For most time triallists, the whole point of their sport is sheer speed. What inspires them through the long winter months is looking forward to the thrill of going as fast as they possibly can under their own steam.
That?s why, when the weather warms up, they head for roads that are flat, straight, and well-surfaced ? the drag-strip courses that have formed the core of time trialling since it began.
And with good reason. There is nothing in the world of bike riding that rivals the feeling of thundering along on a smooth road, finding out the absolute limits of what you can do.
The most popular events are the short ones ? 10 and 25 miles. Some riders are prepared to travel for hours to reach one of the handful of ?legendary? fast courses ? but in truth, there are fast events all over the country, and your own fitness and your ability to pace the ride are much more important.
The target for almost all riders on the drag-strips is a new personal best, just as it is in so many other sports. And on a balmy summer evening, when the wind drops away and everyone realises that conditions are going to be perfect, the buzz round the event will make you realise why so many people are addicted to time trialling.
So just how fast is fast? Well, don?t be put off by the speeds attained by the Bradley Wiggins and Fabian Cancellaras of this world. You?re pretty unlikely to end up racing them.
At the sharp end of a 10-miler on a fast, flat course, the top handful of UK riders might beat 20 minutes ? that?s 30mph. But you don?t have to look very far down the field to find more
manageable speeds ? at a club 10, there will normally be lots of riders outside 30 minutes, or 20mph, so even if you don?t think you?re very quick, you?ll almost certainly have someone to race.
If that still seems faster than your training rides, remember that you?ll almost certainly find a bit extra when you go racing, especially on a fast road.
For a 25-mile race, the Holy Grail for many is to beat the hour but relatively few do so, and usually there are plenty of competitors with times closer to 90 minutes.
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HOW I STARTED: JONATHAN LEGG
Jonathan is 33 and lives near Southampton.
What was your first time trial?
It was when I was about seventeen ? some of my school friends had got into cycling, and then into racing, so I thought I?d have a go. The race was one of the local club events.
What do you like about time trialling?
There are loads of races every year, so there is always something to do. You get to know the people who are about your standard, so even if you?re not going to win any races, you can try to beat them. There was one guy last season who kept beating me by about 10 seconds, but I got him in the end!
Any advice for a newcomer?
Don?t worry about equipment; the rider is more important than the bike. Just ride what you?ve got, and do some training, and see how you improve. And see how you start to beat other riders.
GETTING INTO TIME TRIALLING IS EASY
Telephone Phil Heaton, CTT National Secretary on 01942 603976 or just contact one of your local clubs listed on www.cyclingtimetrials.org.uk/beginners and they?ll tell you all you need to know!
Photos courtesy of Kimroy Photography