The race of truth!!
Time trialling has been called the race of truth because the idea is that competitors cover a prescribed course often of a set distance, say 10 or 25 miles or longer, riding solo, without assistance from taking shelter from other riders – or anything else.
Further, in the UK, where time trialling is particularly prevalent, the hope is that by standardising distances and courses individual performances will be comparable, this also allows personal and national records to be set. So if you ride a 10 mile time trial nearby in Surrey in 25 minutes and one of your mates in Scotland rides a 10 mile time trial in his locality in 24 minutes you can assume he is a minute faster than you over 10 miles. Standardisation also allows individuals to compare their own times to measure improvement over time and establish “Personal Bests.” You can see the flaws can’t you? Although the courses are the same distance the terrain may be very different and the conditions, particularly wind and rain, will vary from time to time.
You don’t need a licence to ride time trials but you must be a member of a club affiliated to the governing body of time trailing, “Cycling Time Trials”. The number of entries is limited by local regulations and selection is made on personal best times. So until you start doing decent times you might not be accepted in big races but don’t worry, there are plenty of opportunities to improve by riding in smaller local club events.
How the events work.
Riders usually start at one minute intervals and a timekeeper records their time. Courses are marshaled and signed and are often out and back to minimize the effect of wind and terrain, so you usually finish near to where you started. For safety you are required to wear a hard shell hat. Because you are riding on roads with other traffic bright clothing and a flashing rear light are wise precautions. You are responsible for your own safety and you must not take shelter from another rider. In overtaking the onus is on the rider being overtaken to drop back.
Team time trials
Team time trials are a variation on individual time trial events and are ridden by teams of two, three or four riders and here riding in close proximity to your team mates to share the work is an essential element.
Riding a bike fast is fun and most club riders like to see how fast or how far they can go; a sense of achievement is part of cycling as an activity. Many start their competitive cycling in local time trials and then some go on to compete in road racing where races are run in groups. Some prefer to stick with time trials and invest in specialized aerodynamic bikes.