Spoke ‘n Words: Think bike racing looks fun? Give it a try

Nick SchaffnerSpoke 'n Words

The Tour de Nez bicycle race extravaganza has descended upon Truckee once again. It’s a blur of bright jerseys and rolling wheels all traveling at speeds in excess of 30 mph. The downtown criterium is an hour-long display of pure athleticism and team tactics. It takes a mix of brawn, cunning, courage and luck to stand atop the podium at the end.Bike racing certainly looks like a lot of fun. You might find yourself thinking, andamp;#8220;I’d like to do that.andamp;#8221;The cost of entry into bicycle racing is no more expensive than most sports. You can get started today for under $1,500. This is comparable to buying two pairs of skis and a season pass.Cycling is a technology-oriented sport, with fancy new bikes coming out every season. You can spend upwards of $10,000 on a bike. But I am going to reveal a secret passed down through the ages of budget-minded riders: An $800 bike is just as fast as a $10,000 bike.It’s all about the rider, not the bike. There isn’t much you can do to a road bicycle to make it faster; its speed limit is dictated by the engine in your legs and lungs. You can spend thousands of dollars building a bike 5 pounds lighter to get you up the hills a few seconds faster, or you could save that money and drop the 5 pounds off your midsection with a little sweat equity.The fit or size of your road bike is the most important factor when buying. Getting that proper fit is something you can expect to find when buying from your local bike shop. Make sure your bike fits, regardless of cost.Before jumping straight into competition, however, you will want to experience riding with a group in a non-competitive environment. In the Reno-Tahoe area there are several group rides that require nothing more than a willing set of legs to participate.One such group ride takes place every Wednesday at 6 p.m. behind the Gateway Shopping Center in Truckee. The ride is about an hour and a half with a slow and fast group option. Another ride is held every Saturday at 9 a.m. at Walden’s Coffee Shop in Reno. It’s one to two hours, with groups usually splitting up by ability level.The Procrastinating Pedalers of Reno ( have several group rides each week as well.Once you have some familiarity with group riding, you are ready for your first race. For riders in the Reno-Tahoe area there are two governing bodies of organized competition, USA Cycling and the Reno Wheelmen.USA Cycling-sanctioned events like the Tour de Nez are typically bigger events, and may require a few hours of travel as they are often hosted in the Central Valley and Bay Area. They have a ranking system to ensure you are always racing with riders at your ability or age level. USA Cycling ( requires a $60 annual membership for participation. The Northern California and Nevada Cycling association ( has a detailed calendar of events from January through September. Reno Wheelmen ( events are a weekly series of races held April through August. With minimal travel time, and only $10 per event, they are the best way for an aspiring racer to get his or her first taste of competition.All it takes is a desire to compete and a working road bike. Before you know it you could be on the path to racing with the professionals at the Tour de Nez.andamp;#8212; Team rider Nick Schaffner is the author of this week’s Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries Racing column. Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries Racing is a Truckee-based cycling team focused on racing and local bike advocacy. For more information, results and upcoming events, visit

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