Tips for riding a 12 hour time trial

I have only ridden one 12 hour, so  there is still much to learn. But, these are some thoughts on training, racing and preparing.


  • Most of my training for past few months has been training at just below threshold. Quite fast on a time trial bike. Perhaps 80% of FTP.
  • Training on a time trial bike is really essential. It’s not just the legs but holding the position that is hard in a 12 hour. Remember in training, you move around much more than in race.
  • I hoped to do quite a few 5 hour rides / 100miles – one per week. But, I rarely got time, so mostly did 2-3 hours, with the odd 4 hour ride. However, I am able to train during the week so was often averaging 200-300 miles a week, mostly at a pretty good intensity. I had quite a few breaks this year due to injury, illness, holiday. On average one week off during every month. I could have had a higher training load, but maybe forced rest helped too.
  • Definitely worth avoiding becoming a complete mile-muncher, once a month, a lighter week will complement the heavier weeks when you push the mileage.
  • This month June has been an increase in training intensity, with 1,200 miles in the 25 days of June before the race. During this time I did no intervals, but just worked on that time trial training intensity, with the 12 hour in mind.
  • In June, I did my first 100 mile rides of the year. Two in training and one in a race. My longest ride was 103 miles.  To ride over 100 miles was good for confidence. It is also good practise for spending time on the saddle, where you learn a few things (e.g. feet becoming tight in shoes. I don’t think it is necessary to do 6-7 hour rides of slow intensity, unless you have the time and inclination. It was the plan to do a couple of 6 hour rides, but time never allowed.
  • When training, try to replicate the set up of the race, e.g. same water bottles, same feeding. I don’t use race wheels, or aero helmet, but apart from that it’s fairly similar. I try to plan routes which are flattish and minimal stopping.

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Aero coach arc chainring


On Sunday, I used a new single chain ring. The Aerocoach Arc single chainring.

I explained in ‘converting to single chainring‘ the advantages of removing front derailleur, and inner chainring. For most time trials you only need one chainring, and it looks smoother.

This is specifically used for single ring use and the teeth are longer than normal to prevent chain slip. I don’t know if it is possible to slip the chain, but from my experience this year, I’ve had more chain slips using front derailleur and 39/56 chainring combination than with just single chainring without any front derailleur.

The shape of the Aerocoach Arc single chainring is not completely round, but is designed to provide more power at the start of the stroke when you need it most, before gradually decreasing down to a minimum gearing at bottom dead centre. See Aerocoach Arc for full explanation. Aerocoach claim “The unique time trial specific design will help increase power output by 3-5w, and allow a smoother pedal stroke than normal.” Continue Reading →

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National 12 hour time trial – 2016

Yesterday was the National 12 hour TT championship in South Wales, promoted by South Wales District.  A 12 hour is a bit different to your average time trial, requiring quite a big set up and 10 timekeepers to get the finish distance. I’ve been thinking of doing a 12 hour time trial, for about 25 years since I first read Cycling Weekly, which in those days, still gave big coverage to BBAR tables and all the seemingly amazing distances people did for 12 hours. But, despite 25 years of good intentions it’s very easy to think of a reason not to do a 12 hour – not least peaking for the national hill climb. But, this year, with Nat HC on bank road, I thought if I don’t do it this year I never will.


I think the Welsh 12 hour course is very good. It is fairly fast, but still a bit of up and down and minor roads to make it interesting. I did 1,630 m of elevation during the 283 miles. In the morning, you do a 90 mile loop including a long lumpy trek to Hereford. Then there is a main 25 mile circuit around the A40 with some dual carriageway and some minor roads.

The lead up to the race was a little curious, with the country been thrown into a self-imposed chaos. I have spent more time watching the news in the past two days than I have in the past two decades; in this climate, a cycle race seemed of little importance. But, if you’re depressed from politics, a 12 hour time trial is a very good way to clear the mind of all the frustration. A little extreme maybe, but it was good to get away from it all. Continue Reading →

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Preparing for long distance ride

For a long ride of 3-4 hours +, it is worth making some preparations and calcuations about how much energy to try and take on.


  • For anything of 100 mile plus, I will eat more carbs in the day or two before. For example, if I go out for a 1-2 hour ‘warm-up ride’ Normally I wouldn’t take any energy drink or food. But, in this case I would take a 750ml energy drink, to take on more carbs than usual.
  • I haven’t researched carbo-loading enough, but you have to be careful not to place undo stress on stomach by eating much more than usual.
  • It is also important to be well hydrated the day before and for the morning of the race.



Carbohydrate consumption

  • The first issue is what is the maximum amount of carbohydrate that the body can absorb per hour?
  • The most common figure I have seen is 60 grams of carbohydrate.
  • However, recently, energy drinks manufacturers have cited research that if you take a mixture of maltodextrin and fructose, you can take up to 80-90 grams. Increasingly energy drinks have maltodextrin and fructose in the ratio of 2:1. But, high quantities of fructose can be problematic for the stomach, you would have to test on yourself to see your tolerance.

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Garmin Mount for TT bike

When I use a water bottle on the aerobars, I can’t use the standard Garmin mount, so looked for alternatives which can be fixed to the bike.

