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Old 04-16-14, 07:30 AM   #1
HawkeyeCubs34
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Casual Bike Racer

I apologize in advance if this topic has been covered.

I promised myself that when I got into racing, I would not let my cycling get too intense to a point where the fun dwindles away. Because of this I keep myself at the level of "casual bike racer." However, I feel like the word "casual" can conflict with "bike racing." I am very content down in Cat 5 and do about 4 crits a season. I have a lot of fun participating in these crits, and do not at all get discouraged by not being near the best. I then switch into "Century Training Mode" in August, and just ride for distance to train for a season ending 100 mile ride that takes place in the area. I have been doing this century for quite a while now, and would be very saddened if racing participation hindered century participation.
I ask this because I participated in some of the more intense sprinting and training clinics my cycling club holds, and I did not have a good time. This wasn't because I lacked the skill or because of the challenge (I was able to keep up alright for my skill set), but because I just did not have fun. The others participating were a little too serious and introverted for my humorous and jovial personality (it's okay of you are too serious, but I just can't be). These events seemed more like work obligations than recreational enjoyment. That was when I told myself I needed to tone it down a bit, keep cycling fun, and not let it become "an obligation."

Is anyone else like this? Anyone content down it Cat 5 and keeping it simple?
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Old 04-16-14, 07:47 AM   #2
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People are people. For me although I take racing seriously when I race, I'm pretty relaxed about it when I'm not, meaning like in training and such. Yes, it's a passion of mine, but no, I don't feel the drive to do an interval. Sure I'll chase a truck or something, but training scientifically (intervals, zones, etc) is too serious for me. I'm good with that and I suppose those around me are also okay with it. Racing doesn't have to be serious. It's fun, sure, and I'm enthusiastic about it, sure, but for me it's only as serious as I let it get.

If you can find a group of riders that appreciate your "casual" or light-hearted attitude I think you'll be happy.

I should point out that this shouldn't be an excuse not to learn skills. Training for fitness and learning skills are two completely separate things. Skills allow me to enjoy racing. Training merely gives me the chance to apply my learned skills. Given the choice I'd rather skip training and just race, but unfortunately I need to do a certain amount of training before I can even think about applying my skills. I'm relatively untalented in terms of aerobic engine so I have to train a bit before I can stay with a group.

Finally, although it may seem counterintuitive, I found that racing really helped my longer distance riding. By broadening what I could do on the bike (riding speeds, comfort in turns or on descents, technique, understanding gearing better), I found that I could ride better for longer, especially if there were others with me. Before racing I thought drafting 2 feet behind was close. Now, if on a long ride (80-120 miles for me is as long as I go), if I'm with another rider or three, I sit much closer, save much more energy, and feel a lot better deep into the ride. I know to make my efforts in certain situations, I know how to save energy in others; I understand how to use my gearing even better than before, I can think even when under pretty severe physiological stress.

By definition if you end up applying yourself a bit then you may find yourself in the Cat 4s.

There's a local around here who is now a Cat 2. He spent literally 10 years or so in the 5s, doing a few races a year, and I think he was totally happy and satisfied. One year he must have had an epiphany and suddenly he was winning the races I was in (Cat 3s) and upgraded to Cat 2.
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Old 04-16-14, 11:54 AM   #3
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The others participating were a little too serious and introverted for my humorous and jovial personality (it's okay of you are too serious, but I just can't be). These events seemed more like work obligations than recreational enjoyment. That was when I told myself I needed to tone it down a bit, keep cycling fun, and not let it become "an obligation."

Is anyone else like this? Anyone content down it Cat 5 and keeping it simple?

I'm similar. I know i'm never going to be a professional cyclist and that's not my goal. I do like to succeed and I thrive on competition. Although training does give me the ability to be competitive that's about the extent of how serious I take the sport. Sportsmanship (like bike handling, racing protocols, and overall not-being-an-assshat rider) I do take more seriously because that can effect others, such as crashes and reputations. The only issue I found with the Cat 5s were the wide range of people in the races and the start times... The start times were actually why I upgraded to the 4s as at the time I didn't really take bike racing that seriously. I thought the 4s would also be better for the bike handlers, but the changes weren't that significant. Now i'm looking to move up to the 3s because the riders there seem to ride smoother and more predictable, but that would require me to get stronger and race smarter now. (if only I could race the 35+ fields...)

