How to start racing
Start by signing up for an annual USAC license at https://www.usacycling.org/. A USAC license is required for most road and cyclocross races as part of the insurance and category system the sport uses. When you sign up you will be assigned a ‘category’ that indicates what ‘field’ you will participate in for a given race. With a few exceptions all riders start at ‘Category 5’ so when you sign up for a race that is organized by category you will be looking for the ‘Category 5’ or ‘Cat 5’ field or novice. Some races will combine categories, for example ‘Cat 4/5.’ A USAC license is good for one calendar year so if you continue racing you will need to renew before the following season.
If you aren’t quite sure whether you want to buy a full fledged USAC membership before your first race, there is also a ‘one-day’ license option that costs just $10 and lets you participate in a given day of racing. And if you buy a license after purchasing a one-day license, you’ll receive a $10 rebate on the full annual license from USAC. For more information check out the One-Day Licenses page on USA Cycling’s website.
Register for a race
To sign up for an actual race, you’ll most likely be using a registration service called BikeReg. Search Bikereg (or the TBD Race Calendar) to find the race you’re looking for. Then select the field within that race that mirrors your USAC category and complete the check-out process. Bikereg charges a small fee but generally speaking registering in advance (as opposed to ‘day-of’ registration when you sign up at the race) is easiest as it gets your information to the race organizer in advance (they will often email final race instructions to riders who pre-registered on Bikereg) and insures you have a reserved race number in case the field sells out. Some races, particularly the CRCA Open Races are also pre-registration only so there is no ‘day-of’ available.