How to Pin Your Bicycle Race Number

You show up for your first race, grab the number and they mumble something about “right side”. Right side? What does that mean? For the neophyte racer, deciphering the mores of number placement can mean the difference between a seamless entry into the scene, or an incoherent, number flapping embarrassment. To help you end up on the more graceful end of that spectrum, follow these simple tips. Sure, you could always ask a teammate for help, but where’s the fun in that?

What Side?

When you pick up your number, make sure to ask what side it goes on. If you forget, you’ll wind up back at your car, puttering around getting ready, then suddenly remember you forgot to pin your number and, gasp, have no idea what side it goes on. At that moment, all the riders drifting by will suddenly go elsewhere, your neighbor will have gone to the porta-potty, and you’re standing there with a bunch of pins in your hand, a huge number/vest and no idea what to do. Save yourself this scenario, ask at registration what side it goes on.

How Do I Start?

Put your jersey over your steering wheel or, failing that, zip it over your legs. You want a nice taut area for pinning to ensure that the number does not bunch and that it is oriented correctly. Pull it over the steering wheel like you are dressing it for school. Zip it up in front as far as it will go and spin it around to expose the section to be pinned. It should be solid.

Who Needs to Read the Number, Anyway?

Right side means on the side, on the right, parallel to the ground when you are in the racing position. It does not mean on your back at some weird angle. It definitely does not mean perpendicular to the ground in the racing position. Sure, the number might be big enough to qualify as a wind vest. Regardless, take that big ol’ 1246 and slap it on there from the pockets to your armpit. Keep it level and keep it mostly on the side, slightly up onto your back (most finish cameras stand about 6 feet off the ground).

Remember that if you are looking at your jersey from the front, the right side is on your left. It is too easy to pin the number on the wrong side, even when you think you are pinning it correctly. It’s a headache to roll up to the start, confident that you are all set, only to realize that your number is secure under on your left when everyone else sports right-side number hegemony.

If the number is too long to avoid covering your pocket – you cover your pocket. Get your race sugar out of the pockets that aren’t obscured. But, the rider complains, I only practiced taking things out of my right pocket! Well, maybe you should include pocket access practice as part of your race prep routine – anticipate the number throwing you a curve and you will be fine and dandy.

Pins and Your Fingers: A Cautionary Tale

Use at least seven safety pins. Do not, whatever happens, only use four. Your number will flap. First put one pin through each corner, securely through the number, the jersey, and the number. Then put one on each edge, in the middle of the number.

You’ll note with only seven pins, this leaves one side un-pinned. Looking at your number from the side, (when you are crouched into the aero position) you only really need to pin the front and top and bottom. The back is not facing into the wind (so air just flows over it rather than under it). But if you really want to, feel free to slap that eighth pin on there.

Do not put the pins through the four holes in the corners. They are useless, so ignore them. First push the pin through the corner of the number, through the jersey, then again through the number. This will help keep the number flat against your body and minimize flapping.

Make sure not to pin the jersey onto itself (or onto your fingers for that matter). This is why stretching the jersey over the steering wheel or your legs helps – it provides separation within the jersey ensuring that the pins only push through one layer.

Don’t Crumple Your Number

Don’t wad up, cut, crush or fold your number. Sure, that pro-looking dude scowling over his team kit wadded his number up so that it would flap less. But this really doesn’t make much of a difference. Pin it correctly, with the right number of pins, and you’ll be fine. If you do mess with the number, at the very least it will be hard for the finish line crew to read. At the worst, you will get disqualified for improperly “modifying” your race number. Keep it flat and keep the officials happy.

Congratulations, You Have a Number

So now you’re done, the number is on the correct side, oriented properly, pinned securely, exactly placed for optimal comfort and viewing. With all that training behind you, nothing will stand in the way of success except for training!

Share the knowledge