How to have the most fun racing without training
8 things you can do to make racing better — without training[content_box type=”with-header” title=”StartConfident Summary” text_color=”dark” color=”default” animation=”fade-in”]
- The Gold Standard: start structured training NOW
- Most newbies just don’t wanna
- Get immersed
- Get mentors
- Get skillz
- Eat, drink, recover like you train
is going to be a bit challenging for me to write, and here’s why:
I am completely convinced, having been around cyclists and racers for most of my life, that the very best way to get the most out of bike racing is to begin a structured training program as early as possible.
Once you have determined that you are curious about road racing, investing yourself in a cycling training plan is going to give you a rich education about your body, your commitment, and expose you to specific aspects of the sport that you may enjoy and decide to invest yourself in more fully at a later date.[callout]However, it’s very clear to me that the overwhelming majority of newcomers to road bike racing will want to “dip their toe in” without taking on some form of structured training. “I need to see if I will like it before I start doing anything serious — like training,” is the usual mindset.[/callout]
Very well then. Rather than try to swim upstream, I offer this post in an effort to help you get the most enjoyment out of bike racing if you are convinced that any form of structured training, no matter how simple, just isn’t for you.
Become involved in a race oriented shop’s activities
Bicycle shops that cater to road racers will not only have regular organized rides, they may have other events, as well. You could learn a little bit about servicing your own bike, or enjoy some social get-togethers that are centered around area races or even events on the professional race calendar. It’s a good way to meet other people and learn more about cycling culture in your own backyard.
Find a regular fast group ride
Local groups that have open fast rides sometimes become very race like. It’s always a great idea to follow the old wisdom to “ride with a group that is faster than you.” If the group meets and rides every week at the same time, you will become familiar with certain routes and certain riders and will be able to gauge your fitness by your ability to hang with the quicker ones along these routes.
At least read about road race training
Websites and social media are filled with information about racing and training. There are also many excellent books by very knowledgeable former racers and current coaches that can provide wisdom for you to help you become a faster and stronger rider. It’s never too soon to become a student of bike racing.
Watch as much bike racing as you can
Watching road bike racing on TV or streaming online is not only exciting, but if you watch it with an eye towards racing technique, it can be a great way to learn. Watch how the pros position themselves for climbs and sprints, for example. Take note of when they eat and how they organize themselves in echelons against the wind or in pace lines.
Additionally, attend live races as a spectator. Pay attention to team tactics. Listen closely to the race announcers which usually do their best to not only make the race more entertaining, but who try to educate about what’s happening out on course.
During your early races, try to stay close to the most advanced riders
When you are new this will not only be difficult, but it might also be a bit intimidating. But show some initiative. If you struggle to stay close to the most experienced riders on your group rides, you will, no doubt, pick up on many of their well honed habits. You will start to adjust your position on the bike when climbing or riding fast on the flats, for example. Imitate them when they eat and drink. Copy the sprinting and climbing styles of those riders that appear to be closest to your body type.
Drafting and taking good lines
No matter how long you invest yourself in the world of bike racing, you will always try to become more efficient. When you were new, and therefore not as physically strong, learning to conserve your energy and how to ride smart is crucial. Following more experienced riders down a fast descent, learning how to tuck in behind fast riders when strung out on the flats, and learning when it is better to climb seated as opposed to out of the saddle are just a few of the things you will learn.
Learn to eat and drink like a racer
No aspect of endurance sport is more individualized then eating and drinking for performance. There are many straightforward baseline “rules” that, once learned, can set you off on a solid exploration of what will need to be adjusted to provide you with optimum tolerability. Read online forums, blogs, and coaching websites. Check out the resources here on this website. Then, follow straightforward advice regarding hydration and carbohydrates to see what works best for you on your longer rides and beginning races.
Learn to recover like a racer
I can say with confidence that once you begin to take your recovery seriously, then you are starting to take racing seriously. The way you fuel yourself after hard group rides in races, and the amount of time that you give yourself to recover and rest is what makes the most of all the stress you put your body through. Smart recovery is what actually causes big gains in strength. Eat your veggies. Get the healthy protein in as soon after races and hard workouts as possible, and the next day, go for a super-easy spin rather than taking a full day off.
So there you go. Eight things you can do to begin to truly improve your self as a new race or without ever getting involved in structured training.
See you on the road!