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  • 28/03/2022 - Men in black

    Time trial shakedown ride

    It’s always a good idea to give your equipment a good on-road test before an event or a season of events. So, now that +RichardM, my time trial partner, was back from his winter sojourn in the States, we set up a session to road test the tandem bike we’d be using.

    Of course, my first - and most important - question was “what should we wear?” Form is temporary, but style is permanent, I argued. I suggested we go all black. Racing on the road was banned in the UK in 1890. Events still took place, time trials being the least obtrusive and racers did their best to be inconspicuous, racing at the crack of dawn doors (so events were usually over by 8am) and kitting themselves out in black from head to ankle to go under the radar. They never wore numbers and had to be equipped with a bell. So, black then, but no bell.

    Ralph Dougherty at speed in a 1930s time trial dressed all in black including tights and alpaca jacket. Rather daringly he has rolled his sleeves up to show some flesh whereas the norm would be to have sleeves down and the hands in black mitt.

    The course we chose was to be our very own Club 10, which starts in South Mymms. This was developed by former committee member +aidan who also wrote a great introduction to time trialling and an FAQ in the club newsletter back in April 2016 that is still worth dipping into.

    It’s not the flattest 10 course, but has pretty standard features. It’s an out and back and has a few turns and roundabouts. But it is a very near course, so it you want to practice doing a 10 mile time trial, this fits the bill nicely. Islington CC has run 3 club races a year on this course for several years and it would be great to see them back on the programme after a the Covid interruption for next season. Time trialling is such an accessible form of racing which requires to special technical or group riding skills and you are only racing yourself, so it's truly for all ability levels.

    Time trialling is also a good way of benchmarking your fitness, which is partly what brought me and Richard to the South Mymms course. We decided to ride at roughly the effort we’d do for a 25-mile event. I’d call that 9/10. Once we’d finished, we both felt fresh and greed that we’d each put in an 8/10 effort, while slightly beating our race power from last year. This bodes well.

    Our time was not good, but we were stopped by traffic three times and were not wearing any aero kit. And then there was brake rub. The part of the shakedown ride that relates to the bike revealed an ongoing teething issue with the disc wheel, which is leaning annoyingly on one brake pad. A marginal loss to add to the traffic and lack of pointy helmets. Other issues with the bike were all solved, so overall we came away feeling positive.

    Our first race is the Farnborough and Camberley CC 25 on 9 April, which looks a reasonably fast course. Top tandem pair Ian Greenstreet and Rachael Elliott hold the course record at 00:48:42. Their record is not in jeopardy from us, but we’ll look to improve our own PB.

    Time trial race opportunities
    You can view and enter all the open races on the Cycling Time Trials website. It’s pretty cheap (£10-14) and you usually get tea and cake at the HQ after. North Road CC, Finsbury Park CC and Hertfordshire Wheelers all run a series of club 10s that are not too far away and are open to non-members taking part. If in doubt, call or email in advance. In fact, North Road are credited with staging the very first time trial in 1895, a 50 miler.

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