Get into Cycle Racing

One of the aims of Barnesbury CC is to get our youth and novice riders into racing, whatever the discipline. This guide has been produced with the help of Hetton Hawks to help parents and riders understand how to start racing. The guide has short sections and links for more information. If you would like further information please speak to one of our coaches to talk you through your first event.

There are three tiers of competition in the UK:

  • Go-Ride Racing – this is entry level, often hosted by your own Go-Ride club and open to all.  You don’t need a racing licence and the events do not carry points. 
  • Regional – these are races advertised in the British Cycling Handbook and on the national and North East BC websites.  Riders must have a racing licence as well as BC membership.  Points are awarded and you can expect to ride against riders from the North East and sometimes from other regions too. North East races are organised into leagues or series according to the type of racing discipline (road, cyclo-cross, track, mountain bike, BMX and cycle speedway).
  • National – a series of races which take place all over the UK.  The racing is of the highest standard and requires team work and a lot of support.  Depending on the discipline, each region might only host one National race per year.  National Championships are included.

Your First Race

This is likely to be either a Go Ride or Regional Race, regardless of the discipline somewhere in the north east.  You will need:

  • Your bike! – it should be in good working order, and have its gearing restricted relative to the rider’s age category (restrictions apply to track or road events only).  These are:

Age Categories 2013

  • Advice on licence age categories can be found in this document: Licence_Age_Cat_2013.pdf
  • Advice on gear restrictions  can be found in this document: Guide to Gear Ratios for Youth Road Racing
  • How is “good working order” defined? Check the bike against this guide and correct as necessary:
  • Your kitbag – everything you will need for the race event and afterwards. Please note your race kit should be club colours, or plain colours (no trade team kit for regional or national races): KitBag.pdf
  • BC membership – this is not necessary for Go-Race events, but is for Regional and National races.  Licences are free with membership for all youth categories and half the adult price for junior riders. If you have never been a BC member before as a Go Ride club Barnesbury will be able to supply your first year’s BC membership either free or at a reduced cost (please ask a committee member). 
  • Entry – for Go-Races, there is no need to pre-enter. For Regional races, you may be able to enter on the day, but check the BC website for “entry on the line”(EoL). All CXNE or TLI cyclo-cross events are EoL only. For national events, you must enter in advance (4 weeks minimum). It will help plan your season if you enter all your regional events in advance.  Example entry forms can be found here and can be downloaded from the BC website (a separate form is required for CTT events which can be found on their website).  Note that more races are now using web entry systems, which allow registration for a series of events.  SampleForms.pdf

Race Day (BC Events)

  • Know your start time and directions on how to get there. Arrive at the race location in good time to find the headquarters. Bear in mind that it is your responsibility to know what you should be doing, so try to spare the race organiser from basic questions.  Well organised events will clearly display where “Sign On” is (or race HQ).
  • Signing on – this is the phrase we use for rider registration on the day of the event.  The rider’s parent (responsible adult) needs to sign on for youth categories (this is a requirement regardless of EoL or pre entry, additional paperwork is required for EoL for youths). Make sure that you do this before sign on closes, which will be at least 15mins before the event and for national races, will be 30 minutes.   
  • At the sign on, provide your contact details.  You will be required to leave your licence if you have one.  An additional fee maybe required if you don’t have BC membership. Pick up your number and place it as advised in the docement RaceNumbers.pdf.
  • Warm-up – Youth races are always on a traffic-free facility.  For road, this means a tarmac closed road circuit, such as Hetton or Prissick.  For off-road, obviously the course is laid out away from the public and traffic.  Riders should warm up, but be aware that you cannot warm up while an event is taking place on the course.  Only go on the circuit when the Chief Commissaire (Judge) or Race Organiser tells you that this is permitted. 
  • Consider taking a turbo trainer or rollers to warm up, so that you can be close to the start.  You will get a chance to ride the circuit (which will be marshalled) before your race.
  • Don’t miss your start time!  It is a rider’s responsibility to be on the line when the officials call for the next race. 

The Race

  • Depending on the event, riders may be able to race twice or even three times, with one event being a speciality race such as a time trial or straight-out sprint between two points.  These are often used to establish an initial leader board. 
  • Try to remember what you have been coached to do - racing in bunches is about trying to save energy, not use it all up too quickly, so try to use your head  Above all, enjoy yourself!
  • After the race, whether you won, got a “placing” (first ten) or had a minor disaster, leave the circuit – don’t hang around on the course, as the next race will be coming up and the riders for that will be wanting to warm up. 
  • Put some warm clothing on and have something to eat and drink.
  • Mechanical problems during the race– there is no fixed regulation for this, but generally if a rider punctures, a “lap out” is allowed once in road races. Other events such as time trials, cyclo-cross, MTB and BMX that is racing!  Similar for any other mechanical problem, but only one lap out is usually allowed.  The race organiser will clarify the arrangements on the day or, if you entered in advance, through the race programme. 
  • Feeding is not permitted (usually) in any youth race by parents handing bottles on the move. This is (usually) overlooked in beginner events, however you may fall foul in bigger events where it can be a safety issue – disqualification is the result so be warned.

So, that’s it, basically.  If you have entered a regional or national event and gained points, these will be added to your licence and all categories can check their regional and national rankings by logging in on the BC website:

Your club also gains ranking positions from your points being added to those of all riders from the same club.  In the UK, we do this by having the same points totals available to all categories and ages and levels of race – so it’s quite possible for Barnesbury to be up there with the established racing teams in the Regional and National rankings.
Youth A & B riders who gain 15 points on their licence are able to apply for a “dispensation” from BC to allow them to compete in the next highest age/ability category.  Applications can be made through the membership section of BC.  Please let Steve McIntosh and Chris Gray know if you think you qualify for this dispensation. 

Advice For Parents

The standards we expect of parents are stated in our Parental Code of Conduct. Young riders sometimes do not show their potential early and conversely, some appear to be world beaters straight out of the pram!  Almost always, this is due to physiological differences and these change over time.  Adolescence can be a particularly difficult period as young people battle with hormones and bodies that seem to have changed completely.  Three common problems are loss of balance and coordination, tiredness and joint pain, for example.  If parents have any concerns, please approach one of the coaches.  Riders may also discuss these issues with coaches, or with our Welfare Officers.   

It’s important that parents reinforce the standards expected of our riders too, which are sporting behaviour, good standards of presentation and friendliness.  In this way, we can maintain the reputation of Barnesbury CC and our sponsor Start Cycles. 


Good luck and enjoy your racing experience, remember Mark Cavendish started out riding his BMX at his local road league, Sir Chris Hoy competed in BMX before turning to another discipline with such success, so why not try several disciplines to find which you like best. This guide will be updated from time to time and announcements about this will be made on the club’s website.  Good luck in your first experience of cycle racing.