An introduction to time trialling

How to take on the race of truth

An introduction to time trialling

Time trialling is competitive cycling at its simplest. It’s trying to get from point A to point B in the least amount of time.


Plenty of us do it naturally: whether it’s trying to knock a couple of minutes off your commute into work or increasing our average speed on your weekend rides. Going faster under your own power is very motivating.

This is why organised time trials are a popular form of bike racing. It’s mostly you versus the clock rather than against other riders in close quarters as in a mass start race. Time trials  called the ‘race of truth’ for good reason. There’s no hiding in the bunch before the sprint, you have to work for your speed every inch of the way.

Time trials happen all round the globe, either on their own or as part of stage races. This year’s Tour de France was decided in the time trial, showing the importance of being able to ride well against the clock.

The UK is definitely top when it comes to having a TT “scene”. Every week there are dozens of time trials all over the country with distances ranging from 5 miles to 24 hours. It remains popular because it’s an accessible form of racing – you don’t need any particular equipment or skills, just a bike and the ability to ride it. Courses are usually on open roads although in recent years there has been a rise in closed road/circuit events, which are attractive especially to newcomers from a safety point of view.

The most common question potential newcomers ask is “Am I fast enough to ride the local 10 miler?”. The answer is ‘yes’, no matter how fast you are. In our experience, no-one else will be particularly bothered by your time. It’s their time that will concern them, not yours.

The easiest way to get into time trialling is to contact your local club and see if they run them. Many clubs allow newcomers to do a few races before asking them to join, but club membership is usually cheap.

Then simply turn up and do one. Make sure you know the course in advance or you’ll likely miss a turn, unless it’s an out and back or around a closed circuit. Apart from that, keep your head up and pedal hard to the finish.

After you’ve recovered, you’ll either swear never to do one again (ignore this as you’ve said it in the heat of the moment) or you’ll be wondering when you can do another. And more importantly, how you can go faster.

This week on BikeRadar we’re having a time trialling special. We’ll cover everything from training and preparation to bikes and kit. We’ll have expert advice from Chris Boardman – one of the world’s greatest time triallists – on how to make yourself quicker in the race of truth, as well as our picks of the best aero gear currently out there.


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