As an introduction to time trials, below is a list of frequently asked questions that nobody has actually asked me and I have just made up.
What are Time Trials?
As it’s name may suggest, it is a race you ride individually (unless a specific team event) over a set distance. You are timed by a time keeper over the course. The rider who covers the distance the quickest, wins. in the UK there is a very healthy Time Trialing culture with plenty of races on during weekend and in the week, during the racing season. There are some exceptions, however, races are usually run at set distances of
The later two, you have to cover the most distance during the set time of 12 or 24 Hrs. which basically means, riding as far as you can for 12 or 24 hrs. The riders who covers the most distance wins.
Who can ride Time Trials?
Anyone and everyone. That is the beauty of Time Trials. You are racing solo against your self essentially. All competitors set of individually at one minute intervals. You will be given a designated start time before the event. So let’s say you are given number 25 for the event, and the race starts at 2pm. Then your start time will be 2.25pm. Then you just ride as hard as you can over the distance to record the fastest time you can. The more you ride the events, and the more you train, the faster you will go. It is a brilliant type of racing to venture into the world of competitive cycling. You race yourself, there is no getting dropped and believe me, beating your PB (personal best) is an amazing feeling. It’s euphoric!
I need a new bike don’t I?
No. The thing with Modern cycling, well modern life really, is we are made to believe that we have to have the exact equipment for the job. The precise tool. You don’t. Starting off you need a bike, legs and heart!
To explain the different technologies in the discipline though. When you are very fit and at a high level, seconds matter. When you are starting, finishing without being sick matters. I jest, but joking aside, top Time Trialists spend a lot of time and money getting the most aero equipment and most aero position. A typical Time trial bike will look like this
You will notice a few not so subtle difference to this bike than your standard road bike. The frame is a funny shape with large flat tubes. This is to make it as aero dynamic as possible. The wheels are carbon fibre. The rear wheel is a solid carbon fibre disc wheel. This rotates a lot better once you have built up momentum and cuts through the air with ease. The front wheel is a deep section carbon fibre wheel, but with spokes. This is to help with steering. A disc on the front and back will be very difficult to handle.
One of the biggest advantages to the TT bike is the aero bars. These are the long pointy out bars in the middle. These allow the rider to get low and in the most aero dynamic position for the body. On these bikes the riders will also use special all in one skin suits and specific aero TT helmets. All these things are good to have and no doubt make a big difference. But it all comes at a cost. The full kit above will cost anything in the region of £5,000 to £10,000. Do you need all that equipment? Do you eck! Starting out and even improving, learning your trade and getting fit is the most important.
So what bike do I need?
Just your standard road bike. Nothing more, nothing less. When you enter into competitive cycling for the first time, you need to learn to pace, to hurt. That might sound a bit painful. However the rewards and feeling of satisfaction far outway any discomfort. If you don’t believe me, ride one and prove me wrong.
So I don’t need any specialist equipment?
Not really. However as I have said above, one of the biggest advantages in my opinion is getting your body into the aero position. you don’t need a special bike to achieve this however, you can get Clip on Aero Bars that can go on any bike. So in a matter of minutes, your road bike becomes your TT bike, as shown below. These bars are also relatively inexpensive, around £50 to £100 dependent on style.
So how do I get started? When does the season start?
I’ll start with the season. The season runs the same as the Road Race Season, from late February till October. Any mid week TTs will be dependent on daylight and generally be from the beginning of May till the End of August.
You simply get started by finding and entering an event. The governing body for TTs is Cycling Time Trials. A full list of races are in their event section.
So I just go in and pick an event?
Well it isn’t quite that simple. It is easy enough, once you know. The thing with time trials is it is quite steeped in history. No other country in the world has the time trial culture that the UK has. That is because just after the war, bike racing on the roads was banned. Undeterred and as us cyclist are, racing carried on, but in secret. Massed bunch racing was out of the question, as that would be too obvious. So time trialing in its current form was born. All riders rode in black jumper and black wooly shorts, as was the attire of the day. And the courses they used for the races were given codes instead of the place names, again, not to make it obvious that a race was taking place. To this day these course codes are used to identify courses. Which is a great testament to those guys and girls who raced in secret all those years ago. So to give you an example, as we are based in London, most of the races we will do will be in the North London and Essex area. All North London Courses start with an F ( I know, it’s that obvious) and Essex, a little more straight forward start with an E. So as an example, we are organising a 10 mile TT in 2016. It is in the North London area and the course is the F20/10. That tells us, F= North London. 20= it’s at Ware, Herts. 10 = it’s 10 miles. Don’t panic though, all the courses are explained on their website somewhere, and in the yearly hand book you can buy, which is actually a good read.
Actually no. There are two types of events.
An Open Event. And a Club Event. An open event speaks for itself. It is a race open to anybody of any category from any where. You need to enter in advance, usually 2 weeks before. A week before the event you will then get a start sheet, detailing where the event HQ is, a description of the course and a list of competitors showing your start time.
A club event. There are a few local clubs that put on club time trials on during mid week evenings, during the season. These events are mainly for their club members, however, given the friendly all inclusive nature of the time trial community, you can normally turn up on the night and pay an extra fee to ride the event. This is normally a fiver. These are great training events and should be added to any training plan if you can fit them in.
So I rock up at an open event, what do I do? Where do I go?
First of all you find the race HQ. These are usually nice village halls in the middle of nowhere
Always treat these people with the utmost respect. These are people who have given up their weekend to make your event happen. They may not always be the quickest, and often they are doing a job they have never done before. So be patient.
Next sign next to your name and collect your race number.
Then, put on your race kit, and pin on your number. If difficult ask a team mate to do it, while you have a last minute catch up of the course.
Then you head to the start
As I have mentioned above, you will will start on your own at your designated start time. Get there in plenty of time. You don’t want to miss your slot. If you do miss your slot, you will have to wait till there is a gap for you to slot into. The slot will be available if somebody hasn’t turned up. Be warned though. Your time for the event will be based on your original start time, even though you may of waited half an hour or more for a place to become available.
At the start there will be a Time Keeper and a Pusher Off.
When it is your turn to start the pusher off will hold you up while you get clipped in to the pedals. The time keeper will then count you down from 1 minute to go. You will then get a 5,4,3,2,1, Go! After a very gentle push from the pusher off, you are away and racing!!!
All you need to do then is go as hard as you can over the set distance
On completion of the course you will cross the finish line, where there will be another time keeper who will record your finishing time. You don’t stop there. Instead you make your way back to the event HQ. Which will usually be sign posted.
Once at HQ you can now relax. It is all over and you can bask in the Glory of what you have just archived. In the hall there will be a results board that will display your time
Now you can do the important job of the day. Visit the refreshment stand and get a brew and some well earned cake. Meet your mates, de brief your ride and have a laugh or two.
The only other thing to do now, is to enter your next event and try to better your time. The more you ride, the better you will get.
If you have ever thought about doing any competitive cycling. Please give Time Trials ago. What’s the worst that can happen?