7 Tips for Bike Racing on a budget

As a Student, this is something which I feel very well qualified to discuss. I have to admit to the cost of racing being one factor which stopped me from trying it earlier. However – I’ve learnt a few things along the way that enabled me to enjoy a full season of racing without worrying too much about money. As per usual, it was a process involving much trial and error – not without disaster. Anyway, here goes.

  • Plan your events carefully

Before writing this post, I had a look back through my 2016 season calendar. I’m sad to say that I managed to waste just shy of £100 by entering races that I didn’t make it too. Don’t impulsively enter events, as I found out – doing badly in a race and then entering another one in a few days time that you hadn’t originally planned to do is a poor strategy.

I’d suggest sitting down with the calendar and spending an afternoon planning the season – after all it is winter at the time of writing, what else is there to do? Entering races on the day tends to cost about 25% more when compared with online entries, once again it’s good to be organized.

  • Look after your equipment

This one should go without saying, as Cyclists we all know that bikes are to be revered and given nothing but the highest standard of care that we can offer. In all seriousness, maintaining equipment properly means it will last considerably longer. This is especially relevant if you have just the one bike that gets used all year round. I’ve been guilty of not cleaning mine after a ride on many occasions – it can be an expensive habit. If you are short on time, just get the worst of the mud off and clean the drivetrain components.

  • Get your hands dirty – but not too much

Bike Shops can be expensive – the more mechanical jobs you can do yourself the better. Anyone who knows me personally will be crying hypocrite, and in all honesty they’re right. I will admit to being a terrible mechanic, sometimes having to have my handiwork corrected by the local bikeshop. You’d do well by just learning a few basic things, such as how to change a cassette and index gears. If a job seems too advanced and it involves expensive components – getting it done professionally is still likely to be a better bet.

  • Don’t take your best equipment racing – at least not to begin with.

4th Cat Closed circuit races have a reputation for being hazardous, and with good reason – many of the riders will be inexperienced. The chances of crashing are during your first few races are quite high. You might not want to risk your most expensive equipment. Alloy frames are far more practical for Crit / Closed Circuit events – the material has made a comeback in recent years and with good reason.

Most circuits on which races are held are flat, hence some extra weight won’t be a massive hindrance. I save my best bike for Road Races, these are ridden at a slightly slower pace and the field tends to be more experienced (usually its about 50:50 in terms of 4th and 3rd Cats, assuming a 3/4 rather than 2/3/4 race).

  • Do your homework

There is nothing worse than buying a piece of equipment only to discover that you don’t need it, you have to buy more items in order to make it work, or it is the wrong size/doesn’t fit. It might sound obvious, but it’s a mistake I have made many times. Just take some time to do some research; read some reviews and hunt for the lowest price.

  • Spend a little more to save in the long run

Buying very cheap equipment can lead to more being spent overall. It’s costly, not to mention time consuming and extremely annoying if you have to replace something over and over again. Plus, the last thing you want in a race is for a component to fail – I was forced to pull out of my first race due to a slipping chain, not before I had all but ground to a halt in the midst of a fast moving bunch and almost caused a serious crash.

  • Treat yourself once in a while

Sometimes it can be good to reward yourself. If you do have some spare money and something you’d really like – don’t feel guilty about buying it because it wasn’t the best value choice. I’ve found that building up to these occasional indulgences is a good way to keep ‘everyday’ spending under control. If you are saving for a new bike – it’s unlikely you’ll make any rash purchases beforehand. Just don’t make the mistake of going into a local bike shop and having a really good look, as I found out this can quickly put an end to an economy drive.

For today, that’s all. If you have anything to add or feel I have missed something out, feel free to comment below. Onwards and Upwards.

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