K-Edge TT mount


The K Edge TT model has a locking mechanism underneath. This is suitable for awkward positions – you don’t have to twist the Garmin, put you can twist a locking mechanism underneath the Garmin mount instead so it can work in tight areas with little room for manoeuvre. This was good for placing the Garmin between the tribar extensions. It is quite adjustable. Continue Reading →

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ECCA 100 – 2016

Today was the ECCA 100. I have won the event in the past two years, and this year promised to be faster times because the course had been moved to all dual-carriageway on the A11 and A14 south of Cambridge. I was looking forward to the event because in recent weeks I’ve had good form, set some pbs, made some significant aero improvements and the weather forecast looked very good with low air pressure and low wind.

In fact, I tried to add up all the potential time savings in the past 12 months – watts of drag saving, faster course, better form, low air pressure, new special waxed from watt shop. On the back of an envelope, I calculated all these factors, using the formula of  ’20 seconds gain per 40km per watt of drag reduction’  and I came up with a time of 3.14. Marvellous! perhaps I should have just stayed at home and stayed with my virtual time. It’s wonderful what you can learn from the internet and a bit of ‘positive thinking’. If only riding a 100 mile time trials were as easy as writing a  ‘back of a fag packet’ calculation. Continue Reading →

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Rear mounted bottle cages

A rear mounted bottle cage is generally a good aerodynamic place to carry an extra bottle. For long distance riding, it is a good option, though a little awkward (and unaerodynamic) to get from behind saddle.

One challenge with 100 mile time trials is working out how to carry enough fluid. I’ve done 100s on two bottles, but often felt it was insufficient and suffered as a results. A rear mounted saddle is a good place as it is generally out of the wind.

Most aerodynamic position for a bottle

I’ve seen quite a aero tests and suggestions that the optimal position for a water bottle is in this order

  1. Between the tribars at the front of the bike (Tribar mounted waterbottle)
  2. Behind the saddle (rear mounted)
  3. On the downtube
  4. On the seat tube

The first two have little aero drag. Some claim that having a bottle between the arms on the tribars reduces aerodrag. On the downtube, aerodrag could cost 45g for a standard water bottle (according to tri-radar)

Testing water-bottles depends on how the bottle interacts with the frame and rider. Some TT bike designs have been specifically designed to make the water bottle more aerodynamic.

Rear mounted bottle cages are also said to be quite good in limiting aerodrag, so I thought it would be good to get one. I did use one many years ago, it might have been my first 100 mile TT in 2005. But, the bottle jumped out and I never got to drink it. I think I threw away in disgust and have never revisited rear bottle mounts until a few years ago

Bontrager Race Lite Rear Cage Holder

I bought a Bontrager Race Lite Mount rear mounted bottle cage. It cost £35 from a local bike shop. The advantage is that you can have two water bottles, or one in the middle. It also has two places to screw in CO2 cyclinders.


using one bottle option

I have chosen to have just one bottle cage.  It’s fairly easy to set up and fairly sturdy. (It weighed 170gram with one water bottle.

The difficulty I had is that with the Adamo saddle, there is limited room to fit. This means I had to have it at an angle of 45 degrees. I would preferred to have it at 90 degrees because the bottle would be less likely to fall out.

This is a drawback of the Adamo saddle. – A comfortable shape for long distance timetrialling, but you have to be careful which water bottle system you get.


Since I first posted this blog, I have got a new saddle. A Dash saddle, which still has a long tail making it hard to get a bottle vertical.

However, it is quite aerodynamic and easy to set up.


My concern about use long-term is that it is all held together by four allen bolts. Two gripping cage to saddle. And two holding angle of cage. I am testing in training, and its held up, though there is some small degree of slip. They really should have bolts on the other side of the side screws. You want to check pre-ride.

I chose a Gorilla X-Lab water bottle cage and ditched the Bontrager because it has extra gripping power. I think this is important for rear mounted bottle cages at an angle. The risk of bottle ejection is quite high.

The first time I used the Bontrager rear set up, I also used the Bontrager rear bottle cage, and the bottle ejected 5 miles into the ECCA 100 mile, 2014.

Bontrager Rear Bottle Mounted Cage at Evans. £36. It is relatively good value option (cheap compared to others)

Xlab Delta 400


I have also been testing this XLab Delta 400, hoping it would be better than the cheaper Bontrager version. Firstly, it is quite hard work to set up. You need a suitable sized spanner to hold locking nut in place. However, this time of set up gives a very strong and sturdy set up (more reliable than Bontrager). The angle of cage is also adaptable, though it is limited by my saddle.


It is a pretty secure system. If you tighten to correct torque, you will have no problems.


I got the Bontrager one to be higher up. The X-Lab Delta is more in the wind. (possibly due to shape of long Dash saddle.

Unfortunately, compared to the Bontrager it holds the bottle lower down, exposing more of the water bottle to the air. So although it is lighter, better built and a lot more expensive, I am better off using the Bontrager because it will be more aerodynamic.



