Time trials are a great way to add a competitive aspect to your cycling. I was keen to attempt some sort of racing not long after I had taken up cycling and my local 'club ten's' were an ideal place to start. As a member of Leicester Forest Cycling Club we have a series of six evening races throughout the summer, I remember feeling really nervous and insisted that three of my friends also came along and rode their first TT too! Local club TT events are a good starting point as they are friendly and informal. You get all kind of people riding these events, from your serious racers who have been competing in time trials for years, to a club rider just wanting to have a go. I have seen tandems and trikes and riders of all builds and ages. A ten mile event would be ideal at first, anyone who can ride ten miles and has a road worthy bike can ride a time trial.
Whilst aerodynamics will make you faster, it's not essential to have a super-fast aero helmet, expensive skinsuit and a speedy TT rig with the top spec wheels. However I cannot guarantee that you might not get slightly hooked and starting to want to make some upgrades! Either way, it's just you and the clock and it's not known as 'the race of truth' for no reason. The main thing is it's about your own effort, whatever time you do, to try and beat it again the next time.
I have put together some of my top tips for time trialling and if you have been thinking about giving it a go then just go for it!
1. Check the course details
It's worth just spending a little time to check where you need to be going, whether this is looking up the course details online, checking at the event HQ or asking someone who has ridden the event before. Also check or ask where the start is from sign on. There will usually be marshall's positioned along the way at any turns, but its good to have an idea yourself where you are going. It's also good to know if are there hills or any drags that might slow you down, where you might need to save some energy prior to and anywhere you might be able to recover slightly. Equally what are the turns like? How are you best to approach the corners? The plus side to riding a new course is that it will always be a course PB, then with some course knowledge and TT experience the second time will usually be quicker!
2. Get aero
Aero aids will help with getting the most speed out of your effort, but getting aero doesn't have to mean a full TT set up. Improving your aero dynamics at first can mean riding in a low and narrow position, getting as low as possible. This is something to practice when out riding. Also wearing well fitting cycling kit to minimise drag, avoid anything that's going to be flapping about. These are all points that can reduce the drag into the wind and therefore help to improve speed. Then maybe consider getting some aero clip on bars onto road bike handle bars or lowering the front end of your bike to help get a lower position. Other options to help aerodynamics are overshoes and wearing a skinsuit to then looking at faster wheels, tyres, TT bikes and aero helmets. I rode my first time trial on my road bike and remember meeting speedy triathlete Claire Shea-Simonds, who told me 'get some clip on bars and you will go a minute quicker'. Job done the following week!
3. Check the weather
Time triallers always want a still day with the optimum conditions to get the fastest times possible. Before I started riding a bike I never had any idea about wind direction and speed, yet now I'm always on top of checking the forecast before going on my bike and especially when racing. Headwinds can slow you down massively and a tail wind will always make the effort feel much easier as your speed picks up. This is key when riding a time trial; am i going to have a headwind on the outward or home part, where will there be cross winds? Knowing this helps you to be able to pace the effort and meaning you can cross the line knowing you have emptied the tank!
4. Pacing is key
You don't want to go to hard at the start and then 'blow up', equally you want to cross the line feeling like you have put in your best effort. When I first started I used to just pace the effort on feel but also with my Garmin for the speed, then upgraded to using a heart rate monitor and then a power meter. I have ridden time trials before and have gone way too hard too early and then have been crawling along not long after, I also hate finishing and thinking I could have gone much harder. It's something that only comes with experience and by riding time trials, you will push yourself much harder racing than just riding.
This really is the main thing. The majority of us do this as a hobby and it's all too easy to get wrapped up in putting too much pressure onto ourselves. Turn up, warm up well, ride your best, do a little cool down spin and then speak to others, enjoy the tea and cake afterwards and be proud of your achievements!
I have been cycling for around three years now, I started as I wanted to build some fitness for a charity challenge I was taking part in.
It all started on an old bike found in my parents garage that had seen better days, but short 10 and 12 mile routes gradually became longer and in six months I had ridden my first century, I remember feeling so proud! Things have moved on since and I now train for racing and time trialling. I was pleased to gain my 2nd category road race license last year and gain time trialling personal bests at 10 and 25 mile distances. I also rode my first 50 mile time trial. This year I plan on riding the Tour of Cambridge for the second time as well as taking part in the Ride London 100 mile event. I loved the Tour of Cambridgeshire and so am looking forward to giving it another good go!
I'm passionate about women's cycling and encouraging more women to have a go at racing and competitive events. We have a great team of women competing in my club Leicester Forest Cycling Club in a number of disciplines which is great to see and be part of, and I love sharing stories of your everyday riders and their achievements on my blog. Most importantly I just love riding my bike, seeing the countryside, trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, being the best I can be and enjoying it along the way.