Getting into bike racing can be an intimidating thing….speed, crashes, that waiver they make you sign that says “I understand that bike racing is an inherently dangerous sport..”, skinny racers with expensive stuff. But it’s also really fun, social, great for staying in shape and exciting when you approach it the right way.
If there was Emily Post guide to race day etiquette it would encourage you to keep it fun and competitive while observing these common sense rules for a fantastic race day for everybody:
DO: Read the race bible or technical guide before you show up. Plan accordingly. If the flyer says registration closes for your race one hour before your scheduled start time – they mean it. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the race, park, find registration. Your race day will go much more smoothly if you can be relaxed about these preliminaries.
DON’T: Yell at officials, registration staff, volunteers, race promoters etc. if you didn’t do the above. They publish that flyer and schedule for a reason. It’s your job to know it. Yelling is never nice, but I see it a lot at races. Something about the stress of competition can bring out the worst in people. If you show up ten minutes before race time and the registration volunteers tell you that the race closed 30 minutes ago chalk it up to lessons learned and read the fine print next time.
DO: Thank the volunteers, police, promoters. Likely those volunteers have been standing in a corner keeping you safe for hours all for the glory of a bottle of water and maybe a race t-shirt. But they made your day possible. Make sure you let them know you appreciate it.
DO: Before your first race, get experienced riding in groups. Check out the teams in your area, look for local training races and group rides. Getting used to riding in tight quarters before trying to do it at speed is really important and will make you much more comfortable when you are in an actual race. Plus, you’ll make friends to go to the race with -making it WAY more fun and social.
DON’T: Ride erratically. Sudden “line” changes. Swerving. Braking in turns. All of these things will get you branded as squirrelly or worse. It will get you yelled at. Nobody in a race wants to get injured or lose a race because somebody decided to abruptly sit up in a turn – and when tension is high and people are in “race” mode they aren’t going to point out your mistakes diplomatically. In other words, pay attention to your surroundings. Every swerve, stop or sudden movement impacts those around you. Ride with this awareness and you’ll be great.
DO: Know the rules for bike racing and the type of race you’ve signed up for – there are differences. You’ll have a choice between criteriums, road or circuit races and time trials. For example: Criteriums have a “free lap” rule. Road racing does not. This particular piece of knowledge can come in very handy if you flat or crash! Crit racing also has rules about lapped riders working with race leaders etc. It’s your job to know the rules before you come out to play.
DON’T: Show up on a bike covered and dust and rust that hasn’t left the garage since 1985.
DO: Make sure your equipment is race-ready before you line up. I once lined up at the start of a race with a girl who knew that her front tire “had been going flat, but it will be okay….” Sure enough two laps later and well established in the break her front tire blew while we were going through a chicane – taking all of us out. Equipment failure happens so do your very best to make sure your gear is in the best shape possible before you stress it in a race. You’ll race faster and have more fun too!
Finally, be a good sport. When you win or have a great day, be gracious. When you lose be gracious and live to race another day. Recognize the good team work, team tactics and performance of both those who beat you and your own teammates too