I can remember the first time I rode 10 miles as fast as I could. It was mid-week on a local course arranged by one of my local cycling clubs. I was on my first road bike which I got off eBay for £250 and I was wearing some borrowed kit.
I was nervous, I hadn’t been riding very long and this was unknown territory for me. What would I eat? What would I wear? What would it feel like to go hard for that long? Would I get lost?
I was so unsure of what to expect my training partner said he would do a 2-up with me. What on earth is a 2 up I asked??? (FYI this means riding with another person and taking it in turns to go on the front… or in my case just trying to stay as close to the wheel as my nerves would allow me and hanging on for dear life!) I can’t remember much about that ride other than I wanted to do it again and on my own. I wanted to learn how to ride faster, I wanted to see how I could progress.
So that’s where it all started for me. I think that was around 2013.
Lots of you have said to me that you would love to have a go but have no idea where to start, so I thought I’d share my tips and answer some of the questions you asked on getting into time trialling.
- What is time trialling? Often called the race of truth it’s a test of a competitor’s individual speed over a set distance, in which competitors are each timed individually. Most time trials are at fixed distances (10, 25, 50 or 100 miles) or they can be a fixed time (12 and 24 hours). Riders usually start at one-minute intervals.
Courses are identified by a code system – this is throwback to the days when races were conducted in secret, and some system was required that would disguise the whereabouts of a race. The course code has an initial letter that identifies the region that the course is in, then there is normally a distance and a number for the exact location (though the format varies a bit from region to region). For example, all Midlands courses start with a ‘K’ e.g. K10/10.
- How do I find events? Look on all of your local cycling club’s websites and see what events they have throughout the year. Club time trial events normally run between April – September. You don’t pre-register for these. Just turn up (they usually start around 7pm so get there at least half an hour before) and pay a small entry free, then off you go. For club or open time trials, you must be a member of a club that is affiliated to Cycling Time Trials so again speak to local clubs to find out more.
Entry to an open event must be by an official CTT Entry Form, which can be completed online with a closing date that is usually just under two weeks before the event.
Once your entry has been accepted, you will receive a start sheet a few days before the event giving details of the course, prizes and your starting time.
- What bike do I need? Don’t worry about what bike you have or about any fancy pants kit or equipment. All you need is a roadworthy road bike, helmet and back light but that’s it to get started!
You don’t need a turbo for club events because if it’s local you can ride there and ride back as a warm up and cool down. You may prefer a turbo once you start going to open events as you are not allowed to warm up on the course once the race has started and you may be unfamiliar with the area.
If you are using this as training for multi-sport (Duathlon or Triathlon for example) then take your trainers and run afterwards. You’ll always go harder with a number on your back and running with fatigued legs is no different to racing so it’s a great brick session.
As you progress you may want to upgrade to a time trial bike such as the Avow or use clip on aero bars of course there are lots of aerodynamic gains to be had but that’s for another blog! I would however suggest a decent bike fit to get in a good position as a starting point.
My main advice here is to get used to riding whatever bike you have in the kit that you will time trial in so there are no surprises. If you invest in a time trial bike or aero bars then ride with them as much as you can. Get familiar with them. Your position on a road bike vs. a time trial bike is very different so get comfortable with being uncomfortable so to speak.
- Clothing and Kit Multi-sport athletes take note; you must wear either a short-sleeved racing jersey and cycling shorts, or an equivalent one-piece suit. Sleeveless tops are not permitted.
I’ve listed as many things as I can think that you might need, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.
- Bike – road or time trial
- Turbo (optional for warming up)
- Bike computer or watch – if you want data
- HR Strap
- Kit – shorts and jersey or skinsuit
- Shoes, socks and overshoes
- Helmet and glasses or visor
- Jacket and waterproof
- Cap and sunglasses for warming up on turbo
- Chamois cream
- Track pump, spare tubes, Allen Keys etc
- Comfy clothes for afterwards
- Trainers and watch if you fancy a run afterwards 😉
- Money for cake
- What to expect at your first Time Trial For open events give yourself plenty of time to get there and familiarise yourself with the procedure. I always allow a minimum of 90 minutes to park, collect my number from HQ (and sign in), get the back of my car organised with everything laid out, bike on turbo and ready to start warming up at least 45mins before my start time.
It’s important to think about the nutrition/hydration you need and at what time you need to take it. For anything less than an hour, less is more! I normally have a caffeine gel 20mins before my start.
Head to the start and aim to be in line 3-5 minutes before your start time so that you can do some last-minute checks. If you are using a bike computer, make sure it is on and in the right mode. I normally use the auto pause function and then start it 30s before I’m off.
You will be offered a push off by one of the marshals. This just means you are clipped in and ready to go. I would thoroughly recommend this so that you don’t have to worry about faffing with clipping in. Have a practice at home first and make sure you are in an easy gear to begin with!
I’m not an expert on pacing but be realistic with how hard (whether that’s perceived event, HR or power) you can ride for the duration of the event. There’s no point going full gas for 5 mins and then your legs falling off. Aim for an intensity that you can sustain for the full distance. You’ll know when you finish if you’ve got it right. I don’t think I’ve ever finished thinking I didn’t go hard enough, it’s more likely I’ll think that I went off too hard!
- Track your progress Once you’ve started chances are you’ll want to get faster so it’s a good idea to keep a note of each time you ride, but don’t forget to include a note about kit and conditions. There are so many factors that can affect how fast you ride so try and measure like for like courses because they vary so much. Also, don’t forget the weather conditions and traffic have a massive impact so don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t improve every time.
- Plan your next event
For club events – look on local club’s websites
For open events – check out Find events
In the Midlands I am so fortunate that we have a series specifically for women The Midlands Womens Time Trial Series MWTTS .
The Midlands Women’s Time Trial Series was first run in 2007 to encourage more women to take part in time trials in the Midlands. For many years women have been eligible to ride open time trials but the numbers taking part were often very small and it was easy to feel isolated as a woman. The Series was not created to organise events, but simply to arrange for lots of women to turn up at the same events. Ruth Eyles pretty much single-handedly ran the Series from 2007 to 2015. The Series is now run by Julie Hinds, Anna Wordsworth and Sue O’Shaughness
Last year (2019) I came away with the fastest overall rider award, something I could only dream of when I started.
I hope you’ve found that useful. Don’t forget to let me know how you get on and remember, everyone has to start somewhere.
Wishing you a fun and safe 2020!