Top 10 ways to improve your time trialling for FREE

Time trialling can be an expensive sport if you want all the latest, greatest equipment. So before you reach for your credit card here are a few tips which could make a huge difference to your race results without splashing the cash.

1. Clean Your Bike

Significant losses occur from a dirty drivetrain. Therefore you should always clean, degrease and oil your chain regularly and make sure the cassette, jockey wheels and derailleur are spotlessly clean. Not only will this reduce friction it will avoid any frustrating mis-shifts.

2. Wear Tight Clothing

Remember that over 80% of the wind resistance on a bike is generated by you, the rider. So even if you can’t afford a skin suit you can definitely pick-out your tightest-fitting jersey and make sure there are minimal creases or open pockets.

Helmets make a big difference too so choose aero over vented if you have both, or if not try and cover the vents with tape to smooth the airflow.

3. Adjust Tyre Pressures

Despite all the talk of aerodynamics, rolling resistance still counts. On a flat road it accounts for approximately 13% of the total resistance. Over or under-inflated tyres create greater rolling resistance and slow you down. So make sure you have the right pressures before each race. If you are not sure there are several online calculators available such as the one from SILCA.

4. Stretch to Get Low

Getting low on the bike is the easiest way to cut wind-resistance. Going from the brake hoods to the drops will bring big gains. Adding tri-bars and using a TT bike even more so.

Whatever bike you use, setting it up to get you super-low will be counter-productive if you can’t sustain that position for the duration of your event. The answer is to work on your flexibility or Range of Motion. That means regular stretching exercises to reduce tightness is your posterior chain. Look for exercises which stretch you glutes, hamstrings and iliotibial band (IT band).

5. Practice the course

All courses are unique so learning it before race day can bring great benefits. Finding out where the sign-on, start and finish are (yes they can all be different!) will save time and stress on race day.

The courses itself will likely have small hills, corners, potholes, T-junctions and other features worthy of note. All these features will indicate where to brake, where you can avoid braking and where to push hard or ease-back. This feeds into your pacing strategy (see below).

6. Optimise fuelling & hydration strategy

For races lasting up to an hour you shouldn’t need to worry about eating or drinking during the race. Instead focus on your pre-race meal and drink(s). Always eat at least 2-3 hours before an event and ensure you are fully hydrated in the build-up. Immediately after the race make sure you drink to rehydrate and eat as soon as possible. Recovery drinks are ideal when you’ve got a long drive home and can’t eat straight away.

For longer events you need to practice your eating and drinking during training. Energy drinks and gels are designed for just this purpose but everyone’s digestive system is different so find what works for you.

7. Warm-up thoroughly

They used to laugh at Team Sky warming-up on rollers before every important race and now everyone does it! Warm-ups work by getting the body and mind prepared for the effort ahead. The shorter the event, the more thorough and intense the warm-up needs to be.

There are an infinite number of warms-ups and you need to find what works for you. Here are some general tips:

  • They should last at least 15 minutes.
  • Warm-ups should be progressive i.e. get harder.
  • Should include some short efforts just below, at and above race intensity.

8. Work on your mental game

One of the key attributes of a great Time Triallist is learning to suffer. Once you are off the start line and up to speed your legs and lungs quickly start to burn. You go through multiple waves of pain and discomfort and learning to deal with it is a key aspect of racing. It requires a mental focus which can only be achieved through practice.

You should work on this focus this every time you do a TT-specific workout such as the classic 2 x 20 minutes intervals. Focus on the sensations: your breathing, your cadence and your rhythm. Then it should all feel natural on race day.

9. Create a pacing strategy

A pacing strategy is essentially a plan to determine where you should push hard, where to hold a steady pace and where to back-off. It’s all down to aerodynamics but essentially you should push-on when going uphill or into headwinds, ease-back when going downhill or with tailwind and maintain average pace on the flats. How much is a very individual thing determined by your physiology, the characteristics of the course and weather.

There are numerous online tools you can use to help with this such as myWindsock and Best Bike Split which will take data from the course, weather predictions and your physiology to suggest a strategy.

10. Do some aero testing

The only way to be sure you have the most aero position for yourself is to do some testing. Whilst this is quite costly to do in a wind tunnel or track, you can do this for free. It’s know as the roll-down method and it is really simple:

  1. Locate a quiet road which has a reasonably long down hill section immediately followed by an uphill section.
  2. Mark a starting point by the side of the road on the downslope near the top.
  3. Set-off without pedalling (this is why you need a slope) and see how far you rolldown the slope and up the incline. Place a marker by the side of the road.
  4. Go back to the start point, change your position or equipment and go again.

You’ll need to repeat the same test several times to get an average but as you can see it’s a cheap and easy way of comparing setups and equipment: the further you roll, the more aero. Simple!

So there you go: 10 ways to go faster without spending a fortune. If you want more tips like those or for help achieving your time trialling goals please get in touch.

Russell Gordon is the owner and cycling coach of inSync Cycling Coach. He helps cyclists of all abilities achieve their goals and he has raced road, time trial and cyclo-cross from regional to national levels. He holds TrainingPeaks Level 1 and British Level 3 cycle coaching accreditations.