Tag: Bike Racing Basics

Little V – Making a Statement

Calling it a Career (in the 5’s that is)

After a great season as a Cat 5 racing i have finally upgraded to a Cat 4. For those who are unfamiliar with the upgrade process the only requirement to upgrade from a Cat 5 to a Cat 4 is 10 race starts (USA Cycling events). Now to the point of this post, after a racing the Cat 5 level since March (remember when we all raced at the Burnham race, and we froze are you know whats off), i feel that i have learned a couple things that may help new racers. So here is my top ten pieces of advice for new Cat 5 Racers:

10) Expect to suck, this sport is hard and very few people dominate their first race (ie Todd’s performance in his first race at Sunday’s Chicago Crit is not normal). After a tough race its always good to take a look at the following link it puts things in perspective. http://www.chicagobikeracing.com/index.php/site/post/tip_18_expect_to_suck/

9) Take the time to read Chicagobikeracing.com, it has a ton of useful information. I highly recommend reading all of the 33 tips posted on the site:

8) Plan a racing weekend trip, great way to bond with your teammates, i have done two of these trips and they were incredible experience. (even though i had to share a king bed with dan both time, fyi dan steals all the covers)

7) Hang out after the race, this gives you a chance to meet the people you race against and get to know the people in the chicago bike racing community. If you want to meet someone Dean probably knows them!

6) Ask Questions, the spidermonkey racing team is pretty good at helping each other out. Nate and Bryan Merrill are always full of good racing advice. If there is something you want to know about racing dont hesitate to ask.

5) Take a weekend off once a month. This is my best piece of advice, the season is long and you could race every weekend from may thourgh september. I think it is important to remember that bike racing isnt my job, i already have one of those. So once a month I take a weekend and I dont race. This allows me to attend team rides and live the “party life style” at least one weekend a month. (you know its my weekend off when i show up to the team ride with a bag of cookies and a can of coke)

4) Come on the Wednesday ride, there are a lot of guys who race that come on Wednesday, its a great way to test yourself and learn paceline techniques. Not to mention the JJ Peppers stop allows time to meet other racers in the area, including Chicago Crit legend Andy Daley.

3) Support your teammates! This is soooo important, if you support them, they will support you. Cheer them on at races, attend team social events and hang out when you can. The team is what makes racing fun!

2) Start early in the season. As the season progresses guys get into better shape and the racing gets harder.

1) Have fun! This is a hobby, and the most important part is having fun. This doesnt mean i dont compete as hard as i can, but i remind myself its fun. Do crazy events (ie: street sprints, the lelend road race, snake alley) try different events, try everything, you wont be sorry!

I hope this helps and provides a little bit of good advice, if anyone has any questions about racing please dont hesitate to ask me.

Shake and bake’


Other good tips:

Grow a Mustache, it adds speed (ask Dan)
Remeber your shoes on race day (ask shea or witry)
Buy two pair of Bibs! (ask any racer on the team)
Be humble (we all know what i am talking about)
Thank your team when they support you (there is no I in team)
Dont become a race snob (just becuase you race doesnt mean you are any better than those who dont race, no one likes race snobs!)
Train together (i just like riding with people)
Toward the end of your cat 5 career try some 4/5 races (it helps see what the next level is like, i did 4 of these in the last couple months)

Other racers: Please publish any addition tips in the comment section or make your own list of tips.

Wanna Race?

Among the reasons I joined Spidermonkey cycling last year was that they were not a singular group of racers. Though there is a little crazy racer in some of us that does not define the team. I can race because I like it, and excel because I work to earn it and I know some others on the team feel the same way. But, more importantly, I know I’ll never get a call from Dean or Can telling me I must race and if I don’t to find another team (yes, that does happen on some other teams).

Needless to say, once a Spidermonkey chooses to race they excel at it, because…well, we piss excellence.

Since I have been trying to convince some tentative members to race it is only fair that we provide a bit of guidance. Simply because though I wanted to race, I was scared shitless in the weeks and months before my first race on April 5, 2008. Because of this I thought a few blog entries could help answer a few of the 1000 burning questions I’m sure you may have.

Anyone want to chime in and add a few comments, please do. This should be revised as often as needed. Thanks…

The Institute of Pissing Excellence presents:
A Monkey’s Guide to Bike Racing

The entries will address these areas:
Part ONE: Bike Racing basics
Part TWO: Race Training & Tactical basics (cause that’s all I know)
Part THREE: Specific race preparation: the business end of bike racing

Part ONE

Part one contains the basic essentials of bike racing, most of which you probably already know. If not, well then…here you go.

First, go to the Chicago Bike Racing site and look at the 2009 race schedule. Then poke around the site. Luke has done a outstanding job at organizing the cycling scene in the Chicago area. There is a link on just to the right…

Organizational Structure: USAC & ABR

There are different organizations that oversee our sport both in the Midwest and nationally. The two that matter to us are 1) USAC/USCF (U.S. Cycling Federation) and 2) ABR (American Bike Racing). Spidermonkey Cycling is a USAC cycling club…every team is. Each organization is exclusive and require that you, as an individual, purchase a racing license to participate in their sponsored events. If you know you will do more than just a few races it is wise to purchase an annual license, if you only plan to do one or two, you can purchase a one day license at the race, and that will do the trick.

So what is the difference between USAC and ABR?



