If your young cyclist would like to have a go, here is a quick youth road racing guide to their first cycle race…
Surface: tarmac courses or closed roads
Location: traffic-free at many locations across the UK (see below)
Bikes: generally drop-handlebar road bikes, but younger categories tend to allow flat bars too
Equipment: Correctly fitting EN regulation helmet and gloves/mitts
License: British Cycling road race license (free or from £15) – available online – CLICK HERE
Step 1 – join a club beforehand
Go along to your local Go-Ride club and join in on a training session. You and your child will learn a lot very quickly, with coaches always happy to help new members to prepare for their first race, which most clubs themselves host regulary. Find a local club HERE. Another benefit of joining a Go-Ride club is your first year’s race license is FREE! CLICK HERE.
Step 2 – get their kit ready
Probably the most important issue to address with road racing is gearing. Each age category has a ‘roll-out’ limit. Your club coach will happily explain this to you (sounds more complicated than it is) or you can get more explanation with our Gear Restriction Guide – CLICK HERE. They don’t need lycra to have a go, but if they decide to carry on, we do have one or two items of clothing that might help them to compete – CLICK HERE.
Step 3 – choose an event
You local club will almost certainly organise (or help) with a local race, so this may be the most practical to try first. If not, you can find road races all over the UK on British Cycling’s event database: CLICK HERE. You should be able to enter online, selecting the correct age group from U8, U10, U12, U14, U16 & Junior U18 (age as of 31/12 of that year).
Step 4 – go racing!
You will need to find race HQ on arrival and sign-on, producing your race license. You will be given a race number to pin onto their jersey (sometimes a specific position). Important – make a note of their race start time and be ready near the start well in time for assembly! Often, riders get a chance to ride the course to warm-up, but not always – it does depend on the running order of events. Its worth getting there early to at least walk the course if possible to settle their nerves.
Riders line up at the start at the due time, the flag is drops, and they have to complete a certain number of laps of the circuit/course. This is when they get to do their Tour de France bit! Race distances are usually time based, so the number of laps depends on the speed of the leading rider.
The chequered flag is out when the leading rider passes the line after the prescribed race duration. Each following rider then finishes, regardless of how many laps they have completed. Whilst there are rules if a rider is ‘lapped’, it is nothing to worry about in the younger age categories – its just important they enter and have a go!
Step 5 – celebrate!
With the race finished, they will be hot, tired and hopefully buzzing with excitement. Where they finish is of no importance, as long as they enjoyed themselves and want to have another go! Often there may be awards or a podium presentation for the first 3 in each age group, for both boys and girls – so there is a chance they might get a little trophy?
Enjoy constant chatter in the car on the way home about how they ‘…attacked…’ and ‘…lead-out the breakaway…’ on their 16″ wheeled bike at 6 years old 😉 If they do, they’ve been watching too much TDF with Dad!
Popular Road Racing Venues
British Cycling regulations state all under-16 races must take place on traffic-free roads or a closed-road circuit. As well as closed-road courses, crit racing can also be held at purpose-built cycling venues or even motor racing courses.
Cyclopark, Gravesend, Kent
Hillingdon Cycle Circuit, West London
Lea Valley VeloPark, London
Litherland Sports Park, Liverpool
Maindy Cycle Track, Cardiff
Redbridge Cycling Centre, Ilford, North-East London
Stourport Sports Club, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire
Tameside Cycle Circuit, Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester
Torbay Velopark, Paignton, Devon
York Sport Cycle Circuit, York
Motor racing tracks with regular road racing events
Angmering Motorsport Centre, West Sussex
Castle Combe Circuit, Chippenham, Wiltshire
Ford Dunton Test Track, Bedfordshire
Goodwood Circuit, Chichester, Hampshire
Mallory Park Circuit, Kirkby Mallory, Leicestershire
Rockingham Motor Speedway, Corby, Northamptonshire
Thruxton Circuit, Andover, Hampshire
Other venues with regular road racing events;
Abingdon Airfield, Oxford
Betteshanger Country Park, Deal, Kent
Crystal Palace, South London
Dunsfold Park, Cranleigh, Surrey
Harvey Hadden Sports Village, Nottingham
Henstridge Airfield, Somerset
Westpoint Centre, Exeter, Devon
Milton Keynes Bowl, Buckinghamshire
Trinity Park Showground, Ipswich, Suffolk
If they love their cycling, its worth the effort to let them have a go at racing. Benefits are numerous from the obvious healthy ones, to making new friends and just having a great time outdoors.