If you have decided that going faster is going to be your cycling challenge in 2020 then you are going to have to think about getting a race license. And if you have started looking into this, then there is a fair chance your head is already spinning! This article aims to explain all you need to know about race licenses if you are planning to race in the UK.
Where Do You Get a Race License?
In the UK, race licenses are issued by British Cycling. This is regardless of where you are in the UK, so although I personally only race in Scotland, my license is still from British Cycling, not Scottish Cycling.
Which Events Do I Need a Race License For?
You need a race license to compete in BMX, Cycle Speedway, Cyclo-Cross (except ‘Go-Cross’ events), Mountain Bike, Road and Closed-Circuit (except ‘Go-Race’ events), Track (except ‘Go-Race’ events), and Track League.
The ‘Go-‘ type races are open to novice cyclists under the age of 16. They are entry-level events aiming to encourage young cyclists to make the transition to racing.
Simple…except there are three different types of license; full, provisional and day. Read on…
Do You Need To Be A British Cycling Member to get a Race License?
You have three options when it comes to race licenses; a full license, a provisional license, or a day license. I will go into each in more detail below.
If you decide a day license is for you then you do not need British Cycling membership for this.
There are three types of Race Membership; Bronze (£26 per year), Silver (£46 per year) and Gold (£78 per year). All three of these provide you with a provisional race license. If you want a full race license then you will need silver or gold membership.
Types Of Race License
On to the types of race license…
You will get a provisional race license free if you buy British Cycling Race membership (bronze, silver or gold). Sounds great as it is free, but a provisional license does have limitations in terms of the events you are eligible to enter, and the ability to accumulate points. Also, when it comes to road racing, free does not entirely mean free…
You can race on a provisional license in most events. Races which you cannot enter with a provisional license are:
- BMX – National and International events
- Cycle Speedway – National championships
- Cyclo-cross – International events, Championship and National events
- Mountain bike – National and International events
- Road and Closed-Circuit – National A and B events
- Track – Championship events
You can see at table of all the events you need a full, provisional or day license for can be found here.
Each race will be listed on the British Cycling Events page. Read the event information carefully to find out what type of race it is and therefore whether you will be able to enter on a provisional license. If in doubt, check with the organisers before you enter.
A provisional license does not allow you to accumulate ranking points (more on this in a later article). Essentially these are points which you are awarded for being placed (usually top 10) in a race. Before you decide that this is not important to you as you are unlikely to be winning races, have a think about where, and what you are. The smallest field I have raced in was 6 riders – and that was the Scottish National Criterium Championships. As a woman racing criteriums in Scotland, gaining points is not unattainable.
As stated by British Cycling, a provisional license:
‘is enough to get you into most BMX, Cyclo-cross, cycle speedway and MTB races. To be sure, check with the event organiser beforehand.’
Somehow, road and closed circuit (ie. crit) races seem to always manage to complicate matters though.
Yes, you can race events classified as Regional A, B or C+ with your free provisional license….but you will also need to buy a day license. Your day license will be cheaper than if you do not have race membership (and therefore a provisional license), but it is an additional cost which I feel is not made clear on the British Cycling website. You can find details of which events will also require a day license, and the cost of this, here.
If you do not have British Cycling membership, or you have a form of membership other than the Race one, you will need to buy a day license in order to enter a race.
The idea behind day licenses is that you can have a go at a few races without committing to the expense of a full race license. However, they’re not exactly cheap at £10 per event. The exception to this cost is cyclo-cross with a day license costing £3, and ‘Go-Race’ events (under-16s) at £5 for a day license.
You pay for your day license when you enter the race.
As with a provisional license, you are restricted in the types of race you can enter on a day license. Race types which you cannot enter on a day license are the same as those you cannot enter on a provisional license, listed above. Generally, if a race is classed as ‘regional’ then a provisional or day license if sufficient. For full details, check here. and if in doubt, check the organisers before you enter.
As with a provisional license, you also cannot accumulate points on a day license.
A full race license allows you to enter all UK races. It also enables you to accumulate points.
The cost of a full license depends largely on your age. For ‘seniors’ (ie. over 18) this is £40 for a year. For Juniors (16-18) a full license costs £20, and for Youths (12-16) and under-12s it is free. Incidentally, for a UCI Registered Team Rider, a full license is £90.
One other aspect to note about a full license is that – regardless of the time of year you buy it – it will expire on 31st December of that year. Because of this, licenses are half price from 1st July.
Clear As Mud?
If you are just starting out or thinking of giving racing a go, then this probably seems horribly complicated. To be honest, I find it confusing and I have raced for a number of years.
So, what, if anything, should you buy?
It depends…. (I know, I know, I’m sorry!)
It comes down to how many races you are planning to do, whether you want access to all races, whether you are bothered about points, and how much money you can spare. Hopefully the scenarios below will help you to decide – all are based on senior (18+) costs and road race entries.
- Silver membership + full license. This will cost you £86. You will be able to enter any races (regional or national) and accumulate points. You will only pay the race entry fee for each race.
- Gold membership + full license. This will cost you £118. The gold membership also gives you personal accident insurance. The race license you receive is exactly the same for silver or gold membership.
- No British Cycling Membership. This will cost you £0! You will need to pay the full price for a day license for each race you enter (which is mostly the same price as bronze members pay). You will be restricted to regional races and will not accumulate points. At £10 per day license you need to be sure that you are going to do under 9 races over the year, otherwise you would be better to get silver membership and a full license, as you are then not restricted by type of event and can accumulate points.
- Bronze membership. This will cost you £26. You do not get a provisional license with this membership so you will pay the full price for a day license for each event you enter (as you would with no membership). You will be restricted to regional races and will not accumulate points. At £10 per day license you need to be sure that you are going to do under 6 races over the year, otherwise you would be better to get silver and a full license, as you are then not restricted by type of event and can accumulate points. To my mind, unless you value the other benefits of being a British Cycling member, you don’t really gain anything over no membership and a day license.
- Silver membership only. This will cost you £46. You will get a provisional license with your membership which will entitle you to half price day licenses. As above, you will be restricted to regional races and will not accumulate points. At £5 per day license, this option is cheaper than silver + full license if you are sure you are going to do less than 8 races over the year.
- Gold membership only. This will cost you £78. As with silver membership, you will get a provisional license with your membership which will entitle you to half price day licenses. As above, you will be restricted to regional races and will not accumulate points. Unless personal accident insurance is really important to you, at £5 per day license, I would not recommend this option – I’d go for Silver + full license instead.
A Final Word
Ultimately, the number and type of races you are planning to do will probably be the deciding factor in what you buy. A couple of final points to bear in mind:
- As mentioned above, race licenses are valid until 31st December each year. They get less value for money as the year goes on. That said, they do become half price after 1st July (check there are still plenty of races in your area after that date before you buy!). If it’s late in the year and you just fancy giving a couple of races a go, you’re probably better with a day license.
- British Cycling membership is not all about race licenses. It is by no means my job to sell you BC membership, and I have no personal interest in doing so, but it’s worth looking at the other membership benefits and deciding if they are beneficial to you before you decide which option to pick.
- Depending on the way your head works, spending a fairly substantial amount on membership and a race license can be a great motivator to get on and enter those races!
- Time trials are slightly different in their license requirements. In fact, there are so many ifs and buts that I haven’t broached the subject here at all! Watch this space for a separate article all about tie trialling!