Saturday, April 11, 2015

Time Trials for Cyclists

Registered for your first triathlon and needing to get ready for the bike leg? Or maybe you're a recreational cyclist wanting to measure your fitness. Time trials are the perfect way to meet these goals. Just be forewarned: they're going to hurt!

Australian cyclist Robbie McEwan

What it is: 

Time trials are often called the "race of truth" as they are simply put, a race against the clock or a set distance. The distance may vary depending on the race. For example, a race may be 10, 20, 50 or even 100 miles. They may also be set according to time: 12 or 24 hours. In a nutshell, you ride as fast as you can from start to finish.


The beauty of competing in these events is that you are in a race against yourself. Because drafting is not allowed in time trials, you must rely on your own pure fitness level and determination. Training in the wind will give you the benefit of racing well in it and a leg-up on the competition on race day. As a triathlon is just as much (or more) mental as it is physical, time trials allow the triathlete to hone in on focus and self-discipline. During these events, maximum physical and psychological output is recruited; you must learn to block out pain and any distractions.

Another added benefit of time trials is you train through them. In other words, you don't need to taper as you would in a traditional race. You can simply use the time trial event as one of your demanding workouts for that week.

How to do it: 

There are thousands of time trial events held typically from March to October. You can use the same bike you use for everyday training (although aerobars are highly recommended). If, however, you are on the competitive level and hoping for a new PR, then you can purchase a time trial bike and aerodynamic wheels. There are clothing, helmet, bike and sometimes PR rules, which may differ from event to event. So, make sure you read the fine print before you show up!

The cyclists in time trial events will start at intervals, usually one minute apart. Because of the intervals, each cyclist will start alone (as opposed to mass starts). This has the added benefit of safety. Because the object is to ride the course as fast as possible, the speed in a time trial event will be greater than 20 miles per hour. So, make sure to give yourself plenty of time before the event starts to do a thorough warm-up.

It's absolutely imperative that you stay up on your nutrition and fueling before, during (depending on distance) and after a time trial event. In many cases, time trials are the ultimate challenge for a cyclist. You are asking a tremendous amount from your body - it will hurt during and after the event, so make sure you lesson the blow by taking care of hydration, nutrition, fueling and recovery needs!