Midlands Women’s TT Series - Tips and Information for Novices

If you are new to time-trialling and you have concerns about coming to ride the Women’s Series events 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 TT-specific bikes are designed to go faster than hybrids and MTBs but it is perfectly acceptable to take part on any bike.

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.

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: No, you can enter any club event in the Series as a guest of the host club without being a member of any 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 enter Series events which are open events.

How do I enter?

  • Club Events: There is no need to pre-enter club events. Just turn up on the evening of the event, sign on, pay a small entry fee and ride.
  • Open Events: Open events must be entered in advance by sending a standard Cycling Time Trials entry form and the entry fee to the event organiser or by entering online via the CTT website. An entry form and organisers’ details for Series events can be found here.

What is the entry fee?
Club Events: The entry fee is usually a small charge of approximately £2-£3, 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 £8-£9. You must know the exact entry fee and send this with your entry when you enter.

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 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 lots of racing opportunities for club cyclists. There are therefore usually no 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. Note also that there are rarely toilet facilities at club events either.
  • Open Events: Open events have a slightly higher budget than club events and usually have a HQ at a village hall or similar. There is usually space to change and toilet facilities. You can expect a result board at the HQ, with refreshments served afterwards.

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
  • A drink
  • Some food if you will need to eat a snack after racing

Open Events: As for club events except that refreshments are always 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 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 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, unfortunately, allowed. Also, you should not wear clothing showing commercial sponsorship unless your club is a sponsored club.

Where can I get details of the exact route?
Each course is described in detail on the Midlands DC website.

Do I have to wear a helmet?
There is no obligation for adults taking part in time-trials to wear a helmet although you are strongly advised to do so. However, Cycling Time Trials regulations state that all juniors and youth riders (anyone under the age of 18) are required to wear a safety helmet.

Do I have to be ‘held-up’ at the start?
At the start of time-trials riders are usually held-up with their feet ready clipped into the pedals as the timekeeper counts them down. This can be a bit daunting if you’re not used to it but it’s not obligatory. If you don’t want to be held up and would rather just start off on your own when the timekeeper says “go”, then just politely decline the help of the person pushing-off.

Will there be marshalls to direct me?
There should be marshalls on the course to make traffic aware that a cycling event is taking place. However, their role is NOT to tell you where to go. The onus is on the rider to know the course. Make sure that you know where the course goes before starting the race!  

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, it is incumbent on you 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 will 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 if I come last?
Well of course someone has to come last but bear in mind that many competitors have been riding and racing for years and everybody improves as they gain experience and fitness. Generally cyclists are simply pleased to see people taking part so there is really no need to worry about coming last.

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 distract the timekeeper 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 displayed back at the HQ on a result board. You will also receive a formal results sheet in the post a few weeks after the event, including any prize money you may have won. Occasionally at open events a prize presentation is made at the HQ after the event.

How will I know my placing?
It might be possible to work out your placing immediately after the event but all the Women’s Series event results will be posted on the Midlands DC website.

Will refreshments be provided at the event?

  • Club Events: Some clubs provide a cuppa after club events but this is the exception rather than the rule. Make sure you bring your own drink and snack if you will want these.
  • Open Events: It is usual for the organisers to provide hot drinks and cakes after an open event.

If I do well and I want to do more racing will I have to compete against men?
Unfortunately, as few women race, events specifically for women are not commonplace. There are just three open events in the Midlands in 2011 specifically for women. However, women are welcome to enter normal open events. Although you have to race amongst the men in these events there is almost always a prize for the first woman and there are often handicap or category prizes which women are eligible to win.

If I enjoy racing are there any other women I can train with?
It is one of the aims of this Series to provide opportunities for women to meet other female cyclists. Unfortunately there is not often enough women in any one club to merit training rides just for women. However, there is no reason why you shouldn’t get together with other women taking part in the Women Series and arrange rides yourself.

Are there other targets for me to achieve in local time trials? 
If you enjoy riding time trials and you decide to take part in more local open events then you may be interested in the Midlands Time Trials Rankings. Full details are given here.