What to expect at your first cycling time trial

What is a time trial? A time trial (TT) is a timed race over a measured road course which is usually 10, 25, 50 or 100…


Time Trial

What is a time trial?

A time trial (TT) is a timed race over a measured road course which is usually 10, 25, 50 or 100 miles. It’s usually a solo event with cyclists starting a minute apart and racing against the clock. Time trials take place on public roads which are open to traffic and are usually either out-and-back or a circular loop. They can be on flat or hilly terrain.

Time trialling began at a time when road racing was illegal and so had to be done in secret. Races took place early in the morning with riders dressed in black, they were by invitation only on secret courses with code names. Nowadays, time trials are legal, insured and widely publicised, but the system of code names still exists.

Time trials are amazing for testing your fitness and measuring progress. It’s a race against yourself to improve your personal best. You’ll be riding at maximum effort and finish buzzing with endorphins.

Time trial

How do you enter a time trial?

Many cycling clubs organise an informal 10 mile time trial on a weekday evening in the summer. These are a great introduction to time trialling as you can simply turn up and register on the evening. I’ve recently had a go at some local time trials on the E14/10a course with Becontree Wheelers and Easterley Road Club. These are often advertised as ‘come and try it’ events, which means they are accessible to anyone.

Having completed a couple of club time trials, you might want to move onto an open event. These have a much larger field and attract riders from across the country. For an open event, you need to be a member of an affiliated cycling club and must enter two weeks in advance, via the Cycling Time Trials website.

Tips for your first time trial

  • Make sure your bike is roadworthy- check that your tyres are fully inflated, bolts are tight, brakes and gears work correctly. Any type of bike (except recumbents) are allowed at time trials. Some people will have special time trial bikes with disc wheels and aero helmets, but these aren’t a necessity.
  • Arrive early, find the organiser and register. You’ll be given a number to be pinned to the back of your jersey. Make sure you are aware of the route- there will usually be a map displayed.
  • Go for a short warm-up around the local lanes, but don’t stray too far from the start line.
  • The start and finish lines are usually marked by a chalk line on the road.

Time trial

  • Be ready to go when your number is called. Someone will hold your bike up so that you can start with both feet clipped into the pedals. Personally, I prefer to push myself off then clip-in as I’m fearful of falling over! Make sure you are in the right gear to accelerate away quickly.
  • Don’t start too fast, time trialling is all about pacing. You want to ride at a hard but sustainable pace throughout. Get into a rhythm with your breathing and pedalling.
  • The course should be marked with arrows and marshalls, but be alert- it’s easy to miss a turning when you are working at maximum effort!
  • Allow faster riders to pass.
  • Don’t stop dead at the finish line, in case other riders are approaching from behind.
  • Remember to hand back your race number. The time-keeper will let you know your finishing time. Congratulations- you’ve just completed your first time trial!

Have you ever tried a time trial?


  1. At my old club’s events, we were always reminded, “keep your head up”. It’s too easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to look at the road ahead. The only accidents I have seen time trialling are when people have had their heads down and ridden into the back of parked cars. Otherwise, time trialling is a safe way that everyone can enjoy the thrills of cycle racing.

  2. This is excellent timing – I’m doing my first hill TT tonight with my club! I did try to go to the 10 mile one a few weeks back but didn’t get there in time to faff about finding a parking space so missed out. Keep an eye out on my socials to see if I survive!

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