Going in circles trying to locate information on a particular race bike or bicycle race? We’re your one stop shop for information about bike races, different types of racing bicycles, plus all the essentials to get you pedaling on your way.
The big draw to bicycle racing is the adrenaline rush you feel speeding through a course. Driving 40 miles per hour may not be very exciting; however, using your own body strength to travel at the same rate of speed can be the most thrilling experience of your life. Whether racing on the road, a track, or on a mountain, bicycle racing is an exhilarating, yet physically demanding sport. Additionally, it requires the strength of your mind to make split second decisions to maneuver obstacles or evaluate and surmise the actions of a fellow competitor. No matter your age or your ability, there is a bicycle and a bike race out there for you!
One of the most well-known bicycle races is the Tour de France. You may be surprised to learn, however, there are a number of different types of bike racing styles available for cyclists. The Tour de France is an example of a stage road race. It’s not uncommon to see a mass of cyclists at the start of a stage road race ready to compete for five days to three weeks straight. A stage race rider cycles from point-to-point, typically a distance of 75-150 miles per day. Individuals generally make up the field, however, teams and clubs can also participate. Whereas the fastest rider may win other races, the rider with the best cycling skills may quite possibly be the champion of a stage road race. Much of the strategy of this particular manner of racing involves anticipating the road conditions and planning accordingly. Therefore, it would be to the rider’s advantage to become familiar with the course ahead of time, if possible. A stage road race course may include riding over any number or surfaces, thus the appropriate road racing bike should be designed to encounter all varieties of riding environments and include a longer wheelbase than other race bikes. The increased length of the wheelbase allows the suspension required for rides of long distance. Along with stage races, road racing can be further broken down into time trialing and criterum races.
Time trialing is known as the most simplistic form of bicycle racing, and is an excellent starting point for a beginning racer. With this manner of racing, there are no outward competitors. Instead, time trial racing is often a race against the clock. Time trialists ride in an attempt to beat their personal best time and assess their cycling progress. During a time trial, a rider will cycle a predetermined distance or ride as far as possible in a set amount of time. This typically occurs on an established public road course between 10 and 100 miles in length. You may recognize a time trial cyclist by his distinctive aerodynamic helmet. Any type of bike can be used for time trialing. Some simply adapt a standard road bike with aerobars and disk or tri-spoke wheels to reduce wind resistance and increase aerodynamics.
A criterium race, also known as a crit, is won by the competitor that completes a designated number of laps within a compact circuit, typically around a city or small town. Sometimes called “chess at 25mph,” criterium cyclists must not only be in shape, but clever in their cycling tactics, as well. This makes it a popular spectator sport, as well as the most common type of road race in the United States. Bicycles used for criterium racing typically have a higher bottom bracket for faster turns. Like any other race bike, criterium bikes are very lightweight and have a stiff tight frame with a short fork rake for maximum responsiveness.
Rapidly evolving in popularity, mountain bike racing is a distinct form of racing that takes place off-road and in a variety of formats. The top three established categories of mountain bike racing are endurance, cross-country, and downhill.
The most common form of mountain bike racing is an endurance race. Endurance races, also known as enduros or marathons, take 6+ hours to complete, are raced by teams or solo riders, and are usually 30 to 60 miles from point to point. Some enduros continue into the overnight, lasting up to 24 hours. The nature of this type of race attracts cyclists who love pushing their bodies, as well as their bikes, to the limit. Similarly, they are pushing the limits of their minds, as the amount of time required to complete the race can become psychologically tiring, as well. A full suspension bike is recommended for someone interested in competing in an endurance race.
Cross-country racing requires great physical strength and stamina. Most courses begin with a tough uphill climb. Some choose to carry their bike up the incline; however, practice and experience can develop a technique that will allow a rider to bike to the top. Cross-country mountain bike racing is fast-paced, typically ranges from 25-30 miles in length, and includes navigating all types of terrain. Depending on the course, you may see riders on a full-suspension bike maneuvering rougher circuits or a hardtail bicycle while managing a smoother course.
