In a time trial, competitors are started individually at 1 minute intervals and the winner is the person who covers the course in the fastest time. No group riding or drafting is allowed, each rider must complete the course without assistance from other cyclists.
Time trials are held on the open road. Events are held on courses and at times when there is likely to be little other traffic on the course so that riders are no impeded at junctions and turns.
Time trials are usually held over standard distances of 10, 25 and 50 miles and on relatively flat circuits. There are also events on hilly courses, often over non-standard distances. For the standard distances, most people have a personnal best (PB) time for the distance. For example, most club cyclists can ride a 10 mile time trial in under 30 minutes. The very best riders will be covering that distance in under 24 minutes.
Most time trials in the UK are organised under the rules of the 'Cycling Time Trials' council (formerly known as the RTTC. To take part in a CTT event, you must be a member of an affiliated club such as Welland Valley CC. It is also possible to take out private membership directly but most cyclists prefer to join a local club.
Most clubs organise regular club time trials during the summer evenings. We organise three series. All you have to do is turn up, pay the entry fee, collect a number and ride. These are low key, fun events in which lots of club members take part. Many club riders only ride the club events during the season with the aim of improving their best time for the course.
There are also Open events which usually take place on Saturdays and Sundays. These events feature prizes and trophies and are more competitive events. Open events are often over longer distances such as 25 miles or 50 miles. The 25 mile time trial is the 'blue ribbon' event of cycling and lots of club riders ride this distance with the ambition of getting under the hour for 25 miles, which is a tough, but achievable goal for many cyclists.
The CTT produces an annual list of Open events which you can buy mail order from them for about £5.
You will need a normal road bike which is in good working order. Helmets are not compulsory in time trialling.
In time trialling, there are many aids that you can use to reduce wind resistance and hence make you go faster. These include clothing such as skin suits, aerodynamic helmets, aerodynamic wheels, and triathlon handle bars. Many keen time triallists will have a specialist bike adapted specifically for this type of racing.
There is no restriction on fitness for time trialling. Anyone can enter any time trial event and take part. In some popular open events, the entry may be oversubscribed, in which case only the fastest riders are allowed to take part.
The best way to experience time trialling for the first time is in the club evening 10 mile events which you can enter on the night.
To enter an Open event, you must fill in the standard entry form and send it to the race organiser at least two weeks before the event, together with the entry fee (usually £5 to £8). Most open races have a limit of 120 riders. If more than 120 riders enter, then the organiser will select which 120 people can take part. This is usually based on previous performances and the fastest riders are chosen. (Most local events do not normally reach the limit of 120).
On the standard entry form, you fill in your previous best time for the distance. If you haven't ridden the distance before then leave the section blank or indicate no previous time.
The race organiser will send you a race program about a week before the event describing the course, race HQ and other useful information. This will also include the start time for each competitor. You must be at the start line at your designated time, otherwise you will not be allowed to start later.
You must arrive at the HQ in plenty of time to register and collect your number which is pinned to the back of your cycling jersey. Next you must make your way to the start line to be ready to start at your allocated time. The time keeper at the start will tell you when to start. You are then set on your way to cycle the course as fast as you can. When you cross the finish line the time keeper will record your finishing time. Then it is back to the HQ for refreshments and to see the full results. There is usually a presentation of prizes to the winning riders.