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Time Trialling

Table of Contents

Time trialling is a great way of improving your bike leg abiliity, not only does it help you focus your training and fitness but you can use time trials to test out new kit, nutrition or pacing strategy before it counts for more in your main race of the season. Early season time trials normally consist of random distance events but when clubs start evening time trials after the BST clock change, more standard distances of 10, 25 and 50 miles dominate the weekend events.

Local club time trials

Anyone can enter a time trial as long as they are registered with a cycling club (not British Cycling) which can normally cost as little as £5. For local club events which are normally on a weekday evening, you will need to contact the club in advance to find out where the race starts, and where the HQ is. Usually the HQ may just be someones car boot, where you get numbers, sign your permission to race and pay the entry fee (50p-£2) Local clubs are listed here

Local club time trials are usually more relaxed about rules, especially with kit but its a good idea not to go out of your way to annoy members, but plead ignorance if you get something wrong. Try to get into good habits early though.

Entry to open time trials

For open events, you will see some listed on club websites or various forums, for all others you will need a copy of the CTT handbook which does include all of the rules and regulations, as well as information about most (not all courses) and a list of the races over the year. It can be ordered from the website for £7.

If you see an event that you would like to try, you need look at the race distance, the special conditions and the course. Normally entries have to be in 2 weeks before the race date, with the closing date nomally being on the Tuesday 11-12 days before the event. You must include an official CTT form filled in as accurately as you can ( and a cheque payable to the club or organiser as listed in the address.

A returned entry form means you have not been accepted, sometimes you will hear nothing but if you have been accepted you will see your name on a posted start sheet along with a start time and a number. Take your start sheet with you to the event. Some start sheets are listed on

Getting there

You should arrive at an open time trial as early as you can, normally 1 hour to 90 mins before the start in order to test the bike out, sign on, collect number and warm up. Sometimes you may wish to drive the course beforehand but be aware that the race may have already started and remember to give cyclists a wide berth. ‘’‘It is your responsibility to know the route’‘’. Warming up on the course is fine as long as the event has not already started. Being on the course when the race is in progress can mean disqualification. Your number needs to be pinned to your back to that it can be seen by passing traffic and timekeepers. You CANNOT wear number belts. National champs will require shoulder numbers too.


Once warmed up, you should aim to be at the starters area within 5 minutes of your start time. Missing your start time means you get huge penalties. You will normally see a line of people in a layby or a parked car to show where the start is. Once in the start area, do not ride away and turn around within sight of the starter, this can be dangerous to other road users (no U turns withing X metres of the start).

On starting, you will be called to the start line and ensure that your bike is in the correct gear and that you have already practiced a start to be sure that your chain will not slip. With 30 seconds to go, a starter will hold your bike and allow you to be clipped in (this is YOUR choice, you can do a standing start if you wish)
You will then have a 10 second countdown and you normally go on 0.

The Finish

At then end of the time trial, you will see a checked flag, a parked car or a marshal with a clipboard, DO NOT STOP HERE!!. Ride straight through, and shout your race number as you pass. slow down safely and continue back to the HQ. Here you can hand your number in, make your excuses and watch your time be posted on the score board. DO NOT ASK THE MARSHALLS FOR YOUR TIME. Your number usually means a free cup of tea or coffee and then you can buy exceedingly good home made cakes for a few pence.


If you wish to stay for the results, you can sometimes get a printed copy, or write your own set on your start sheet. Results can sometimes be found the same day on the club website, a club forum, the CTT website or the timetrialling forum. You will normally get results posted although this may take several weeks.

If you are fortunate to have won anything (sometimes complete novices win handicap or category prizes), then cheques will be posted with the results.

Key Terminology

Sporting - Usually an event held on a circuit or rolling course and often of a non-standard distance. May use many smaller roads that require better handling than a typical out and home event on a dual carriageway course.

Hilly - Like a Sporting event, but a bit hillier. Will probably need some low gears as there will be long or steeper hills.

Medium Gear - An old reference to the size of the gear used - usually measured as inches. A Medium gear is 72” A gear is worked out as the number of teeth on the chainwheel divided by the teeth on the sprocket times the diameter of the wheel - in olden days that was generalised as 27 inches, so a chainwheel of 48 teeth on a sprocket of 18 teeth means 48/18x27=72
Middlemarkers - Another older reference to someone who is not a fast rider. In typical terms this is applied to events where they restrict entry to those who have not beaten a certain time for the distance (eg 1:2:00 for 25 miles - but the time varies from event to event and will be mentioned in the entry conditions in the handbook - look for MM next to a time)

SPOCO - sporting courses points competition. SPOCO was introduced to encourage the use of courses where the traffic was light and the terrain sporting. Standard distances were not necessary, as the competition was decided on placings to give points.

LTS - Literally ‘Last Three Seasons’ - an acronym. In reality it is a way of saying what your best time is for the last 3 seasons - or in fact current and last 3 seasons (so for 2007 that means back to 2004).

