Do you want to become a master of time trials and dominate the clock like a pro cyclist? Look no further!
In this guide, I’ll provide you with all the essential tips for TT success. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, these tips will help you optimize your training, develop the right mindset, and execute the perfect race strategy.
Get ready to pedal your way to victory and leave your competitors in the dust!
What is Time Trial
A time trial is a type of individual cycling race in which riders compete against the clock.
Each rider sets off individually at a set time interval, typically one or two minutes apart, and races against the clock to complete a course of a specified distance in the shortest possible time.
The rider with the fastest time at the end of the race is declared the winner.
Time trials can be conducted on various types of courses, including flat courses, hilly courses, or time trial-specific courses that have long, straight sections designed to maximize the speed of the riders.
Time trials are often used in cycling competitions, such as stage races or championships, and can be an important part of determining the overall winner of the event. Time trials can also be used by individual riders to test their own fitness and to set personal records.
What is Time Trial Bike
Compared to a traditional road bike, a time trial bike typically has a more aerodynamic frame geometry with a steeper seat tube angle and a more aggressive riding position that places the rider closer to the handlebars.
The frame may also have specific aerodynamic shapes and features, such as teardrop-shaped tubes and deep-section wheels to reduce wind resistance.
Other features of a time trial bike can include aero brake levers that are integrated into the handlebars, aero bars that allow the rider to adopt an even more aerodynamic position, and a single chainring to minimize weight and simplify shifting.
Some Best Tips to Ride Time Trial Bike Like Pro
Learn how to Minimize Wind Resistance
No amount of fancy equipment can help you ride faster if your body acts like a giant brake against the wind.
According to Chris Boardman, one of Britain’s most accomplished TT riders, the rider accounts for over 80% of the frontal area, and 90% of the energy you generate at reasonable speeds goes into overcoming wind resistance.
Reducing this resistance is key to increasing your speed.
Serious riders can seek advice from wind tunnels, but you can also adjust your bike position at home by placing your TT or road bike on a turbo trainer or set of rollers in front of a full-length mirror.
“Reducing your silhouette is a simple but effective way to decrease drag,” says Boardman.
Lowering your body also has a significant impact, with each centimeter of reduction resulting in less drag.
However, he warns against lowering the bike’s front too much. “If the front is too low, you’ll have to raise your head to see where you’re going, which will make your silhouette larger.”
Engage in Stretching Exercises
A time-trial bike, or a road bike with aero bars attached, will typically require a more extreme riding position than what most regular road cyclists are accustomed to.
The riding position, with your head, lowered, hips raised, and elbows close together, may appear uncomfortable, and to some degree, it is. However, riders can enhance their flexibility through stretching or yoga.
Professor Greg Whyte, a specialist in physical activity, advises time-trial racers to stretch their lower back, glutes, and hamstrings.
He recommends a specific stretch for the hips and buttocks, where you lie on your back with both legs bent, places one ankle on the knee of the other leg, and pull the bent knee towards your chest using your hands. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
Opt for Gears Specifically Designed for Time-Trialling
You don’t need to spend a lot of money. Lowering the front of the bike (which may be as simple as flipping the stem to lower the handlebar position), adding some tri-bars (starting from £30), and purchasing an aero helmet (around £100) can significantly increase your speed.
These changes provide the most benefit for your aero investment. Boardman estimates that a TT helmet alone can save a rider 10 to 15 watts of power at racing speeds.
Once you’ve achieved a good position, you may start adding deep-section wheels, skinsuits, overshoes, and aero drinks bottles too. However, it is recommended to invest in equipment that helps you attain an optimum position first.
Improve Time-Trial-Specific Fitness
Session one: Endurance Development
- Begin with a 15-minute warm-up, including 5 sets of 30-second sprints and 2 minutes of flat-out riding.
- The main workout consists of 2 sets of 6 x 30-second flat-out efforts, with 30 seconds of rest between intervals. Take 5 minutes of easy spinning between the two sets.
- After completing the two sets of 6 x 30-second efforts, follow up with 5 sets of 1-minute holding time-trial pace, with 1 minute of recovery between each effort.
- Finish with a 10-minute warm-down.
According to Professor Greg Whyte, these sessions aim to enhance your ability to handle lactic acid, which builds up during high-intensity efforts. He advises focusing on both psychology and physiology during the workouts.
It is recommended to perform this workout twice a week for three weeks prior to your time trial.
Session two: Strength Builder
This workout involves a three-hour ride in hilly terrain and includes the following:
- 10 sets of 1-minute seated and over-geared riding.
- 3 sets of 2-minute out-of-saddle riding on a steep hill.
