Time trialing is a funny sport – it was created at a time when racing on the roads was illegal, so instead riders set off at one minute intervals, victory going to the individual who completed the course in the shortest period of time.
Racing had to be secret – courses had funny code names (H25/8, G25/53) – and the world of TT kept itself to itself.
Of course, now, it’s all legal – and managed by Cycling Time Trials in the UK. To compete in ‘open’ competitive events, you need to belong to a cycling club, but then you can enter online and go for it.
It’s a beautiful (if sometimes painful) sport because it’s based purely on rider vs clock. Yes, you’ll be ranked in order of finish time, which means if you want to be competitive, you can – but you can also make the battle entirely about improving your own PBs – and enjoying coffee and cake at the HQ afterwards with others who are also crazy enough to get up early and pace themselves on a set distance.
Before they get to open events, most people go along to a couple of cycling club ‘weekly 10s’. These events are promoted and organised by nearly all cycling clubs with a road focus, held on week day evenings, and beginners are always very welcome. These offer an opportunity for you to test the water, and you do not need a fancy bike!
Here’s how to go about riding a club 10:
1) Check your local cycling club website – they will probably have a calendar. Contact the organiser, just to let them know you’ll be along and that it’s your first time trial.
2) Make sure your bike is roadworthy – the gears and brakes work. Some people will have aero wheels and pointy, aero helmets – but this isn’t a must, I’ve seen people on tourers, trikes and mountain bikes too! For some (old fashioned) reason, everyone (men and women) must have covered shoulders, so you can’t wear a tri suit, a jersey will do, and a rear light is recommended.
3) Check where the meeting point is, and aim to get there around 45 minutes beforehand. At an ‘open’ event, people will arrive about an hour before, at club events often only 30 minutes, but you’ll get used to this in time.
4) Find the organiser and sign on. You’ll need to pay £3, this is the same across all events and pays for insurance and the like. You’ll get a number in return, and a start time. Pin this onto the back of your jersey (ask someone to help you – FYI that’s how I met my husband!)
NB: I’ve heard a lot of women tell me they are worried about ‘holding everyone up’ at a time trial. Do not worry about this at all! If you think you’ll be slower, ask for an early number – if there are 20 riders, that means you start 20 minutes before the last rider – so relax!
5) Ask to have the course explained – it’s probably a few laps of a short circuit, or out and back. There may not be marshalls or arrows (there will always be both at an open event), so be clear on the route.
6) Have a little spin up and down the local roads, keeping close to the start line. Try spinning gently, then putting in some short, 20 second efforts – these get your heart pumping and wake you up so you’ll feel good when you start.
7) With 5-10 minutes to go, take your place at the start line. If you’re number 2, stand behind number 1 and before number 3.
8) When it’s your turn, someone with a stopwatch will call you forward. There may be someone there to hold you up, so you can start clipped in – you do not have to do this! It’s up to you, you’ll start quicker if you do.
9) You’ll get a count down, that nearly always goes: “3,2,1,GO – Good luck” (I swear time keepers get taught how to say that in the same way!).
10) Go. So – you’ve got ten miles ahead. There are various theories on how to ride this, but the conservative route would be:
- Start off at a pace you feel you can sustain or 10 miles, keep it steady for five miles
- If you’re working pretty hard, you’ll probably feel a huge temptation to ‘JUST STOP PEDALING’ about 5 minutes in. Ignore this – it’ll go away soon!
- Reassess at the half way point. Got more left? Give it gas! Running low? Just keep going – every pedal stroke take you closer.
- You’ll learn to pace yourself over time – and if you’ve got a heart rate monitor, riding between threshold and vo2 is where it’s at for a 10.
11) Faster riders starting after you may overtake – just keep pedaling in a straight line and don’t feel intimated. If you come up behind someone you need to overtake, check over your shoulder, pull out, and ride round.
12) Finish! As you ride past the final time keeper, shout your number. And smile! Everyone who took part is pretty much buzzing with endorphins, so join in and have fun.
Enjoy it? Check out these ways to increase your average speed…
(All images courtesy of Ade Webb, Redhill Cycling Club)