An introduction to bike racing. Part one.

Club racing is a daunting task. Especially when you don't have a bike.

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Submitted by VisorDownAdmin on Tue, 20/07/2004 - 23:06

This year's club racing season is nearly upon us, and I'm nearly ready. I just need a bike.

I need to tell you that the reason for being bikeless is that I recently blew the engine on my race-prepared beast during a punishing winter training schedule in southern Spain. I need to tell you this merely to assuage my guilt, and it is in fact a whopping lie. The real reason is that I haven't quite got round to buying one yet. And it's not just the bike I'm currently lacking either. Oh no. I also need to rapidly aquire club membership, an ACU racing licence, the compulsory race training that allows me to apply for a racing licence, and some leathers. And probably some other stuff I haven't got round to thinking about yet. But apart from that - I'm there.

You see, my basic problem is that I'm spectacularly lazy. I just find that I put things off for a bit and then before I know it, great swathes of time have passed. For example, the electrics in my flat messed up the other day leaving me with no lights. I say 'the other day', but it's now three years ago. Those tea lights are cheap in bulk and nothing particularly has made me need to fix the lights. I didn't even know it was three years until friends pointed it out. I honestly thought it was a few months.

It's not just the organisation and form-filling side I have to struggle with either. As well as possessing a disconcerting lack of motivation, energy and will-power, I also have the mechanical skills of a dolphin. And not one of those clever Seaworld-trained ones either. I can honestly say that I don't know one end of a spanner from the other, unless it's now considered de rigeur to refer to the two ends as 'the round end' and 'the normal end'.

But I have a secret weapon in that respect at least - a good friend of mine who has offered to help. We'll call him Sam. Everyone does; it's his name. A genuine mechanical expert who not only does know one end of a spanner from the other but quite probably knows their real names, and likely as not what sizes they come in too. Without his help there'd be no point in even attempting to start racing, and I'll be calling upon his motivational skills as well as his mechanical ones.

So what about the riding itself? Was I born on two wheels and feel a bike to be a natural extension of my body? Nope, I got into bikes in my mid-20s, and even then I never quite got round to booking my own lessons and test. My girlfriend at the time became so bored of listening to me promising to arrange it that she booked a course for me while I was at work one day and just told me I owed her three hundred quid when I got home.

Did I find that once on a bike I had a natural and un-tapped raw talent that saw me immediately drifting sideways into corners with the back tyre smoking like my morning toast? Hardly.

The truth is that I tried a few trackdays and decided I quite liked it. I had a good time, I wasn't rubbish at it, and I discovered something about myself that a childhood of avoiding organised sport had managed to keep from me - I was horribly competitive. It seems odd to only find that out once comfortably settled into my thirties but I suppose I'd never quite got round to looking into it before. After a handful of narrow-eyed, throttle-wrenched, buttock-clenched trackdays, culminating in a rather predictable crash while trying something imaginative at Clearways, I decided I really ought to do the right thing and take it outside into the car park, so to speak.

And so, like many before me and many to come after me, I am nervously entering the rather daunting world of amateur racing. I feel a little like a kid waiting for his first day at school to arrive. All alone except for a new pencil case and a suspiciously-orange drawstring swimming bag.

I don't promise to win anything. I don't promise to even make it to all of the rounds. Hell, I don't even promise to make it to any of the rounds at this point. But if I do manage it then it just goes to show that anybody can, oh so literally. So if you feel the urge as I do, then start saving the pennies (or, ideally, pounds and lots of them) and do something about it. I'm even looking at a bike this weekend which just goes to show what a potential winner I am!

So, if you see me at a race meeting this year, perhaps having a sandwich or enthusiastically watching Sam do stuff with the bike and handing him the round end of a spanner, then wish me luck. God knows I need it.

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