We cyclists spend lots of time thinking about how to win bike races, but what if we should actually spend more time thinking about losing? Hear us out— maybe by better understanding what leads to an outcome we want to avoid, we can prevent common mistakes, and fine-tune our efforts to achieve better results. Hey, it’s worth a shot.
In that spirit, we present our top 15 most effective and time-honored ways to lose a bike race. Tested and perfected by generations of disappointed cyclists, these ill-advised techniques are guaranteed to work for you, too.
15. Arrive Late
Between registration, getting dressed, and warming up, you can easily fill an hour or more before your race. Add on time for a last-minute bathroom break and equipment check, and it’s probably obvious that the more time you save yourself, the better— that is, if success is what you’re after.
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But if disappointment is your goal, you’re in luck. Get to the race at the last minute and stack the deck against yourself. You’ll face an uphill battle from the very beginning, while riders who arrived earlier than you fight for the win.
14. Don’t Maintain Your Equipment
There’s an old saying that it’s not the bike that wins races, it’s the legs that power it, but this is only true if the bike actually works. From dropped chains, to flat tires, to non-functional shifting, there is any number of mechanical things that can go wrong on race day and cost you a podium.
So if you want to lose your next race, ignore your machine. Run your tires bald, leave your chain unlubed, and don’t even think about replacing cables and pads. Regular maintenance only takes a few minutes each week, but that’s time best ignored if not winning is your goal.
13. Celebrate Early
Every amateur wants to ride and look like a pro. But be careful what you wish for, as even the pros occasionally fall victim to one of the most embarrassing late-race mistakes— early celebration.
So whether you’re a world champion or a local cat 5, let a premature feeling of confidence be your undoing. Next time you approach a finish line, just imagine how cool you’ll look in photos posting up in jubilation, even if it’s at the expense of actually winning. Victory is fleeting, but a photo lasts forever, especially if that photo shows other riders sneaking around you to take the win.
12. Lose Count of Laps
Every bike race is fundamentally about pacing. It’s rarely the strongest rider who wins, but instead, it’s the athlete who conserves energy and picks the right moments to apply power. To that end, a surefire way to lose is to forget how much of the race remains.
To maximize your chances of losing track, ignore the race official’s speech at the start of the event. And once you’re rolling, never look at the timer on your computer, and dutifully avoid glancing at the lap counter each time you pass it. Eventually, you’ll either go too hard and run out of energy before the finish or roll through the final lap without realizing the race is over. Either way, you lose… err, win.
11. Don’t Train
Fitness is a huge factor in any racer’s success. Luckily, it’s easy to increase your chances of ending up off the podium with inconsistent, inadequate, or poorly designed training that leaves you unprepared for race day.
Not riding at all is the most effective tactic, but if you absolutely must train, save it all for the week before your event. Or if you’re following a training plan, skip important workouts and replace them with unstructured rides, ideally as dissimilar to your event as possible. Whatever you do, avoid consistent training and recovery. If your goal is losing races, the last thing you want is to get faster.
10. Forget Your Shoes
Expensive gear alone won’t win a race, but forgetting your gear entirely is an effective way to lose one. So for your next event, forget something indispensable and cost yourself the win.
For optimal failure, there’s nothing better to forget than your shoes. There’s a good chance your friends won’t have any extras that fit you, and even if they do, they might not work with your pedals. Forgetting them is easy— simply throw all your gear together at the last minute on the morning of your event, and wait until it’s too late to see what you’ve left behind.
9. Take a Competitor’s Advice
Every racer is out for themselves. That said, sometimes your competitors will offer unsolicited bits of “advice” mid-race. Trust us, they don’t mean well, and these comments are usually intended to force you into doing work. If you want to avoid a podium, listen to every instruction someone shouts at you and take them to heart.
That’s not to say that some advice isn’t warranted. If another rider tells you to hold your line or yells at you for dangerous behavior, there’s probably something to it. But taking a pull or closing a gap when someone else tells you to is a surefire way to benefit others at your own expense. But if your goal is disappointment, that’s probably a good thing, right?
8. Miss Your Hand Up
Not every race has or needs a feed zone. But if you’re competing in a long, hot event, extra water can be a necessity. This presents an easy and oft-overlooked way to set yourself back: missing or dropping your hand up.
