First and foremost join a cycling club affiliated to British Cycling, annual membership is low and will provide the necessary skills for road racing and being able to ride confidently in a group scenario. Please note, some clubs will have restricted membership due to high demand.
Secondly, apply to British Cycling for the necessary Road Licence as in most races it will be required and is free of charge for under 16’s. The licence is normally returned via your club.
The following are the age related racing categories:-
Under 8/Youth E, Under 10/Youth D, Under 12/Youth C, Under 14/Youth B and Under16/Youth A (see British Cycling Licence Categories for eligibility appropriate to the riders birthday).
These are fixed though dispensation to race in a category above (Youth A & B) can be given by British Cycling if enough points have been accumulated by a rider within a calendar year (section 126.96.36.199 – 188.8.131.52 British Cycling General Road and Track Technical Regulations). Ten points are awarded for a win down to one point for a tenth placing in the Youth A & B categories only and approximately 50 points is required to move up an age category, but request with British Cycling beforehand for the required authorisation card.
Each age group has a gear restriction and this is routinely checked at youth road/circuit events most times before a race. The maximum gear that can be selected and used on a bike must be within the stated roll back distance covered by one full crank revolution. Please note that a gear check may also follow for the top three placed racers or at random, and it is this scrutineering which will actually determine qualification or not. Also, the permanent roll out markings presented at some circuits may get you to enter a race, only for a later independent check marked out by the race organisers to deem disqualification. The default response to any appeal to a race commissaire is usually met with “it’s in the rulebook”. Do your own independent check, for even switching tyre size or manufacturer will affect the roll-out and remember spare rear wheels as you may change them out during a race.
[Youth E = 5.10 Metres] [Youth D = 5.40 Metres] [Youth C = 6.05 Metres] [Youth B = 6.45 Metres] [Youth A = 6.93 Metres]
The purpose of restricting gears is to help young riders develop a good pedal cadence and avoiding any injury whilst still growing. It also levels the ‘racing’ field for those who may be at a loss against others who possess a physical advantage in terms of height, power and early developers in larger gears that less developed youths cannot easily push. Restricting also helps keep the field together thus encouraging the riders to learn pack riding skills and strategies.
To adjust the gears if required use the lockout screws on the rear derailluer to prevent the chain from using one or more of the smallest sprockets on the gear cassette if required. (Please note that racing on the continent i.e. Holland, they may not allow locking out of gears and if so will require all cogs on the cassette to be accessed within the roll out distance). You may also need to lock out the larger front chainring (or remove it entirely) as a scrutineer will inspect the bike in its maximum gear even if not used for actual racing.
If serious you will need to find out the best chainring and sprocket combinations for the maximum gear within the regulation distance. You can also use a gear calculator in order to take out the guess work. Most racers will try and get the roll out as close to the maximum regulation, as every centimetre inside the distance will be lost per revolution of the crank and especially in a sprint finish that can count.
Wheelsets: Other than Youth A these must have a maximum rim depth of 35mm with a minimum of 16 and a maximum of 40 spokes (the diameter of the spokes must also not exceed 10mm in width).
Lastly, please remember the FUNdamentals and try not to specialise at too young an age, mix it up with mountain biking, track, cyclocross and the like. This will help with long term participation in cycling as a whole and avoid boredom/burn-out.
Just keep it fun and rubber side down.
British Cycling Consultation Paper – 2015/2016 Season