What It Really Means to Be a Professional Cyclist

What does it mean to be a professional cyclist?  From the outside it may seem simple: you ride your bike well and get paid to do it. But being truly professional is much more than just pedaling. A professional bike racer may not always meet all of these standards below, but the guidelines help things flow smoothly with teams and life.

Being professional is…

1.  Meeting your basic needs/taking care of yourself.

(Shelter, Food, Rest, Home life.  It’s up to you to take care of yourself and not expect others to do it for you. )

  • Keep life simple.
    • Have a home.
    • Have a routine.
    • Give yourself time to rest and see your family.
    • Have a plan for bills.
    • Get enough sleep at night.  8-10 hours as an athlete.
    • Keep travel and logistics planning simple.
    • Plan your meals.  Eat a lot of color.
    • Do the little things.
      • Eat recovery food 20 minutes after the race (have it packed).
      • Do proper nutrition during the race.  100 calories for every 30 minutes for a small rider, up to 150 calories every 30 minutes for larger riders, and a bottle an hour in pleasant weather, more on hot days.
      • Drink at least 8 cups of water during the day.
      • Stretch and do the things to help you recover.

    2.  Doing your homework.

  • Meet the needs of your machine and yourself.  Together you are one.
    • Make sure the machine is working and fitting well.
    • Address physical ailments as soon as they become apparent.
    • Before getting on a new machine or using new equipment, get it adjusted to fit you.
    • Know basic bike maintenance: how to wash bike, fine tune shifting and brakes, how to true a wheel, how to change a flat and your cleats. Understand tire pressure and when to raise or lower it.
    • Know your dimensions and how to set your bike up.  This makes it easier to put on new seats and pedals, or to fly with your bike. (Know how to break down and put together your bike for flights and have the tools to do it.)
    • Wash your bike frequently, a minimum of once every 2 weeks.  If you hear creaks, wash the bike and lube it. Fix the creak.
    • Before races,  have your bike washed, working, and ready to race.
    • Be self-sufficient.  Have the things you need at races and during rides.
    • Never show up at a race with a bike that you know has a problem.
    • Don’t use new equipment for the first time in a race.
  • Know thyself.
    • Address physical ailments as soon as they become apparent.
    • Know your strengths and weaknesses.
    • Review and evaluate your scheduled races and goals constantly.
    • Plan ahead and train accordingly.
    • Learn what you need to work on and how to work on it, whether with your coach or through your own research.
    • Choose races that improve the chances of you and your team being successful.
    • Know when too much is too much and when you need to rest.  A professional knows his/her body and knows when to back off.
    • See the big picture for yourself, your team, and have awareness of other people’s goals so that you can be supportive  –  Don’t get caught up in the details.
    • Have a dream and take steps to reach for that dream.
    • Give yourself every opportunity to follow your dream by prioritizing it and then behaving consistently in a way that supports that.

3.  Attitude.  How you carry yourself.

  • Be adaptable – You can’t control things outside of yourself, so let it go.
  • Be confident – Believe in 


  • Be supportive of yourself – Avoid negative self-talk.
  • Take confidence in your preparation. 
    • Give your best at all times.
    • Be in position for critical moments.
    • Be observant and capitalize on your strengths (recognizing when opponents are weak).
    • Have no excuses.  There is always chaos.  Minimize your chaos.
    • Strive to be better and to leave things better than before you were there.
  • Stay calm.
    • Have a game plan going into the race and trust yourself to follow that plan.
    • Adapt quickly if the plan needs to change, and don’t dwell on what could have been.
    • Be on time or early
      • Give yourself time to relax.
      • Respect the time of others.
  • Communicate.
    • Have a dialogue with teammates, coaches, team staff, and family.
    • Be pro-active.
    • Make a game plan that will work for the majority.
  • Be responsible.
    • Know where your stuff is, keep it together and out-of-the-way of others.
    • Take care of your own needs.
  • Believe!

Coach Kori Seehafer has been in the professional cycling industry for over 20 years as a cyclist, coach and team director. She currently helps developing elites and Paracyclists make the transition to national and international racing and performance. 

One comment on “What It Really Means to Be a Professional Cyclist
  1. Rene Noble says:

    Hi Kori, I ran into this post while looking for some inspiration and coaching advice for some aspiring young(er) riders. It’s quite a comprehensive and invaluable checklist for any serious cyclist.

    It must have been over 15 years now, and time and people can be blur with your travels and schedule, but I would love to tell my current cycling friends how I was once (barely) able to keep up with you in cyclocross races, and a few epic road and mountain rides during your Mid-Atlantic stay.

    Best wishes to you and your family.