1. Get a reasonable quality bike and appropriate clothing.
2. Make sure you have trained to get fit. Races can average 22-27mph and you therefore need a reasonable level of fitness. If you have never ridden before, this can take many months because it's better to build up slowly. Visit our section on training for further information. Anyone who can average 18's out on their own training for at least an hour (undulating roads, average wind), will probably be ready for action.
3. To race under the BCF rules, join the BCF and get a racing license. Click for the BCF. See elsewhere for details on membership and the various types of licenses.
4. If you just want to try it the once, then look out for a local league in your area, or ask organisers about getting a day licence. See what races are on that you want to ride.
5. Preferably, enter a road race three weeks (or earlier) before the event. Or you can just turn up at an event such as the races at Eastway, Hillingdon, Milton Keynes Bowl, and see if you can get a ride. My first race was at Hillingdon and it was by far the better option for me. Closed circuits like Hillingdon exist around the country and the races are generally shorter and not as hilly. You can also race on closed circuits on a provisional membership which can costs as little as £10.
How fit do you need to be for racing?
Very fit, however measuring fitness is always very difficult. As a very rough guide, if you can maintain an average 18mph whilst training for an hour, you're probably fit enough to start racing. However very little truly prepares the total novice for his or her first road race.
I still remember the advice given to me by Phil (Phil Corley, a close friend and ex professional road race champion). Whatever you do make sure you are not at the back of the bunch at the North Crawley corner or else you'll probably be spat out the back. Due to total inexperience, because I was fit enough, guess where I found myself and yes my race was over but I'd been in a sudo break and boy did I want to do it again. A few weeks later I finished my first race at Milton Keynes Bowl and floated home.
Part of the difference was that I had trained my body to be used to the constant sprints that happen in road races, every corner, many hills, primes and so forth and I'd spent time, doing one minute intervals a couple of times a week.
Once you can ride at race speeds on your own, you shouldn't have too much trouble in a 4th cat race. Your early aim should simply be to stay with the bunch and finish. Then it's up to you.
For women, you could probably start once you can average 17mph in training. Again the Bowl holds races specifically for women.
Road racing is a hard sport and you need, from a sedentary start, a good few months (if not a year) of training before starting. Please visit our cycle training section, see the left navigation grid, for most of what you will need to know about training.