So It’s Your First Barry-Roubaix: Tips for Beginners and Experts Alike

So it’s your first Barry-Roubaix and you’re nervous. Anxious. Who knows, maybe you’re a little scared. That’s alright. Even racers that completed and fared well in all three previous editions will be a touch nerved up next weekend. Butterflies, as my first grade teacher would say, are just fine.

But there are a few things you should know. A few things to at least try to remember. Most are obvious, and not unlike a lot of other races. But the Barry-Roubaix, oh, she is an exotic beast. There are things one must consider before going, or face the consequences. Here are a few points worth noting before you pack up, warm-up and toe the line.

1. Training does not mean starting to ride a bike a week before. Nor is it an excuse. If you’re the guy who hopped on his bike twice before the race, please kindly keep it to yourself. Goofily smirking to riders next to you that “this is the second time I’ve got my bike out this year” isn’t an excuse, nor will other riders fell sorry for you. The race filled up on February 4th. You knew it was coming. Prepare.

2.  Layering is key. Last year, when race promoter Rick Plite stepped on site at Gun Lake, it was 19 degrees. That’s without windchill, and without the added windchill of pedaling along some wind-whipped gravel road. In those conditions, your water bottle will freeze. Solid. Einstein Racing’s Jon Dub-Nine was one of many, many riders who barely got a sip of water out of their frozen bidons. A friendly tip from experience: Liquids with lower water content than mixed Accelerades and whatnot take longer to freeze, if they do at all. Flat soda, for instance, has sugar, carbs and won’t go solid on you. Bring some along, just in case. Don’t let a few nice days fool you, it’s Michigan. It could be 20 degrees at 8am on March 24th just as easily as it could be 60. Bring every article of cycling clothing you own, just to be safe.

3. Prepare for the Worst. 35 miles, or 62, is a long loop. Unlike a regular lap race, or a road race with a SAG wagon close behind, if the worst should happen, you will be alone. For a long, long time. If you have spare parts, tools and the knowledge to use them, do so. The extra weight will be worth it if you flat or break a chain 17 miles out and the support vehicle and volunteers are miles away. And bring the best tool of all: A cell phone. (Special Note: kolo tc will be hopping the course. If you need a lift, flag down the guy in the Ford Focus wagon. No gas money required)

4. Make Friends. There are 1,500 people racing. A handful will win their age categories. The rest will ride their guts out just to finish. Find a group you can hang with, do your turn working, and shake hands about two miles out. After that, race for placings. But riding alone 15 feet ahead of a group is a waste of effort, and they’d love to have your company.

5. Wave. Sure, it’s a race. It’s an important race, too. But it’s a bike race. Wave at the cars that move over for you, and to the ones that don’t. Wave at the people watching the race go by from their porches and at the wives handing up bottles and marshaling the kids around while Pops is out racing. Wave to the brave, intrepid reporters and photographers taking stunning pictures of you zooming by (I’ll wave back). And add a “Thank You” do the many volunteers that do so much to make the Barry-Roubaix such a great event.

That’s about all we have for you. You’ll do fine, First Timer. Just remember that 35 miles is a lot longer in March than it is in July.

Barry-Roubaix Week starts this Sunday at 8am SHARP here at

2 responses to “So It’s Your First Barry-Roubaix: Tips for Beginners and Experts Alike”

  1. I love this advice. You’re dead nuts on with the race etiquette. I think you could transfer these rules over to just about every bike race here in Michigan. I’ll be looking for you in the wagon just to say hi (and hopefully not for help :)). The 10 day forecast is looking like rain Friday night and scattered showers on Saturday which could make for some soupy conditions. However, as you astutely pointed out, this IS Michigan, and it could change to either snow or sunshine by then 🙂 Either way, I’m revved up for a fun race.

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