Time Trialling FAQs

Time Trialling FAQ

If you are new to time-trialling you may find the following answers to frequently asked questions helpful.

What kind of bike do I need? 
You can do a time-trial on any type of bike as long as it is in good working order and it is road-worthy. Road bikes and dedicated road bike events are becoming ever more common. Although TT-specific bikes are designed to go faster than hybrids and MTBs it is perfectly acceptable to take part on any bike. Don't be put off because you think your bike might not be fast enough as it does not make any difference to anyone else what type of bike you ride.

Do I need any other special equipment?
No, a straightforward bike is all that is needed to join in and take part. People who regularly do time-trials often buy tri-bars to bolt on to their handlebars to get an ‘aero’ position, but these are not by any means a requirement.

You must have affixed to your machine working front and rear red lights, either flashing or constant, that are illuminated and clearly visible to other road users.

How fit do I need to be?
You need to be sure you can comfortably complete the distance, but other than that your fitness level is not a hindrance to taking part. The whole point of a time-trial is that everyone is individually timed against the clock. If you are slower than other riders it makes no difference to their race and you will still record a time and you can make it your personal challenge to improve upon this. Everyone has to start somewhere and the vast majority of experienced time-triallists will understand the position of a novice and will give nothing but encouragement, advice and support.

Do I need to be a member of a cycling club?

  • Club Events: Normally yes, unless it is a 'come and try it' event and designated as such. You should check this with the local cycling club.
  • Open Events: If you are not a member of a cycling club which is affiliated to Cycling Time Trials then unfortunately you cannot ride an open event. All VTTA regional groups are affiliated as clubs to the CTT so all VTTA members can ride any open event.
  • There are some different arrangements in Scotland for events organised by Scottish Cycling. See here for details. 

What is the entry fee?

Club Events: The entry fee is usually a small charge of approximately £5, paid on the day to the club officials when you sign-on and collect your race number.
Open Events: The entry fee for open events is usually around £10-£15. You will find this shown for the event on the CTT website or in the handbook.

When should I arrive at the event?

  • Club Events: Arrive at the meeting point with plenty of time to spare before the race. Most riders allow a minimum of half an hour before the event start time. This means you can sign-on, prepare your bike and yourself, pin on your number and get warmed up without rushing.
  • Open Events: Prior to an open event you will have received a start sheet giving your start time. The only requirement is that you are ready to start at the start line at the allotted time. In practice this usually means that riders aim to reach the HQ about an hour before their start time, to collect their number, sign on and get warmed up without rushing.

Will there be any changing facilities?

  • Club Events: Club events are informal racing events that are run very cheaply to provide racing opportunities for club cyclists. There may not be an HQ with toilets and changing facilities. Most competitors travel to the event in cycling kit, get changed in their car or find a discreet way to change behind a hedge. 
  • Open Events: Open events have a higher budget than club events and nearly always have a HQ at a village hall or similar where there is space to change, and toilet facilities. You can expect a result board at the HQ, with refreshments served afterwards. Sometimes a small donation is expected towards the cost, occasionally there might be professional catering at commercial prices.

What do I need to bring with me?

Club Events:

  • Your bike and all equipment for riding it (helmet, shoes etc)
  • A track pump if you have one to ensure your tyres are pumped up correctly
  • Tools, allen keys and spare inner tube.
  • A small amount of money to cover the entry fee (or post-Covid many clubs can take card payment - it's best to check)
  • A drink
  • Some food if you will need to eat a snack after racing

Open Events: As for club events except that refreshments are often provided after the event. You usually get a free cup of tea in exchange for returning your race number.

What happens at the start?

  • Club events: When you sign on make sure you know what your start time is and exactly where is the start line. No one will remind you of this or worry about getting you to the start on time. You should make sure you are on the start line at least a minute before your start time. When it is your turn, the timekeeper will call your number and you can move up to the start line and wait for the timekeeper to count you down.
  • Open Events: As all riders must pre-enter an Open Event, the start order is published in advance and you will receive this in the post a few days before the event. This tells you your exact start time. On the day you will need to collect your number from the HQ and present yourself at the start line at least a minute before your start time.

If I ride out to the event will I be able to leave my kit somewhere safe while I race?
Yes, it is quite common for cyclists to ride out to events. At club events one of the officials will usually be willing to let competitors leave a few valuables or clothes in their car during the race. At open events you can leave kit or clothing (but probably not valuables) at the HQ.

Is the traffic on the roads likely to be heavy?
The safety of riders is carefully considered when deciding whether a course is used for a time trial. Some events do involve riding on dual-carriageways but the traffic is expected to be relatively light. Some of the events are entirely on single-carriageway roads. If you are particularly concerned about this, please look at the course descriptions carefully before selecting an event.

What should I wear?
The CTT does have some rules about what can be worn in open time-trials – probably rather out of date but you should be aware that you could be prevented from starting unless your clothing complies. Basically, ordinary cycling shorts to at least mid-thigh, and an ordinary cycling jersey with sleeves (or any other clothing which covers the body in the same way) are acceptable. Bare-shouldered cycling attire which is the current fashion for triathletes is not allowed. Also, you should not wear clothing showing commercial sponsorship unless your club is a sponsored club. Clothing rules are more relaxed for club events. In all cases you will be required to wear a helmet.

Where can I get details of the exact route?
Course descriptions can be found on the CTT website - see under Discover

Will there be marshalls to direct me?
The onus is on the rider to know the course, so you should make sure that you know where the course goes before starting the race! Google Streetview can be a valuable tool to visualise the route in advance.  There will normally be clear signage and marshalls on the course to indicate the correct route, but NOTE: marshalls are not there to direct or stop traffic (that's illegal) or to tell you whether it's safe to proceed (that's for you to decide).

What happens if I get a puncture during the race?
Of course anyone can have a puncture anywhere and it may happen to you during a race. If so your responsibility to arrange a rescue or to replace the inner tube or mend the puncture yourself. Whereas most organisers will not leave you stranded on a remote road, you should not assume someone can rescue you. Time-triallists therefore often carry a pump, inner tube and tyre levers when they race. An alternative solution is to agree with a friend to mutually come to each other’s rescue should the need arise.

What happens if someone overtakes me?
Don’t worry if you are overtaken – this happens to everyone at some point or other and there are always going to be stronger riders taking part. Just let the overtaking rider get well ahead of you so that you get no ‘drafting’ advantage and don’t be put off. Concentrate on riding your own race at your own pace. This, after all, is what time-trialling is all about!

What do I do at the finish line?
When you pass the timekeeper at the finish line it is traditional to shout out your number in case your number is not easily visible to the timekeeper. Continue down the road, riding gently to warm down. Don’t ask the timekeeper for your time or otherwise distract them as they have an important job to do. 

How will I find out my result for the race?

  • Club Events: After crossing the finish line, continue riding and cool down and return to the meeting point. Do not go and distract the time-keeper. After all riders have finished the timekeeper will come back to the meeting point and let everyone know their time.
  • Open Events: At open events the results are usually displayed back at the HQ on a result board. Results are posted on the CTT website on the event page from the same day to a few days afterwards.A prize presentation is often made at the HQ after the event, sometimes prizes are sent out or paid to bank accounts. Since 2022 the 'Resultsheet' online system has been becoming more common, and you may find a link to the event in the startsheet information.