Drag Strip - a slang term for fast course, usually on a dual carriageway. Also Ski-Slope - a drag strip course that typically starts higher than the finish and has a (long) hill soon after the start that you do not come back up to finish. This gives an advantage due to the gravity assisted section being faster.

Open - An event open to all riders. Some are semi-open that are restricted to riders of certain clubs (see Association), or a middle marker (MM) or similar. If the event is listed with SC (Special Conditions) in the handbook, then it will have some sort of restriction - hopefully it will say so, othersise you will have to ask the organiser. Otherwise events are open to the fastest entrants, up to the limit (usually 120, but there are exceptions). See Club Events too.

Closing Date (not always clear in handbook) - An open event closes normally on one of 2 dates - if the event is on a Fri/Sat/Sun/Mon then it closes the Tuesday a week beforehand (11 to 14 days before). If midweek, it closes the Saturday the weekend before (11 to 13 days before). If it is not the standard date of closing then it will show as NS against the listings in the handbook, together with the closing date. National Champ events have a longer closing period - 3 weeks.

Handbook - A book where all the rules, regulations and event listings are published, together with records, courses and various other information - issued annually.

HQ - Headquarters. Either 1. The event headquarters - changing rooms, results, etc. or 2. Headquarters of the CTT (Cycling Time Trials) the governing body of the sport in England and Wales.

Minute Man - normally means the rider starting one minute in front of you (time trials have riders starting at one minute intervals). Sometimes is also referred to the person starting one minute behind you (so can be confusing!)

Penalty late start - Also seen as LS in the results - if you miss your start time, you will be started at the next available space in the field (remembering you cannot start less than a minute behind the rider in front). The time you report to the start time keeper is your penalty and is added to your real riding time from the time you actually do start.. So if you arrive 1:30 late, then that time is added to your time you record from riding the course.

Drafting - often called pacing. No drafting is allowed in time trials between riders (in solo events). If caught you must drop back to prevent this happening.

Pacing - see drafting. Although some can also claim you are taking pace even without drafting by staying some way behind a rider and just using them as a carrot.

Clothing - Currently you must use clothing that is clean and tidy and covers you from neck to mid-thigh and has at least quarter sleeves. You can only have advertising on your clothing if your club/team has registered as a sponsored club with the CTT. Tri suits and crop tops are not acceptable and you may be refused entry.

Kit - Either clothing or more often the bike equipment. As long as you have a bike with brakes and a cycle shirt, you are good to go. Most will use cycle shoes and lots of fancy bike kit but you can turn up on a mountain bike with flat shoes if you wish.

Numbers - each rider (or machine in the case of tandems) must ride with a number visible from behind. The numbers also often indicate a seeding pattern with the fastest riders seeded in order from the highest number to lowest number starting with the 0 numbers fastest, then 5’s, then 1’s & 6’s, etc down to the 9’s who are normally the slowest. There are some variations in the seeding pattern for some events, with the National 10 and 25 Champs being seeded with a simple fastest to slowest.

Masters - not normally used in time trials, with the exception of the British TT Champs. In most sports, and cycling included states a Master is anyone over the age of 29. They are typically put into 5 year age bands and classified as 30-34 as A, 35-39 as B, etc..There is also a class of age groups called Vets (or Veterans), that start from age 40.

VTTA - a National Association for riders aged 40 or over. Veterans Time Trial Association (acronym) VTTA events are normally open to any ages but Vets will compete for points in a VTTA series.

National Championships - You cannot enter these unless you have an LTS time and normally it is from the last season. These have to be done in open, not club, events and they will give you a seeding in the start list. Times of around 22.20 for 10 miles and 58 mins for 25 miles will give you a good chance of getting in. 50s and 100s never have full fields so getting in is not a problem.

Women - Some events have a male entry and will accept entries, others will only accept entries based on times regardless of gender. Bigger events will have separate sections for women, juniors and novices.

Events - Some event will have 5 events listed this often means that there are separate events on the same course on the same day, one for men, one for vets, one for tandems, one for women etc.

Helmets - Safety Helmets are only compulsory for riders aged under 19 and junior riders over 18 in CTT events. You may use a helmet if you want. Some still use non safety helmets (aka fairings) to aid aerodynamics.

Association Events - Associations are groups of (typically) clubs in a region/area that club together to promote events open only to members of clubs within the Association. If the event listing has the letter A next to it, then you must be a member of a club in that Association otherwise your entry will be refused.

Course Codes - This is a letter and a number which refers to the District given by the letter, and the number refers to the course (NOT the road). For example, K courses are based around Warwickshire and the midlands, E courses are based around Cambridge. The K10/10 and the K11/10 are different courses in the same area. You may also see the same course with further letters which means variations of the same course such as K10/10C and K10/10F. It will be clear in the returned start sheet the exact route of the course.

Support - People cheering is fine, but having following cars is not acceptable in most events. Some events will allow feed stations where a coach or friend can hand you a bottle but these are only in longer events. Following cars or support cars are by special permission and only normally seen in 100 mile plus races.

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