X-Lab 400 rear mounted at Wiggle £79. –

The X-Lab Super Wings seems to hold up bottles higher.


Profile Aqua rear mounted bottle cage

This has a different design and works well with the popular Adamo saddles. It is similar to the Bontrager system, but has a different fitting system which makes it easier to fit

Stopping bottles jumping out

  • Firstly have the bottle cage at 90 degrees, don’t risk anything like 45 degrees – even if it is easier to get to.
  • Choose a water bottle which is tight fitting on the bottle
  • Be wary of using carbon fibre bottle cages which are more prone to breaking. You’re better off choosing a standard sturdy bottle cage rather than a 17gram special lightweight.
  • If you think it might fall out, try putting an elastic band around the bottle. This will make the bottle wider and more sticky. (Though it didn’t work for me!)

Other points about using rear mounted bottles

  • In long distance time trialling – hydration generally outweighs any aero penalty.
  • Weight isn’t such a big issue.
  • Another issue is that in the race, you can forget to drink. When you are so absorbed in the effort of racing, it can be hard to pick up a bottle from behind the seat. This is another advantage of water bottle between the tribars – you can’t forget about it because it’s always in your face. If you do have a bottle behind the saddle make sure you don’t forget about it.
  • Test before a race! Go for a ride over bumpy terrain and see if your bottle stays in. If you test in a race you might find yourself one or two bottles down.
  • Always be prepared for mechanical mishaps. Even if you are carrying three bottles, ideally you will have a spare one by the side of the road, just in case one does fall out.
  • Make sure you tighten the bolts to the correct torque. This will make it less likely to fall out.

In triathlon community, the X-Lab rear mounted bottle system has good reviews. It offers quite a comprehensive choice of carrying options. It’s design also means it fits nearly any saddle.

I was put off by the cost £69.99. But, if you are going to be doing a lot of long distance cycling, this may be a good option.


I’m using Bontrager water bottle cage, but I’m not entirely happy with it. It’s not 100% secure and I had to buy alternative water bottle cage (Gorilla). But, it does OK in aero testing.



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Converting to a single chainring

For both hill climbs and timetrials I have been tempted to run a single chainring in the pursuit of a few marginal gains. From an aesthetic point of view it also looks good. The only downside is a potential risk of chain unshipping and undoing any marginal gain you may have benefited from. Therefore, it is not just about taking everything off; you need a sufficiently good mechanism to stop the chain unshipping. Also, the loss of gears are a problem for some courses and training.

Single chainring

The important thing for running a single chainring, is to make sure you get a chainring designed for single chainring use. A specific chainring will:

  • Lack ramps and pins (which help with shifting).
  • Also its teeth are taller its geared counterparts, which aids in chain retention.
  • Narrow-wide chainrings have alternating widths between teeth to help with chain retention.

Even, if get  a specific single chainring, you might still want to consider a chain guard (e.g. front derailleur / chain catcher) to be 100% sure against chain slip. Though opinion is mixed. If you have a special single ring use chainring – some will say you don’t need a chain-catcher, others will say ‘better safe than sorry’. Continue Reading →

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Redmon CC – 25 mile time trial

In recent years, I haven’t done many 25 mile time trials. But, this was the second of the season. The previous one was Newbury RC H25/1 (51.54)

Like last week, conditions were very good. Warm – 21 degrees, very low wind and low air pressure; it would have been hard to have better weather conditions. I have been training quite a lot in past two weeks with National 12 hour TT and National 100 in mind. Two century rides in the past 8 days. Although a lot of miles, I haven’t been doing any hill intervals for quite a few weeks.

Last week, 15 mins pre race, I was scrambling around in the car for an allen key and had to dig one out of a saddle bag, right at the bottom. So I went to local bike shop and bought a set of allen keys – specifically to live in my car boot. It was a great idea, though I managed to leave this set of allen keys at home and I didn’t have any allen keys to hard. I warm up on training wheels, then with 20 mins to go, put on racing wheels. The problem is that the Zipp 808 are much wider than any other wheels, so the brakes were rubbing. I looked for a fellow competitor who might help. Number 71, my minute man was making a last minute change to his shoe cleats (so it wasn’t just me), but he still found time to dig out a small multi-tool and I was able to undo the brakes and was free to ride. Continue Reading →

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If all else fails – read the manual

Many consumer goods these days are designed to work straight from the box. It can make us reluctant to read manuals, assuming we can work it out on the fly. This is often a good quick approach, but not always the case with bike maintenance, where small errors can  have big effects.

Quark Power meter reading calibration error

At the weekend, my Quark Elsa started giving exaggerated power meter readings. I’ve had for two years, and although it has died twice (and Quark sent replacement). It has been pretty consistent in power meter reading, which is main thing for a power meter. So higher power and calibration errors was disconcerting.

I realised it may have been affected by switch from double chainring to single chainring set up. I looked up Quark Power meter calibration and found advice that after change of chain rings, you may need to recalibrate 4-5 times.

This proved correct, after 4 attempts at calibration, it finally calibrated correctly. It was tempting to give up after two or three attempts, but reading manual encouraged me to try and again. Simple solution. Continue Reading →

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