Some words of wisdom

Racing is like nothing you’ve done before (unless you’ve done roller derby!). It’s fast, chaotic, unpredictable and sometimes dangerous. Not for the fainthearted!

It’s also exciting, challenging, and lots of fun. If you want more fun than fear, then you need to learn to ride safely in a bunch. You can be fit and powerful on solo rides, but you need to ride well in a group to succeed in racing.

Here are some top tips to help you get started!

Also check out British Cycling’s Racesmart initiative for more advice.

1. Get a Race Licence

You need a racing licence to race. If you’re new, you’ll start as a fourth category racer. You can gain points and move up categories by finishing in the top 10 or 15 riders. It’s all explained on the British Cycling website.

There are several ways to get a licence:

  • Buy a day licence at closed circuit races, which costs £10 on top of the race entry fee. This will insure you for the day. You will NOT gain any points with a day licence, even if you win. This option is for someone wanting to try racing with minimal financial commitment.
  • Join British Cycling (Bronze, Silver or Gold membership level) to get a provisional race licence. Bronze level means the day licence fee is only £5; Silver or Gold level means the day licence fee is waived for closed circuit races. You will NOT gain any points with a day licence, even if you win. This option is best for anyone who wants BC membership benefits (third party insurance, etc.) and also wants to try racing without much financial commitment.
  • Join British Cycling at Silver or Gold level, and buy a full racing licence. This is the only way you can gain points and move up categories. With a full licence, you only need to pay the race entry fee, but you MUST bring your licence with you! This is best for anyone committed to racing.

2. Be safe and respect other riders at all times!

The number one rule for racing is RIDE PREDICTABLY. This means:

  • DO hold your line. Always. It’s like driving on the M25 with four lanes of rush-hour traffic moving at speed – you can’t just change lanes without making sure the path is clear or you’ll cause a pile-up! This includes cornering – you can’t take the racing line that you would when riding solo, you have to follow your line (stay in lane). And if someone beside you sprints to get ahead, you can’t move over to jump on their wheel unless it’s clear.
  • DON’T be afraid to call out to let people know where you are or what you plan to do.
  • DON’T make any sudden movements like stopping pedalling, braking suddenly or swerving. The obvious exception is sprinting – you’re allowed, in fact encouraged, to sprint off down the road! If you get a puncture, put your arm in the air and call out to let others know and keep pedalling straight ahead until the bunch has passed and you can safely pull off to the side.
  • DON’T let your front wheel overlap with the wheels ahead. Ride behind people or up beside them so they know you are there. If you’re in their blind spot with your wheels overlapping and they move towards you, your wheels will touch and you’ll crash.
  • DO ride safely and competently
  • DO realise that everyone in the race is responsible for everyone else’s safety. Don’t make it more dangerous than it needs to be with silly behaviour. Crashes hurt!

3. Be prepared for race day

Get there early on race day. You need time to queue up and sign on (don’t forget your licence!), pin on your number, warm up, go the toilet and find the start line. If you’re a fourth cat, you can wear any plain kit. Once you’re third cat then you must wear your club’s kit, or plain kit if you aren’t in a club. But do join a club! Helmets are mandatory, and you must remove your saddlebag, mudguards and lights if you have them.

4. Listen to the Commissaires

Listen to the Commissaries briefing at the start of the race, and pay attention to the lap board as you’re racing. Once over the finish line, clear the circuit quickly and safely as there will often be other races running at the same time. If you think you finished in the top 10, then double-check with the judges or organiser to make sure. Join a Club!

One of the easiest ways to improve with the added benefits of meeting other cyclists, training partners and potential teammates. See our list of affiliated clubs, or check out British Cycling’s club finder to find one near you.

5. Race tactics

Ok, we don’t want to give too much away here – after all, we might race against you! But basically you need to race to understand how it works. The more you race, the better you’ll get at knowing where to ride, who to follow, when to spend energy and when to save it, how to sprint, how to help a teammate, what you’re capable of and how to win.

Race often and learn every time. Don’t quit – try to finish every race if only for the workout. Note your weaknesses and work on them. Note your strengths and think about how to use them. Work with others when it makes sense to, don’t work when you don’t have to. Respect the sport, the officials, your fellow riders, your teammates and yourself. Be an ambassador for women’s racing and, one day, help out a newbie just as others have helped out you.

6. What if I have questions about how the race will work?

At the beginning of each race the ‘Commissaires’ (volunteers trained by British Cycling to ensure safe and fair racing, read more about them here) will give a short briefing – covering the format of the race, the key information about the start, course, finish and any particular rules they feel necessary to highlight.

The Commissaires will be very well trained but also very used to giving briefings, and may use shorthand, or ask people if they don’t know something, rather than if they do. If you are new to racing this is the point where you’ll be able to ask any questions you have. No question is too stupid – if you want to know something about how to race and what the rules are, ask in the briefing (or if you know your query ahead of time, you might be able to ask a race organiser beforehand). That might be: how you will know the final laps are approaching, how you’ll be notified about the final lap, what you should do if there’s a crash, rules of riding on open roads, what to do if you are dropped or lapped, how far to ride after the finish line, etc. Anything and everything to do with a safe and fair race.

We encourage you to both ask, and ask for clarification if something isn’t clear or you didn’t hear it, as it only makes for safer, fairer racing.

7. Have fun

Above all, have fun and if you don’t know something or aren’t sure- ASK!


Why not read this super guide – Training For Results by Huw Williams. It will take you through the components of fitness, principles of conditioning, training intensity and core principles – with a handy check list at the end to ensure you are ready to race!

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…continue reading by downloading Huw’s full guide here – Training For Results.