What is a time trial race like?

My first time trial this year was a strange concoction of events. I’m not a super fast cyclist. I know people who are older and much faster. The decision was last minute without time to train plus I really didn’t feel much like doing any hard rides this year.

The only thing going for me was cycle commuting all winter. Even then, I didn’t push myself as hard as in previous years and found it more difficult to ride fast. I ride heavy bikes and that’s about all that keeps me in shape.

Improving fitness a few days before the race was not going to happen because it takes a long time to improve fitness by gradually increasing effort over many months. The only possibility was to rest up as much as possible and hope I was fit enough to manage a decent time. The only change I made for equipment was new $100 tires.

I worried about whether I could even place well. As the group rode slowly out to the start line 1.5km away, I dropped down to first gear and picked up my pedal speed for about a kilometre then went up a few gears, took it easy and relaxed.

We lined up in a row according to our race numbers. One by one, the 20K riders left 30 seconds apart. By the time the last rider ahead of me left, the jitters were gone.

It seemed rather odd that all the worries about how well I’d do were suddenly gone. There is only one thing to do on a time trial and that is go as fast as possible for as long as possible.

When a person focuses totally on the present moment, time seems to slow down. I started out slowly and gradually picked up the pace. Jack rabbit starts waste too much effort.

All the techniques I used years ago on rides suddenly came back. There are really only two things you have control over. One is how you breathe to get as much air as possible. The second is choosing how much effort to push the pedals.

Overdo either one and you’ll slow down. The key is to balance out the stress between legs and lungs and maintain the highest effort on both. This means listening to the body and what its saying. Too high a gear and legs will fatigue. Too low a gear and breathing gets out of control. Its a constant rebalancing act in the gusty wind and frequent hills.

Within a kilometre I passed the first guy very quickly. Riders are separated by 30 seconds at the start line. Another kilometre later I rapidly passed the second guy. Another couple of kilometres and I slowly passed the 3rd guy who was going really fast. I began reducing the effort going down hill so I wouldn’t run out of steam before finishing.

As I neared the turn around point I was about about 500 metres behind the 4th guy and almost ready to pass. This meant I had gained almost 2 minutes on the 20K riders. The turn around was very slow. It costs way more in time to take the u-turn too fast and blow it.

The whole ride up until this point seemed like a few minutes. It was actually more like 10 minutes.

On the way back I passed about 10 of the 10K racers. I remember the hills and keeping my breathing under control. The last kilometre or two were uphill and into wind. At first it didn’t seem that bad but I kept my effort below what I could do going all out. The effort climbing long hills gets more difficult the longer the hill is. By the finishing marker I could just barely sustain the pace.

It was pretty weird that time didn’t seem to exist during the 19 minute ride and that I was the first one back.

Back at the arena we were given our times after the last riders had arrived. The time keeper said that anyone riding a heavy bike (more than 15lbs) who can manage that fast a speed, has talent.

I didn’t think I had it in me.



61 km ride today

A bike trailer provides extra carrying capacity when needed. Carrying a couple of wheels would be difficult otherwise.

Lots of people golfing today.

Forgot my water bottle!

Nice place to park for lunch under blossoming crabapple tree. No bike racks.

Went back for my water bottle. 61 km today. 🌞🚴😊

High of 18C today!


How to shift a bike going uphill.

Question was: how to shift a bike when it takes shifting down 5 gears to feel anything?

Step 1: take some Whiteout (preferred cause it wears off and is very visible) or a marker and mark one tooth on each gear on your bike, front and back gear sets to keep track of where you started counting teeth.

Eg. On a 21 speed bike with 3 front gears you may have 28,38,48 teeth on those gears.

On the cassette or freewheel (back gears) do the same starting with the largest gear and working your way to the smallest. Write the numbers down for each gear eg. 28,24,21…

Then go to:

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gear-calc.html and enter the information. Don’t worry about the crank length if you don’t know it. We’re only looking for changes in gear inches (select gear inch output). Starting with the smallest front gear going to the largest front gear or chainring, enter the information. With the back gears, enter information starting with the largest back gear going to the smallest gear. Print the chart. What you end up with is a chart that has the lowest gear top left and highest gear on the bottom right of the chart.

What you are looking for.

You want to shift down progressively to a lower gear going up a gradually steepening hill. (On a very steep hill you might be better shifting to a gear low enough to get up a hill and just wait for the bike to slow down while pedalling at a constant speed until your feel resistance (bike has slowed down enough for that gear).)

