It might be for a charity race or it might be for sheer competition, but you finally did it: you signed up for a bike race. It’s an exciting thing to think about, and you can’t wait to experience the energy and the adrenaline that comes with it. Even if it’s a short race, there are a few important guidelines to follow so you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else. Here’s a list of a few do’s and don’ts during your first bike race.
- Do wear your helmet
First off, it’s a rule in every bike race out there. It’s a good rule of thumb as well. Even if your race has the roads cleared out (and some of them don’t always have the highway completely free), you need to make sure you have your helmet. Ending a race prematurely with a head injury is never on anyone’s to-do list, and even if you get sweaty or feel like you look dumb, wear your helmet. It’s your life.
- Do fitness in advance to prepare yourself
Biking has always felt pretty easy. You feel like you’re flying, and whizzing past people on sidewalks and mountain trails always feels pretty awesome. However, bike racing requires a bit of physical fitness to really give you a competitive edge. Train on your bike and off it. Do some uphill bicycling to improve your lung capacity and strength. Do some other exercises in between bicycling days so you can balance out your fitness routine.
- Do find a group of cyclists to go biking with
The more group bike riding you do, the better you’ll get at understanding how to coordinate in bike races. Have you ever had a horrifying image in your head of one bicycle toppling and upsetting other cyclists? It’s pretty ugly, and getting used to riding in groups will help prevent accidents like that. You can explore options of group rides. There are faster riders, or there are riders who prefer to take it slower. Figure out your style and join a group. Once you have completed at least a dozen group rides or more, you’ll be ready for a bike race.
- Don’t fly off immediately when the race starts
It’s so tempting, we know. After all, your race is just beginning and you’ve never done this before, and you start singing about how you’re not going to miss your shot and…just chill. Just…chill. If you give a good start – we’re not talking tortoise-slow – with a good, steady pace, you’ll let the more experienced bicyclists get ahead. If you’re trying to be competitive, just count on not winning this one. It doesn’t mean you can’t be competitive, but don’t rush the crowd. It’s dangerous and will do little for your speed and chances of winning.
- Don’t race without researching your race
This is pretty obvious, but you need to research the kind of race you’re doing. You might be racing as part of a charity to help find the cure for cancer, or you might be in a long road race. If you’re in a charity race, then chances are competition is a little less demanding than a long road race. If you’re doing a long road race, figure out the kind of terrain you’ll be on and train for that.
- Don’t train yourself too hard at first
Depending on how far in advance the race is, you don’t really need to concentrate on specific training regimens to do. It can take the fun out of bike riding. Of course, you should still challenge yourself and find the joy in the journey, but try to just get in a decent fitness in the beginning. Then, once you’ve got down a routine of exercise, you can start honing your strengths and improving your weaknesses.
Overall, the most important thing is to understand yourself. Know what kind of racing you like. If you’re a slower rider, there’s no shame in that. If you’re really competitive, try to find a way to channel that without injuring yourself or anyone else. Push yourself, but listen to your body. You can still have fun.