NO MATTER how much you plan, racing stretches any budget – but preparing carefully can make the difference between cracking the bank and breaking it.
You can make your first season of club racing as expensive or inexpensive as you desire, depending on whether you want the bare essentials or the full Monty.
But there are a number of must-haves that, regardless of where or what you’re racing, you’re going to need.
Let’s say you’ve already acquired your weapon of choice by borrowing a mate’s van, that you already have full kit – helmet, boots, gloves, leathers – and finally let’s assume you’re not running on an arrive-and-ride programme.
If you happen to have a car, trailers are the cheapest of the transport solutions, starting from around £300 for a brand new collapsible single-bike option. The obvious drawback here is that they offer little protection from either the elements or theft.
But with a van (something the size of a Berlingo at minimum) you give yourself a secure locker to store bike and kit and, depending on the model, a portable hotel to boot.
There is the option of a pickup, but you don’t get much more utility than a car with a trailer. A proper race truck could set you back at least £5000, but for that you might have a workshop and a small living area – which may be worth the cost depending on your goals.
After you’ve figured out your transportation, head over to Google maps and estimate your driving distance for the season. From your total estimated mileage, an average fuel price and the average fuel economy for your transporter, you can figure out the approximate cost of fuel for your season.
If you’re planning to spend more than one weekend in a race paddock, get yourself a good sturdy awning. Halfords and Amazon will sell them for next to nothing, but trust me (see my personal experience to the right), it isn’t worth the trouble. Second hand pop-ups are a dime a dozen and well worth splurging on if you can’t guarantee yourself a garage every weekend (which most racers can’t).
Next you’ll need to look at the bike’s consumables: oil, filters, petrol, brake pads, tyres, the lot. Depending on how hard you ride and how many races you do in a weekend, this could be a very small or a very significant part of your budget.
On the subject of rubber, allow yourself at least a set of wets and a set of dry tyres for your first race meeting (sets often go for between £200 and £300). See where that gets you, then reevaluate as needed.
A basic 100 piece toolset will get you through nearly any trackside repair job you’ll encounter, but remember to pick up specialist tools like wheel nut sockets, specially-sized hex keys and lock wire pliers if nothing else will do.
Not that you need tyre warmers – if you’re racing classics, for instance – but unless you can guarantee you’ll be within a few extension leads’ distance of an open power socket at every event, it’s worth springing for a generator to power your kettle alone (required).
Your pit neighbours may hate you, but any loud old genny will do the trick as long as it can power the warmers at about 1200 Watts, or about 1.5 kVA.
Depending on who you race with, you may have the option of season entries and/or single-event entries. Include a full seasons’ worth of meetings and test days in your plans, then add more.
It may not be necessary to go to Spain pre-season, but in-season trackdays can help you learn new tracks and work out machine issues should the need arise. Click here for an up-to-date schedule of all British club races and trackdays across the UK and Europe heading into next season.
We don’t count food in this budget because you need those no matter where you are. And don’t forget tea, coffee or biscuits – you want to be prepared when the nice journalists inevitably make their way around the paddock.
Crash damage has been left out of this article, but fear not as we’re going to cover that in the coming weeks.
We’ve probably missed a few things off this list, but we guarantee at least once in your racing career you’ll forget – you’ll get to Scotch Corner and realise you forgot your helmet in Newcastle.
As ever, results may vary. So let us know how cheap or how expensive you made your first season of bike racing, and what you would have done differently.
Remember if you’re doing trackdays, you already have 80% of what you need. Stay tuned next week for more…
*Main and side images: UK Clubsport
*Van image: Josh Corner