From rec to racer: take cycling to the next level by joining a competitive cycling team

The sun is still shining and temperatures remain shorts-appropriate, but we all know what’s coming. We’ve quietly dug up our rain gear and mounted on those fenders in preparation of the rainy rides ahead. We leave our slicks in the garage and switch to racing in the dirt on the knobby tires.

For local bike racers, fall season means two things: cyclocross and recruitment. This is the time of year when competitive cycling clubs throughout the region open their rosters and recruit new riders for the 2012-13 season. They do this not just to improve their own team, but to grow the sport itself.

Bike racing is fun, see? Everyone is smiling!

And we are looking for you, female recreational riders and commuters.

If you have been riding regularly, enjoy long rides on the weekends, or breezed through the STP, RSVP or HPC - we are looking for you!

I know what you’re thinking: It looks like fun but… I’m intimidated, I’m too old, I’m not fast enough, I don’t have the time, etc.

Almost exactly two years ago, I was in the position that you are in now; I was kind of interested in the whole cycling thing but I was intimidated.
When I moved to Seattle in June 2010, one of the first big things I did was ride the Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic – the longest organized bike ride I had ever signed up for. In fact, it was the first ever organized bike ride I had signed up for.

While riding the event, I was told that I had gotten too fast and too competitive, and that I should probably join a bike racing team.

In my entire life I had never looked at bikes as anything other than a mode of transportation. Only recently had I discovered the joy of recreational riding, so in a way, suggesting I should race my bike sounded very much like someone saying, “Hey, like driving your car? You should look into racing NASCAR.”

It seemed absurd, yet I was intrigued.

I did some digging around on the internet and went to the Marymoor Velodrome to watch some track racing. It looked fun but also intense. Working as a freelance journalist at the time, I was barely making any money. How was I going to afford this sport? How was I going to find time to train?  Would I even be physically fit enough? Plus, who just randomly jumps into a brand new sport?!

Still, I was curious. So I browsed the WSBA website and when September rolled around, I found the courage to attend a few Meet the Team rides.

Held every fall, these conversational-pace rides are intended for potential new riders to meet the local teams, ask questions about biker racing and find a team that’s right for them.

I quickly learned that the bike racing community is made up of a very diverse group of women of all ages and walks of life. Some were very serious about the sport, while others compete just for fun and mainly enjoy the camaraderie of teammates and the fitness that comes from spending a lot of time in the saddle.

I came home raving about the rides, and while racing my bike at high speeds in a tight pack of women still looked a bit intimidating, it also looked extremely fun. So I signed up.

Four months of team rides and hundreds of rainy miles in the saddle later, I was ready to compete in my first road race – Tour de Dung in Sequim, Wash.

My adrenaline was running high but having a group of teammates with me at the start eased the nerves. The race went well. I set out to not finish last and I was super stoked to be the tenth person to cross the finish line.

And that was all it took. One race, and I was hooked. I raced around 40 races that year, trying every discipline from road to track to cyclocross.

Now, two years later, I can hardly talk about anything else. Just ask my co-workers here at Cascade, who I have been trying to recruit since day one.

I've absolutely fallen in love with the sport. I love the challenge, the competition, the fitness, and the positive sense of achievement it brings. But more than anything, I love the wonderful community that surrounds it.

These days I actually get excited when the clouds roll in and the first raindrops of fall come drizzling down. Not because of cyclocross – though, I do enjoy a good race in the mud – but because it marks the start of winter training season, which means spending lots of time with my teammates and welcoming new faces.

Interested?  Come out to one (or multiple) of the Meet the Team rides. Riders of all skill levels are welcome.  Rides roll out from Pert’s Deli in Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood weekend morning at 9:30.  

There are also three Intro to Women’s Cycling and Racing Teams rides, which are for women only and will teach you basic group riding skills and answer any questions you may have about racing.

If you are new to the racing community, looking to strengthen your riding skills, thinking about racing in 2013, or looking to speak with other women about local racing teams or riding opportunities, these rides are for you. Visit www. wsbaracing.com for more information.