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Junior or U19 Bike Racing

Competitive Biking for Kids

Biking Bike Safety Rules Bike Hand Signals Junior or U19 Racing

Junior or U19 racing is beginning to explode in many areas. In fact some clubs are having trouble keeping up with the growth of this sport.  It is believed that this new trend is due somewhat to the impact Lance Armstrong has had upon the public perception of road cycling.  Lance and bike racing has become a part of the American culture.  In addition, the time commitment and cost involved with team travel sports such as hockey and soccer is beginning to deter some parents.  As a result, parents are discouraging their kids from even entering these sports, for fear of the strain it could place on their family and budget. 

Therefore parents are looking for alternative sports that go back to the basics, which is participating in sports to have fun, build confidence and exercise.  Anybody who likes to ride a bike can become a bike racer.   You do not have to go through the stress of "try outs" and  your child  will always participate because every child gets to race.  Cycling primarily requires aerobic capacity and leg strength, not nearly as much hand-eye coordination as other sports, such as tennis or baseball.  If your child is driven, they can succeed in bike racing.

Should my child join a club?

The majority of U19 programs are run out of a bike shop. It is not necessary for your child to join a club or team, but it is beneficial because it is the best way to learn the skills and develop the fitness that is needed to enjoy bike racing. Club participants are instructed in the basics of road cycling and racing by certified coaches and other experienced competitive bicycle racers. Junior specific training will  build confidence and bike handling skills while promoting fitness and a healthy lifestyle

Many clubs have two types of teams, development and racing/travel, and your child will be placed on one depending on their experience and ability.   The development team is for those who have limited experience. The focus will be on improving bike handling, gaining technical knowledge and fitness.  Rides will be moderate in pace and duration.  The goal of this program is to get kids prepared for the racing/travel team.

The racing/travel team is for boys and girls age 10-18 with strong skills and/or previous racing experience.  They need to be able ride at a higher pace and compete in races. Some races are local while others will require travel up to an hour or more away from home.

Racing season will consist of multiple races per year from February to September.  Training rides are usually 2 weekday evenings per week and then races are on Saturdays or Sundays.  The rides will usually start and finish at the same spot at designated times.  

Age requirements for junior racing?

Your child must be at least 10 years old to obtain a USCF license. The USCF racing license will have the child's racing age printed on it.  A current racing license must be presented to enter a USA Cycling event.  All licenses expire on December 31st of the year issued.  Racing Age is determined by the racer's age on December 31st of the current year. You may not compete at levels above or below the current category as listed on the license.  As a member, you are eligible to compete in all USA Cycling sanctioned events nationwide.  International licenses (UCI) are needed for racing outside the United States.  A USCF racing license can be obtained through the USA Cycling Website. The most common age categories at racing events are 10-12, 13-14, 15-16 and 17-18. Sometimes, these groups are combined.  

Requirements for junior racing...

  • USA cycling junior license (approximately $30)

  • A properly fitted road bike is necessary. Many clubs and shops have loaner bikes that you can use for 4 -6 weeks to see if your child likes the sport. The other option is to buy a used junior bike on the internet or at a swap meet . Lastly, you can buy a new junior bicycle but it is necessary to discuss this with an expert prior to purchase..

  • Your junior should have an ANSI or Snell approved cycling helmet.

  • Sunglasses or other eye protection are needed to protect from wind, sand, gravel and bugs from getting into the eyes.

  • Gloves are needed to protect the hands from falls and road vibration.  The gloves with gel-padded palms are a good investment.

  • Bike shoes are chosen to be compatible with the pedals. A clamp called a cleat is attached to the underneath of the shoe and then fits into the pedal.  This will hold the foot in place when riding.  Like skis they have a quick release system to get out.

  • Cycling clothing is generally tight-fitting for comfort, warmth and the aim of reducing wind-resistance.  Team racers will normally need a team jersey, shorts and socks.  Try to get used cycling clothing from the older, experienced riders. Jerseys come in long-sleeved, short-sleeved and sleeveless varieties with a high collar to protect from the sun. Shorts are available for males and females, they are tight fitted and padded. Even beginners should have a good pair of shorts to help protect against saddle sores. Socks must also be tight fitting.  Cold days require wearing two layers. The first should be thin, cotton and the outer may be cotton or Gore-Tex.

Where to find races...

