The Cost Of Bike Racing? (Podcast #56)

The Cost Of Bike Racing? (Podcast #56)

So you're thinking about racing a bike, but you're concerned about the cost.

You're not the only one, apparently.

Recently, an article in the UK based Telegraph caused a little bit of a stir in the cycling world, claiming that the cost of racing was approximately £25,000.  £25,000!!  Adjusted to USD, that's around $39,000!  That's a salary for a lot of people!

And that's completely insane.

There's no earthly reason racing a bike needs to cost that much.  In fact, if you read other articles by the same author, you get a different impression: the author is racing at an elite level, attempting to recapture a lost opportunity of his youth.  He's not starting off racing a Cat 5 criterium, or a weekend stage race where you're competing against other guys who are coming out to have a little fun and maybe sprint for a pair of tires.  We're talking two different worlds here.

But the article did get me thinking about what IS the cost of racing a bike?  And if you wanted to start racing a bike today, what would you need to lay out in terms of dollars and cents.  That's what I'll explore in today's podcast, along with some helpful tips to get you ready to race for the first time.

Click through for a breakdown of what it takes to race on the elite level, and what you need to race on the local level:

Show Notes:

First off, the final list from the UK Telegraph article linked above (with USD conversion for those of you in the United States, like me:)

The racing bill (In red, USD as of 5/13/15)

1. Two fully-equipped racing bikes for time trialing and road races……….. £16,000 ($24,396)

2. Winter training bike …………………………………………………………………….. £2,000 ($3049.60)

3. Spare racing wheels …………………………………………………………………… £500 ($762.40)

4. Cost of race entries for 8-month season ……………………………………….. £1,000 ($1524.80)

5. Transport costs to races (diesel) ………………………………………………….. £1,500 ($2287.20)

6. Indoor trainer (I use a Wattbike) ……………………………………………………. £2,250 ($3430.80)

7. Training camp (Majorca) ………………………………………………………………. £700 ($1067.36)

8. Nutrition including supplements, gels and protein ……………………………. £800 ($1219.84)

9. Race clothing ……………………………………………………………………………… £500 ($762.40)

10. Replacing tyres ………………………………………………………………………… £300 ($457.44)

Total …………………………………………………………………………………………..£25,550 ($38958.64)

Racing on a budget:

Cannondale CAAD 10 5 105Bike:

Cannondale CAAD 10 105 5

Shimano 105 5800 11 speed drivetrain, FSA Gossamer crank, Tektro brakes, Shimano RS11 wheels.  Add pedals (Look Keo Classic 2  for $76) and a couple small items like water bottle cages and maybe a simple cycle computer, and you're ready to rock and roll.

For TTs (if you're doing them) use clip on aero bars and you'll save thousands of dollars on a dedicated TT bike (which, if you're not racing above the Cat 4s, you don't really need.)

$1680 MSRP (+ $125 for pedals and small parts)

Helmet, shoes and kit:

I'm a huge fan of the Lazer O2 helmet.  It's lighter, airier, more expensive cousin, the Helium saved my skull during a crash that put me off the bike for 3 months.  The O2 has all the same features with less of a price tag, and a little bit heavier construction.  In fact, the O2 was one of the first road helmets I owned, and it's still being produced today.

Helmet – $100

Shoes are a very specific thing to each person, but I'm partial to the Bont Vaypor carbon road shoes for around $200-250 or so.  They're light, stiff and fully heat moldable around your foot.

Shoes – $250

For kit, I look no further than the awesome folks at at Vie 13.  They make some of the absolute best clothing on the market, with a fantastic fit, great chamois and overall amazing construction.

Kit including 2 bibs, 2 jerseys, socks – $500

Rol Race SLR wheelsSpare racing wheels:

To race a bike you don't necessarily need new wheels.  However, if you're looking for one of the best “bang for the buck” upgrades out there, wheels are definitely a good start.  If you upgrade your wheels, you'll have a pair of spares lying around anyway to use for put wheels.  For a relatively cheap upgrade, I love the Rol Race SLR wheels. 1595 grams, aero construction, aluminum and wide 23mm inner rim width with excellent bearings and a solid freehub system.

Wheels – $700

Dana Point GPRace entries and transport:

Let's assume you want to race for 7 months (from March to September.)  That's a VERY full calendar by anyone's standards.  You're looking at around 25 races, with some featuring a “sign up for a second for only $10”.  Average of $35 per race and you're talking $875 for race entries.  Of course, if you're going to do a bunch of stage races, you may pay a little bit more, but if you assume your average weekend stage race is 3 stages, at $35 a piece, even if you pay $125 for your stage race entry, it's not much more expensive than 3 separate races.

For travel, most people will rarely travel more than 100 miles round trip to race, and truly, in the northeast of the US, there's little need to.  Gas is cheap anyway, and if you're using a vehicle that's even remotely fuel efficient, you'll be fine.  Expect to spend around $500 in gas, tolls and fees.

Race entry and transport – $1375

Indoor trainer:

My go to trainer is a solid, dependable Kurt Kinetic Road Maching indoor fluid trainer.  I've had mine for 5 years now, and it's handled winters of high intensity training, race warmups, sitting in the car, sitting in the garage and everything in between.

Trainer – $310

Nutrition:

Make a sandwich, eat real food.

Tires and spare parts:

Whatever you may need through a season, figure about $500 for it.  This includes cables, brake pads, more tires, tubes, new bartape and other such bits and pieces.

Small parts, replacement parts, miscellaneous expenses – $500

Total: $5540

Additional things you can add: Coaching between $100 and $250 per month depending on who you use.  Or self directed training plans for $100-$200 per season.  You can always add a power meter to the mix, which may run you between $600 and $1000 as well, and maybe a Garmin to read all the power meter data for around $250, but that's all up to you.

The bottom line here is that you don't NEED to spend $40k to race.  These kinds of articles really deter people from jumping into the cycling racing scene, and it's unfortunate that such things are a reality.

About the Author:

After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Exercise and Sport Science/Pharmacology, I continued my education with a doctorate of Chiropractic from New York Chiropractic College. As I progressed through my education, I was able to apply the concepts I learned in the lab to my own daily workouts and goals. At the time, I was following some of the principles of traditional coaching and getting mediocre results. Frustrated, I realized that if I could apply all my physiology, chemistry, nutrition and training knowledge, I could “build a better mousetrap” not just for my own training, but for other athletes. With this goal in mind, I started Tailwind Coaching, to help cyclists [with busy lives and limited training time] become stronger, faster, fitter and healthier. And while I may not be a ex-ProTour rider, an Olympic Coach or even a prolific race winner, I am something that most coaches are not: a regular guy just like you who has a job, a family and a desire to be a stronger cyclist.