So you have been riding a bike for a while now. Most of your training rides have perhaps been on your own or with a couple of mates. You like attacking the Strava segments and love looking at your stats after each ride. That competitive side of you is starting to creep out and you fancy piping yourself against other riders. Maybe you have even seen one of your mates have a go and do well?
If you haven't been brought up from an early age racing in the youth classes you may feel a bit daunted thinking about tackling your first race so here we have tried to prepare you best possible.
Club runs are great for getting used to riding in larger groups. This is a relaxed and enjoyable way to learn how to ride close to someone and learn how to ride a wheel. Road racing in particular means riding in very close proximity to others. If this is something you are not used to can be quite unnerving for the first time. Riding with people you trust and know is a much better way to learn. Not only that, being out on the bike for three to four hours prepares your body for a 50/60mile road race.
These kinds of rides are often put a ride on in the early spring called reliabilities. These are club rides that other local clubs from near the area get invited to. There are often 50 plus riders at the clubs ride so this can be a good stepping stone to getting used to riding with people you don't know, getting used to a faster pace and learning how others ride and how to reacting accordingly.
Charity events and sportives
Charity events and sportives are again a really good way to test yourself. It's a friendly way of pushing you out of your comfort zone, riding with people you don't know and pushing yourself a little harder than you would in a club run. Often quite challenging events it can be good prep for a race especially if you set yourself a target time or try and stay with a certain group of riders.
After you have done one or two of sportives, you may be ready to have a go at a local race. Maybe look for one where you know the area or the local roads. Local races are often a little smaller too and you may also know some of the people racing in it. This will help you to relax a little more and enjoy the experience.
Off-road races cyclocross
There is the option to do some cyclocross races during the winter if you have a cyclocross bike. These are often friendly events and as they are raced on grass, the average speed is slower and the groups of riders are not as big as a road race peloton. This could be a great place for you to start, as long as you have ridden on grass before!
Having said all this, if you fancy a go a time trialing and hill climbing. This is still racing but not in a large group and is an individual event. So learning some of the above skills may not be necessary for the type of racing you want to take part in. Practicing the skill will be the only thing that would help you in this situation. learning to deal with a race environment will only come with racing and how you prepare and deal with the nerves that come with racing is a personal thing.
You will find many events and races over at British Cycling where you can browse and enter all year round.