the Tour de France--or any other bike race--on television or on the internet. Good commentators help you learn about bike racing skills and tactics. For the more subtle issues, head back to your mentor or club for some help.

5. Read About Bike Racing. A good book on competing is Racing Tactics for Cyclists by Thomas Prehn. VeloNews covers racing top to bottom.

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