What to Do If You’re On the Fence About Racing

Absolutely, positively, the very FIRST thing you should do if you’re on the fence about racing.

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  • Ask the same annoying question little kids ask: “Why?”

  • When you think you’ve answered, ask it again.

  • Now you’re ready to race. Or not.

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Human motivation.


That is my favorite subject. What makes people do what they do? Better yet, what makes them keep doing the things they do?

Even better still: Why do people say they want to do something, then fight to the death to insure that they don’t do what they say they want to do?

Hang out at high-end bike shops, and you’ll find yourself swimming in material like this. Debbie Harry of Blondie cooly addresses a “sidewalk social scientist,” in their song, “11:59,” and I’m who their singing about. Yeah, that’s me, over by the Campy EPS 11-speed equipped bike that I neither need nor can afford. But I’m here, not just to fondle the shift levers, I’m here to listen.

Here’s a lot of what I hear:

“Race this year? I dunno. I’ve been thinkin’ about it…”

The trouble is, these poor souls, of which I was one not so long ago, bring their uncertainty and lay it at the feet of racers. And racers love to dish out advice to those who’ve already jumped in. But to the as-yet uninitiated, they’re somewhat, well, clueless.

It’s as if the Category III’s out there were either born with race numbers on their backs fresh outta the womb, or they’ve completely forgotten what it was like, hemming and hawing prior to their first registration.

[callout icon=”hb-moon-bike”]Whatever your own inner dialogue is, it needs to end with a resolute sense of “Yup. I’m gonna race,” or, “I’m going to do it. I’m going in with open eyes, and really see if it’s for me.” [/callout]

In this environment of self-consciousness mixed with exuberance, you’re likely to get both a litany of excuses from one group, and pronouncements of knowledge borne of experience from the other:

If you’re going to start racing, just find a fast group and get in with them on some beat-down rides…

Training? You don’t need to “train.” Just get out and ride at least 1,000 miles before your first race. You’ll be fine.

Eddy Merckx just said, “Ride lots.” That’s good enough advice for me.

Aside from training, kit, nutrition, or any other kind of physical minutiae, there’s a much more foundational activity you must undertake if you really want to get off the treadmill, and make up your mind once and for all, one way or the other, about this whole racing schtick.

You have to ask yourself “why?”

Why, exactly, do you keep mulling this idea of racing around in your head?

What is it about racing that draws you so much? What attracts you to the idea? There’s something about it that you keep toying with, but you’re not jumping in the pool.

What about the pool is so inticing?

Don’t gloss over this. Do a little internal work, and you’ll come out better as a result.   

Eventually, if you keep at it, an answer will whisper forth:

I’ve always wanted to be able to say, “I’m a racer,” not just a “rider.” 

Or maybe something like,

I was the skinny kid, never cut out for football or wrestling. Cycling looks like it “fits” me, and I think I could be good at it, as a racer…

It’ll feel as if you just unloaded a backpack filled with kettlebells. Congratulations.

But you’re not done.

Take that answer, and subject it to another onslaught of “why?”

Why have I always wanted to say, “I’m a racer?” Ummmm…

Now, now. Get back in there. Answer the question.

Because… because… I’d feel more…proud of myself if I was racing rather than just doing the odd century ride or Tuesday Night Club ride. I’d feel like I was riding with real “purpose.” 

Now, we’re getting somewhere. Self-esteem. That’s a biggie.

The trick is to keep peeling the onion until you’re left with the raw essence of the matter.

Why aren’t you able to get the self-esteem itch scratched by doing a century ride or two? Why do you think rolling up to a start line at a road race or criterium or time trial will help you embrace more of your self?

At this point, our fictitious rider-on-the-analyst’s couch could spring up and say, “You, know? Racing isn’t my answer.”

And that would be awesome.

Because that’s the level of clarity you need to have if you’re going to start something like racing with real confidence.

Whatever your own inner dialogue is, it needs to end with a resolute sense of “Yup. I’m gonna race,” or, “I’m going to do it. I’m going in with open eyes, and really see if it’s for me.” 

If you do go into racing with a sense of clarity and purpose, everything about the experience has the real possibility of being of benefit to you, regardless of the outcome. Racing uses language filled with self-driven confidence and commitment; terms like attack, chase, close down the gap, bury yourself… If you’re resolute about stepping into that arena, you’ll be able to take advantage of all it offers you, rather than being open to whatever happens to you.

[icon_box icon=”hb-moon-bike” icon_position=”left” align=”left”] Question: So, if you’re on the fence, are you willing to play the “why” game? Give us a snapshot of your inner monologue, here. [/icon_box]

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Sam Lowe

I've been a road cyclist with a penchant for speed ever since my first-ever paycheck holiday. I blew the whole wad on a turquoise Schwinn Tempo with then-new Shimano 105 indexed shifting way back in 1985. I've been a voracious consumer of racing-oriented information ever since. Training, nutrition, bike fit, racing techniques, and all manner of "kit." Between nearly 30 years of riding, racing, and reading about racing, I'm ready to help you get ready to race.

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