- 1 set of 5-minute fast ascending riding.
This workout is designed to increase your cycling-specific strength, particularly for time-trialing. The seated and over-geared riding will improve your ability to produce power at low cadences, while the out-of-saddle climbing will help you develop strength in your leg muscles.
Finally, the 5-minute fast ascent will train your body to maintain a high level of intensity for an extended period. It is recommended to approach this workout with caution and gradually increase the intensity as your strength improves.
Plus, it is suggested to perform this session twice a week during the pre-season.
Professor Greg Whyte explains that cycling-specific strength is a crucial determinant of performance. However, for novices with limited strength, he recommends beginning with gym-based strength training to avoid injury before attempting these strength sessions.
This workout requires you to work against very hard resistance for extended periods, so if it hurts, take a break.
Session three: Maximum Attack
- This workout begins with a 15-minute warm-up, including 10 sets of 10-second sprints.
- The main workout involves 5 sets of 3 minutes of very hard riding, with 5 minutes of recovery between intervals.
- After completing the five sets of 3-minute efforts, warm down for 15 minutes.
Professor Greg Whyte says that VO2 max, which is the highest rate of oxygen consumption during exhaustive exercise, is a crucial determinant of endurance performance.
It takes a significant amount of work to improve VO2 max as it is genetically predetermined. The focus should be on working as hard as possible for the entire three-minute effort.
Perform this session twice a week during the pre-season and early season.
Session four: Peak Practice
- Begin with a 15-minute warm-up, including 5 sets of 15-second sprints.
- The main workout consists of 3 sets of 6 x 10-second efforts at maximum power, with 2 minutes of recovery between each effort and 5 minutes of rest between each set.
- After completing the three sets of 6 x 10-second efforts, warm down for 15 minutes.
According to Professor Greg Whyte, your ability to sustain power over extended periods is supported by your peak power. During these sessions, the goal is to apply as much force as possible as quickly as possible. No heart rate monitor is necessary; simply give it your all.
Perform this workout once a week for three weeks before your time trial.
Session five: Spin to Win
- This workout can be performed on rollers or a turbo trainer.
- Begin with a 10-minute warm-up, including five spin-ups to maximum cadence.
- The main workout consists of 10 sets of 1-minute efforts with 1-minute recovery. The efforts include 5 sets of 1-minute at 120rpm, 3 sets of 1-minute increasing to 140rpm+ for the final 10 seconds, 1 set of 1-minute increasing to 140rpm+ for the final 15 seconds, 1 set of 1-minute increasing to 140rpm+ for the final 20 seconds.
- After completing the 10 sets of 1-minute efforts, warm down for 10 minutes.
Professor Greg Whyte explains that cadence is critical in producing optimal power, both in terms of efficiency at sub-maximal speeds and peak power at maximum. These sessions aim to improve your ability to develop a fast cadence as economically as possible.
Go for this workout once or twice a week for two weeks before your time trial.
Properly Fuel Your Body for Optimal Performance
Some cyclists use the strategy of carbo-loading before a race as an excuse to indulge in excessive eating.
For events like 10- and 25-mile time trials, Tim Lawson of Secret Training and co-founder of Science in Sport suggests consuming a carbohydrate-rich meal, such as a rice or pasta dish, the night before, but in moderation – 200g is sufficient. Avoid foods that are high in fat.
Prioritize carbohydrates in the morning meal as well, according to Lawson. “Toast and jam with a high fruit content is a good option,” he advises. “If you prefer cereal, opt for low-fat options.”
During the journey to the event, sip an energy drink and consume up to 200mg of caffeine, Lawson suggests. “Continue to hydrate during your warm-up to replenish lost energy, and take a caffeinated gel once your warm-up is over.”
For a 10- or 25-mile race, it is not worth carrying a water bottle since the time spent drinking outweighs the benefits of consuming more fluids. However, have a recovery drink on hand.
Learn Confidence Building Tricks
Maintaining an aero position with tucked elbows and hands positioned far from the brakes may seem daunting to some.
According to former professional cyclist Matt Jones, “At first, the aero tuck position can be challenging on TT bikes, particularly if you have disc or deep-rim wheels. However, the more you ride your TT bike, the more natural it becomes, and the more confident you’ll feel.”
Jones recommends transitioning into and out of an aero tuck position one arm at a time to maintain bike control in the event of strong winds or potholes.
If apprehensive about adopting the aero tuck position on the road, Jones suggests starting on a turbo trainer and then practicing on a quiet street. Once you feel self-assured, participate in local time trials with confidence.
