Coffee Talk - Getting more newbies into bike racing

Today's coffee talk is about newbies. So a few weeks ago we said that it's not heros that got you into the sport, so what is it? Coffee talk discussion gives me the chance to rant and you a chance to fire back with your 2 or 4 cents.

The question is, how do we lure these race virgins into our sport? Every racer has them, friends who'd like to try racing but just haven't. What does it take to convert them? What is holding them back, is it nerves, lack of equipment, not enough training? Remember your first race, what got you to take the plunge?

This coming Sunday, Oct. 5th, the Primal Racing team will be offering a first timers only race at their PrimalPalooza event. At 10:55 newbie racers can experience cyclocross through a 30 minute race. Even better, the first timers race is offered at half price ($15 rather than $30 race entry fee) and it all benefits a great cause Trips for Kids. So a nearby race, at a discount, competing against only fellow race virgins for only 30 minutes. What could possibly be holding your wannabe friends back? Cyclocross really has the lowest barriers to entry of any of the cycling disciplines, but is the Colorado racing scene too intimidating for many to attempt?

Take our Poll, are we too serious?

With over 1 million spectators showing up for the US Pro Cycling challenge can't we get .01% of them to try out a bike race?

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Mine was peer pressure and a

Mine was peer pressure and a little encouragement and I think this is a great attempt. To be honest not enough people even know about cyclocross or think the racing/cycling season is over. A lot of times people think i am racing 4X or whatever that event is. And yes the racing scene in boulder is off the hook serious. I mean can I get a bacon hand up please! I actually never take hand ups but its the thought that counts.

talk to others

Another great way to get others interested - talk to them and help guide them.

I can't remember how many juniors that I have talked to that were amazed to actually have another racer talk to them and actually participate in a conversation with them. Especially those with parents that aren't hooked on cycling themselves. I'm not a pro racer by any means; heck I'm happy to finish in the top half of the cat4 group most days; and most juniors don't care. They are happy to find someone to share the passion of cycling with and have someone take their time to help them. When you are too busy or self absorbed to interact, it puts the fire out pretty quickly for those thinking about getting into the sport.

CX racing difficult to get started with

CX racing definitely does _not_ offer a low barrier of entry. First, you need two maintained bikes and a way to get them to races. Then the "license" cost plus the racing fees. Finally, as a newbie, you'll have all of this lined up only to get lapped halfway into the race and not being allowed to finish. Not easy to get started with at all!

Somewhat Agree about Cyclocross

I have to agree and disagree. I have been racing cyclocross for a while and I have never had 2 bikes. I will have to admit there have been a handful of races where i wish I did. My first cyclocross bike was a Surly Cross Check that I found on ebay for a great deal and I was racing. Yeah the bike weighed a ton but I was having a blast.

I agree that racing fees are not getting any cheaper and almost seem high for a 45 min race. If you are very new to the sport of cycling cyclocross racing is tough.

I would recommend a free Cyclocross Clinic like the ones Boulder Cycle Sport offers. I think they are done for the season but you can learn the skills and its free.

You don't *need* two bikes to

You don't *need* two bikes to race cyclocross, especially at the beginner level. I did my first several seasons with 1 entry level bike on clinchers and no wheels in the pit. Sure, it's nice to have other stuff, but I can't believe someone would think to not enter a cyclocross race just because they don't have two bikes.

At $25 a race (plus license), I think 'cross is a good introduction to racing in general. Sure you may get lapped and that sucks if they're pulling lapped riders (which I don't think they do much any more). But unlike a crit, where your day is pretty much over once you're OTB, in cyclocross you still have a damn good time playing around on your bike.