My issue with the seriousness of racing is a little different. I enjoy group rides, I enjoy riding hard, but I don't want to be told what to do and I don't want to feel like I NEED to do a specific workout on any given day (I also don't want to pay for that - ie: a coach); that's not fun for me. With this, I'm having this issue with the level of seriousness and financial dedication with the power-meter and training. I like the fancy numbers, I like the power curves and seeing what I can produce, but I don't really use it for training very often (only during the winter, really). I realize that if I trained more precisely I could become much stronger, but again comes the 'fun' issue. I have an older powertap now, but with the money I could spend on a fancy crank-based power meter I could buy a new bike frameset and some components (and that's exactly what I did). It was all because I finally talked with a teammate about it. He's a cat2 racer who doesn't use a computer, doesn't train with anything other than RPE, and I'm leaning toward his way of approaching riding and racing. He's fast and he has a lot of fun on the bike and seems pretty happy in general. He doesn't get caught up with the numbers, with Strava, the distances or any of that, his fun comes from competing, attacking, and generally helping other teammates in the 1/2/3 race as he mostly races masters races for himself (no other teammates in his field).
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Old 04-16-14, 11:58 AM   #4
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I can't be a casual bike racer. I either do stuff all out or don't do it at all. Just my personality. Trying to find a happy median and just enjoy riding right now after stopping racing, but having a hard time. I need goals and a plan in order to do something. And oddly enough I find it much more enjoyable that way. /shrug
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Old 04-16-14, 12:04 PM   #5
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Casual bike racing sounds about like a casual meth user. Does not compute.
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Old 04-16-14, 12:08 PM   #6
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Sort of. I race when its local and don't really feel the need to drive 2 hours to race. Out here, you can race every weekend if you want. My neighbor does this and he basically has no time for anything other than cycling. When I get more seasoned and my results get better this may change

Don't confuse this with a lackadaisical approach to racing. I put in a lot of sufferful (new word ) miles so I can do well for my races and I fully expect it to takes years to reach fruition.

Cycling isn't just racing, there is a ton of stuff to do. Centuries, Group Rides, Solo stuff, etc. For me, I like the competition. Luckily I have a weekly training crit a few miles away and a monthly crit series about 15 miles from here.
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Old 04-16-14, 12:14 PM   #7
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i know a lot of guys that do masters cat 4 road races...like once a month or so....just the bigger events. and never any crits. those tend to be 'safer' than cat 4 or cat 5 crits. but those guys do ride alot and plenty strong cyclists...local fast group rides on saturdays. but they certainly are not trolling 35 +3/4 crits 2 hrs from home for a single upgrade point like me.
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Old 04-16-14, 12:47 PM   #8
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Many very good points. I do definitely attend my club's clinic's and sessions for beginners and racers in development for cat 5s and some 4s. In these sessions we do drills to improve tactics, strategies, group riding and some sprinting. The coaching is a part of our club fee. I also go out of my way to not be a jerk team mate during races and help them out, often at my expense and I am OK with that as I still have a good time during my races.
The session I attended recently had some really intense cat 3s and cat 2s. It also happened to be an unfriendly group which turned me off. I don't want to make a blanket generalization and say that more intense racers have a cold personality, but they certainly did not act welcoming toward Cat 5s and 4s that were there. It was like dealing with high school cliques.
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Old 04-16-14, 12:58 PM   #9
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I like being able to participate in a race. That means more than just sitting in, that means actually racing my bike and trying to get a result. Because I'm not particularly talented, that requires training. I can't show up to a Cat 3 race with no training time under my wheels and expect to do anything. With more structured training, I have better races because I have the specific ability to do what I need to do. If I don't take training seriously, I'm going to get dropped in the harder races I do, and that's just not fun. If I burn out on training, I race less. I guess my reasoning is that if I'm going to put in the time to train, I'm not going to train enough to hang in on the wheels in a Cat 4 race, I might as well try to get as fast as I possibly can.

Thing is, I'm not particularly "hardcore" about racing, but I do spend somewhere around 8-10 hours a week on my bike, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. I don't think the amount of time I put into this sport is particularly intense. Your mileage may vary. Keep in mind that the intensity you see in the guys who are more into the training and doing lots of racing may be more a product of your perspective than theirs. They might not be as focused as you think they are, they just might be more focused than you. Nothing wrong with that. If you're having fun, that's what matters.
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Old 04-16-14, 01:00 PM   #10
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A couple of thoughts:

Riding a bike should be fun, whether you're racing, commuting, distance riding, whatever. Find what's fun and rewarding for you, but try everything if you can.
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Old 04-16-14, 01:59 PM   #11
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The session I attended recently had some really intense cat 3s and cat 2s. It also happened to be an unfriendly group which turned me off. I don't want to make a blanket generalization and say that more intense racers have a cold personality, but they certainly did not act welcoming toward Cat 5s and 4s that were there. It was like dealing with high school cliques.
I think your experience is a personality thing, not a Category thing. I know you said that but I wanted to say it again. You'll find some incredibly generous and giving Cat 3s and 2s (and 4s and 5s). In fact I've been pleasantly surprised at some of the racers who end up being the nice helpful type.

