I’ve wanted to race bikes for a while. I have done 3 triathlons, 2 centuries (1 of which was on a fixed gear), a 200K brevet, I’ve trained at a velodrome. I have gone to multiple meet-ups and happy hours for people interested in racing, but still, for a variety of reasons, hadn’t gotten around to signing up for a race. Some of the reasons were:
- My back hurts.
- I am going to suck.
- I’m not strong enough.
- I don’t know what I’m doing.
- I’m going to crash.
- My back hurts.
- I’m going to suck.
What I didn’t realize, though, is that apparently EVERYBODY goes through this before their first race. From talking to racers, I’ve realized that everybody has been dropped and finished off the back of the pack. Everybody has been nervous and queasy at the beginning of a race. Once you get over that hump, bike racing is supposed to be pretty cool.
Importantly, women racers want other women to race, because having more women in racing is better for everyone! More women in racing means larger fields, which means more points for category upgrades. It also means that there will be enough people individual events for each category, rather than having to combine racers of a variety of levels into one big group just to have enough people. This means that us category 4 n00bs don’t have to ride in the same field as the intimidating cat 1, 2, and 3 racers, and vice versa. And, if promoters see that women are signing up for races, they’ll continue to offer racing opportunities to women!
There are many amazing and encouraging women racers in Chicago, and most of them are pretty good with their social media.
xXx Racing (@xxxracing) has a women’s development program, and last month I got word of an open house for new members and potential members. Why join a team? Motivation, support, and organization are 3 good reasons. You have built-in training partners, you have opportunities for things like coaching and team rides, you have people who have at one point been in your position, and can answer your seemingly silly but really important questions. You have people who will help you get organized for races, what you need to bring, how to get there, where to stay, and all of the other things that are more challenging to figure out on your own.
Since I’m going to be moving out of Chicago for a year for fellowship, I hadn’t planned on joining any team, but when I met these women, they were so enthusiastic and kind that I felt comfortable asking them all of my dumbest questions, and then went home and signed up for the team that night. 2 weeks later, I’ve got a jersey, a racing license, and I’m signed up for 2 races next week. I’ll let you all know how those go.
Becky Welbes runs Pretty.Fast (@PrettyFastWomen), which sponsors meet & greets at local coffeeshops to introduce women cyclists to racing and give you a chance to ask your questions. She also makes beautiful jewelry and wind chimes out of bike parts! She ALSO races for Kinky Llama Racing.
Chicago Women’s Bike Racing is a blog which according to them, “seeks to support and promote all woman racers—new and experienced alike—who make up the Chicago women’s peloton.”
IL Women Cyclists is a meetup group formed by a whole bunch of women cyclists in Illinois. They recently held their first Chicago Meetup, the Spring Thaw Icebreaker on 3/4 at Bangers and Lace, and there were probably 30 women there, experienced racers, bike messengers, and recreational cyclists. The organizers include Vanessa Bucella of Half Acre Cycling who can be seen being AWESOME in the following video.
If you have a special interest in track racing (you probably like fixed gears if you’ve found your way to Tiny Fix), Chicago Velo Campus is also is interested in getting a women’s program together, so for information on that, contact them by email or @chicagovelo. Northbrook velodrome (@edrudolphvelo) has races on Thursday nights starting in the late spring, and you can just show up and race. Their spring calendar is here. There will also be women’s track cycling clinics at both of these locations! You can rent a bike if you don’t feel like pulling the brakes off of yours.