Time trialing is competitive cycling in its simplest and purest form. It just means riding from A to B in the least amount of time. There are no other riders to worry about, no tactics to consider, no special equipment needed. It’s just you against the clock.

A time trial is called the ‘race of truth’ for good reason. There’s no hiding in the bunch as in road racing. You have to work for your speed every inch of the way. If you want to ride a time trial, you’ll usually race over a set distance (the standard ones are 10, 25, 30, 50 and 100 miles) where you’ll aim to complete the distance in the shortest possible time. There are other events where you’ll aim to ride as far as possible in the time allowed – either 12 or 24 hours. 

There are three golden rules in time trialing: keep your head up and watch where you are going. You must also follow all the requirements of the highway code, giving way to other road users where necessary. You must ride the course ‘alone and unaided’. This means that you mustn’t shelter behind or alongside other riders or vehicles (even that tempting tractor!). If another rider catches you, you must not ‘sit on their wheel’ or take turns at the front with them. If you catch another rider, assuming that it is safe to do so, you must go straight past them.

Am I fast enough? 

Can you ride 10 miles on a road? Then the answer is ‘yes’. The beauty of time trialing is that, essentially, you’re racing against yourself. Once you’ve ridden one event, you’ll have a target to beat. Currently, the slowest average time at Rovers TT’s over 10 miles is typically just over 14 mph. So these are events for everyone and a great entry into competitive cycling. Essentially you are racing against your own personal best time.

What equipment do I need? 

All you need to ride a time trial is a roadworthy bike. That could be a mountain bike or touring bike but not a recumbent. You must wear a helmet and your bike must have an operational visible backlight. If the bug bites, you might decide to get a specialist time trial bike with tri-bars and special wheels but, to begin with, a decent £500 entry-level road bike will be more than adequate.

Quite often a good standard road racer on a road race bicycle is capable of matching or beating a specialist TT bike with a rider in an aero position.

You’ll see some riders who’ve added clip-on tri-bars, which allow them to get even more aerodynamic. Tri-bars differ in cost, with the more expensive ones offering greater adjustability, lower armrest cups, and better aerodynamics. Another modification you may wish to consider later is to fit lighter tyres than those that come with many entry-level bikes.

How do I start?

The easiest way to start time trialing is to enter one of our 7.5 or 10-mile events. We hold these at Layer, Tendring or Langham most Wednesday evenings between late April and August. In 2022 we are also planning a Mid-summer Sunday morning series on the Langham course. You don’t need a racing licence as a member of the Rovers. If you’re older than 12 but less than 18, you must bring a consent form signed by a parent or guardian.

Colchester Rovers actively encourage all young riders to chaperoned by a parent or suitable adult. Please talk to the organiser in advance of the event if the youth rider is in need of a chaperone.

There are awards at the end of the season based on your performance in your best events. We also operate handicap and veteran competitions within some of the series full details of these will be posted separately.

Results in the Club Championship events will be divided into scratch (ie actual time) and handicap sections. In the latter, riders are given a notional allowance (the handicap) which is subtracted from their actual time to get their handicap time. So if you have a handicap of 5 minutes and you record 30 minutes for the 10 miles, then your handicap time is 25 minutes (30 minutes less 5 minutes).

What’s it like to ride a club TT?

Make sure that you arrive at least 45 minutes before the start. You sign on in the car park, pay the fee and collect your race number. Ask someone to pin yours to the back of your jersey, towards the bottom, not too high up. Your number determines your start time. For example, if the event starts at 19:00 and you’re number five, you will start at 19:05.

If you’ve got time, go for a ride to warm up. Riding from home to the event can be a useful warm up, but remember that’ll mean you also have to ride home. Make sure that you get to the start with a few minutes to spare. At one minute to go, you’ll get in position. Make sure you’re in a gear that you can accelerate away in. At 30 seconds, the starter will, if you wish, hold you up. Take some deep breaths, clip into your pedals, and set them in your starting position. The timekeeper will count down to the start finishing with 5-4-3-2-1-GO.

Don’t make the mistake of starting too fast. You need to get into the ride, so find a rhythm for your breathing and pedaling that’s hard but sustainable. Try not to let your mind wander. This will probably feel like the hardest thing you have done on a bike – if it doesn’t, then you’re not trying hard enough. You’ll most likely be caught by other riders, including one or two dressed like extras from a Star Wars movie with disc wheels that make a whooshing sound you can hear from some distance.

The aim is to reach the finish line feeling like you couldn’t pedal another foot, although in truth you’ve probably felt like that for the last few miles. Don’t hang around the timekeeper or try to talk to them. Pedal back to the car park, get your time there and start planning how you’re going to beat it next time.

What do I need to bring with me?

Club Events:

  • Your bike and all equipment for riding it (helmet, front light, backlight, shoes, etc)
  • A track pump if you have one to ensure your tyres are pumped up correctly
  • Tools, allen keys and spare inner tube.
  • Money to cover the entry fee, card payments are usually accepted at Rovers events
  • A drink
  • Some food if you will need to eat a snack after racing

Will there be marshalls to direct me?

The onus is on the rider to know the course, so you should make sure that you know where the course goes before starting the race!  In some cases but not all may be marshalls on the course to indicate the correct route. NOTE: marshalls are not there to direct or stop traffic (that’s illegal) or to tell you whether it’s safe to proceed (that’s for you to decide).

Where can I get details of the exact route?

Course descriptions can be found on the Rovers Website

What happens if I get a puncture during the race?

Of course, anyone can have a puncture anywhere and it may happen to you during a race. If so, it is incumbent on you to arrange a rescue or replace the inner tube or mend the puncture yourself. Try to let another competitor know that you have punctured. We will try not to leave you stranded on a remote road, but you should not assume someone will rescue you. Time-triallists therefore often carry a pump, inner tube, and tyre levers when they race. An alternative solution is to agree with a friend to mutually come to each other’s rescue should the need arise.

What happens if someone overtakes me?

Don’t worry if you are overtaken – this happens to everyone at some point or other and there are always going to be stronger riders taking part. Just let the overtaking rider get well ahead of you so that you get no ‘drafting’ advantage and don’t be put off. Concentrate on riding your own race at your own pace. This, after all, is what time-trialing is all about!

What do I do at the finish line?

When you pass the timekeeper at the finish line it is traditional to shout out your number in case your number is not easily visible to the timekeeper. Continue down the road, riding gently to warm down. Don’t distract the timekeeper as they have an important job to do.

How will I find out my result for the race?

Club Events: After crossing the finish line, continue riding and cool down, and return to the meeting point. Do not turn around in the road at a position visible to the time-keeper. Do not go and distract the time-keeper. After all the competitors have finished the timekeeper will come back to the meeting point and let everyone know their time. The result will also be posted ASAP on the Rover’s social media channels, and club website.

You’ll find information on open events and lots of tips and advice about time trialing on the Cycling Time Trials website. Be careful, time trialing can be addictive!!!!