Go Hard on Hills and Headwinds
The common belief in time trial (TT) cycling is to maintain an even and strenuous pace, maintaining a consistent power output throughout the ride. However, recent research suggests that this strategy needs to be revised.
According to Simon Jobson, “Pushing harder on hills or against headwinds can result in faster times, and a power meter can be an excellent tool.” However, even without a power meter or heart rate monitor, one can learn to pace themselves.
“Practice riding the full distance of the competition at maximum effort,” recommends Greg Whyte. “If you slow down towards the end, you have gone too hard. If you finish feeling fresh, you haven’t given it your all.
Keep practicing until you know what a challenging but sustainable effort feels like over that distance.”
Ensure You’re Prepared to Cycle
If you arrive at the starting line without sufficiently warming up, you may not achieve the full benefit of all your training efforts. “Many cyclists do not warm up adequately,” warns Jobson. “A few intense priming efforts can trick the body into performing at a higher level.”
Jobson recommends one warm-up approach, which entails cycling at an easy pace for 15 minutes, followed by three bursts of 10 seconds of intense effort with a 2-minute recovery period between each.
“I wouldn’t recommend exerting maximal effort during the bursts,” he cautions, “but rather exerting a sprint. I usually refer to them as ‘bursts’ rather than sprints. In total, a warm-up should last at least 20 minutes to 40 minutes.”
Stay Relaxed, Think Fast
One might believe that hyping yourself up before a race is critical to achieving outstanding performance. However, according to Rob Hayles, a former professional cyclist and world champion track rider, staying relaxed is more beneficial.
“Remain composed,” he advises. This laid-back approach pertains to both the decisions made prior to the start and your mental approach during the race.
“Be cautious with your equipment,” Hayles cautions. “If you have the option of using different front wheels with varying depths, and it’s windy, choose the shallower one.”
Hayles also advises against being overly aggressive, even in a short race. “You may begin too quickly, even in a 10-mile race. Maintain control over your exertion. Overexerting yourself during a time trial leaves no opportunity for recovery.”
Conduct a Course Reconnaissance in Advance
Familiarizing yourself with the course ahead of time is highly advantageous. You will receive the route along with your start sheet, which typically arrives a few days prior to the event. If you do not wish to wait, input the course code into a search engine, and you will quickly locate a description of the route.
Even on well-marked courses, cyclists may make a wrong turn in the heat of the moment. Thus, at a fundamental level, biking or driving the route ahead of time will enable you to know where you’re headed.
Conducting a course reconnaissance will also allow you to identify the most challenging parts of the course and to detect potential hazards such as potholes ahead of time, rather than having to react at the last minute.
Riding Position Matters
Aerodynamics is essential in time-trialing. Since the rider’s body is responsible for the majority of the drag generated, adopting a more aerodynamic position allows you to go faster with less effort.
To achieve this, reduce your frontal area, lower your body over the handlebars, and tuck your head into your shoulders while flattening your back and pulling your arms and elbows in. However, make sure not to lower yourself so much that the position becomes unsustainable.
Investing in a set of bar extensions is a good initial step when you start taking time-trialing seriously because they will help you assume the low, narrow posture required.
If you cannot afford them or discover they do not work for you, attempt to ride on the drops or hoods for increased aerodynamic efficiency.
The Science of Time-Trial Bikes Speed
While many consider time-trialing to be a personal struggle, it is also a challenge against unseen elements that restrict your velocity. Here’s how to overcome them…
There are three primary factors to consider when attempting to determine what is hindering your speed while cycling. However, the most significant and troublesome is air resistance.
In reality, when you reach a modest speed of 18mph (29km/hr), air resistance accounts for 85% of what impedes you. Furthermore, the faster you ride, the greater the amount of resistance you must overcome. It is also difficult to overcome, as it adheres to every aspect of your body and bike.
As a result, everyone from clothing manufacturers to bicycle designers is fixated on removing anything that might provide air resistance with even the slightest degree of traction.
Despite having the most aerodynamic bicycle and gear, the biggest challenge will always be the rider – accounting for approximately 75% of all air resistance generated. The most effective approach to combating this is to adjust your position on the bike.
This approach is also the least expensive. Following the purchase of a set of aero bars, you should invest in the rider rather than the bike. A time-trial skinsuit can save you one to two minutes over a distance of 25 miles (40km).
A simple pair of shoe covers, which provide a smoother surface for airflow than your laces or buckles, can shave off an additional 30 seconds, while a time-trial-specific helmet may be worth as much as 60 seconds.
When your bicycle comes into contact with the road, it creates another form of friction known as rolling resistance. As a bicycle’s tires roll over a road surface, they continuously flatten and spread out.
