How do I start road racing?

Who should read this?

This article is intended for senior riders, that’s 16 and older, who are interested in trying road racing for the first time.

Am I ready to start racing?

To start racing you need to be reasonably fit and comfortable riding in close company with several riders. You can of course take the approach that I did – turn up never having seen a race before, having only ridden with a group of riders once, get dropped on every corner because I was hanging slightly off the back of the bunch and generally crash into the other riders. I don’t recommend it. Southdown Velo's Sunday runs provide a good opportunity to experience riding closely in a group, you can judge your fitness against the other riders and ask more experienced riders such as Shaun Smart or me (Tim Costello) for advice and whether they think you are fit enough.

Where can I race?

Most of the local road races are promoted by the Surrey League. They have a rule that 4th category riders, which is what you start off as, can only ride circuit races so that restricts you to Goodwood Motor Circuit, Dunsfold Park, (about 10 miles north of Petworth), Chertsey (near the junction of the M3 and M25) and Eelmore (between Aldershot and Fleet).

The same rule does not apply to races in South division which covers Hampshire, but nowadays most of their races are on circuits including the Mountbatten Centre (Portsmouth) and Thruxton motor racing circuit (near Andover).

The Mountbatten centre is used extensively throughout the year for racing and in the winter for training. It is really intended for track racing, being slightly banked and a third of a mile round, but it is now mostly used for road racing. You can find out which races are on from the British Cycling online calendar. You will start off as a fourth category rider so you can only enter races for fourth category riders. You are probably interested in races in South division, which includes Hampshire, and South East division, which includes West Sussex and Surrey.

How do I enter and how much will it cost?

You will need a British Cycling licence to race in all but the LVRC veterans’ races (see below). You can either buy an annual one which will cost £60+ or you can pay £10 for a day licence in addition to the entry fee. Some races are classified as “Go-Race” events which are intended for people new to racing. A day licence for these costs £5.

Your British Cycling licence covers you for third party public liability insurance for that event. If you take out an annual licence, and thus become a member of British Cycling, you are covered for third party and get legal advice and support.

Circuit races can normally be entered on the line as there is no limit to the number of riders. Some circuit events, like the Goodwood Tuesday night series, can only be entered on the line.

It is usually best to enter races on the road in advance to guarantee yourself a ride as the number of riders is normally limited to 60. You need to complete a British Cycling entry form for road races apart from Surrey League events (see separate section about the Surrey League below). If you enter in advance the organiser will send you a program for the race a few days beforehand.

The entry fees will vary between £8 to £15. Usually you pay more if you enter on the line rather than in advance.

Other than the cost of getting to the race and your bike etc., there’s nothing else to pay.