If you have been suddenly bitten by the road bike racing bug your first question naturally would be “Where do I start?”The sport is invigorating and most beginners quickly move on from the curiosity phase to the passion level. However, it has to be kept in mind that if you really want to make a mark in this sport, you have to go about it in a systematic way, train hard and above all maintain a high level of fitness.
Here are a few tips for you to get started.
- Fitness – This is on top of the list because without fitness and an ability to stay on the saddle for 2 to 3 hours at a stretch you cannot really compete at any level. Here you need to draw a line between plain country rides and road racing which is tough and takes a lot of physical stamina. Aerobic fitness is the key here. Work out hours at the gym on the treadmill as this will go a long way to strengthening your muscles too. Talk to an instructor, inform your plans about being a road bike racer and follow the regimen strictly as laid down by the coach.
- Group rides – This is where you will get down to the basics and start off. Find out about local group rides which can range from local bike club sponsored rides, bike shop hosted rides and guided rides. In all such cases, the riders will usually be segregated by category – beginners and experienced professionals. In the beginner groups there will be a leader who will herd the bikers along and set the pace. You can slowly move on to faster groups as your stamina and techniques get better. It is also possible to structure your training programme in group rides. Go with a fast cluster when you want a vigorous workout and with a slower one when you want to cover long distances.
- Get a mentor – It is always advisable to find a mentor who can guide you along. This should be done at the initial stages only because right driving skills will be ingrained into you by your mentor from the beginning. It will help you also to considerably lessen the learning period as you will be helped by a professional who can impart the small tips that will get you ahead of the others.
There is another side to it. Being guided by a mentor will help you prevent crashes in the beginning as you will quickly pick up the required skills. Further, you will be guided on where to get your equipment and bike serviced and maintained at specialist centres. For example, if you have a car and is involved in an accident in Melbourne, going to an authorised workshop for smash repairs at Hoppers Crossing should be your preferred option. Similar is the case for your bike where accredited service centre can get it back to perfect shape.
- Watch professional bike races – With the Internet around you can watch major bike racing to pick up riding skills. Follow the commentators as they go into the technical side of the races and talk about the finer points of bike racing. Most of them have been professional riders in their heydays and are well qualified to comment on driving skills. For subtle and other technical issues that needs further clarification you can go back to the drawing board with your mentor.
Another tactic is to read on racing tactics. These books offer great tips on riding styles and how you can improve yourself.
- Contact professional organisations – Most countries have Olympic committees that support various sports and cycling is one of them. Check the Internet for clubs that are authorised by the Olympic committees for preservation, development and administration of the sport. When you feel that it is time to get to an advanced level, join one of these clubs for further training.
- Type of race and category – There are various types of road biking such as time trial, hill climb, circuit race and road race. You have to have an experience in all of them if you have to increase your riding skills. Some types require lightning fast speed over very short distances while for others it is more of stamina over extended periods. After selecting your type, the training schedule should be structured accordingly.
Racers have to choose the category they want to participate in too. For those new to the sport there are “Citizen’s Races” which have a more laidback style. Others are divided by age groups and gender. These events are generally for beginners and non-licensed racers and more of fun events than anything else. However, it is an excellent way to start off on a professional biking career.
These are just a few tips for beginners in road racing that you will do well to follow.