Ythan CC - Training for Physical Performance
Tips from Bob Hill - Club Coach

POSITION ON THE BIKE (For Time Trialling)


Firstly the saddle should be in a forward position as this gives greater mechanical leverage. Make it as far forward as your bike (or the regulations) will permit. One guideline is that the back of the kneecap should be vertical to the pedal centreline when the crank is in the forward horizontal position. The reach to the bars can then be adjusted by changing the length of the stem. A fairly stretched position is preferable as this helps to open out the chest and improve breathing and makes the back flatter. This may mean a longer stem for most people.

The height of the saddle should be adjusted to give a fairly extended leg with a slight bend at the knee when the pedal is at its lowest. Some people may prefer a lower saddle position.


The best position for a time trial is a compromise between aerodynamics and comfort. Aerodynamics are improved by a reduced frontal area. Ideally you should be down on the TRI BARS with your back in a near horizontal position and your elbows as close as possible. This is a very awkward position to hold for any length of time and some people find it totally impossible. It is very important that you are comfortable so you can relax and can breath deeply.

Try to get as low as you can within your own comfort range and still feel that you can pedal well. If the saddle and tri bars are forward then that will help to get low. Your forearms should be horizontal and near parallel, and have them as close together as you can. The idea is to reduce the frontal area to a minimum but to still pedal effectively.


TRI BARS have several benefits. They help you to stay low and they hold your upper body in a fairly rigid position, as it is fixed at the saddle and at the elbows. This firm posture is necessary to give your legs a platform to work against. The legs should be the only part of your body that move. Your head, shoulders, torso and hips must be motionless. Only your legs should be working and pivoting from the hips.

Any bodily movement apart from your legs will absorb some of your energy and you will not have this solid platform for your legs to work against.

This posture is essential to get the best out of your body and must be practised in training and concentrated on during the race.

You must maintain this aerodynamic position for almost the entire race. In a ’10’ or a ‘25’ you can get out of the saddle at the start and the turn, but stay down on the TRI BARS for the rest of the race. During a ‘50’ or ‘100’ it may be desirable to get up out of the saddle occasionally, to relieve the legs and back if you are hurting. Obviously it is very hard to maintain a totally fixed position for these longer distances.


When you come to a long slow hill don’t get out of the saddle but change down through the gears, stay on the Tri Bars and concentrate on your effort and technique (see next paragraph). You may find it better to slip back along the Tri Bars a bit when climbing, but stay down on them throughout the climb.


In a Time Trial two important techniques are the ROUND PEDALLING TECHNIQUE and the applied CADENCE.

ROUND PEDALLING is the name given to the full effort being applied to the pedal for the whole revolution; pushing or dragging the pedal round, the full circle. I think of it as Pulling the pedal round the whole way. Anyone who has learned this technique effectively will understand. It does not just happen; it must be repeatedly practised using a specific routine to get the feel for it and be able to apply it in a race situation.

When I learned the SECRET of Round Pedalling, it created a very substantial improvement to my race performance. Refer to the attached webpage for details of this technique.


The speed at which you turn the pedals is often termed as CADENCE; i.e. the number of revolutions per minute. In a Time Trial this may be somewhere between 75 and 90 revs. It really depends on the individual and how you feel on the day, for the distance you are racing. When you are experienced you will be able to go by feel and will know what is right. The following will give you some guidance:-

In a ‘10’ or a ‘25’ you can normally turn a bigger gear at slower revs due to this being a shorter race. I usually aim for about 75 to 80 revs after I get warmed up into the ride. It is best to start off at about 85 to 90 revs for the first 10 mins and then try to work yourself into a rhythm, pulling a bigger gear around at lower revs.

For a ‘50’ or longer it is not so easy to turn the big gear as this takes a lot of effort and energy. It is better to pull round at somewhere between 80 and 90 revs. Again start off at about 85 to 90 revs until you see exactly what kind of day you are having. If you are going well you could drop down to around the 80 revs and keep pulling round the bigger gear.

The danger with the bigger gears is that they can “drag you down” if you are not on top of them. If you fall into this trap for too long a duration you will have difficulty in getting out of it. You will labour in the big gear and will not be able to really get going again in a lower gear. If you are unsure of what cadence is best, then always err on the side of using a lower gear on higher revs.

You must not struggle at low revs in a big gear. You should always feel that you are on top of the gear. If you are really labouring then change to a lower gear.

Practise the big gears in training to get the hang of them and take note in a time trial of the revs that the people who are passing you are turning. My experience is that the faster riders are using bigger gears. The general rule to follow is that you should pull round the highest gear that you can, without really struggling. But remember that it takes practise; it does not just “happen” on the day of the race.

You cannot just expect to turn it on without repeated practice in training.


A concept which may help you to visualise the way in which the above two techniques can be used is to consider yourself as a Pedalling Man or Pedalling Machine. Think of yourself and the bike as a ROBOT, churning out the revs. Your upper body is rock solid, fixed onto the bike and your legs are an integral part of the drive mechanism of the bike, connected at the pedals. They are an extension of the cranks and are moving around in a straight line, like the pistons of a locomotive.

Get yourself into a rhythm and consider yourself part of this Pedalling Machine. Try to get this feeling of being part of the total bike/man combination. You are, however, more than a Robot as you are in control of the machine and are sensitive to its needs.

It is only when you can achieve this feel, of being part of the machine and in control of it, that you will be able to know just when you can comfortably turn the big gears.

Visualise your whole body as an arrow moving in a straight line. Your upper body is fixed and your legs are wheeling it round. You are totally in control of the machine. Not struggling, but in control.


The level of effort to maintain in a time trial is a constant effort at a level somewhere below your anaerobic threshold, depending on the duration of the race.

This assumes that you are aware of what your Threshold Heart Rate is likely to be on the day of the race. You can get some indication of this from a Kingcycle type test or from your own experience after quite a number of races. Basically it is the absolute maximum that you can sustain for at least a 20 minute period. My experience is that you cannot go over your threshold for that length of time. If you can, then you have just established a new threshold.

Target Heart Rates are:-

  • In a ‘10’ or ‘25’ it will be close to your threshold
  • In a ‘50’ at 10 to 15 beats below
  • In a ‘100’ at 20 to 25 beats below.

Try to get up to your target pulse within the first 10 mins of the race, but don’t force it too hard. It may be that you won’t just get there that day. On other days you will get it up fairly quickly so try to keep it there and think about pushing it that bit harder, once you have settled back into your rhythm, after the “turn”.

This is likely to be one of these days when you are going at your very best, so make the most of it.

For the last third of the race at least keep the effort up, don’t let it falter and try if possible to slightly increase it. For the last 2 or 3 miles give it everything you’ve got, don’t leave it until the last half mile. You should finish with your last breath, totally gutted, right through the line.

In your first ’50 or ‘100’ it is best to keep your target pace and not push any harder. In these longer events it is hard enough to manage to keep to your target pulse without trying to increase it. After several such races you will have a better idea of what effort you can expect to perform at and may then raise your Heart Rate by a few beats throughout the ride.

It does very much depend on what experience you have and exactly how you feel on the day, but you should establish a heart rate target to aim for.

More information on Physical Conditioning for Cyclists







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