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?" These 10 tips will help you do just that.
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.
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.
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 subtler 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.