Becoming a Real Bicycle Racer: A Primer

This is a primer on how to become a real(TM) bicycle racer. If you take these steps seriously, its time to change sports.

Getting Started:

  1. Before you even try one race, go out and spend $2000 on a racing bicycle. Forget trying to put lighter wheels on your present bike, the Olympics are just around the corner and you can't take chances on equipment.
  2. Forget about joining a racing club. This is bike racing, not a coffee klatch. You have to spend time on the bike to get stronger, not sit around learning valuable thing like race tactics.
  3. Don't bother to have somebody help you set up your bike position. Everybody is built differently, so you don't want to be set up like somebody else.


  1. Always train alone. If you train with other racers you will become familiar with riding in a pack and will therefore become too comfortable riding in a group and less likely to try and breakaway during a race.
  2. Ride in the biggest gear possible. This is bike racing which means the big chainring. And since the pros ride the big ring up the hills and you aspire to becoming a pro, you just gotta mash the big meat.
  3. At all costs, do not spin. At RPM's over 90, the bike becomes hard to control, especially because you are flopping all over the saddle, this can only be dangerous.
  4. Since novice races are only 10 to 25 miles long, that's all the distance you need to do in training. Hey, why do a 50 miler if you are only gonna be in a 15 mile criterium. Forget the fact that if you're planning to move up in category you'll need the mileage. When you get upgraded you will become stronger by default.
  5. Only ride where you can be seen by other racers/members of the opposite sex. Stay away from hills and backroads, there are no cars there to observe your fine riding style. Stick to busy streets where you will be assured of being seen. You spent a lot of money creating this image, better not waste it.
  6. Always go as hard as you can everyday. Rest days are for wimps, plus this bike racing is hard stuff and you're gonna need every mile you can get. If you feel yourself getting tired, it is an indication that you are out of shape. Double your workouts!!!!
  7. When you are riding in a paceline and it is your turn to take a pull at the front, pick up the pace a good 2 or 3 mph. Forget that this will disrupt the smoothness and efficiency of the group. If the other riders in the paceline don't want to suffer as much as you obviously want to, then show them by rocketing off the front, they are wimps and you don't need them.
  8. After your first three rides you have nothing more to learn about riding a bike. Hey, you have been doing it since you were a kid, that's experience. If anybody tries to make a helpful suggestion, don't listen! They are your enemy in a race, why are they trying to help you out now?


  1. If alloy wasn't worth it, they would not be selling it. Spend all your off the bike time searching for aluminum and titanium bolts and washers, cable housing and the like. Steel stuff went out in the late 60's, time to get with it. Do not worry about the reliability of these components, the reason the pros do not use the light and trick stuff is because it's not part of their sponsorship contract.
  2. Since wheels are the most important part of the bike, extra effort is needed here. The fewer the spokes the better, the thinner the spokes the better. If the wheel folds up, it was built wrong.
  3. Tires are critical and weight is far more important than durability. Everybody flats, so if you happen to lose the race because your 165gm Seta Triple Extras punctured, your time was due.
  4. General thought about components. Buy the most readily unavailable components you can find. 3-6 month special order items are particularly desirable. Forget about the fact that if something breaks you cannot race, the time off the bike can be well spent researching an even more obscure component that is probably more durable as well.

Preparation the Day Before the Race:

  1. It is important that you wait to do any serious bike maintenance until the night before the race. Repack the headset, put on a new chain and glue on some new tires. Don't bother to road test the bike. Racing is much more demanding than road testing so, any really critical problems will not be found by testing. Problems that arise during the race, like a new chain skipping on the freewheel were most likely unavoidable anyway.
  2. When gluing on your tires, be sure and leave a lot of glue on the rims. This causes the brakes to squeal and lets everyone know you're coming. "I mean, get outta my way, Bub".
  3. Don't bother washing your racing clothes. If they smell the other racers will know that you have been training hard and give you more respect.

