With the upcoming Beti Bike Bash I have been asked many great questions on how to prepare for and race someone’s first bike race. Over the past 15 years I’ve raced hundreds of races, and have been able to learn from my own failures or pre-race mistakes. Below is my personal list of the things I wish someone had told me. This list could have thousands of tips on it so add your own in the comments below.

Two Weeks Before

Pre-Ride the course at a casual pace. +1 point if you can ride behind a more experienced friend. Learn their lines at a slower speed. Stop and repeat areas if you have to. Go for the sake of learning. I typically do this on a recovery day.

Get your bike checked over. This can honestly be done within one to two weeks but give your shop time during the season as they may be backed up or need to order parts. Make an appointment if possible so you aren’t without your bike more than a day.

Are you registered? Some races sell out within hours of opening, hopefully that type of race isn’t your first. Make sure you are registered and have whatever licenses (if any) are needed for your specific race.

One Week Before

Pre-Ride at race pace. This is the time to learn where you’ll pass, where to recover and make a game plan for race day. If you are traveling to the event do this pre-ride at race pace the day before, but make sure to limit your distance and time!

Dial in nutrition. Hopefully by now you know what to eat or drink on the bike. Test your theory during the race pace pre-ride. If you’re not sure, don’t try something new. For shorter races water will be just fine if you haven’t used any other supplement.

Three Days Before

Get your sleep. I’m always nervous the night before my first race of the season, so I focus on getting quality sleep the nights leading up to it.

Pack. Be prepared for any type of weather, mechanical etc. I typically have two bags, one for race specific gear and one for non-race specific gear. My packing list for a <4 hour race is below.

 [zilla_toggle title=”Race Day Packing List” state=”open”] Essentials (As long as I have these things I can figure out the rest):

Bike (and both wheels!)
Bike Shoes
Credit Card

For Body:

Bike shorts
Long Sleeve Jersey
Chamois Butter
Rain gear (jacket, umbrella, etc.)

For Bike:

Flat kit
Floor pump (check your tires before your race)
Spare tube in the car
Any tools I feel comfortable using before race time


Hydration – One bottle to drink the hour before race. One bottle per 45 minutes racing. One bottle with recovery drink for after. If it is a hot day I will bring extra supplements to add to other water.
Headphones for warm up
iPod or music device with pump up the volume music!
Large Towel – Helpful to wipe off with or to wrap around you to change under
Non-Bike Clothes and Shoes – Get out of that chamois when you can!
Bike Lock – if in a weird place I lock up my bike

Night Before

Pack everything in car but bottles and bike. This may not be possible where you live, but I put all of my gear in the back of my car the night before.

Charge everything. Is your music device charged?!

Prepare your spouse / kids /etc. Is your family coming? Make sure they are setup for success the DAY BEFORE so you aren’t dealing with it the morning of. Make sure they know tomorrow is your day!

Print Directions & Registration. Know where you are going and have ready what you need.

Get Pumped. I personally will scroll through Tumblr or read a motivating story from ESPNW.

Hydrate. Eat Well. Sleep.

Morning Of

Car Pool. If possible I love carpooling with fellow racers. It’s rather motivating to get pumped up with others!

Warm Up. Go ride. Relax as much as possible but spin those legs.

Pre-Ride! Typically you want to time your warm up so that you are “warmed up” and can hit the course for one hard lap (or 10 minutes) as close to start as possible.

Test your start out gear. Once I am warmed up I’ll do a few mock starts to help my legs get ready and figure out what gear I need to be in.


Enjoy yourself.

You don’t have to win your first race.

Make friends.

Pass when it is safe.

Say nice things.

Smile when it hurts. It helps, and it really annoys your competition.

Pace yourself. Ideally you’ll get faster as the race goes on, not slower.

Go whatever speed you can to finish, but leave it all out there.


Ride GENTLY for 10-15 minutes to cool down. (Even if you feel like throwing up, do this!)

Hydrate and eat.

Cheer others on.


Did I forget something? Add your own tips below!

Photo Credit: Beti Bike Bash


  1. If the race is local, volunteer to help out either before or after the race!
    If you had fun, thank the course designer and consider donating to the local trail group.

  2. I have my first race in almost ten years coming up in less than a month, so I’m a little nervous. Thanks for the tips, especially the night before ones. Still haven’t decided if I’m bringing my family or not; the last time I brought them to a race I was practically sprinting to the starting line, which was not the warmup I intended. 🙂

    • Amy,

      Good luck!! Be proud of starting, focus on finishing and don’t worry about much else. You’re a great role model for your family.

      What kind of race are you doing?

    • It’s called Ore to Shore, a 28 mile point to point mountain bike race in Marquette, MI. Varied terrain, should be manageable. I’m mostly worried about the hordes of riders on the rollout!

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