Realistic Racing Advice

I read Bike Snob NYC pretty regularly. His acidic wit combined with his talent for writing produce some quality cycling comedy. But his post on Monday giving advice to cycling racers was exceptional and timely (since I did my first road race and crit two weeks ago). Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

Cycling should be an enjoyable endeavor. However, sometimes despite our best efforts we wind up in situations on the bike that are simply no fun. Such situations include: having accidents; getting caught in severe weather; and, perhaps worst of all, becoming involved in an amateur road race.
There is a fine line between ambition and delusion. The former is the fuel for success, and the latter is the way to ruin.
So you’ve admitted you’re a loser. Congratulations, and welcome to mediocrity! Please come in and make yourself comfortable. Would you like a Shasta? Believe it or not, embracing your inner “meh” is one of the most positive things you can do as a cyclist.
Road racing is all about tactics. Unfortunately, the tactical advice you get from books and magazines is intended for winners or for people who aspire to be winners. As such, it doesn't apply to you. Using that stuff for pass/fail racing is like trying to assemble a piece of Ikea furniture by following Mapquest directions to Chuck E. Cheese. You’re not interested in winning, you’re interested in surviving.
Read the whole post


j_e said...

Were you aiming this at me? It sure seems like what I've been bashing back and forth in my noggin for the last couple of days.

I loved this gem:
"In this case we can look to the halls of academe for an answer, and that answer is to race “Pass/Fail.” This simply means finishing=passing and getting dropped=failing."

I'll be soooooo happy when I pass a race instead of failing them all.

I'm slowly learning this game of tactics. Each race I figure out another little nugget of knowledge to use and I think I'm getting better. But in the end, I still fail by getting dropped.

Winning a race would be a pleasent accident for me. I'll gleefully settle for not getting dropped and also mounting the bike back to the rack feeling like I gave an honest effort.

KanyonKris said...

I wasn't aiming the post at you. I just thought it was funny, especially since I just did my first road race and crit 2 weeks ago (my tally is 1 fail, 1 pass). But I couldn't help notice the coincidental timing of your "I finally figured it out" post and then read the Snob's post about pass/fail racing (yes, I'm catching up on some blog reading today).

Sure the Snob exaggerates, but I think most cyclists who have tried racing will see the kernels of truth there that make it all the more humorous.

UtRider said...

While Bike Snob NYC likes to poke fun at cycling, he seems to miss - or minimize - the effort and dedication represented by the common rider.

In my opinion, everybody who pins on a number and lines up for a race is a winner. Registering for, and showing up to, a race is a HUGE commitment and anybody who does so is certainly not a loser or a failure.

Personally I don't enjoy humor that minimizes or ridicules my attempts to improve and compete. If he were to say that finishing = winning and quitting/not trying = losing I'd agree. But labeling everybody but the guy/gal who crosses the line first as a loser is too much. Just reading the excerpt on your blog is enough for me. I'll let the Snob bask in the glow of his own BS and the praise of his admiring fans of which I am proud to not be counted.

j_e said...


While I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment, I also agree with the snob in this case.

"Over the years, I’ve learned that riding for a place is discouraging. However, if you treat simply finishing the race as success you can strive for—and attain—something close to perfection. Remember: success is how you define it."

There are different definitions of success and failure -- each of them personal. I agree with your definition about just lining up and racing. I also agree with his because I'm desperately looking for a measuring stick of improvement. For now, that measuring stick is staying with the lead pack in my racing category. Winning, as in finishing on the podium, is not my goal at the moment. Competing is.

There is no absolute truth to what defines success or failure on a bike or in a race. But for my circumstance at the moment, this particular blog entry hit home.

KanyonKris said...

utrider: good point about avoiding negativity and mockery. But I didn't get that vibe from this post by the Snob. In fact it seemed to me he was only speaking from experience and offering it up in a humorous way - not making fun of anyone.

JE: well said. It's easy to say we need to have realistic expectations, but how do you know when you start out what's realistic? That's why we have terms like "rookie mistake" - you can't learn everything from observation or reading, you have to get out and actually try it. And when you do you learn things, usually by making mistakes. It can be frustrating, but that's the process.