You just had your first race of the season with Fat Fish racing! We hope you had a good time! Our community has been so great to support such a cool race series. So, by this point you have learned how to put cream on your butt, but what’s next? Well the race of course! It can be scary getting lined up with a bunch of spandex clad people who have been sprinting dangerously around the parking and set up area for the last ½ hour thinking it helps them get ready for the race that they didn’t train for. Fatfish would like to help you learn the ins and outs of how to make a bike race fun.
The starting/Race area
Let’s cover the starting area. This is a staging area where people do lots of bike gazing and sizing up to see if their new bike is cooler, lighter, shinier, than the person who parked next to them. In short, none of that matters. You are here to have fun. It doesn’t matter how much you spent on your bike, or how clean it is. Find a person with a smile on their face and go ask them any questions you have. Okay, if you will follow me through the dance of bike racing for just a minute I promise you’ll be leading by the end of the song. Also remember to keep this area clean and tidy as it is public (and often times private) land, it’s our responsibility as users to keep it clean so we can continue to enjoy this wonderful activity.
Show up ON TIME. aside from the fact that nobody likes a race that starts late, it puts you in the instant frantic vibe and that’s when bad things start to happen. If you show up late and in a hurry, you forget your helmet, gloves, or shoes. It’s just not good to be in a hurry before the race, you’ll have plenty of time to hurry once they say go! If you show up on time you have a minute to collect yourself and be ready to get to the start of the race on time. This also delays the race start for the other people who planned ahead and made it to the race on time.
The Starting Line
The starting line is an intimidating beast all in its own. Fat fish’s first and foremost goal is to grow the cycling community and make this fun for everyone. Don’t let this single aspect of racing/riding bikes in a group deter you. The first part of being successful at the starting line is knowing your own ability. You can gauge this a few ways. Lining up next to people with similar ability as you is a good start. So, if you whipped the 3 year old’s butt last week, maybe jump ahead of him in the pack at the start. The flipside of this is don’t line up ahead of the dude (or dudette) who’s currently beating everyone by a lap each race. Scope your crew, and line up with people who match your ability. This will make it more fun once you start the race because you can all have your own ‘mini’ race within the race.
Another way to know where to line up is by Bib or number plate. They are usually color coded so get in with a group of people with your same number plate.
The last way is to ask the race host, they might be busy trying to manage the person who didn’t follow their parking instructions so be patient with them okay? They’ll tell you where you need to be.
It’s almost go time and you’re in the right place. What happens when they say that word GO!? A great deal happens at that very moment. About ⅓ of the group will drop a water bottle or some important piece of their race stuff, if you’re one of those people don’t panic. If you really need it, stop and snag it. If not, forget it and don’t let it ruin your race. Remember, you’re here to have fun and you probably will survive without your water bottle, but if you think you might fall over and create a block in the trail just ask someone for a drink and they’ll probably share.
Early in the race
The first 10-15 minutes are going to be the most hectic. THis is when all the people who didn’t read this article who lined up in the wrong place suddenly realize their heart rate is about 20 times higher than ever before because they’re trying to keep up with the people at the front of the pack, and they are about to explode. When they do, you’ll be able to casually go around them and still breathe enough to ask them, “are you okay?”
Passing, Getting passed
Never be too stubborn to get passed. Sometimes we pass and get passed multiple times in one race so make it a friendly experience.
If you only read one portion of this article, read this. Passing in a bike race is a source of much frustration for both fast and slow riders alike. It shouldn’t be though and here’s why: If you are the person getting passed (this doesn’t make you slow by the way), all you need to do is pull over (not stop) when and where you feel comfortable. This doesn’t mean that when you hear that fire breathing monster on a bike behind you that you should get nervous and crash trying to get out of the way. Communication is HUGE for this. It’s easy, if you know they are back there wanting to get around you, it’s more than okay to say, “go ahead and go around me” or “You can pass me now.” anything like that. If you’re comfortable you can gesture a hand showing them where to go. If not no worries, they can figure it out.
This is to say that you are the fire breathing monster in the aforementioned paragraph. If you need to pass here is what you do. Let me back up, if you don’t think you need to read this because you are fast enough and get around people just fine, then you are the person I’m talking to.
If you need to pass there are a few things you neeeeed to know. 1. You have already intimidated the person ahead of you that is trying to get out of your way, so be nice. 2. BE NICE. 3. Communicate, lots and sooner than you think. Don’t wait until you’re right on their wheel and shout, “TRAILLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!” That’s what we call being a jerk.
So, When you know you are close enough that the rider ahead of you can hear you, maybe 10 yards, it’s a good time to alert the person you are back there and approaching. It’s also a great time to encourage a new rider so try something like, “Hey good job you’re doing great!” That way you have not made them panic and allowed them to still have fun while you get around them.
As you get closer, since you’re clearly faster and more experienced just tell them what you need to do. “Right up here I’m gonna go on your left.” Then on your way by, you again should say something encouraging to the rider, “Thanks tons, you’re looking good!” As the faster, more skilled rider it’s your job to make this fun for new-comers, otherwise you’ll be racing by yourself.
In short, be polite, pass with care, enjoy the ride. If a slow pass is the difference between winning and losing for you, then you should be in better shape anyway so be nice and courteous when you pass a slower rider and we’ll continue to have a growing group of riders all having a blast, and who knows, maybe someday they’ll be passing you!
Congratulations! You just finished a bike race! That’s a success that nobody can ever take away from you so be proud of your efforts and seek more of that feeling because it only gets better! Encourage people coming in after you and tell them how good they have done. This is a community effort and you are now part of this community and your voice matters. If you have to leave right away that’s totally cool! We are glad you made it! If not, go ask the race host if there is any way you can help clean things up, or see if anyone on the trail needs a hand. Heck, go take some pictures!
We hope you have enjoyed this month’s Fatfish post on how to be in a bike race and that you will continue to help us max out your fun meter every other Monday for the rest of the summer! Yehaw ride bikes!