Decoding USA Cycling Categories

So you’re all set to register for your first road race. You grab your credit card, login to the registration site and start filling out the web form. You notice the Category drop-down list and think to yourself, I’m a Cat-5 racer – no problem. Then you discover it’s not so simple.


I’m here to help.

First you should understand USA Cycling Categories:

All men start at Category 5 and all women start at Cat. 4. For the men to move up to Cat. 4, the basic requirement is to complete 10 massed-start races licensed by USA Cycling. You can also earn upgrade points by attending USA Cycling Development Camp.

Upgrading from Cat 4 to Cat 3 and beyond requires a mix of experience(e.g. pack finishes) and race results (e.g. earned points for top finishes).

Next you find your age & gender class:

Youth = riders under the age of 9
Junior Men (JM) = men ages 9 – 18
Junior Women (JW) = women ages 9 – 18
U23 = ages 19 – 22
Senior Men (SM) = men from 23 – 39
Senior Women (SW) = women from 23 – 39
Master Men (MM) men 40 years or older
Master Women (MW) = women 40 years or older

Now to put it all together, let’s look at a typical list of races below.

Category Description
JM 15-18 Junior men ages 15 – 18
JW 15-18 Junior men ages 15 – 18
SW 3 Senior women cat-3
MW 40+ Master women ages 40 or older
SW 4 Senior women cat-4
MW 50+ Master women ages 50 or older
MM 40+ 4 Master men 40 or older & cat-4
MM40+ 3 Master men 40 or older & cat-3
SM4 Senior men cat-4
SM5 Senior men cat-5
MM40+ 5 Master men 40 or older & cat-5
MM50 +(1-2-3) Master men 50 or older & cat-1, 2, or 3
SM 3 Senior men cat-3
SW P-1-2 Senior women pros, cat-1 & cat-2
SM P-1-2 Senior men pros, cat-1 & cat-2
Men’s Cat 4-5 Men of any age, cat-4 & cat-5

For a real challenge or humbling experience, race organizers will often allow you to race in a tougher group. For example, a 40-year old cat-4 male racer would normally race in MM40+ 4, but could also race in SM4. However, you should never race in an easier group like a cat-4 racers racing in a cat-5 race.

Now get out there and register for some races!

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