Regarding licenses: if you indend to race, purchase a licens. You must have the license on you when you register and check in on race day. I you forget it, you must purchase a one day license and your results won’t count towrd your USCF ranking and such.

To buy a USAC/USCF license, follow the link below and indicate “Spidermonkey Cycling” under the drop down meny for team/club.


Bike Racing 101: Crits vs. Road Races

There are two kinds of races you can do: crits and road races. Then there are also time trials or TTs. The length of each race is measured differently. Road races are longer and are over when “x” miles have been ridden. Criteriums measured in time are advertised as “x” minuets plus one or two laps (cat 5s: 20 min +2). TTs are fixed length and you race solo – you against the clock. In general, Category 5 crits are 25-45 min and road races +27 miles.

They also have field size limits. I think that straight cat 5 races top out at 50 or 75 racers; mixed field (cat 4/5) top out at 75. Most races will have less than 50 racers, the bigger, more popular races (Chicago, Evanston, Monsters) will have the maximum.

So what can you expect in a typical race?
I’ll go over this in more detail as the first races get closer. In the mean time, know that you will be nervous and will not sleep much the night before the race. I have read that the most important rest you can get before a race is two nights before a key race – sleep well Thursday night for a Saturday race; Friday, be resigned to toss and turn.

On race day, you should plan to arrive between 1.5 – 2 hours before your the race begins. First, you will use the bathroom (trust me); then you will find registration and pay your fee, get your race number and other pertinent information. Now you are free to get ready to race.

Set up your bike, fill your tires (if necessary), double check your brakes and see that everything is working. Then get dressed. Bring a beach towel so you can change without scaring someone’s family, also bring your trainer. Some races will have room for us to warm up on the road, others (most) do not – actually it is just easier to have your trainer so bring it to every race. Then start to warm up. As a cat 5 your race will be short and therefore the warm up is very important – actually its always important for crits because of the nature of that kind of racing. Basically, good advice is to get to the line still sweaty. At the Winfield Twilight Crit I arrived 20 min before the start, rushed to get everything together, took my two free laps to warm up and then the race started. My HR never settled, and I had a poor performance. I was much stronger than my placing but…couldawouldashoulda: I learned my lesson. The following day I arrived +2 hrs before my race and warmed up thoroughly: I did much better and had a lot more fun.

Actually, arriving early has it’s own benefits. That second day at Winfield (ABR championships) because I was there way too early, I got to talk to a few racers. One guy was racing in the +70 masters age group, he was scheduled to have hernia surgery that following Tuesday. He’d been racing for like 30 years and he and his wife have been active in the host club (ABD) for years. He was just damn impressive and he totally helped me relax a bit…lots of interesting people race. Chat it up with other racers, relax as much as possible because you will race better because of it and have more fun. And remember, racing is fun!

So, what about racing itself. What can I expect? What is it like? How fast are they? How close will other riders be? What if I…um…crash?

Regarding crashes, I’ll repeat what I’ve been told: crashes happen in bike racing. Unless you are incredibly lucky, it will happen to you. I dread it too, but hey, that racing! That is why bike racers are some of the toughest hombres or muchachas out there, even those who are recovering triathletes.

The start. Everyone lines up at the start line, the closer to the front the better off you’ll be — but that is not totally true. I usually never line up right on the front, usually I’m a few guys back. The starter will make a short speech, check that your number is visibly pinned on the correct side, shout “riders ready!” and then blow the whistle and you’re off racing. The first few seconds move in slow motion when everyone pushes off and attempts to get clipped in. If you’re on the front, you’ll probably mess this up; if you’re in the back you’ll get clipped in without a problem, but I bet the guy in front of you will mess up screw up your mojo!

Once the race begins, all those nerves quickly disappear. You will have questioned yourself: why the F am I doing this? This is stupid! I could be doing a million other things! I live like a hermit for this kind of agony? You may have even invited friends to watch. Why the F did you do that? Nevertheless, once the race begins you (may) forget you ever considered not racing. In just a few seconds, you are a bike racer in a race and the adrenaline helps you focus on the important stuff. After the race – regardless how you placed – you will stand around and chat with other racers and plan your next race.

Speed: my races last year averaged 23-25.5 mph. That means we went slower at times and way faster at others. Typically, the range runs anywhere from 20 going into a corner to 30 mph coming out of a corner. In crits, the pace changes suddenly and that is what kills many new racers – train for it.

Back to the race…After a few laps people calm down and you’ll clearly get used to the flow and know the dangerous corners, the ones you’ll need to sprint out of and, most importantly, you’ll be able to eyeball the sketchy riders. Corners and sketchy riders are the most dangerous things in a bike race and the only way to be perfectly safe is to be off the front or way off the back. Though, I don’t really advise either.

When entering a corner: hold your line all the way through. By changing your line you put riders at risk of crossing wheels with you and crashing. This crash will be your fault (either as the rider behind, or the rider in front). So, look ahead through the corner to where you are going, avoid staring at the wheel in front of you – know where it is, but don’t become fixated.

The most important rule in bike racing is to protect your front wheel. Other people do stupid things that may cause you to crash, but if you protect your front wheel, this will not happen often.

The only way to know how to do this is a far cry from reading about it. It comes from practice, and that requires the damn weather to clear. When our team rides resume, this is when we practice all the subtle things that help prepare you to race.

Well that’s enough for today…Part Two will discuss holding your line, and riding with a bunch of other nervous cat 5s at high speed and close proximity and race training.

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