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The Race Of Truth – A Quick Guide To Time Trialling

The race of truth – a quick guide to Time Trialling

Introduction to Time Trials

The Time Trial (or TT for short) is often referred to as ‘The Race of Truth’. Riders enter an event to race against the clock, the premise simple; go as quick as you can for the given distance. There are many spins on the competitive element – race other riders, race the clock, race yourself (against a previous result or personal best), use it as part of your training or simply to go fast.

Me personally, I used to ride them because they are an independent race where nobody can force your hand (such as chase a break or respond to an attack in a road race), it’s you and the bike in a world of what is technically a fine balancing act against the clock. I would be going flat out, on the limit to last the distance and 9 times out of 10 I finish exhausted knowing that I couldn’t have done any better. Every race is different, even on the same course! I don’t often look for my finishing position just my time, because I’m not going to be at the pointy end of the race, it’s not why I do time trials.

This year will be a little bit different, I’m targeting races and courses that I have previously attempted to improve on my last efforts. Each rider will have their own reason.

For the data freaks out there, there are terms such as CdA you will come to learn about and blow your mind with, courses that are faster and you can even research the effect of the current and predicted weather on a course.

But you can also simplify it. Turn up to a club event and pay your entry fee on the day (say 45 Road Club on a Tuesday night or Kettering CC on a Thursday), pin a number on and get to the start on time (usually a minute before you are off) and leave it all out there.

You can enter on any bike you like as long as it’s roadworthy (unless the event specifies otherwise), and generally it’s a rule that you have to wear a helmet and that you have a rear light – although this is a grey area as to whether this is deemed a guidance by Cycling Time Trials (CTT) and not a rule. Just put a light on to be safe if nothing else!

There are a few rules/guidance’s of time trialling events that I can think of that I would suggest should be adhered to:

  • No riding past the start line onto the course after the first rider has started. Your number will be noted down and the organiser may have a word or disqualify you.
  • No turning round in sight of the timekeeper. Never asked why, I know just not to. I believe it is worthy of a disqualification but I’m not 100% on that.
  • Always stick to the ‘Cycling Lane’ – this is now a CTT rule. Common sense when you think of safety but you must not stray past the middle of the lane unless there is no alternative option (such as a hazard).
  • Study the course before. Some events don’t have markers or even marshals at a junction, so it’s best to know where you are going and not rely on others.
  • Get to the start line at least a minute before your off time – you will be told at registration (or via organisers email/programme in Open events) what time you start but essentially the start time of the event with your race number added to it is usually a good indicator – 7.30 start, number 15 = You start at 7.45. If you are late, don’t panic, pull up and speak to the timekeeper and see if there is anything they are willing to do to allow you to ride.
  • No littering on the course – You don’t do this anyway…
  • People tend to shout out their number as they cross the finish line – it’s just a thing, I guess it helps the timekeeper in case they miss your number.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a question.
  • Enjoy it and thank the people who give up their time to allow you to ‘race’. People give up their feet up or riding time to allow me to dribble and snot all over the carriageway, the least I can do is show some gratification. It goes a long way.

Ok, so how do I enter a Time Trial?

Clubs will run ‘Come and Try It’ events. These are for non-affiliated members of a Cycling Time Trial Club such as Wellingborough Cycles. If you are a member of a CTT club, you will most likely be accepted to most local club TT’s without any hassle but just drop a club member a message to ask if you are unsure.

To register with a club for the purposes of Time Trialling, go to

To enter an Open advertised club event there’s a little more to it but the above tends to cover some of it. Register with CTT, search events and enter the event you’d like to do. You will then need to be accepted by the organiser of the event, don’t take it personal if you don’t get accepted as some events can be heavily oversubscribed. Check you have had your entry accepted a couple of days before and then it’s very much the same as a club TT, albeit on a bigger scale.

Tip: Under current rules, you can only enter one race per day with CTT although the website will allow you to enter as many as you like. Don’t get caught out with this otherwise your result from the event you enter will be classed as a disqualification. Whether you can enter a British Cycling event and then a CTT event is beyond me (and I’d question my own sanity).

Tip 2: Sign in/Sign out of CTT events. This is a rule of thumb. Don’t forget it. When collecting your race numbers, you will sign in, when handing them back you HAVE to sign out. There are probably several reasons, I assume the main reason is to let the organisers know they have everyone back safely. It’s a potential disqualification for not signing out.

That’s really all I have to share from my very limited experience. Most of all enjoy it (in a weird way) and don’t be afraid to ask people questions at the events or that you know do Time Trials, no doubt that person will have had a similar question when they first did a Time Trial.

One thing that I can’t recommend enough is the benefit of a coach to tailor your training towards Time Trials, why not Contact Velo Elite for bespoke Time Trial training plans.

By Stu Plows