What usually happens is you waste so much time jumping around from a low gear to higher gear to a lower gear (and you can’t shift fast enough because you have to ease up on pedalling to shift before finding the correct low gear and by then the bike has stopped because derailleur bikes don’t gear down well under load.

With the chart, you want to look at the gear inches. You want to find the smallest jump in gear inches between the largest front chainring and smallest cassette/freewheel gear combination and the next smaller chainring and larger cassette/freewheel combination.

In my case, I’ll shift down using the rear gears (cassette/freewheel). To remember to combination easily, I’ll use a 3 for the largest front (chainring) and a 7 for the smallest rear gear (cassette or freewheel). So top gear on a 21 speed would be memorized as 3,7. Downshifting then to 3,6 and 3,5 etc.

When I look at the chart, I find that the smallest gear inch change to a smaller chainring is from 3,5 to 2,7. In other words 2 representing the middle chainring and 7 representing the smallest freewheel gear (back gears).

I repeat this going from middle chainring to the small chainring and find once again that if I shift down… 2,7…2,6…2,5… that I can shift to the smallest chainring and shift to a smallest back gear combination with the smallest change in gearing. The smallest gear inch drop could be from 2,5 to 1,7. However, going from the innermost front gear to the outermost back gear will cause more wear… its called cross chaining. When hauling a heavy load or going up a steep hill you may find its more important to go to the nearest lower gear and keep pedalling hard to avoid loosing too much speed when shifting. For hills that increase in grade this works best.

If this is not a problem, ie you aren’t going to lose so much speed that you can’t gear down, some people say try to keep the chain as straight as possible. To do this, the large chainring uses the smallest 3 outer gears on the freewheel (5,6,7). The middle chainring used the middle 3 larger gears on the freewheel (3,4,5). The smallest chainring uses the largest 3 gears on the freewheel (3,2,1). This means a larger jump when changing to a smaller front chainring but it makes more sense in that it simplifies shifting while reducing cross chaining wear.

Using this method, I’ll shift 3,7…3,6…3,5…3,4…2,5…2,4…2,3…1,4 and all the way down to 1,1.

This complexity is why most people just don’t get how to shift a bike with chainrings and derailleur gears. You either choose the method of least wear or the method of progressively gearing down when pedalling hard.

When changes in grade are not significant, just drop to the smaller chainring. Think of the front chainrings as high, medium and low gear ranges and the freewheel gears as smaller changes within those ranges.

I print out the chart and tape it to the handlebar. Then I circle 3,5 2,7 and 2,5 to remind me of where the smallest gear changes are when I need to pedal hard.

When it comes to people with 65 gear bikes, 3 chainrings, 7 freewheels, and 3 hub gears… I just basically break down and cry.

Who ever said learning to shift a derailleur and chainring set bicycle was easy?

Be grateful if you only have a single chainring or a geared hub!


Cluny to Chancellor

Black n’ white makes a photo look like early 1900s. Other than a few houses on a road known as Chancellor, there isn’t much to see. But what makes the ride a great cycling route is a lack of traffic, the challenge of rolling hills and strong winds, especially when hills and wind are in the combination of downhill and tailwind turned into uphill and headwind.

Hwy 842 is a mix of smooth

and rough pavement.

During the 28 km out and back route there were fewer than two dozen vehicles on the road. Some were in the fields (tractors). Locals leave a wide margin when passing unlike city life where motorists often have a skewed concept of what sharing the road means. I found the sense of safety on this relatively unused highway similar to that of riding on Calgary’s Cycletracks.

This is the turn around point in Chancellor. Fast ride to this point. Tom averaged about 28 kph and I stopped to take photos.

I average about 27 kph. Light tailwind/crosswind and gradual lowering of altitude over much of the route made it relatively easy but challenging.

The wind began picking up speed to about 20kph. Added with gradual upward slope and hills, I managed to keep Tom in sight until the last 7 kms. Considering how many time trials Tom has won, it wasn’t a bad first season ride. Tom regularly rides in strong winds that would cause many of us to not ride at all.

The 842 curves west then south again. I was riding on solid tires which require a higher effort for the same speed. While Tom was coasting down hills I was pedalling to keep up. On rough pavement the effort to pedal on solid tires increases quite a bit. For training rides, flat proof solid tires have the advantage of carrying less weight (no tubes, no pumps). For touring when the majority of breakdowns are flats, solid tires more than compensate for being about 3-5 kph slower.

Hard efforts on one ride make later season rides feel easier. Avoiding hard rides makes every ride feel difficult. That’s why Tom hardly even sweated on the ride whereas for me, it was quite the challenge to keep up to someone 20 years older. {:~)