There are several internet bike racing calendars, including ,  and  Each race has a flier, which contains start times, entry fees, and other important information.  It is a good idea to print the flier and bring it to the race with you. 

USA Cycling,  which is the official cycling organization recognized by the USOC, is responsible for identifying, training and selecting cyclists to represent the United States in international competitions, and controls nearly two dozen major events each year.

You can register for a race online or on the day of the race at the registration desk.  The race flyer will give you these details. As a junior (under 18 yrs) you will need a parent to sign your registration form at the race.  Races for juniors are typically short distances, usually only 5-10 miles, and they are by age category.

Kinds of races...

The most common type of road race is the criterium, which is a fast race on a short course closed to traffic, involving lots of laps.  Each lap is usually under a mile, the race is under 15 miles, and for the biker to do well in this race cornering skills and quick acceleration are necessary.

Road Race/Circuit Race
The road race, often held on a circuit, is completed on a longer course than the criterium so it involves fewer laps and less tight corners. Road races are held on open roads where you can't cross the yellow line in the middle of the road or you will be disqualified. C
ompeting riders start simultaneously  with the winner being the first at the end of the course.

Time Trial
The Time Trial is a race where each rider starts at one minute intervals and races against the clock for the best overall time. There is usually a half way point that the rider races out to and then back
again. These races are often held on roads that are open to traffic and marshals are there to manage traffic.

Races that consist of two or three laps around a short course featuring paved, grass, and dirt sections, as well as hills and low obstacles to negotiate.  This is probably the best way to step into bicycle racing, as the atmosphere is a little more relaxed than road racing.  You can try one race, or try and win a series championship by building points in multiple events. 

Mountain Biking
Mountain Biking  races can range from short track events to those similar to long distance cross country races or 24 hour endurance events.  The sport entails riding off-road, often over rough terrain, on a specially equipped mountain or hybrid road bike.  This individual sport requires endurance, bike handling skills, self-reliance and mechanical expertise. Mountain biking is roughly broken down into four categories: cross country, downhill, freeride, and trials/street riding.

Biking Terminology

Aero-bars Handlebar extension which rests the hands close together over the front hub
Air Space between the tires and the ground
Attack A sudden attempt to get away from another rider
Bail out To jump off in order to avoid a crash
Blocking When a rider tries to get in the way of other riders, usually done as part of a team strategy, to slow down the main field when other team members are ahead in a breakaway
Breakaway Attempting to reach a group farther ahead
Cage or toe-clip pedals Platform pedal with a strap and a cage or clip that your foot slips into
Closed circuit A course  completely closed to traffic
Cycling shoe Special shoes that attach to the clip-in system on the pedal via a cleat in the bottom of the shoe.
Drop To leave another rider or riders behind by attacking
Field The main group of riders
Field Sprint The final sprint between a group of riders, not necessarily for first place
Fork Front part of the bike frame that holds the wheel
Gap The distance between individual or groups
Hammering Very steady, strenuous pedaling
Hanging On Barely keeping contact at the back of the pack
Jump A sudden acceleration, often at the start of the sprint
Lid Helmet
Pace Line Line of riders taking orderly turns at the lead and staggered so that each will get maximum protection from the wind.
Saddle Seat of a bike
Stag Race A series of individual races grouped into one event that last several days.
Time Trial A race against the clock
Tire rubber part of the wheel that contacts the road when you bike

Race Day Checklist

Race Necessities:

  • Bicycle - clean and lubed

  • Race wheels (2) - good tires, correctly inflated, correct cassette

  • Spare wheels (2) - good tires, inflated, correct cassette and labeled with your team & name

  • Water bottle(s)

  • Helmet

  • Clothing: Shorts, Jersey. Socks

  • Gloves

  • Shoes

  • Eyewear

  • Floor pump

  • Tools (multi tool, Cassette tools etc)

  • Rags

  • Racing License

  • Signed Athlete Release form

  • Race entry fee

Weather specific clothing:

  • Jacket

  • Tights

  • Arm warmers

  • Shoe covers

  • Rain jacket

  • Warm gloves

  • Cycling cap

Personal Items

  • Food/drinks

  • Sunscreen

  • Toilet paper

  • Washcloth /towel

  • Icy Hot (or any kind of muscle warmer)

  • Heart Rate Monitor and chest strap