There was a time not so long ago when The Bikepacking Dad trained hard, sat on Zwift for many hours, and was very interested in his power numbers. Back in those days I was out trying to beat local KOM’s and set new sprint records. That version of me has settled down a bit these days but the other day I had a strange urge to test the legs again. Flashes of my previous, super fit self, came into mind and I wondered what I could do locally to satisfy my competitive urge.
What about a local TT (Time Trial) I thought? I know from other local riders that there are quite a few TT routes near me and I’m sure I could convince the wife to let me have a couple of hours on the bike one night.
So away I went. Laptop booted up, Strava logged in, and the TT search was on. It didn’t take me long to find a handful of Strava segments that were labelled up as TT routes.
However, every one I looked at contained sections of road that I wouldn’t dream of riding my bike on and some had turning points that required a u-turn in the road. Who made these up?!
Dear Santa – Please Can I Have Some Luck?
I love riding my bike but these routes needed organisation, signage, and marshals. However, there was nothing like that on offer for these routes. What you would need most of all was a good handful of luck! Luck so that all the roundabouts and junctions you would come across would be clear, luck that you didn’t meet a slow moving line of traffic behind a tractor, luck that no vehicles were heading in either direction as you try to do a u-turn at the half way point.
My idea of heading out and doing a TT route quickly became a thought provoking topic about how unorganised and potentially dangerous these routes were. Especially when you consider that cyclists may well be giving their all in order to set a competitive time or chasing a personal best.
Imagine being on course to shave a minute or two off your personal best just to arrive at a junction with a major ‘A’ road and not being able to join due to the amount of traffic coming. Having been competitive in the past I know that it would ruin my day!
The Dangers of Routes Like This
The knock on effect of such routes to the competitively minded cyclist is that you start taking more risks. You try to slot into the traffic so as to not lose time and you may be so focussed on your effort that you fail to keep an eye on the flow of traffic. Any of these scenarios put you at risk and, as an already vulnerable road user, the last thing we want is to get squeezed by an impatient motorist or put our bike in a position where someone is unaware of our presence.
All of these things considered I decided against heading out to challenge myself against some of these poorly planned TT routes.
I did a bit of research and a few times a year there are organised events locally but these are few and far between and to the keen cyclists in my area they will most likely have to tackle these TT routes alone and hope that their luck is in when it comes to junctions, roundabouts, and u-turns!
The Personal TT Test
Time trials are a pure art form and i think that applies at any level. Obviously the top end guys and girls have the best of gear, all the aerodynamic benefits possible, and a peak fitness level. However, even as a novice cyclist they are still a good test of fitness and progression.
You might not break any world records, you might not take the local KOM on Strava, you might not make the top 20. However, you are out there competing against yourself. Have you improved since last time? Are the legs stronger? Have you worked on your position on the bike? Have you got a new bike? What difference has it made?
These are great benchmark questions to ask yourself when you are aiming to improve your fitness on two wheels. The only problem may be the TT routes available to you and whether you are willing to ride on busy ‘A’ roads with no marshals or signage. Not only that but are you willing to lose an effort due to sitting at a roundabout or waiting for a large line of cars to pass at a busy junction? It’s not for me.
It was a real shame to find out that the local TT’s around me were so poorly planned. Some people who have ridden them may read this and think differently, but I would ask them this:
Why in the world are we planning TT routes on public, non marshalled, roads that have u-turns, numerous roundabouts, and junctions from ‘B’ roads onto busy ‘A’ roads?!
The only outcomes here will be frustrated cyclists who end up taking unnecessary risks chasing personal bests and local leader board times. Neither of those things are so important to take risks on public roads.
I’m lucky enough to live in an area that has so many quieter ‘B’ roads that could host TT routes that could be a simple point A to point B. No junctions, no roundabouts, and definitely no u-turns. Roads that are so quiet I wrote an entire blog post about them. Click here if you haven’t seen it already!
The goal should be to encourage people to get into cycling in any form but when the local TT scene is so poorly planned this is an avenue of cycling that would turn many would be cyclists away.
Let’s apply some common sense when it comes to route planning and road safety, set up more events within the local cycling community, and encourage people into an area of this sport that may well disappear from grass roots cycling if it remains as it is.
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