Don’t be intimidated.

Don’t fret about participating in a race donning a plain jersey and riding a well-used road bike. There’s surprisingly little connection between a cyclist’s skill and their appearance, physical attributes, or anything else for that matter. Regardless of age, everyone is out to enjoy themselves and push their personal limits.

Stop procrastinating.

If you’re waiting for the perfect moment to try racing, when you feel exceptionally fit or have that speedy new race bike, or when there’s finally a break in your busy schedule, remember that there’s no better time than the present.

Join a club or team.

Cycling is as much a team sport off the bike as it is on the bike. Joining COBRAS is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the sport, connect with fellow enthusiasts, pool resources, and, above all, forge lasting friendships while having a blast. Ultimately, that’s what this sport is all about.

What types of road races are there?

Time Trial: Experience the thrill of the “Race of Truth” – a time trial where individuals or teams go head-to-head against the clock. While many racers opt for aerodynamic bikes, equipment, and clothing to gain that competitive edge, it’s not compulsory. Participants are categorized by gender, age group, and sometimes by a “Retro” division, which prohibits the use of special aerodynamic gear. The length and terrain of the course may vary, but for State and National Championship time trials, expect a challenging 40-kilometer (just under 25 miles) distance.

Criterium: A criterium or “crit,” is the most common form of mass-start racing in the United States. The criterium takes place on a closed course one mile or less in length. The loop is repeated, and the race tends to last 30-90 minutes, depending on the skill level of the riders. These races usually have a faster overall speed than other races and are popular with spectators because the riders come by every couple of minutes.

Road Race: Road bicycle racing is a bicycle racing sport held on paved roads. The term “road racing” is usually applied to events where competing riders start simultaneously (unless riding a handicap event) with the winner being the first to the line at the end of the course.

Circuit Race:  A Circuit Race is essentially a Road Race on a shorter course, repeated several times.  These are mass start, one-day events.

Stage Race: A stage race can last a few days or as long as three weeks. Each day, the racers ride a different course; the races that make up a stage race may include road races, criteriums, and time trials. The courses may be long or short, flat or hilly, or a combination. The athlete with the greatest overall ability to sprint, climb, and just persevere, will fare the best in a stage race. The Tour de France is a stage races.

How do I get started?

Bicycle racing is open to all levels of ability.

If you’re going to race on the road, you need a road bike. Mountain or hybrid bikes are too heavy. If you are shopping for a new bicycle, know the difference between “sizing” a bike to the rider and “fitting” the bike. Most bike shops will start with “sizing” the frame – having you stand over the bike to establish clearance.  Having the bike “custom fit” typically involves substantial extra time and cost, but the resulting comfort level is worth it.

Once you have your bike and helmet that fit well, start training. Plan to train as much as you can. Do “intervals” where you pedal as fast as you can for a set time (30 seconds to start, then increase as your fitness increases) then pedal at a more relaxed pace for the same amount of time. Repeat as many times as you can.

Don’t worry about aero bars, TT bikes, and other special equipment to start out with. Enter a few races and decide for yourself what type of racing you enjoy best and what you are willing to invest to gain a few seconds during the race. Racing does not have to be expensive nor require a lot of special equipment to have fun.

Learn from more experienced racers. Find a club that fits you.

Finding a cycling club is a great way to prepare you for the next step. If you’re not already a member of a club, consider joining one such as the COBRAS and take part in the group rides and other learning opportunities that we offer to our members. Email us so we can call you and discuss your level of cycling and what your interests are, just to make sure it’s a good fit for you.

Get thee to the start line. Choose your first race.

There are dozens of race events in the Denver area. USA Cycling and Bicycle Colorado are a great place to look for races. Their web sites are  or  If you join a club such as the COBRAS, we can help you find the right first race for you and mentor you through the process of that first race!

The Karen Hornbostel Memorial Time Trial Series at Cherry Creek State Park (run by the COBRAS) offers a First Timer program that provides mentoring and you can participate in your first race for only $20. Click here for details.

Are you licensed to race?

Most bicycle races in the Denver area require that you have a USA Cycling license. You can get more information at

Some races allow you to purchase a one-day license.  When you select a race, read the promoters or sponsoring clubs web site or flyer in detail to determine what you need to have to race.  If you belong to a club such as the COBRAS, call or ask any member and they can help you.

Should I train with a group?

Group rides will help you learn different skills than you pick up on your own, such as how to follow a rider closely and safely, how to expend less energy, how to accelerate with explosive speed, and how to turn a corner with speed.

COBRAS offer weekly group rides and you are welcome to join us without paying dues and use this time to help see if you and the club are a good match.

What should I bring to a race?

  • A helmet is required to race
  • Unless you are riding for a club and have one of their jerseys, wear one of your own
  • Padded shorts
  • Cycling shoes that clip into your pedals
  • Gloves to protect your hands
  • Sunglasses to protect your eyes
  • Water bottles
  • Food and water (with protein and carbohydrates) for after your race
  • A friend to cheer for you is always nice