Road Race Safety

All Firehouse 50 races follow the regulations established by USA Cycling, Inc.:

Handle Bars:

The use of certain handlebars is not allowed in the preferred start or in any pack.

“The handlebars and stem must be fashioned in such a way as to present no danger. Their ends shall be solidly plugged to lessen chance of injury. Handle bars used for steering with ends that point forward and upward that provide support for the riders forearm are permitted in time trial and pursuit events.”

  • The use of any illegal handlebars in a pack is grounds for disqualification and will not be allowed in the preferred start.
  • If you have questions concerning the legality of your handlebars and intend to be in a pack or preferred start position, please contact us to arrange in advance the approval of your bars.


“No rider shall take pace behind another rider closer than 25 meters (80 feet) ahead or 2 meters (7 feet) to the side. (A rider who is observed taking pace shall receive a time penalty.)”

  • No two riders may ride abreast other than when attempting to pass and such attempts shall be maintained beyond a distance of 500 meters.  An attempt to pass may be repeated an unlimited number of times, but each time a challenging rider fails in his attempt, he shall drop back to 25 meters behind the challenged rider before renewing his attempt.
  • Drafting violations will be accepted from course monitors, motorcycle escorts or other riders.  A time penalty will be applied if multiple reports of the rider violating the rule occurs.  If the violator would be eligible for an award, the award will be held until the issue is addressed. If it is found that the rider is in violation, the award will be given to the next eligible rider and the violators time will be adjusted.  The adjustment to the time will be determined by the distance and frequency of the violation.

Safety Links:

Secrets of proper stretching:
Regular stretching can keep you flexible, release stiff joints, and make exercise and everyday activities easier.  Other benefits include improved range of motion, circulation, and muscle tone. When you stretch:

  • Warm up with a short walk before stretching
  • Stretch major muscle groups first, like thighs and legs. Then stretch specific muscles for the types of exercise you plan to do
  • Your muscles should feel a gentle pull, but no pain
  • Avoid bouncing. It can tear muscle fibers, which creates scar tissue when it heals and in the end may make you less flexible
  • Stretch muscles on both sides of the body evenly
  • Hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds and complete six to eight repetitions
  • Never hold your breath while you stretch. Deep, easy breathing is the key to relaxation.
  • Some experts recommend stretching after exercise, when the muscles are heated by blood flow and move more easily

Source: All About Joints, How to Prevent and Recover from Common Injuries by Irwin M. Siegel, MD, Demos Medical Publishing, Inc.

Remember Road Racing on Open Roads:  Skills of Riding-very often not practiced!
by Varick L. Olson, PhD, PT, Level 2 USA Cycling Coach,

Training is the ride, number of miles, intervals, H/R, power, etc. Too infrequently the skills of bike handling are not practiced. Skillful bike handling makes you a safer rider whether in a race, on a training ride or just riding. Bike handling skills need to be part of your training program.

Skill practice can be divided into three categories: those to do alone, those to do with a partner and those to do with three or more.

All skills have two basic principles. Keep your bike perpendicular to the road, leaning the bike means you are closer to the ground and will more easily crash.

Keep pedaling, power to the rear wheel keeps you upright, no power and you lose control.

Skills need to be practiced in areas of minimal to no vehicle traffic.

Skills to Practice alone:
Place 6 sponges in a line about 1.5 bike lengths apart. Ride the line steering between the sponges, do not hit the sponges. Do not lean your bike, keep it perpendicular to the road and learn to steer your way through the line of sponges. Practice various speeds. At higher speeds you may feel you need to lean your bike–DO NOT learn to move your body and keep your bike perpendicular to the road. This skill will help you avoid debris on the road, sudden movements of other riders and maybe a fallen rider.

Place a water bottle on the road. Ride toward the bottle and reach down and pick it up. Turn around and ride back and place it on the road. Become good reaching left and right. As you improve place a riding glove on the road and pick it up. To make a few dollars tell a friend you can reach down and pick up a 5 dollar bill placed flat on the road, if you can’t you owe $5. Just make sure you have practiced so you can’t loose.

Ride along the edge of a road with a minimal drop-off. Drop-off the road and learn to keep pedaling, shift down and spin, and RIDE back onto the road. Practice RIDING back onto the road rather than “bunny hopping” as “bunny hopping” requires you to stop pedaling and you will have poor control when returning to the road. As you improve try dropping off at higher speeds and different terrain. This skill will make you a much safer rider no matter where you ride.

