Ready to Start Racing?

Whether you're a complete beginner to the start line, or hoping to branch out into a new discipline, we're here to help.


This is what it's all about. The skills. The endurance. The experience. The race.

Maybe you've always wanted to test your mettle on the open road, or navigate your way along a mountain. Maybe you want to zoom around a velodrome or get dirty on the track. Whatever style intrigues you, whatever your experience level, this page has all the information to get you ready for the race. 


If you’re looking to take your riding to the next level, but aren’t quite ready to put it all out on the line, consider searching the event calendar for gran fondos or fun rides. Typically these rides are mass start (everyone takes off together), or are divided by age group.

Fondos and fun rides are a bit different than racing in pacing, route, and organization. At USA Cycling races, riders typically start at the beginner level (category 5) and work their way up the ranks with upgrade points. Sometimes multiple categories toe the line together but are ranked separately. Check each event flyer or website for more information, regardless of the event type.

So what do you say? Are you all in? If so, you’ll want to:

1. Identify the type of race or event you want to do

Consider what type of riding you like to do, or what you want to try. Each type of bike has a multitude of sports – road bikes alone have criteriums, road races, time trials, hills climbs, and more.

Remember that you’re not limited to the types of riding at which you’re most skilled! Racing is meant to broaden your horizons and realize your potential. Check out the various racing disciplines below to learn about the types of races, and basic pointers to get you started.

Once you know what type of riding you're most interested in, you should...

2. Find your local support system

If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty, or learn better with hands-on experience, consider reaching out to your USA Cycling Local Association (LA). Click here to find your local LA. They have the ins and outs of everything bike racing in your area. Your LA can answer your questions about how to get involved and can even recommend area cycling clubs for you to contact. Clubs typically host group rides and offer loads of local know-how. Click here to find clubs in your area, and be sure to discuss your level of cycling with them to ensure a good fit.

After you've gathered info on the local scene and found people to train with, you're ready to...

3. Pick an event (or a few)

USA Cycling sanctions nearly 3,000 competitive and non-competitive cycling events each year in the United States. Your LA should have advice on and insight into the best local events for newcomers, whether that’s low entry fees, a vibrant social scene, or specific distances or technical details. You can also explore the events in your area and nationwide using the event calendar here.

But before you can toe the start line, you'll need to...

4. Purchase a racing license

USA Cycling exists in part to provide excellent event support, from national results and rankings to event insurance coverage. Any USA Cycling-sanctioned event you plan on racing in will require a race license. There are two ways to obtain race license coverage:

  • Purchase an annual racing license, which covers you in all USA Cycling races and expires on December 31 of the year you purchased it.
  • Purchase a one-day license for single event coverage. Beginning category riders have a lower one-day license fee than experienced riders, who are encouraged to purchase an annual license and support the sport we love.

To purchase a license and learn about the numerous benefits of an annual membership, visit the Race License page, or contact our membership department by submitting a request here.

If you're planning to race outside of the United States, you may need an international license and a Foreign Permission Letter. Check with the event organizer for more information.

Now that you're official, it's time to...

5. Get your gear together

You have a race in mind, so now it’s time to make sure your gear is sorted. Make sure to pay attention to the weather and dress, hydrate, and protect yourself from the sun appropriately. As you gain race experience, you’ll learn more about the tools you want in your toolkit, your personal nutritional needs, and “nice to have’s.” The following are essentials for any race (or ride), but check the sections below for race-specific gear ideas.

  • Bike
  • Helmet
  • Race Apparel (jersey, shorts/bibs with chamois, warmers, jacket or rain jacket, socks, gloves, hat)
  • Body armor for mountain bike events
  • Change of clothes for after race
  • Shoes (clipless or non-clipless)
  • Eye protection / sunglasses
  • USA Cycling license (or money for one-day license if race allows same-day registration)
  • Proof of race entry (or money for entry fees if race allows same-day registration)
  • Hydration and nutrition (before, during, and after race)
  • Your tool kit, including spare part essentials such as tubes, and a pump
  • Plastic bags for wet clothing, and towels to dry off with or change clothes under
  • A positive attitude!

Making sure your equipment is up to the rigors of racing is a very important aspect of racing and often one of the more overlooked areas for new racers. The last thing you want is to have a mechanical during a race due to something that could’ve been easily spotted and fixed. In criteriums, you’ll get a free lap if you get a flat tire, but usually not within the last 3 to 5 laps of the race, but won’t get a free lap if you have a mechanical that resulted from something that could’ve been caught before the race. It’s a good idea to have your trusted local bike shop or mechanic do a once-over on your bike at least a week before your race. Be sure to check everything from your helmet to the cleats on your shoes to ensure nothing is cracked or on the verge of breaking.