I have been asked several times what advice I would give the up and coming cyclist. Cycling is a beautiful sport. Not only does it promote health and wellness, but it is also completely liberating. When approached properly, it is a sport that has longevity and challenge. It has purity and depth that not many other sports can give.
Should you race? If you want to. If not, just challenge yourself each day with a goal, even if that goal is to do a local century or beat your friends on your commute. These are goals and a challenge. You don’t have to race. Bikes can simply take you from Point A to Point B.
If you do race…
- Bike racing is fun. You are out there because you paid the money to ride your bike around in circles, so enjoy it. Laugh. Have fun. Don’t take it too seriously, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Simply giggle like a child and have fun.
- Join a team or a club. It promotes camaraderie, and it also gives you that accountability to get out there and ride.
- Rest. Don’t overdo it. Be good at resting. Sometimes resting is more important than the training. I like to consider laying out by the pool or getting a pedicure excellent forms of rest.
- Be polite to your officials and fellow racers. You are all out there with a common purpose and goal, even though only one person can cross the finish line first, doesn’t mean you are entitled to be rude. Be competitive, but be respectful.
- Take risks. I am not talking about risks in a corner or descent, I am talking about risks in the race. Attack. Get to the front. Play. Race. Don’t just sit there. If you wanted to just follow wheels, go do a Gran Fondo. Racing is nothing without just that. Racing. Yes, it hurts, but it hurts everyone out there. You will never know if you don’t try.
- Don’t take risks. Now I am talking about corners and descents. Make sure the risks do not out weigh the rewards. The local crit may not be worth you laying your entire body out on the line. Literally. Be smart.
- Attack and don’t look back.
- The race is always in front of you. Always ahead of you. It is never behind you. Don’t spend your time looking around or behind you. Look forward, pedal your bike, and race.
- Sometimes racing can be training. Pick out races that you want to excel in, and you can train through others. This gives your the opportunity to not take every race so seriously, and to learn new skills and tactics, while gaining fitness. But, if the opportunity presents itself, go for it. Win, by all means.
- Always thank your teammates and your support crew. Bike racing isn’t the most intriguing to watch sometimes, and if you have someone in the feed zone on a blistering summer day, they aren’t only there to get a tan. They cared.
- Bike racing isn’t rocket science. Don’t think too hard. Follow your instincts and learn. It can be a chess game on two wheels, or it can be a drag race requiring no brains. React. Race. Learn. You have to make mistakes to learn.
- Keep the porta-potty clean and use 8 pins for your number.
Bike racing may not be for everybody, but riding bikes is for everybody. Enjoy your freedom and the fresh air. Enjoy your bike, and be safe.