Sanctioned racing in the USA: Getting on the Road
Getting started with road racing is extremely easy. Women who are already racing practically turn into ravenous wolves when they hear another lady person display interest in racing. The encouragement just comes pouring out, and it's amazing. So here's what you need to do to get yourself on the road.
First you need a bike, and not a clunky commuter. Do yourself a service and give yourself a fighting chance with a bike that's in good working road bike. It doesn't have to be the top of the line, but it should be the right bike for the job. Let's not pretend that a really good bike isn't gonna cost you a pretty penny, but you get what you pay for and you might as well spend a little bit more on something that's going to last. Local bike shops (LBS) are always a great place to start, especially if you're not sure what kind of bike you want. If you come up short at your LBS then scour craigslist and ebay if you must.
Once you have your bike, then you need some skills. How do you gain these skills?
RIDE YOUR BIKE! This is very, very important. If you skip the part where you get comfortable on your bike, you won't know what questions to ask when you get to the next step. The hardest part of racing for me was getting comfortable riding so closely to others. While you're out riding your bike, be sure to join in on group rides. Rapha hosts an excellent women's ride every Sunday morning. There are also rides from Bicycle Habitat, Redbeard Bikes, and WE Bike NYC. Riding with other people is the only way to get over that fear of being close. Trust is a huge part of racing, and it's your job to make sure you trust yourself so others can trust you too.
SIGN UP FOR CLINICS
NYC is great. You wake up one day and decide you want to try something new, there's most likely a club in the area that will teach you how. For bike racing, that club is the Century Road Club Association (CRCA). If you don't have a single other bike racing friend in the world, you would be doing yourself a major service by joining a bike club. As far as bang for your buck, the CRCA is the way to go. Members gain access to skills clinics, racing buddies, and club races for extra practice. I am not a CRCA member, and i've only participated in open races (races available to non-members), but if I wasn't invited to Ride Brooklyn by a trusted friend, that would have been exactly where i went. Granted this is my own opinion, and many folks have found their way going other routes.
Regardless where you decide to align yourself, I highly recommend the CRCA beginner's clinic. This year the first men's and women's clinic is on April 25th! They give you the rundown and throw you into a race with your fellow beginners. The best way to learn race is to race! Register, try it out, and attend the information session beforehand! You'll be ready to rumble in no time!