Unlike marathon and cross-country events, downhill races are completed by solo riders against the clock, and usually take place for 5 to 6 exhilarating minutes. Riders take off in 30-second intervals at the top of a course. The rider with the quickest time to the end is deemed the winner. Downhill racers may appear unruly in their racing style, but in reality, their technique requires calculated control. What may seem out of control to a spectator may actually be a very disciplined action by the racer. Downhill courses are known for their steep drops, large jumps, and highly technical sections. Similar to downhill skiing, one wrong move can end your race in an astounding crash. For that reason, as well as the type of course being travelled, downhillers use specially adapted bikes with reinforced tubing, extra strong wheels, and 2.5 inch wide tires.
In its original form, bicycle motocross (BMX) racing takes place on a short manmade course consisting of jumps and corners. Wearing full-face protective helmets, up to eight racers line up in the start gates, and take off all at once. This is a sprint event requiring excellent bike-handling skills. BMX racing is now considered an Olympic sport with the winner being regarded as the first to cross the finish line. As a spectator, you will see BMX racers riding small-wheeled bikes with straight forks and a high bottom bracket designed specifically for encounters with dirt jumps, gravel, and water obstacles.
Originally devised as a way to keep cyclists in shape during the off season, cyclocross racing revels in the autumn and winter months. This manner of racing typically takes place over natural obstacles including grass, gravel, and mud. Cyclocross courses may also include terrain extremely difficult to navigate on bike, requiring riders to carry their bikes or master a technique that won’t cause a loss in time. For this reason, some racers use cyclocross as a means to sharpen their bike handling skills. Lasting less than an hour, the race is short, but exciting to watch, as it occurs at excessively quick speeds. There is no specific cyclocross bike, therefore cyclists usually modify a road or mountain bike for their individual cyclocross racing needs.
Typical track racing is not as popular as in the past; however, it is still a highly attended spectator sport during the Olympics. Track cyclists perform in an indoor velodrome or an outdoor arena. Indoor tracks are constructed from wood, while outdoor tracks are typically asphalt or concrete. Depending on the number of laps involved, a track race can last several seconds to several days. Different forms of track racing include sprints, time trials, pursuit races, point races, miss-and-out races, Madison races, and omnium races. All consist of distinct characteristics concerning distance, competing members, and manner of winning. No matter the type of track race, a track bike is very lightweight, doesn’t have breaks, and only requires one gear. For this reason, a track bike is not suitable for everyday use. Track racing is also a sport better suited for the most experienced road riders.
A racing bike is designed to be lightweight, fast, and efficient. With a goal of acquiring the best ergonomics and aerodynamics, it is not uncommon for racers to sacrifice their own personal comfort when choosing a bike. The three main components of a racing bicycle are the frame, handlebars, and wheels. All are equally important when deciding the best bike for your personal racing preferences.
Bike frames have evolved over the years, and now weigh less than ever to allow for top speeds. It is required they be constructed using a main triangular shape consisting of top, down, and seat tubes, which are typically made of an assortment of lightweight carbon fiber composite materials. The primary benefit of the drop handlebars on a racing bike is to allow racers a crouched down posture, therefore providing better aerodynamics. This style of handlebar is also advantageous during long rides, allowing space for different hand positions. It is here you will locate brake levers and gear shifts. The type of bicycle wheels you choose may make all the difference in how and when you reach the finish. Your wheelset of choice should depend on the type of race you are completing. No matter the category, however, you will notice the front and back wheels of a race bike are located closely together to allow for quick handling. They are lightweight, narrow, and have a thin smooth tread. Race-grade wheelsets can be very costly; therefore, it may be in a racer’s best interest to test them out before spending the money on a purchase.
Racing bikes can cost anywhere from $500 to $6,000. As an expensive investment, you want to make sure you buy the bike that best suits your body and your intent, as well as your wallet. The safest way to ensure you are getting the right bike for your money is to “try it before you buy it.” The best approach to test out your options is to rent different makes and models, and find the bicycle most fitting for you. Rent It Today can help you locate your perfect bike. If you already own a bike, but are interested in upgrading or testing out a new type of race, there are also options to rent bicycle accessories.
When you are ready to purchase, it's important to ensure you get a bike that is safe for the type of biking you intend to undertake, as well as one that meets all Union Cycliste Internationale regulations. Find a bike that will perform well under the specific conditions of the racing style you’ve chosen, and always make sure it's specially fitted to your individual body.