At some point, you decided to go from simply riding to racing bicycles.
But switching from recreational bicycling to actual, aggressive competition can offer some shocks and surprises. Be ready for them by taking time to prep for the big day. If you need some advice, here’s how to prepare for your first cycling race.
Tune Up Your Bike
It should go without saying that your bike needs to be in prime condition for the race. By and large, before any excursion, always check the air in the tires, the brakes, and the chain—remember it this way: A-B-C. Make sure the tires are in good condition, with no scrapes, cracks, or potential punctures.
Ensure the air pressure is right in the tires, adjusting for weather and track conditions. Lift up the bike and check to see that the wheels spin without wobbling. The brakes should work properly, of course, and your chain should be clean and well-oiled.
If you’re not handy yourself, bring it to the shop for an all-point inspection and tune-up.
Know the Course
If you can visit and ride the course in advance, do so. Eliminate surprises on race day by familiarizing yourself with the topography and feel of the course, any potential distractions, hazards, or obstacles, and so on. If you aren’t allowed on the course, do some online research and search for footage of previous races, photographs of the course, and accounts from other riders.
Sometimes you can get a feel for the race before your wheels hit the track.
Practice in Groups
If you aren’t already training with a group of fellow cyclists, find a pack and ask if you can train with them. Practicing sprints, climbing, and so forth on your own is all well and good, but if you don’t know how to do those things in a close-quartered pack of other riders, you won’t race your best, and you risk a crash that can take you and several other cyclists down.
Riding in a group also sharpens your peripheral vision, keeping you alert to other riders’ positions. You can also practice offering verbal or touch warnings if there’s a risk of a crash, and work on those exciting group sprints in the final part of a race.
Warm Up/Check Up
When considering how to prepare for your first cycling race, don’t forget to warm up beforehand. Every physical activity should feature a warm-up, but it’s especially necessary with bicycle races. Before the event, take a few turns around the parking lot of a nearby stretch of road to loosen up your legs and get a feel for the weather and road conditions.
It’s a good last-minute check for your bike and equipment as well. Does something feel off about the way your bike rides or handles? Make sure your protective helmet feels snug and secure and doesn’t slip or slide. Note anything slightly off, make the appropriate adjustments, and get ready to race!