A simple idea. Ride your bike and ride a fixed distance as quickly as you can. It’s called the purest form of bike racing for a reason.
In 2021 I tried time trialling for the first time. It was a 16 km (10 mile) race along quiet public roads. The start line was a small layby at the side of the road, with two organisers holding clipboards, a wobbly wooden starter block, and a group of excited lycra-clad riders, complete with pointy helmets and a menagerie of bicycles. No glamour here, it’s just business.
The 16 km went past fairly quickly. I tried to keep an aggressive and aerodynamic body shape, but my arms and core weren‘t strong enough. It was disheartening as I was overtaken by about 3 other riders, who held a fantastic body position whilst pedalling effortlessly by.
The finish line was anti-climatic, with another pair of organisers holding a clipboard and watch, and a increasing pile of exhausted time-triallists lying around in various states of agony and exhaustion. After a few cups of a mysterious pink energy drink from a plastic vat, they were all right as rain.
My second race was a 22 km race – the same process as before, but this time I was overtaken by only one rider, and I even overtook two other riders. Things felt good and I was excited to see my time, but unfortunately with only 300 m to go, my front tyre punctured on a tiny glass shard. With the timer ticking and afraid to damage my carbon rims, I took inspiration from Cool Runnings and walked my bike over the finish line.
My third race was King of the Lake in 2021, but that was a different experience as a team time trial.
And that‘s it. Only 2 races out of roughly 8 from the individual time trial series, but oddly enough, despite my distinctly lousy performance I came in 15th of about 40 participants in my age category. Clearly some people didn‘t do all of the races, but this alone was quite an incentive.
Why time trialling?
Individual time trialling has always fascinated me for some reason. Maybe it’s my scientific background – collecting and using data to optimise my bike, my position and my performance sounds quite interesting.
Maybe it’s the idea of being alone and reyling on oneself to race. No team mates to help you, just managing your energy, constantly regulating power, moving in and out of the anaerobic zone. Fighting through the pain.
Maybe it’s the futuristic looking bikes, a human-powered fighter jet capable of reaching speeds of 60 km/h.
But why commit a lot of money to a specific cycling discipline? The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
Recently I was on a group ride and afterwards I tackled a local hill. On the way up, I kept up tempo to the red line, flirting between speed and discomfort. Not being the lightest person in the world, I surprised myself by overtaking three other cyclists on road bikes. I got a new personal best, despite riding on my winter bike.
I was very happy with my performance, but a casual remark by a team mate caught caught my attention – the power data was impressive.
I looked it up in detail when I got home – for 8m41s, I averaged 365W and didn’t rest up at all. It seemed that I could hold high power for long durations. Exactly what is needed for a time trial.
Although I’ve been thinking about it for a while, something snapped in that moment. Shortly afterwards, I organised a bike fitting to check what size of TT bike I would need, and get some recommendations on a model. I then ordered myself one of the best (and most reasonably priced) TT bikes on the market, the Canyon Speedmax CF8.
Big plans, so it seems.
2023 will be my first season focussed on time trialling. Given that it’s still early enough in the season, there is enough time to train properly. Nevertheless, I’m expecting this to be a season to learn the basics and gain valuable experience.
I have prioritised several key races, so I will train specifically for these. I’ll still keep doing fun things on my bikes to keep things interesting though, there will still be plenty of stories to come, exalted reader.
I’m planning to write up my updates and TT experiences in future blog posts, so wish me luck and watch this space!
Nice! I love time trialling, even though I am not built for it and certainly do not have the big engine! Something about flying along as fast as you can under your own steam just does it for me. Nice choice on the bike too. I really wanted a Speedmax, but there was no stock for ages when I was in the market. Have a fantastic season!
Thanks! It’s difficult to commit to one discipline (most if not all are great!) but its quite a relief to just pick one and see where it takes me. The Speedmax is a great bike – just pedalling lightly takes me to 35km/h – but it really is uncomfortable after a while!
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