So, you think you want to race?

I often get asked by many women thinking about racing where to start. Perhaps you have joined a club but don’t quite know where you go from there? Perhaps others in the club already race and you are too daunted to join them?

Have no fear – 6 years ago I was exactly the same! Hopefully this quick guide will give you an idea of where to start!


There are various types of racing in the UK and often, this confusion can be the first stumbling block.

Criterium Races:

Also known as crit races, these are events held on closed circuits, with no access for cars. They are often relatively small with some climbs, tight corners and long straights. They are a good test of your physical fitness and also your skills, especially on tight corners.

The races usually last between 45 and 60 minutes plus a certain number of laps.

Examples of these circuits are Cyclopark, Kent, Hillingdon, Redbridge Cycle Circuit (Hog Hill) and Velopark, Lee Valley.


Huw Williams

Road Races:

These races are held on the roads and are often between 60-120km long (sometimes longer depending on the event). Usually, there are a set number of laps of the course (anywhere between 3 and 8 laps is the norm).

Often there is a support car which will follow behind the main group and there will be motorbike outriders to ensure that the race is run safely. Marshalls are also dotted around the courses to mark the route and notify of turns in the course.

Often a test of endurance, ability to hill climb and chase down break away groups.


Huw Williams

Time Trials:

Often called TT’s, over a course of 10-15 miles. This is literally, you against the clock. Everyone is given a separate start time, usually at 30 seconds intervals. Your time for the distance is then clocked and ranked.

The beauty of this event is that you are on your own so not worrying about people around you.


Huw Williams

Track Racing:

This is racing on the velodrome. Bikes have no gears or breaks and are fixed, with one gear.

You can attend taster sessions at both Herne Hill and Lee Valley Velodromes but to race you will need to complete their accreditation sessions. This ensures you are safe to race. To find out more about this you can visit their websites.


Andy Matthews

Cross Racing:

This is similar to circuit racing but is based on a dirt / mud based track with obstacles. Often, races are a set number of laps or an hour plus a certain number of laps.

You will hear people referring to the ‘cross season.’ This usually starts in September and runs through to March time.

A fun alternative to circuit racing but may involve the purchase of more bikes….


Huw Williams


This is the main body that co-ordinates racing in the UK is British Cycling. In order to race, you will need to sign up to British Cycling. They offer different types of membership depending on what works best for you.

If you are thinking of racing, you will want the link below:

There are 3 types of membership, Bronze, Silver or Gold. A bronze membership will give you a provisional licence only. This means you will only be able to participate in races and not obtain any points (explained later), national or regional rankings.

It is recommended you purchase a Silver or Gold membership. This will then give you the option to purchase a Full Race Licence. In addition the Silver and Gold Memberships provide you with liability insurance and legal support if you have an accident.


There are 5 race categories in the UK for seniors, CAT E, 1,2,3,4. All new racers will start as a Cat 4. As you start racing, you will earn points which you collect to move up the categories.

The aim is for riders of similar abilities to ride in the same category. Licence points run until 30th November every year when they are reset to zero. Any points gained from 1st December go onto the following year’s licence.

Each category is outlined in more detail below:

4th category: A new senior licence holder.

3rd category: Any senior licence holder who has gained 12 points during any one season whilst holding a 4th category licence. Note: Riders are never downgraded to 4th category once a 3rd category licence has been achieved.

2nd category: Any senior licence holder who has gained 40 points during any one season whilst holding a 3rd category licence. To retain a 2nd category licence for the following season, a rider must obtain at least 25 points in events open to that category of rider.

1st category: Any senior licence holder who has gained 200 points during any one season whilst holding a 2nd category licence. To retain a 1st category licence for the following season, a rider must obtain at least 100 points in events open to that category of rider.

Elite category: Any Senior licence holder who has gained 300 points during the previous season whilst holding an Elite or 1st category licence.


Most races are on the British Cycling Calendar. Once you have signed up to BC, you will be able to log in and view the upcoming events. Usually in women’s racing, categories are put together into once race.

A link to the BC events page is below:

Or once live, you can enter the Spring League events by clicking on this link:

My advice to you, if you are starting out racing is to attend one of the many training days that are run across London. The coaches will certainly help you out and answer any questions you may have!

If in doubt, just ask! You can also contact is at

…a big thank you to Huw Williams for the wonderful and inspiring photographs!