One of the best (if not the best) by-product of racing is the environment and people that it puts you touch with. This past year during my first season back racing I was lucky enough to join up with the Deadgoats – an awesome group of guys and gals. I will admit that they’re a pretty hardcore bunch, but it’s been good to get back into the mix, and there’s nothing like riding and surrounding yourself with people that are better than you to raise the bar on your riding. One of my newbie cohorts this season was Kyle Husband. He managed to squeak in every type of racing you can think of, and even won himself a new bike frame at one of the races. In light of his diverse experience I thought I would get him to share some of his thoughts as he looks back on his first race season.

Ridge Outlook
Guest post by Kyle Husband
Find him online: The New Build

When Ken asked me write an article, I got pretty excited. Although, I’m new to racing and haven’t been riding as long as some people, I think it’s important to give advice when you can. When I look back, I’ve probably learned more about riding in the past year of racing then the past 5 years of riding on my own. If I can help just one cyclist get into racing next season… or even improve a current racers results by just one placing… I consider that a success. So I thought I’d write about the few things that I learned throughout the season and hopefully this is helpful advice for people looking into racing or people looking at trying a new discipline.

When I got into racing, the only thing I really wanted to do at first was race cyclocross because I heard from a friend it was really fun. When I checked the ABA calendar, cyclocross started in September… so what was I to do from April to then? The only thing to do was to race XC and road in order to prepare for the cyclocross season.

Up the Houffalizer

My very first ABA race was an XC race in Lethbridge, where I probably learned the most about racing. It was a day fraught with mistakes and accidents but still tons of fun. I remember a teammate telling me that I would probably hate my first race while I was out on the course… but after I crossed the finish line… I’d somehow want to go out and do it again. I thought she was kidding… she was so right.

Things I would say to beginner before their first race:

  • Pack everything the night before
  • Get a good night sleep, especially if you have a long drive ahead.
  • Have a good meal before the race and eat light snacks in the hours leading up to your start.
  • Prepare a race kit. I put all my essentials in a shoe box and all my food in another. That way before a race you aren’t trying to remember what to bring.
  • Become familiar with basic mechanical work (repairing a flat, repairing a chain, adjusting shifters and brakes)
  • Always get to the race early enough to pre-ride the course. Racing an unknown course can get you injured if you don’t know what’s up ahead. Also pre-riding serves as your warm-up.

Despite all my off season training and years of riding bikes, I was suffering during the race. I was sucking air like it was going out of style and my legs were cramping up. I could barely finish my two laps and the experts had to do 6. It was humbling because when I looked at the technical guide… I figured 2 laps of 6kms each would be no problem. When I finished the race I probably had a big smile on my face, mainly because I was glad to have finished my first race. As I watched the other categories race, I witnessed several different things during their races:

  • RELAX!!! Remember that you’re doing this for fun. Everyone is nervous during their first race… but the more relaxed you are… the fewer mistakes you’ll make.
  • Even though it’s a race you should always show good sportsmanship. You will gain a lot of respect this way.
  • Race safe. If you’re on a rider’s wheel, don’t overlap wheels, this is just asking for trouble. Also if aren’t confident to clean a technical section, it’s OK to walk/tripod. It’s better to make it through a section safely then to attempt something that is beyond your ability/confidence level.
  • Keep well hydrated during a race and make sure you are replenishing your electrolytes. The easiest way to do this is hydrating with a sports drink instead of plain water.
  • Have fun. This is the most important thing to remember. We are all out there racing because we enjoy it.

Dark Knight

As the season progressed I decided to give crit racing a try. I had a cyclocross bike and modified it with some new wheels to use it for road riding. I did the majority of the training crits on this bike. My first real road race was the Tour de Bowness stage race. This is an awesome event to try if you’ve never road raced because you get to do 3 different road events (time trial, crit, road race) on 3 different days all within the city. During this time I learned a lot of common beginner roadie mistakes:

  • Use 6-8 pins for your body number and never use the four holes punched into them… unless you need/want parachutes to slow you down.
  • Clean your chain and rings regularly or you’ll get rookie tattoos… and everyone will know to avoid you during the race.
  • After your race is done, it’s “no chammy time”. Remove your cycling shorts as soon you can after your race is done to prevent saddle sore.
  • There’s no real plausible reason why roadies shave their legs… they just do… besides it looks way better with spandex. My excus-er… reason… easier to clean off rookie marks.
  • Do all your stuff at the back. This means drinking, spitting and taking stuff out of your jersey pockets. We’re all guilty of this… but you’ll think twice about it after someone spits in front of you and it flies back in your face.

Leading the Charge

After road racing, it was finally time for cyclocross. Everything you’ve heard is true. It’s fast, it’s painful and it’s really fun. ‘Cross is intense, it’s social and a great way to get some end of season training. You’ll notice right away that there’s tons of cowbell, heckling and cheering… its so spectator friendly that everyone just seems to get into it. ‘Cross was really easy to get into after a full season of both mountain biking and road biking because I didn’t really have to put too much more into training, but I still learned many key things that helped me as the season progressed:

  • Practice your dismount and remounts. It’s possible to gain positions just by getting on and off your bike faster than others. Being able to shoulder in one smooth motions instead of two can also help you gain time on opponents.
  • Tire pressure. This can help you take turns better, climb better on loose terrain and keep traction on muddy terrain. Tire pressure can usually make more of a difference then tire choice.
  • Hydrate well before your race as you normally won’t run a race with a water bottle. Even if you do run with a water bottle… you probably won’t have time to reach for it… there’s no breaks in ‘cross.
  • Make sure your cleats have holes for toe spikes. If the course is really muddy and you need to do run-ups… the toe spikes will keep you from sliding around.
  • Always anticipate what’s next. If there’s a uphill after a dismount, makes sure you’re in the proper gear before you dismount so you’re able to pedal right away after remounting. If it’s a really steep hill anticipate where you’ll need to get off to lose the least amount of time if you can’t make it all the way up.

Hopefully these tips help someone who is looking to get into racing or someone who is already racing and looking at racing another discipline. Personally I haven’t developed a huge dislike for anything yet but my favorite races this season have been ‘cross because of the awesome atmosphere. Most of us are out there because we love riding our bikes. If you’re bored of always riding the same roads and same trails… you should definitely try racing… it adds a whole new dimension to riding.

Hope to see you out at the races next season!