Furthermore, the rubber deforms with every bump and dip it encounters, consuming the energy you’ve provided to get the wheels spinning.
How much energy does this require? A low-quality tire can absorb up to 40 watts for a bike and rider weighing 70kg, while a higher-quality tire will consume only half of that. There are also additional savings to be made.
Wider tires are often more aerodynamic and have lower rolling resistance. Thus, despite previous wisdom, swapping your 23mm tires for wider ones may save a few watts.
If you’re curious about how tire pressure factors into this, remember that lower pressure increases rolling resistance. However, inflating your tires too much may reduce their ability to flex, causing you to be jostled around and become fatigued.
As always, there’s a happy medium, depending on your weight and the course’s condition.
The last culprit in our triumvirate of speed thieves is good old-fashioned friction, specifically friction in your bike’s moving components – most notably, the chain.
A poorly maintained drivetrain can steal as much as 10% of your energy. Fortunately, it is the easiest aspect of your bike to improve.
If you only have the energy to do one thing before a ride, ensure that you lubricate your chain. Cleaning and lubricating your chain can significantly decrease friction losses, requiring only a small amount of time.
It will also extend the life of your cassette, saving you money as well as energy.
Physical Abilities Required for a Fast Time Trial
To be successful in time trialing, you require strength in your legs and buttocks. Pushing a large gear for an hour is significantly different from racing a crit or participating in a club ride for the same duration.
The gluteal (butt) muscles are used much more extensively. Inexperienced time trialists frequently experience soreness in their glutes for several days following a 40K TT. Occasionally, time trialists may be unable to walk normally for several hours.
To strengthen these muscles, practice time trialing in “the position” at full power. Exceptional time trialists never leave the “aero” position on flat courses. Frequent riding in this position is required for physical adaptation to this posture.
Don’t forget to stretch those glutes!
To be successful in time trialing, you need aerobic ability. You want to increase your anaerobic threshold, which is the maximum percentage of your maximum heart rate that you can sustain. Your maximum heart rate is determined by genetics and cannot be increased.
Fit-time trialists typically ride at 92±2% of their maximum heart rate for one hour. This applies to events held at moderate temperatures and at sea level.
Interval training is critical to developing this ability. It is preferable to ride one mile as fast as you can five times rather than riding 10 miles once. Intervals of 3 to 5 minutes are highly beneficial for all-around road riders and time trialists.
Time trialists require sustained efforts of approximately 20 minutes every week. These efforts can be accomplished in races or group rides, as well as individually on the road or stationary trainer.
How to Handle Corners & Technical Sections during a Time Trial
Handling corners and technical sections during a time trial requires careful planning, preparation, and execution. Here are some tips that can help:
Study the course
Before the race, study the course map, paying attention to corners, turns, and technical sections. Familiarize yourself with the layout, and take note of any areas that might require extra caution.
Pre-ride the course
If possible, pre-ride the course before the race, especially the corners and technical sections. This will give you a better sense of the terrain, the corners’ radius and sharpness, and any obstacles that you may need to avoid.
Adjust your speed
When approaching a corner or technical section, adjust your speed accordingly. Slow down before entering the turn, and accelerate gently as you exit the corner.
Use the right gear
Use the right gear for each section of the course. For example, choose a lower gear for climbs and a higher gear for descents. Use your gears to maintain a consistent pace throughout the race.
Maintain a good line
Stay on the inside of the corner and maintain a good line through the turn. Don’t cut the corner too tightly, as this can slow you down or cause you to crash.
Look ahead to anticipate the next turn or obstacle. This will give you more time to react and adjust your speed or position as needed.
Practice your cornering and technical skills before the race. Find a safe area to practice, such as an empty parking lot or a closed course, and work on your technique.
How to Stay Mentally Focused during a Time Trial
Staying mentally focused during a time trial is critical to your performance. Here are some tips to help you maintain your focus and concentration throughout the race:
Before the race set specific, measurable goals for yourself. This could be a time you want to achieve or a specific place you want to finish. Having a clear goal in mind will help you stay focused and motivated throughout the race.
Break the race down
A time trial can be mentally challenging, so break the race down into manageable sections. Focus on the section you’re in and the immediate task at hand. Don’t worry about what’s coming up next or what’s already behind you.
Control your breathing
Your breathing can affect your mental state, so focus on your breathing and control it. Take deep breaths and exhale slowly to calm your nerves and keep your mind clear.
Visualization is a powerful mental tool that can help you stay focused and motivated. Before the race, visualize yourself riding the course successfully, achieving your goals, and finishing strong.
Use positive self-talk
The way you talk to yourself can affect your mental state, so use positive self-talk throughout the race. Encourage yourself, remind yourself of your strengths, and focus on what you’re doing well.
