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11 Tips to Prepare for Your First Bike Race

Completing your first bike race can be pretty nerve-wracking, but preparing for it can help you get to the starting line feeling confident and ready. The bike race tips below will help you prepare for your first bike race.

1. Choose the right race.

A group of cyclists racing.

There are many different types of cycling races out there, including:1

  • Road races: A road race can range from 30 to 200 miles and is sorted into categories based on skill level. Usually, riders participate as part of a team, but you can also complete a road race solo.
  • Gravel grinders: These races are great for beginners, with courses winding through lesser-known backroads. Although it does require more technical knowledge to cycle on gravel, you can develop this skill with practice. The gravel grinders’ culture is very welcoming to beginners.
  • Mountain bike races: These races usually offer different categories for different ability levels. You can expect them to be challenging, dirty, and fun with a more relaxed environment than road racing.
  • Cyclocross: Much like mountain bike races, cyclocross races take place on challenging courses full of obstacles and require skills like jumping, but they’re generally pretty relaxed. These races only last about 30 minutes but are very high-intensity.

Make sure to thoroughly research a race and course before you sign up for it. Most races are rated based on factors like length and difficulty, so you can decide which race is best for you based on your interests, experience, and skill level.

2. Get the proper gear.

Helmets at a bike shop.

The gear you need will vary depending on the type of race you’ll be completing. In most cases, you’ll want to make sure you have the following items:

  • Bike
  • Helmet
  • Apparel (spandex kit, cycling shorts, and jersey, or performance-oriented shorts and t-shirt)
  • Mountain bike or road cycling shoes (You don’t necessarily need cycling shoes, but they may be helpful for performance purposes. Research your options to find what works best for you, or visit a local bike shop for recommendations.)
  • Bike repair kit
  • Food
  • Water

3. Spend plenty of time on your bike.

Mountain biker going down trail.

During the months and weeks before the race, spend lots of time training on your bike to ensure you’re prepared for the big day. Make sure you’re riding often, too (most serious cyclists ride daily). If the weather isn’t cooperating, you can still train indoors with Vingo. Once you get used to riding frequently, try to schedule a longer ride once a week so you can also grow accustomed to being in the saddle for long periods. 

Also, consider the type of cycling race you’ll complete and adjust to training to meet those demands. For example, train on the same terrain you’ll be racing on. Or practice riding fast with a group of racers if you plan to compete in a road race. Similarly, if the race course is very hilly, train with lots of hill climbing. Or if it’s very long, focus on building your endurance.

4. Practice group riding with a club.

A group of cyclists taking a hard left turn on a road.

If you’ve never ridden with a group before, it’s a good idea to get some practice before the race. Join several group rides with a local bike club so you can get used to riding next to other cyclists at high speeds. In doing so, you’ll learn about the essential group cycling etiquette rules and the benefits of riding alongside other cyclists. Riding with a group will also help you establish proper positioning on race day and pace yourself so you don’t get dropped during challenging climbs or other complex segments of the race route.

5. Experiment with eating and drinking on your bike.

A cyclists taking a break drinking water next to the ocean.

Eating and drinking while cycling is a skill you’ll need to develop over time. As you train in the weeks and months leading up to your race, practice refueling while you ride and experiment with different food options to find what works best for you.

Some cyclists prefer energy gels or chews, while others like to bring along portable solid foods, like bananas or small sandwiches. If you’re unsure about what you should and shouldn’t be eating while training and racing on a bike, check out our guide on the best foods and drinks for cyclists.

6. Practice cycling with your race-day gear.

A cyclists on a road.

Of all the bike race tips, this is one of the most important. Riding with all the gear you plan to wear and use on race day will help you prepare by reducing any unfamiliar experiences so you can focus and perform your best.

For example, if you’ve never used cycling shoes, it might be a strange sensation the first few times. Break in those shoes with lots of practice, and you’ll feel more confident in them on race day. Similarly, make sure you know how your shorts and apparel fit and feel while riding and get familiar with how to use your other gear before the big day arrives.

7. Get a license.

Paper with a license on the top.

Some races require that you get a license before racing in the event. Usually, you can get them online or on race day. We recommend doing it ahead of time. Don’t forget to pack it with your gear if you have a printed version instead of a digital one!

8. Inspect your bike a few days before the race.

Woman at a bike shop looking at her bike.

The day before the race, take some time to thoroughly inspect your bike and make sure it’s working correctly. Test all of its functions, including the gear shifts and brakes. Check to make sure nothing is loose, your tires are in excellent condition, and clean and lubricate your chain. Many bike care tasks are the same whether you ride indoors or outdoors, so check out our guide on indoor bike maintenance for more details.

9. Eat and drink wisely the night before the race and the morning of.

Close up of oatmeal and fruit.

Another bike race tip that will help you succeed on race day is fueling your body properly. Avoid experimenting with new foods before a race, and stick to what you know works well for your body. If you typically carb load to enhance your athletic performance, then continue to do that. Otherwise, maintain your regular diet and plan to bring portable snacks, energy gels, or chews along with you for the ride. Ensure you also hydrate well the night before and the day of the event.

10. Arrive early on race day.

A cyclists happy on mountain looking at camera smiling.

Nothing would be worse than arriving late or at the wrong location. Plan to get there early, so you have plenty of extra time to get to the race’s starting location, register, pin your number on your jersey, and use the restroom. This will take some planning, but it will help ensure that things go smoothly on race day. It would be best if you also arrived with enough time to squeeze in a short warm-up to prepare your mind and body.

11. Do your best and have fun.

A group of women mountain bikers holding bikes with big smiles.

Another helpful bike race tip is to remember that all you can do is your best, so enjoy the experience! Even the best racers have off days; if you fall behind, it’s not the end of the world. No matter what happens, you can still have fun, finish strong, and walk away feeling proud of your accomplishment. You’ll learn many valuable lessons you can carry into your next race.

Key Takeaways:

There are plenty of delicious and healthy snack options to fuel your workouts, even if you’re not the best cook. With a few simple ingredients, you can give your body what it needs and wants, so you feel good before, during, and after your workouts.

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Sources:

  1. Cycling, U. (2021, July 27). Bike Races for Beginners |How To Start Bike Racing. USA Cycling. https://usacycling.org/get-involved/find-support/ 

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