Time Trials are a great way to get into the world of competitive cycling. For the vast majority of British racing cyclist, including the very best ones, a club 10 mile time trial was their first race.
So what's Time Trialling all about?
It's known as the "race of truth", its just you riding on your own over a set course against the watch. The rider completing the course in the least time wins.
But within this very simple context there is a lot of variation which provides competition for cyclists of very different abilities, ages and levels of fitness.
The sport in England and Wales is governed by Cycle Time Trials, previously called the Road Time Trials Council their website is www.cyclingtimetrials.org.uk
Events fall into two broad catagories; Club Events and Open Events. Most people start with a few club events which provide a cheap way to give it a try in a very relaxed atmosphere. As well as attracting newcomers club events are used by the more experienced riders as training. So you're like to meet some very dedicated cyclists who may appear to ride impossibly fast, don't worry they were newcomers to the sport once.
Stone Wheelers run a series of 10 mile time trials (10 miles being the shortest standard distance) from May to August, check out Club 10s.
Although club events are quite relaxed there are some rules which must be adhered to both for your safety and for the future of the sport:
You must sign a form which will also determine your starting position.
People tend not to like being "First Man Off" so if you want to win friends, volunteer for the No 1 slot. You can take a look at the form you'll be signing at: Club Sign On Form.
You must be a member of a club which is affiliated to CTT, but Stone Wheelers offer a day membership. Once you have signed on you'll be given a number which must be worn.
Hard shell safety helmets are recommended for all competitors and are mandatory for anyone under 18 years of age.
Competitors under 18 years of age must supply a completed Parently Consent form Consent Form.
The last thing, your bike must be road worthy.
Make sure you know where the course goes, where the start and finish are and where the turn is. Most courses are "out and back", like the Stone Club 10 course, or circuits. If in any doubt about the course ask when you sign on.
Next thing to do is go to the start and wait for your turn. Riders start at one minute intervals. For an evening event the first rider will start at say 7.01pm the second at 7.02 and so on.
There will be a "pusher off" who will hold you and your bike so that you can clip your shoes into the pedals. The pusher will hold you with 30 seconds to go. Try to keep still and don't stand up - it makes it really hard for the pusher off.
The timekeeper will count down; 30 seconds to go, 15, 10, 5,4,3,2,1 go. Away you go.
There is plenty of advice on how to ride a time trial but this isn't the place for it. Suffice to say the aim is to ride as fast as you can. If it hurts don't worry, it's supposed to.
Remember that you are sharing the roads with other road users and having a number on your back gives you no special privelledges. You must obay Road Traffic Regulations. Failure to do so endangers yourself and the future of the sport which affects all of us.
If you get caught by a rider starting after you let them pass and DO NOT even attempt to sit on their wheel, take pace, shelter, draft or whatever else you may want to call it. It's cheating, against the rules and will get you disqualified at least. I know riders do it in the Tour de France time trials but they would be disqualified in a CTT event for that sort of thing.
If you catch someone who started before you - WELL DONE. Go straight pass, don't have a rest by sitting on their wheel for a bit. At the finish it is good manners to shout out your number - it helps the timekeeper.
Return to the finish and find out what time you have done. Simple as that - only don't disturb the timekeeper (or block his/her view) if other riders are finishing, they may miss a rider and you wouldn't like it happened to you.
Hang around the finish for a while, listen to everyone explain why they didn't go quicker, make a few excuses of your own, then back next week to do it again. Now you've got a time to aim for and I bet you go quicker second time.
Open events are a bit more formal but the idea's just the same.
Open time trials are not enter on the line events. You need to send a completed, official entry form together with a cheque for the entry fee to the event secretary. Entry forms can be downloaded from CTT Entry Form
The closing date for weekend events is usually the Tuesday 11 or 12 days before the race.
All open events (not club events), throughout the country for the year are listed in the CTT Handbook.
The handbook can be bought on line from the CTT Shop:
click here to visit the shop
This handbook also contains all the Rules and Regulations.
Entry fees for open events are higher than club events but there will be prizes and an HQ.
You'll receive a start sheet in the post and a result sheet up to a month after the event.
At the event HQ everyone's time will be written on a result board around which everyone tends to gather after the event to explain why they didn't go quicker and so on. There will be refreshments at the HQ (tea and cakes, the best reason for riding TTs).
The standard distances for Time Trials are 10 miles, 25 miles, 30 miles (although there are very few 30s these days), 50 miles and 100 miles and the time events 12 hour and 24 hour where the rider covering the most miles wins. There are also non-standard distance events which are often run on sporting (for sporting read hilly) courses.
Club events are run in the evenings between May and August when there is sufficent daylight. Open events start in February and continue until October when the hillclimb season starts.
If you have started cycling during the winter it is likely you'll want to race before the club events start, which means entering an open event. No problem, you don't have to ride club events first. I would recommend going out to an event first or travel with a clubmate.
If you are travelling with a fellow competitor make a note of this on your entry forms. Most event secretaries will try to give you start times close together.
There's lots of other stuff I could ramble on about; 2 up time trials, medium gear events, middle markers events, fast courses, vets standards, time trial bikes, the merits of disk wheels....
Best you get involved and find out for yourself.