Focus on the process, not the outcome
While it’s important to have goals, it’s also important to focus on the process, not just the outcome. Concentrate on your technique, your pacing, and your form rather than worrying about your time or your position in the race.
Stay in the moment and be present in your surroundings. Focus on the sights and sounds around you, and stay aware of your body and how it feels.
Remember, mental focus is just as important as physical preparation when it comes to time trials. Use these tips to stay mentally sharp and perform at your best.
How to Measure Progress in Time Trial Bike Performance
Measuring progress in time trial performance requires tracking your performance over time and setting specific, measurable goals. Here are some ways to measure progress in your time trial performance:
Keep a training log
Keeping a training log can help you track your progress over time. Record your time trial results, along with other metrics such as distance, speed, heart rate, and power output. This will help you see how you’re improving and identify areas where you need to focus more attention.
Use benchmarks such as your personal best time, average speed, or power output to track your progress over time. Set specific goals for each benchmark and work towards achieving them.
Test yourself regularly
Regularly testing yourself on a time trial course can help you track your progress and identify areas where you need to improve. Test yourself every few weeks or months, depending on your training schedule.
Compare yourself to others
Comparing your performance to others can give you a sense of how you’re doing relative to your peers. Look at the results of other time trial races or compare your results to online databases of time trial results.
Track your training
Use a training tracking tool, such as a GPS device or a power meter, to monitor your training. This will help you see how your training is affecting your performance.
Get feedback from others, such as a coach or a training partner, on your time trial performance. They can provide you with insights and suggestions on how to improve.
Closing Thoughts — TT Bike
So there you have it, all the essential knowledge to time trial success that will help you take your cycling game to the next level. With these tips, you’ll be able to ride faster, smarter, and with greater confidence. But this is just the beginning!
As technology continues to advance and our understanding of sports performance evolves, we can expect to see even more exciting innovations and breakthroughs in the field of cycling. Who knows what the future holds for time trials and cycling as a whole?
But one thing is for sure, by mastering these essential skills and techniques, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a time trial champion and making your mark in the history of cycling. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start pedaling your way to glory.
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Time Trial Bike — Frequently Asked Questions
How do weather conditions affect time trial performance, and how to prepare for them?
Here’s how different weather conditions can affect your performance and how to prepare for them:
Heat: Hot weather can increase your heart rate and cause you to sweat more, leading to dehydration and a higher risk of heat exhaustion.
To prepare for hot weather, drink plenty of fluids before and during the race, wear light-colored, breathable clothing, and consider using ice packs or a cooling vest to keep your body temperature down.
Cold: Cold weather can cause your muscles to tighten up and decrease your range of motion, leading to slower speeds and an increased risk of injury.
To prepare for cold weather, wear layers of clothing that can be easily removed, use hand warmers or toe warmers to keep your extremities warm, and do a thorough warm-up before the race to loosen up your muscles.
Wind: Wind can slow you down and increase your effort level, particularly if you’re riding into a headwind. To prepare for windy conditions, consider using a more aerodynamic position on your bike, such as tucking in behind the handlebars, and use lighter gear to maintain your cadence.
Rain: Rain can make the road slippery and reduce your visibility, leading to a higher risk of crashes. To prepare for rain, use rain gear such as a waterproof jacket and pants, consider using wider tires with more tread for better grip, and slow down on turns and descents to reduce your risk of sliding.
In general, it’s important to check the weather forecast before the race and plan accordingly. Bring appropriate clothing and gear for the conditions, and adjust your pacing and effort level to account for the weather.
Finally, stay flexible and be prepared to adjust your strategy on the fly if conditions change unexpectedly.
Should I try to catch the rider in front of me or focus on my performance during a time trial?
Whether to try to catch the rider in front of you or focus solely on your own performance during a time trial depends on your goals and strategy.
If your goal is to beat a specific time or place in the race, and you’re confident that you can catch the rider in front of you without compromising your own performance, then it may make sense to focus on catching them.
However, if your primary goal is to perform at your best, then it’s generally best to focus solely on your own performance. Chasing another rider can lead to distractions and a higher risk of burnout, especially if you push yourself too hard to catch up.
It’s also important to consider the course terrain and conditions when deciding whether to try to catch the rider in front of you.
If the course has many twists and turns or hills, then it may be more difficult to catch up to the rider in front of you, and you may be better off focusing on your own performance.
Ultimately, the decision to try to catch the rider in front of you or focus on your own performance should be based on your goals, strategy, and course conditions. Whatever you decide, stay focused, stay disciplined, and ride to the best of your abilities.