Preparation on Race Day:

  1. When registering, give everybody a hard time. Push your way in the line, forget your racing license and be sure and make a big stink about the prize list. "I mean only $1000 for a category IV criterium, hey a guy's gotta eat." If the prize list is not in cash, throw an immediate temper tantrum. These promoters have got to be brought into line. Just try putting a Sedis Sport chain in your gas tank.
  2. Make sure to bitch and moan about your sponsor to anyone within earshot with comments like, "It's my first year of racing and all my sponsor gave me was clothing, a frame and 10 Vittoria tires. Geez, no money, I mean how am I gonna win with support like this."
  3. Be sure and remind the registrar to tell the announcer that you will only be sprinting for $25 CASH(yes, CASH) primes or greater. "Hey, I'm not laying my body on the line for anything less!"
  4. Leave your bike in the car until just before the race. This keeps it warm, especially on hot days, and if you need to warm up, so does your bike. Forget about the fact that it softens your rim glue, rolling tires in a race is just about as common as crashing.
  5. Be sure to borrow all sorts of tools from everybody else, but don't bring your own tool kit or somebody may borrow some of your tools. Forget about returning any borrowed items, if the owner really wanted them back he would come to you and ask for them.
  6. Be sure to warm up ON the race course, preferably while another race is in progress. This will give you a really good idea of how the conditions will be during your race and you can get a much better warm-up by drafting other riders. Be inconspicuous though, don't draft the breakaway, just draft off of the pack.
  7. When pinning on your number, don't bother to check which side of the road the place pickers are standing on. Hey, they'll remember you out of that pack of 90 riders, "I mean c'mon, I'm the classiest guy out here." When in doubt just put in the upper two pins so the number flaps up and is totally unreadable from any angle. This will force the dirt bag promoter to spend $2000 on a photo-finish camera for next year's race.

During the Race:

  1. Put your bike in a really large gear, this is bike racing and that means its gonna be fast. Forget the fact that you can't turn it over from a standing start, when you become a pro, they'll have rolling starts and it will no longer matter.
  2. Better yet don't do a standing start. Circle about at the back of the pack and when the gun goes off, go charging into the whole group at full speed. Just because nobody that is any good ever does this is no reason not for you to try it, maybe they could be even better.
  3. When everyone else is setting up to take a fast line through the corners, make a move on the inside. Don't forget to yell "Inside, Inside" to let everyone know about the bozo taking the bad line through the corner.
  4. In criteriums, take full lap pulls. While this will tire you out, you will appear like a real animal to the crowd and you never know which pro scouts could be in attendance.
  5. In a road race, dangle about 50 to 100 yards off the front. This shows you have guts and its only a matter of time before the 100 guys behind you lose their motivation to chase and you're gone!
  6. No need to keep a mental note on how many laps are left. Most of the time the officials are as confused as you are. Hey, if you go with 2 laps left thinking its the bell lap, you might just stay out there long enough to win.
  7. Chase anything that moves and don't forget to tow the pack up with you. Its not a good idea to make your own jump and bridge up to a breakaway by yourself because if you could catch them, then the pack is likely to do the same.
  8. Even if you have a teammate in the break, chase it down. You never know when the guy could bonk and get dropped.
  9. If you get lapped, do not drop out, even if commanded by a USCF official. You paid your entry fee and are allowed to be in the race. If a breakaway comes by, get in it. You may get towed back up to the field and you'll definitely pick up some experience about riding in a paceline. Make sure to do your share of the work, though, even if it means slowing the pace of the leaders and disrupting the group. There is no reason you should not have been in the breakaway in the first place, I guess there is justice after all.
  10. In the sprint, just go for it. Don't bother working for position in the last couple of laps, or trying to get on a good wheel. Just because a guy won the last 5 prime sprints is no reason to get on his wheel, after all, he is probably tired and will die in the final sprint.
  11. It is important to shift in the middle of the sprint, when you finally get on top of the gear, get a bigger one, you will go faster.

Post race:

  1. Complain about your place no matter how you did. The judges are usually kind-hearted and you can pick up a few places, especially if you throw a tantrum.
  2. Never trust the place pickers. "Hey I know I got 14th. When all 75 of us were coming across the line at 35mph, I counted and I was 14th. I want my $2."
  3. One of the best ways for your sponsor's name to get remembered is to be a royal pain in the butt. Even 2 hours after your race is finished, keep haggling the officials about your placing. Who knows, maybe somebody didn't claim their prize.
  4. When splitting primes, if you have the cash and there is nothing in writing, it's yours(boy, there are some pretty dumb racers out there!). On the other hand, if you're splitting and the other guy has the loot, don't bother to ask politely, demand your share and back it up with threat of physical violence.
  5. Don't bother to help out at any race. Even if it is your own club putting on the event. Remember, you are a bike racer. Those guys setting up the finish line couldn't be real bike racers, otherwise they would not be helping out.

[email protected] (Bruce Hildenbrand)
Revision: 1/4/92