Choosing a cycling team


#1

Hello! I’m choosing a cycling team for the 2019 season in hopes of learning the ropes and stepping my game up more quickly. I’ve never raced before nor been on a team. I’ve got a couple of options and wondering what I should optimize for.

Getting along with team members?
Where the team usually rolls from on group rides (I.e. convenience)
Sponsors?
Historical team performance?

What do you all think?


#2

Based on the fact that you have never raced before, you should absolutely base your decision on how well you get along with the team members. Team chemistry is so important for motivation, morale, and your race-day dynamics that you really can’t overlook its value.

Especially with your first season in racing, you want to make sure that you have fun and build friendships that will “fuel the fire” for many years to come.

That being said, geographic location is important to some degree. For example, you would not want to be on a team that starts all of their group rides 2 hours away if you have much closer options availaible.

Overall, just try to have fun with it, and if you level up really quickly this season, you can always switch to a higher performance team in the future.

Cheers!


#3

Amazing - thanks for the advice, Bryce. Pumped to get going!


#4

Best of luck!


#5

@freeridr05 The USA Cycling website is a great resource for finding cycling teams in your area. From perusing their website, you can get links to the club websites and explore them. Unless the club is a race-only team where you have to have proven results to join, most clubs have group rides that are open to the public. [note: the websites usually have descriptions of the rides so you can assess what ride(s) might be appropriate for you to try]. So the best way to get a sense of whether you like the people and race team members is to go ride with them.

Depending on where you live (i.e. the density of clubs with race teams), you could try two or three such clubs. You don’t have to join a club with a race team to race. All you need is a USAC racing license (~$70/year). However, the advantage of joining a club with a strong race team is skills development. Our club, for example, gets most of its new members, both for the club overall and for the race team, after new comers have ridden on our group rides a few times and get to know the members/racers.

As to your question about team performance, that is available on the USAC site, both on the individual level as well as at the team level.

As for sponsors, that should be of little concern initially because you will be required to start at Cat 5 unless you have some elite non-sanction performance where you can demonstrate to the USAC governing body your racing performance is beyond the Cat 5 level (this happens when folks have raced in Europe and come to the U.S. to race). If you get through Cat 5 (10 races required) and you are an elite racer (several podium finishes), that will be a good time to evaluate whether can make the cut of an elite race team and begin basing your decision on sponsorship. However, until you get to Cat 1 and are at a pro-continental rider, most clubs seem to have the same race-reimbursement policies, so there is usually a long time before sponsorship really matters.


#6

@freeridr05 100% focus on the the character/quality of the people around you. Not much else matters IMHO.


#7

Are you doing group rides now? If not, look around and find some. There you will meet people. Some will be racers. You can find teams that way.

Absolutely find people that you click with. This is supposed to be fun.

The easier to get to group rides the better.

Historical performance – don’t worry about it.

Some places have USAC development focused teams. I rode with one in Des Moines for the year I was there. Learned TONS. Had a blast. I found them through another racer who told me to go there to start.

Let us know where you are – folks here will also reach out with specific suggestions.


#8

Riding in San Francisco, CA!


#9

Just don’t join the Audi Reno/Tahoe guys.:grin:


#10

Throwing more onto what everyone else already said: how you get along with the team.
When I was looking for teams I made sure I wasn’t getting a team of drinking buddies that also ride bikes sometimes, those teams are fun and pretty common, but not for me. I’m ended up on a team of like minded working people with families who are trying to balance life and training. We have similar challenges and strengths, we get along, no one gets annoyed we don’t show up for beers.

Find a team of people you get along with.


#11

I’ll be yet another voice saying it should be based almost entirely on who you like and get along with. That usually comes out of riding together often, or having raced together, even if on different teams. My experience has always been the best teams are those made up of people who can know what the others are thinking/doing in a race and react accordingly.

Sponsors and team results look all glittery to the outsider, but don’t necessarily make a good fit for most people. Frankly, more lucrative sponsorship usually means a more acrimonious team unless benefits and expectations are fully laid out ahead of time. Nothing makes people grumble more than learning that all the Cat 2s got free helmets when nobody else did, for example. And results look good on paper, but what’s more important is racer development and mentorship. Having a person that can win District crit is one thing, but having someone that might be able to podium at Districts, but can also teach others how to get that win themselves is far more valuable.

Anyway, that’s my advice, as someone who’s raced unattached and on various teams, grown as a racer, and learned everything I know from my more knowledgeable friends and teammates since getting my first license in 1996.


#12

You have a lot of options, then! Do you ride on the early morning Fat Cakes ride (they love stopping at coffee shapes with great bakery options)? Lots of folks that do that ride are members of racing clubs that you could talk to.


#13

In addition to getting along with team members, make sure that the team wants the same things you do. Nothing is more frustrating than being the only person who wants to do a specific kind of event or put in the work to be able to perform satisfactorily in those events.


#14

You’ve received some excellent recommendations, and I think @bobmac has given you a great idea for how to talk with people. Since you’re new to racing, I highly recommend the Early Birds. Even if you’re not planning to do a lot of crits, the EBs are GREAT for learning how to race safely. Here’s the flyer:
https://legacy.usacycling.org/events/getflyer.php?permit=2019-305
The clinics and practice races are both FANTASTIC. Try to go to all four weeks, but if you can’t make it to all four in January, they’re apparently extending them through February this year. I haven’t seen all of the details for the extension, but it’s nice because you get another chance to attend the clinics this same year, rather than having to wait until next January. Plus, you get upgrade points for the clinics and practice crits. You also can meet different teams at the EBs and talk with people from different clubs–in fact, there’s a “meet the teams” day!

Also, FWIW, I suggest prioritizing “getting along with team members” and “convenience”, as well as the suggestion from someone that you pick a team that has racers with similar interests as you. Particularly as a new racer, I would not prioritize sponsors or historical team performance. Sponsors are nice but not vital to your learning or performance; historical team performance doesn’t mean that they’ll be great again this year. Good luck, and see you out there!!


#15

@freeridr05 I would 2nd @dhellman suggestion about attending the Early Birds.


#16

Freeridr - did you find a team? I’m in the city too and am trying to figure out how to find a good team to join as well.


#17

This Sunday at the Early Birds they’re having a second “Meet the Teams” day, since last Sunday had lousy weather and not-so-great turnout. You might consider checking it out.
@freeridr05, hope your search is going well.