New Racer Information

Bicycle racing is an exhilarating sport open to all ages, genders and skill levels. Although a rider can read and hear a lot about bike racing from others, a rider can gain experience only by doing it.

One of the best ways to learn about and prepare for bike racing is to ride with and join a bicycle racing club. Club members can provide essential information and tips that will assist a new racer to maximize enjoyment of his or her early racing experiences. Racing clubs within Tennessee are listed on the TBRA Clubs page. New racers can use the contact information to reach representatives to learn more about their clubs.

The following summary is intended to give an overview of what you need know to enter your first bike race.

Types of Racing

In Tennessee, riders can compete in three general types of racing.

  • Road Racing includes criteriums, typically held on short closed loop courses on city streets, road races or circuit races held on public roads over longer distances, and time trials held on measured courses with each racer’s elapsed time recorded.  A “stage race” is a multi-day event that includes the various types of road races.
  • Mountain Bike races are held on defined trail and/or field courses and include cross-county, time trials, and multi-hour endurance events.
  • Cyclocross races combine elements of mountain biking and road racing, held on defined courses with natural and artificial obstacles requiring dismounting and running while carrying one’s bike.

See the Cycling 101 Tutorial on the USA Cycling website for more information.


For your first bike race you will need a bicycle appropriate to the type of race you enter, in good working order, presenting no hazards to you or others. You will be required to wear a modern bike helmet.

Racing License

A racing license is mandatory for each racer who enters any event sanctioned by USA Cycling, Inc., the national organization governing bike racing. Among other USA Cycling Member Benefits, a racing license provides minimum insurance for the racer. You can acquire either a “one-day” license or an “annual license.” A “one-day” license is a good purchase option if you are uncertain whether you will enjoy bike racing. However, if you believe you will enter more than a handful of races during the year, it more economical to purchase an annual license.  You can purchase an annual license online from USA Cycling or you can buy either an annual license or a “one-day” license at the race venue.

Categories & Classes

USA Cycling classifies each amateur racer in accord with that person’s experience, past performance and age. Race Classes are comprised of Juniors (18-years old and younger), Elite racers (19-years old and older), and Masters (30-years old and older, within five- or ten-year groupings).

Categories for amateur Road and Cyclocross racers are based on experience and successful past performance. These range from the beginning racer Category 5 through to the top racer Category 1. Amateur Mountain Bike racers compete in Beginner, Sport, and Expert classes. Training race events often separate racers into groups designated by the letters C, B, and A, roughly corresponding to progressively more experienced, fit racer categories. To learn more about upgrading, see the Upgrades Page.

Junior Racing & Gearing

If you are classified as a Junior racer (18-years old or younger), you are required to have “Junior”-legal gearing whether you race in a Juniors-only race or an Elite Category race. For a full explanation of “Junior” gearing, refer to this document on the USA Cycling website.

NOTE: When Juniors register at a race event they must provide a release form signed by a parent or legal guardian.

Racing Rules

Before your first race, it is a good idea to review the USA Cycling Rules of Bike Racing applicable to the event you enter.

Race Flyers

After you have selected the race event you intend to enter, read the race flyer. Race flyers declare which individual races USA Cycling has permitted to be held at the race event. Race flyers can be accessed on the TBRA race schedule page.

Register For Your Race

When you arrive at the race venue you will register for your event. Registration includes presenting or purchasing your license, signing the event Release, paying the entry fee and receiving your race number(s). Event Releases and other forms can be reviewed here.

NOTE: Many race events provide for or require advance, online registration. Racers are still required to show or purchase their USA Cycling license on the day of the event.

Ten Things You Have to Know to Race Bicycles:   (Adapted from WCA “FAQs”)

  • Come to the line on time, ready to race. This is 100% your responsibility. Plan to arrive at the race venue at least an hour before registration closes.
  • Be sure your equipment is in safe condition, properly adjusted, and conforms to the USAC or NORBA rules.
  • Pin your numbers on correctly. You must wear all the numbers you are given. You may not fold or cut down your numbers.
  • Be a good citizen. Use designated toilet facilities, pick up litter, and park legally.
  • Obey the “rules of the road” when warming up.
  • Listen to the starting instructions. Ask questions if you don't understand.
  • Ride so as to make it a safe race for everyone.
  • Be courteous to the folks you meet on race day. Organizers, registrars, officials, corner marshals, other riders; all are doing their best to make this a good race and are volunteering their services to enable you to race. Say thank you to corner marshals when you are warming up or cooling down. It's a small gesture that you can give to show your appreciation that they gave up a day to help you race.
  • Understand the results process. The judges post the results as soon as possible after the end of each race. The results become final 15 minutes after they are posted. If you have not checked the results within the 15 minutes of posting, don't ask for any changes to be made.
  • Enjoy your race. It's supposed to be fun!