Grabbing a bottle from an outstretched hand might sound straightforward, but it’s a delicate task that requires practice. The closed bottle should be loosely held from the top, and the spectator should move their hand with you as you pass by. You should slow as you approach, avoiding other riders around you so you can safely look directly at the bottle as you reach out… that is, if your goal is to successfully grab it. But you’re out to lose, so why would you want to do that?
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7. Chase Every Move
They say fortune favors the bold, and you miss every chance you don’t take. The same could be said for breakaways. Some get caught quickly while some stick and win races, and if you don’t roll the dice you’ll miss the opportunity.
There’s an easy solution, especially if you don’t want to actually win. Simply chase every attack! You’ll expend all your energy at a rapid pace, burning yourself out so even if you do enter the winning move, you won’t have anything left to contribute. Don’t bother to consider who is launching the attack, where on the course it’s happening, or how much of the race remains. While all of these are important variables in whether or not a breakaway wins, an effective strategy is meaningless when you’re avoiding the podium at all costs. Instead, blindly follow everything and eventually find yourself off the back.
6. Take a Wrong Turn
If there’s a common theme in what you can do wrong in a race, it’s being unprepared. Whether in terms of fitness, equipment, or familiarity, prepared riders are more successful, and if you’re out to lose you can use this to your (dis)advantage.
Simply show up to your event with no knowledge of the course and no time to pre-ride it, and you just might find yourself taking a wrong turn. You’ll be amazed at how much time you can cost yourself with a brief foray off course. If you’re lucky, your unfamiliarity will also lead you to make other poor decisions, like overdoing it on a climb or attacking too far out. Last place is within reach!
5. Crash Out
It’s true, crashing is a part of racing. But while some wrecks are unavoidable, there are plenty of things you can do to ride smart and minimize your chances of getting caught up. Needless to say, you won’t want to be smart if failure is your primary objective.
To increase your likelihood of hitting the ground, neglect practicing technical skills and ride recklessly and unpredictably in the pack. You’ll risk injury not just for yourself but also for those around you. And remember— this article is satire, and you shouldn’t actually do this. But if you do, you’ll be almost guaranteed to win yourself a DNF (and possibly some broken bones along with it).
4. Be Inflexible
Bike racing rarely goes according to plan. Unexpected things happen and the podium is a moving target, with success favoring riders who are ready to adapt to changing situations. Since you’re trying to lose, take the opposite approach.
Be inflexible and unwavering, never deviating from your original plan. Hoping to contest the sprint? Sit in and wait for the finale no matter what. Planning to drop everyone on a climb? Don’t even think about getting into a promising early breakaway. The chance of things going exactly the way you want them to in a race is close to zero, and so are your chances of winning if you aren’t willing to adjust on the fly.
3. Be a Hero
It doesn’t matter how strong or fit you are. If you are human you have limits, and a bike race is an easy place to find them. So if you want to lose your next race in style, ignore your capabilities and overdo it.
Start by attacking solo from the gun. If you’re caught, chase every move, close every gap, and surge the pace up every climb. Sit on the front for way too long, especially when passing the race photographer, and make sure to ignore your power meter when it indicates you’re pushing too hard. Show your competitors what you’re made of and lose your race in swashbuckling style.
Work requires energy. It’s simple physics, and in bike racing that energy comes through food. To ride hard for any extended duration, your body needs fuel, usually in the form of easily digested carbohydrates. Restrict that fuel, and you’ll eventually bonk.
Bonking is one of the most effective ways of all to lose a bike race. No matter how hard you try, you simply can’t power through it, and by the time you get there, it’s usually too late to refuel mid-race. Best of all, it’s remarkably easy to do, since you probably need more food than you realize to maintain a high pace for very long. Simply put, it’s an uncomfortable, potentially dangerous, completely avoidable, but guaranteed-effective way to hold yourself back. Get to it!
1. Don’t Cross the Line First
When it really boils down to it, there’s one absolutely infallible way to lose a bike race, and that’s to not cross the finish line first. It might sound frustratingly obvious, but it’s illustrative of the truth of racing— the first person over the line is the winner, and there are infinite ways to cost yourself victory along the way.
So if your aim is to come up short, your options are endless. But if for some reason you actually want to win, it’s in your favor to control as many variables as you can. From good training to equipment maintenance and smart tactics, anything you can do to improve your chances helps in what’s always an uphill battle. So check every box and arrive at race day ready to seize the moment and win.
That is, unless you really want to lose.