Two bikes

Ok, like you say, if two bikes aren't necessary, why not level the playing field for beginners and make everyone ride one muddy bike for the entire race, and have the same chance to be taken down by goatheads?

fitness and other stuff

yeah, and while we're at it... Let's make everyone train for a maximum of 10hrs and a minimum of 4. and my ACA license should include a training plan, coach, masseuse and dietician so we're all on the same page. IT'S JUST NOT FAIR DAMMIT!!!!!!!!!!!!

you've gone off topic. very

you've gone off topic. very few, if any, "newbies" are going to race cross when it's muddy out. you could give them a new bike per lap and they still aren't going to show up. now a newer racer already hooked on the sport will show up. but it doesn't matter how many bikes they show up with. they're already hooked and not really relevant to this discussion. this discussion isn't about how to level the playing the field. it's about how to introduce people to the sport. stop trying to ruin racing. the people that get hooked will train more and get the equipment they need to compete at a higher level.

CX is actually pretty easy to get started in

After some peer pressure from my road and mtn bike cycling buddies, I showed up at a CX race that had a beginner category (without that beginer category, I probably would not have done it). I brought my mtn bike and had pretty much zero experience or technical knowledge of how to properly mount or dismount for CX at the beginning of the race.
With that one race, I was hooked! Yea, I was slow, and came no where near winning; but I had a blast in the race and the atmosphere around the race was great as well.

I raced my mtn bike for the rest of the season and then bought a Performance brand cyclocross bike for a whopping $250 at one of their clearances. With a couple upgrades to that bike, that is the bike I raced for 3 years and had a blast doing so. This year, I upgraded to a "dream" bike for me, and very much love it - but I didn't "need" my new bike as the "cheap" one works pretty dang well.
The first two years, I didn't have spare wheels, tubulars, spare bike, etc - just clincher tires on the "cheap" wheels taht came on my bike and Stans in my tubes. I did take the plunge for a set of tubulars after two years and then a second set of tubulars last year. Roughly $300 / year in equipment is all I spent.

Saying that you "need" this laundry list of equipment is going to turn quite a few away as it really isn't "needed". I'll admit I now have the two bikes (though not identical) and too many sets of tubulars etc, but that is all because I wanted it.

The fun of racing is where the emphasis needs to be to get more racing. The inviting atmosphere of CX is great for getting more to participate. In contrast, I've actually been turned off of most all road racing in CO as the atmosphere hasn't been inviting and is way too serious for a recreational past time / sport where the majority of us will never make money participating in.

Also - making it a good family atmosphere is great too. Again - another thing that CX (and triathlon, duathlon, running) does well.

We need to think big picture

We need to think big picture, way too much time has been spent by the ACA and some promoters, about the category issue. The current category system was sold to us by teams like Colorado Bike Law as a way to increase # on the newbie side. It is not working.

If we step back a bit, think about a typical ACA race and then what it would be like from a first timer point of view. I do not think it is a great experience. Part of it is the current races and part of it is bike racing. Rightly or wrongly bike racing is a win or lose sport, and only one guy/gal gets to win. Compare that to running and tri, there is no real sense of win/lose, it is much more about participation and doing your best. So as a beginner that gives you a much better experience, that is much more welcoming, then getting blown out of a low end bike race. The tri world has done a much better job welcoming people, creating a feeling of improving with things like details splits (hey I was 48th in the category, but #4 in the run.....) and big expos.

In terms of categories what we have is broken. People who defend it simple do so because it works for them. I am not sure of a great solution and more categories is not the answer. But we need to consider reworking the categories and getting away from 12 different masters men’s cats, so we can have a true beginner category (maybe time for mens1/2/3 as well?). 35 plus cat 4 is not a beginner category, it is dominated by very strong riders and has many guys who have been racing there for years. It is also a very large category at time. None of that is going to help the new racer. Something along the line of cat 5, for new racers, where you get up graded quickly and are not allowed to stay too long. Beginners do not have a place in ACA racing right now.

Also where are we going to get growth from? The charity ride crowd from Ride the Rockies and Elephant Rock? Triathletes? The endurance mountain bike community? I hope/wish this is the kind of thing the ACA is working on long term. The numbers in CO are not real encouraging, memberships numbers, and race numbers.