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Road Racing 101 - Frequently Ask Questions

Do I need racing experience?
No, anybody who likes to ride a bike can become a bike racer.

What kind of bike do I need?
For road racing, you'll need a road bike. If your bike is a mountain or BMX bike, several clubs and shops have loaner bikes that you can use to see if you like the sport. Contact the NJBA Junior Development Committee Chairman, Dan Coleman, at calldano@aol.com, who can direct you to a team or shop that provides loaner bikes.

Do I need to join a club or team to enter a bike race?
You don't have to join a club or team, but that's the best way to learn the skills and develop the fitness you'll need to enjoy bike racing. Teams and clubs all have regular group training rides. During these rides, you'll make friends and learn group riding skills. See the Participating Clubs link on this site for a list of New Jersey clubs with U19 racing programs. For help in finding a club near you, contact NJBA Junior Recruitment and Development Coordinator Joe Saling, U19@njbikeracing.com..

How do I find a race?
There are lots of racing opportunities in New Jersey and the surrounding areas. Look at the Racing Opportunites link on this site for races with age grouped fields, or use the dropdown calendar menu on the www.njbikeracing.com homepage. There are also several internet bike racing calendars, including www.bikereg.com, www.racelistings.com and www.cyclingcalendar.com. Each race has a flier, which contains start times, entry fees, and other important information. It is a good idea to print the flier and bring it to the race with you.

How old do I have to be to enter a junior race?
There are different age categories at different events. You must be at least 10 years old (racing age) to obtain a USCF license. The most common age groups are 10-12, 13-14, 15-16 and 17-18. Sometimes, these groups are combined.

How do I know what my racing age is?
Your racing age for the racing season is whatever age you will be on December 31st of that year. For instance, if your birthday is on December 31, and you will turn 15 that day, your racing age will be 15 for that entire year (January 1st on). Your USCF racing license will have your racing age printed on it.

What do I need for my first junior race?
You will need a road bike in good condition, a USCF racing license & a helmet.

How do I obtain a USCF racing license?
A USCF racing license can be obtained through the USA Cycling website, www.usacycling.org. You can order your license on-line and be racing the next day! (Make sure you print a receipt/authorization to bring to the race.) Your USCF license will arrive via mail, in a few days. If you are not sure if you will like racing, you can get a one day license at the race for $10.00.

How do I know if my bike is suitable?
Your bicycle must be in good, safe mechanical condition. Your bike must not have aero bars (except for time trial events). Your bike must have working brakes on both wheels. You must have "junior gears" on your bike.

What are "junior gears"?
Junior racers (aged 10 - 18yrs) are restricted to certain gears. On a bike with 700c wheels this is usually a chainring of 52 and a smallest cog of 14. Another commonly used combination is a 45 tooth chainring and a 12 tooth cog in the rear. Gearing should always be checked using the rollout method--with the bike in the highest gear combination, the bike must travel no more than 26 feet in one revolution of the cranks. If you have smaller wheels, the gear sizes are different. Bikes do not usually come factory equipped for junior racing, so some modification is needed. Your front chain ring may have 53 teeth, your rear cassette might have a 12 tooth cog. Obtaining the correct gear can be accomplished by "blocking out" some of the larger gears. If you are not sure how to block off your gears, ask an official before the race, and they will help you.

What is "roll-out"?
At the race, the official will check the gearing by putting the bike in the largest gear (big chainring/smallest cog) and rolling the bike backwards for one complete revolution of the pedals. The bike must not travel more than a distance of 26 feet (7.93 meters). Racing with a bigger gear or not showing up for 'roll-out' immediately after the finish is considered cheating and you will be disqualified. Generally, a gear of 52x14 will pass roll-out.

How do I register for a race?
For lots of races you can register online, following the directions on the race flyer. You can also register for most races on the day of the race at the registration desk, check the race flyer. A very few races require you to mail in your registration form. As a junior (under 18 yrs) you will need a parent to sign your registration form at the race.

What kind of races are there?

Criterium
The most common type of road race in New Jersey is the criterium. This is a fast race on a short course closed to traffic, involving lots of laps, each lap is usually under a mile. To do well in this race you will need to develop cornering skills and quick acceleration. Most U19 criteriums are 15 miles or less.

Road Race/Circuit Race
Another type of race is the road race, often held on a circuit. This type of race is held on a longer course than the criterium so it involves fewer laps and less tight corners. Road races are often held on open roads where a "yellow line rule" is in effect (don't cross the yellow line in the middle of the road or you will be disqualified). There are marshals at the corners, telling you where to turn. Road races are often between 15 and 30 miles.

Time Trial
A completely different race is the Time Trial. This is a race where each rider starts at one minute intervals and races against the clock for the best time over the full distance. Usually these races are out and back with a turn around at the half way point. These races are often held on roads also open to traffic. The marshals manage traffic, but you still need to be aware! It is illegal to draft another rider during a time trial.

Do I need a coach?
Working with a coach or a mentor allows you to benefit from all of their experience and education. Structured training programs can be a little daunting at first but with a licensed cycling coach to get you started and give you professional advice you will quickly begin to see the rewards. The NJBA maintains a list of cycling clubs that have volunteer coaches and mentors. These dedicated people offer their valuable time because they love the sport so much and want you to feel the same way.

Is Bike Racing a Team Sport?
Yes, bicycle racing is a team sport. Although to the casual observer it might look like everyone is just racing around as fast as they can. The successful racer has a strong team to support him/her. A successful team can control a race, protect their riders and deliver their chosen leader to the front of the race in time to win. A team will celebrate their victory together. All this is accomplished through "drafting" or riding close to the rider in front of you. It takes some experience to get comfortable riding that close to other riders, but it is a mandatory skill.

For more information, please contact the NJBA Junior Development Committee Chairman, Dan Coleman, at calldano@aol.com.

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