The Chainlink

Howdy folks,

I think I'm about to drop some coin on a real deal (road) racing bike so I need to think about doing some racing to justify the expense. I'm looking for any advice on newbie friendly group rides around town. Any advice on getting experience, entering races, and the red tape that goes along with being a registered cat'd racer is welcome.

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Here are some of my tips...

1)Don't spend a huge ton of money on the "Ultimate Race Machine" just yet. You will have to work way up through the ranks and Cat5 is especially plagued by wipeouts. Nothing ruins your day like wiping out on your first race and having to replace your frame...

2)Learn how to handle your bike and learn it very well. Learn to how to brake and corner efficiently as well as effectively.

3)Learn how to ride in a group. Get comfortable riding on someone's wheel as well as being predictable in a group. Expect to be elbowed and made contact to by accident. It feels weird at first and it takes awhile to getting used to.

4)There is a lot to be said about strategy too, only way to learn to learn that part of the game is to race, and race as often as you can.

5)Go out on group rides, learn the etiquette and observe it. Be friendly and ask questions, whether it be about bikes, strategy or what we had for breakfast.

-Ali
ive always wanted to race...all im good at is sprinting tho...i think i was plagued with legs the size of oak trees. i also would like to get a new bike..and get it sized right..ill keep an eye on this thread.
Amateur racing is fun and frustrating at the same time. Don't commit yourself to racing to 'justify' buying a decent bike. Get the bike and get some miles in your legs - enjoy the bike! All of Ali's points you must accomplish first before getting to the line. Come watch a race too - Monsters of the Midway down at UIC is coming up soon and is great to watch.

See you on the road!
Good advice here, thanks! In the meantime, it only took me putting "chicago bike racing" into google to find this excellent page: http://www.chicagobikeracing.com/ (duh!) :)

h3 said:
I'm gonna piggyback on this thread and ask if anyone has any links to local racing clubs or resources for my links page . . . I had had three links under that category and two sites went away.
Just to follow up on Ali's post, as a racer yo will crash so don't get expensive gear unless you can afford to replace it. E.g. those campy record or shimano dura-ace shifters might be nice but will you be able to afford dropping 300-600 to replace them if they get busted in a crash?
Mentoring and/or coaching is by far the most important element in a novice racer's development. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to go out and hire a paid coach. There are plenty of clubs and teams around Chicago that provide a good support network of experienced riders who are generous with their time and advice.

Set realistic goals, or don't set any at all -- otherwise you are likely to burn out or not have fun. You should think about what you're trying to get out of racing... trying to get fitter? trying to win and upgrade into higher categories? trying to make friends? trying to experience shared success through a team? trying to get a cool uniform? I think too many young riders spend too much time testing their individual limits rather than focusing on what I find to be the real joy of racing, and that's the team dynamic... remember that very very few riders ever taste (individual) victory.
Hey Joe. I say go for it, find some local rides and races and give it a go.

Two upcoming local races which are often seen as appropriate for first timers:

1. Monsters of the Midway. http://ucveloclub.ning.com/page/monsters-of-the-midway. A flat, four corner race with very wide roads. In the city, so no need to truck to Iowa.

2. Sherman Park Criterium. http://www.xxxracing.org/index.php?/pages/shermanparkcriterium/. This year, June 13th, flyer available shortly. Not a 90 degree turn in the race, basically a large oval around a city park on the south side. Fantastic for newbies.

Group rides:
1. XXX Sat ride. Leaves Wicker Park 7am (the Park itself), Warren Park 7:30am and then continues to Highland Park as a "no-drop" ride, meaning we don't leave anyone behind. The pace coming home can be quicker and the no drop rule is off. There are also faster groups that continue north for more mileage (last week I was with a group of 13 that went to WI!). The team is a developmental team, meaning one of the reasons we exist is to help new people figure out the sport.

2. Spider Monkey's Sat Ride. Leaves from the shop @ 2016 W Roscoe at 8am saturdays. I believe there's an A and a B group that split somewhere around Northwestern, stick with the B's and make it a goal to hang with the A's in the near future.

3. Chicago Cycling Club's Monday and Wed night rides. I believe Monday is more "intro to group rides" while Wed is probably a little faster.

IMHO, and really it's just that, DO NOT join the following rides until you have some miles and experience in you. They are nearby and popular but they won't be fun for newbies and frankly if you're lacking some skills, it's likely someone will yell at you: 1. Judson, 2. Turin's Wed ride, 3. The Mafia ride, 4. The Pizza Hut ride.

2 final quick thoughts:
1. Get out and ride. One thing people new to the sport tend to underestimate is the amount of training hours your typical racer is putting it. Cat 5s (brand new) can be training up to 10 hrs per week. I know experienced Cat 4s (one step up the ladder) who are doing 15+ hrs/wk.
2. Think about joining a local racing club/team. It will get you: a) friends, b) help+advice, c) deals on gear, e) loud spandex clothing. Check out: TATI, Spidermonkey, Half Acre, and of course xxx.

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