Cornering: Turning left move as far right as possible, into your drops shift down and turn into your lane, spin to accelerate up to speed. Turning right move as close to the center line as possible, into your drops shift down and turn into your lane, spin to accelerate up to speed. DO NOT CROSS THE CENTER LINE! Practice this skill as if your life depends on it-as it does!

Practice corning two ways. The most frequently used method is to lean your bike into the turn with the inside pedal up so it does not hit the road. This is an exception to the rules of keep pedaling and keep the bike perpendicular to the road. Beware that you need excellent control as this method places you closer to the road with minimal control over the direction of your lean. Another way to corner is to keep your bike perpendicular to the road, into your drops look over the brake hood in the direction of your turn, pull up on the bar toward the turn and push down on the bar opposite (this keeps your bike perpendicular to the road) and steer your bike around the corner — KEEP PEDALING. This method is very useful in wet conditions, loose gravel and when the group has slowed a bit as you now keep your bike perpendicular, pedal through the turn and can accelerate away from the group.

Skills to Practice with a partner:
Put the sponges on the road. One of you slaloms by steering between the sponges, the other rides as close as possible leaning his body, not the bike, toward the slaloming rider. By leaning with the body and keeping the bike perpendicular to the road the leaning rider can support the slaloming rider if the need arises. Try it. Practice picking up a water bottle from the road with your partner riding beside you, first left then right.

Practice dropping off the road with your partner beside you and riding back on the road without disrupting your partners line.

Practice cornering riding side by side. Which method (leaning the bike or steering) works the best when you are the outside rider or when you are the inside rider?

Practice cornering following your partner and learn how to accelerate to get on her wheel. Not only will you become more skilled at staying on a wheel but also your skill of cornering will improve.

Skills to Practice with 3 or more:
Practice riding a revolving pace line. When you reach the front LOOK under your arm and when you see the front wheel of the front rider in the slow line, move your bike over then your body. By moving your bike first you are able to keep your bike perpendicular to the road. When you are at the end of the slow line accelerate and move your bike toward the fast line and move onto to the rider’s wheel. Again by moving your bike first you are able to keep your bike perpendicular and KEEP PEDALING.

Bump and Out: In an open grassy area make a large circle marked with water bottles. Riders ride the same direction inside the circle and attempt to ride other riders out of the circle. The last rider in the circle wins.

Practicing Bike Skills is part of Training Safety:  Your Responsibility by Varick L. Olson, PhD, PT, USA Cycling level 2 Coach

ALL road races are on open roads, open to all traffic, unless stated by the race director at the race start!!!! No exceptions!!!

This means that all traffic laws are applicable. In Wisconsin, as in most states, the bicycle is a vehicle and each rider is responsible to obey the law. The basic reason vehicle laws work is that each vehicle operator is predictable. Each vehicle does not cross the center line. Each vehicle stops at stop signs. In the case of bicycles, only two riders abreast are allowed so motorized traffic is not delayed. Turns are signaled.

It doesn’t sound like much of a road race would be possible. Yet we have the opportunity to race because local authorities and volunteers make it possible. They direct motorized traffic, provide road signs alerting drivers to bike race in progress, marshal corners, provide lead and follow vehicles and safe start and finish lines.

We have a responsibility to race safely within this framework. To do otherwise is to risk our lives, the lives of our friends and the possible elimination of open road racing!

Road racing safety is about tactics, tactics are about physical and mental skills. You must race savvy to stay upright and finish. If you don’t finish you can’t win. Plan your race around this concept. Find a place in the pack so you do not EVER need to cross the center line. When you come to a right turn move as close to the center line as possible. Make your turn into YOUR lane. When you come to a left turn move as close as possible to the road edge. Make your turn into YOUR lane. Practice these skills. Practice accelerating out of turns so that you can catch onto a wheel quickly. Practice riding a straight line. In group rides learn how to be predictable, no quick moves. Train to be safe. If you don’t train it you can’t race it.

Safety requires excellent bike handling skills. Place a water bottle on the road and practice picking it up. Learn to do this equally well from the right and from the left. Learn to make turns with minimal lean of your bike. Keep your bike perpendicular to the road and first lean your body not your bike when changing positions in the pack. The more your bike is perpendicular to the road the more control you will have.

As you can see safety is YOUR responsibility. To be competitive you need to out think your opponent not just out pedal them. What are the primary goals in every race? Finish is number 1. To place is number 2.

Cross the center line and you are disqualified or dead!!!

“You have the brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” — Dr. Suess