One of these guys won the Junior 17-18 race at Battenkill this year. The picture below was the finish of the Junior race last Sunday. He finished last so that he could help the other Junior, kept an eye on him to make sure he made it up the hill each lap.
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Old 04-16-14, 02:06 PM   #12
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Thats awesome
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Old 04-16-14, 02:09 PM   #13
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I think your experience is a personality thing, not a Category thing. I know you said that but I wanted to say it again. You'll find some incredibly generous and giving Cat 3s and 2s (and 4s and 5s). In fact I've been pleasantly surprised at some of the racers who end up being the nice helpful type.

One of these guys won the Junior 17-18 race at Battenkill this year. The picture below was the finish of the Junior race last Sunday. He finished last so that he could help the other Junior, kept an eye on him to make sure he made it up the hill each lap.
1s are all asses, presumably :/
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Old 04-16-14, 02:23 PM   #14
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It was like dealing with high school cliques.
Some people just never mature; cat 5 through cat 1, whether it be cyclists or non-cyclists. With people, what you get is a crapshoot.

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Old 04-16-14, 02:30 PM   #15
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I don't think you'll have any problems only racing occasionally. I essentially did what you want to do last year. I raced only a hardful of times, riding/training only when i wanted to, and 99% of the time just riding around. As long as you stay semi-fit you should be fine. Category does not make a person an ass, only their personality does. I love riding with 5s and 4s because it gives me a chance to give something back to the sport. I was in a similar situation only 2 years ago, so why shouldn't i be willing to help?

Who knows, you might grow to love the competitive aspect, or you might continue to just enjoy occasionally racing, and reaping the benefits of some high intensity racing.

Also racing will help with overall fitness including long rides, so don't worry about losing your long riding abilities.
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Old 04-16-14, 03:45 PM   #16
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here ya go. this game's fun goddamit

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Old 04-16-14, 03:49 PM   #17
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... I totally get what Cubs is saying though. When it becomes more obligation than fun, it's time for a break.
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Old 04-16-14, 04:04 PM   #18
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I paced my buddy to a hill-climb PR today. Wish someone had taken a pic. The sizes are just about the same, relatively.
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Old 04-16-14, 04:38 PM   #19
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I paced my buddy to a hill-climb PR today. Wish someone had taken a pic. The sizes are just about the same, relatively.
Oh cool, so you drop the F out of me on climbs, but help others to PRs?!

I see how it is..
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Old 04-16-14, 04:41 PM   #20
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Oh cool, so you drop the F out of me on climbs, but help others to PRs?!

I see how it is..
teammate

but I'd help you too, except you're always on a rest week.
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Old 04-16-14, 08:08 PM   #21
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That was when I told myself I needed to tone it down a bit, keep cycling fun, and not let it become "an obligation."

Is anyone else like this? Anyone content down it Cat 5 and keeping it simple?

Everyone rides for different reasons. Sometimes it takes longer for some to figure it out than others. But as long as you know and you're enjoying what you're doing, then keep at it.

Personally, I don't like bike riding just for the sake of bike riding and don't do it if I'm not racing or in need of transportation. I would never just go out and do a bike ride for fun as it's not really that fun. I just like the competitive aspect of the sport. Namely I just like competing, doesn't even have to be cycling.
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Old 04-16-14, 09:14 PM   #22
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I've been casual about it for a long time. I got to Cat 2 with about 8 hrs/week after dominating Cat 3 crits for a season, and winning a masters road race. It can happen. I don't know if I've ever had a season with more than 10 races in it, and this is my 22nd year as a racer. I'm back to Cat 3, as I was unwilling to ramp up to be competitive in a P/1/2 field. I had a really bad illness, and 2 years later still haven't recovered my fitness, and that's tough to do now that I'm getting 5-6 hours/week. So, I still race aggressively when possible, and enjoy it. It's still fun even if I'm not winning.
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Old 04-16-14, 09:54 PM   #23
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Everyone rides for different reasons. Sometimes it takes longer for some to figure it out than others. But as long as you know and you're enjoying what you're doing, then keep at it.

Personally, I don't like bike riding just for the sake of bike riding and don't do it if I'm not racing or in need of transportation. I would never just go out and do a bike ride for fun as it's not really that fun. I just like the competitive aspect of the sport. Namely I just like competing, doesn't even have to be cycling.
Never understood this logic. If you don't like to ride, throwing darts or bowling is just as competitive and much safer. I do understand that there's nothing quite like bike racing, but there's quite a bit of solo work that has to be done to be competitive.
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Old 04-17-14, 05:08 AM   #24
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I'm not a huge fan of riding either. Recreationally there are a number of things I prefer to do, hiking and walking for one (or two). I love going places and going for long walks. Still, I love competing. I love training. I love pushing myself. And cycling happens to be an endeavor where I can excel at those things, which are higher on the list of things I like to do than recreational exercise.
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Old 04-17-14, 05:11 AM   #25
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There are also a bunch of assumptions that manifest repeatedly (not just here). Assumptions such as guys who do well, or are in the higher cats have imbalances in their lives, or take the sport too seriously, etc. Often the success is based on knowledge base (or access to a knowledge base) and efficiency.
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