The Basics: Road Racing is massed-start cycle racing on roads or tarmac circuits. First rider over the finish line wins, with anything from twenty to almost 200 competitors, depending on the event. In the UK, events range from short Youth and Juvenile (under16) races of 20km or less, through club level events for adults of between 40km and 100km, to Elite-level one day races of 200km or more. The majority of adult racing takes place on public roads, though there are an increasing number of circuit events, either on roads closed to other traffic or on specially constructed circuits, some which are shared with other sports like motor racing and kart racing, others are purpose built for cycling. All under-16 racing takes place on traffic-free closed circuits.

Road Races:
The classic Road Race is a test of stamina, fitness and tactical acumen. Team tactics often come into play. Riders often have particular strengths: some can climb hills and mountains very quickly; others have a devastating turn of speed or sprint; other have the ability to ride very well against the clock in Time Trials (which often form part of multi day or stage races). The art is to restrict your rival’s gains in the areas where they are strong and maximise your gains in your preferred terrain. Road Stage Races: Some Road Races are contested over several days and several stages. These “Stage” Races or Tours often feature prizes for each stage winner, plus others for the best sprinter in the race, the best climber (aka King of the Mountains), the leading team and, of course, the overall winner, who is the rider with the best aggregate time. The Tour de France is the world’s most prestigious Stage Race and lasts for three weeks. Racing Qualities: All top Road Racers need to be able to stay in the saddle for hours at a time (endurance). Some are exceptionally good at going uphill and target wins in hilly terrain: these are known as Climbers. Others have a big ‘kick’ or ability to accelerate and are known as Sprinters. They often win races where the finish is contested by a number of riders – a bunch or sprint finish. Few riders can win, however, if they are not tactically very aware and at pro level team tactics and strategy can be very complex. Tactical Considerations: Endurance, Sprinting, Climbing, Tactics – these are just some of the qualities a successful road rider might possess. Which is the most important? Well, it’s open to debate, but compared to the sledgehammer tactic of just trying to ride faster than your rivals – something which will not work at anything but the lowest level of the sport – the rapier blade of genuine tactical nous is potentially a race winner for you. Road & Circuit Racing: Categories, Points, Rankings and Event Classifications: Road Racing is categorised into different classifications of race, open to riders of differing age/ability categories. Many races carry ranking points which are sought after by riders hoping to make it up to the next ability category.


What’s the best way to get into the sport of Road Racing? Here are a few tips to get you thinking. Join a Club: The ability to ride comfortably and safely in a bunch of riders is perhaps the essential skill of Road Racing. Road Racing has a strong club-based culture, so a great place to start is by joining a club which regularly runs training rides on the Public Roads. This will help you to learn how to ride in the company of other riders and what the basic etiquette of group riding entails. For younger riders, joining a Go-Ride club is a great option and should enable you to develop your skills away from the public roads and under the watchful eye of a trained coach. Check out the Go-Ride section of this website. Group Skills: Most Road orientated clubs run a number of rides per week, with a longer option on Sundays and perhaps a couple of shorter evening rides. Riding with other riders is also a great way to improve your fitness and gauge your ability against those who already compete. Perhaps the most useful trick of all is learning how to conserve energy by slipstreaming behind other riders. The ability to move freely in a bunch of riders is a real skill and many first-timers find themselves continually hanging on at the rear of the group. Seasoned riders have a magical feel for where to ride to minimise effort. These are all skills which will prove invaluable once you start to race. Look in ourClubs section to find a Road club near you. Circuit Racing: Road Racing beginners usually find their feet in easier events and there’s no better place to start than Circuit Race meetings. These events often have several races catering for a range of abilities and age groups and are an ideal environment in which to learn the bike handling and tactical skills necessary to succeed, without the additional stress of being on the public highway. Lap distance is usually between one and four kilometres, so if you get “dropped” (i.e. left behind), catch your breath and wait for the main group to come round, and join again! A British Cycling membership and Licence are usually needed for most events – see or Membership section for full details. Rules of the Game – Categories, Points, Rankings and Event Classifications. Check out the detail of how the sport works and don’t forget to read the Rules.

MTB (Mountain Bike)

The Basics Downhill : Who is quickest top to bottom? Who brakes latest, corners fastest and rides nearest to the edge of their ability? Downhill is the ultimate test of nerve and machine control. Riders race individually against the clock pitting themselves against a challenging succession of jumps, bumps, berms (cambered corners) and drop-offs on a course which is predominantly downhill – often dropping between 300 and 600 metres in perhaps 2.5 km of racing! Races usually last between 2 and 5 minutes. For Downhill, a full-face helmet and body armour are recommended! Bikes are highly specialised, featuring several inches of suspension front and rear. Frames are strong and light. Tyres are very broad and heavily knobbled. Transmission consists of only a single front sprocket and the chain has guides to help keep it on through the heavy knocks and vibration of competition. Brakes are very powerful discs. Weight is less of an issue than in Cross-Country and geometry is set up to provide straight line stability.

Cross-Country & Marathon :
Endurance, fitness and machine control all combine to make a top Cross-Country rider. Riders start together (massed start) and compete on a marked lap (typically three to six kilometres) with climbing, descending, single-track and technical sections (tight turns, narrow tracks, rocks, mud or other difficult terrain). Less experienced riders tackle fewer laps. Elite level riders race for up to 2 and a half hours and an even longer “Marathon” category made its debut at the 2003 World Championships – Marathons can be 50km, 100km or even 150km in length. Clothing is light – not dissimilar to that worn by Road riders – with an emphasis on cooling qualities and comfort. Bikes are extremely light and often very technically advanced. There has been a move towards full suspension (suspension for both front and back wheels) in recent years, but for some courses and conditions a “hardtail” is still favoured by many competitors. Frames are light aluminium, titanium and in increasing numbers carbon fibre. Tyres are light and generally knobbled, though a variety of tread patterns are available for different conditions. Disc brakes are increasingly popular. As well as hard-core Cross-Country and Marathon racing, there has been a huge growth in Enduro racing in recent years. Enduros comes in many forms – 100km and 12 and 24 hours (often with two and four man team options) are just some of the popular options. Huge fields make a for a great atmosphere and, whilst the more able riders treat them as seriously as any other race, for many they are a chance to enjoy riding in company or have a weekend away with friends.


Beginners usually find their feet in the numerous Cross-Country events which are run at club level all round the country. Cross-country is a natural starting point for all Mountain Bike racing as it is far less technically challenging than Downhill or 4-Cross and a relatively inexpensive bike will suffice whilst you learn the ropes. Cross-Country events usually have several races catering for a range of abilities and age groups and are an ideal environment in which to learn the bike handling and tactical skills necessary to succeed. Look out for Fun categories – there are also often categories for younger riders and age related categories for over-thirties. A British Cycling membership and Licence are usually needed for regional and national events. If you are under sixteen, the category system ensures that you compete against others of a similar age. Adult categorisation is based more on ability. As they become more successful, riders progress through Sport, Senior and Expert categories and the very best become “Elite” category riders. There are also a range of categories for older riders, based on age. Progression through the adult categories is through a national ranking system, administered by British Cycling, which rewards successful riders with points based on the length and difficulty of an event. Before you start racing, familiarise yourself with the rules of the sport, which include this system.