Riding Safely On A Time Trial Bike: Remember These 4 Key Tips!

Most Singaporeans are aware of a freak accident that occurred along Lim Chu Kang Rd a few weeks ago, where a TT rider collided head first onto a stationary truck. Thankfully he is recovering well now, but here are some pointers that you should take note of to prevent yourself from getting into a similar accident. 


First things first, can you ride a TT bike? 

If you are unable to ride at an average speed of 33km/h on your road bike, you may not get the advantages out of a TT bike compared to a road bike with TT bars.  

In order to ride a TT bike, you need to have good bike handling skills such as taking a corner with confidence, and the ability to ride in an aggressive position at a high cadence. So, unless you have the flexibility, strong legs and decent bike handling skills, you may be better off on a road bike.

Understanding the limitations of a TT bike 

Even though being in an aero position could save you more time, the risks of getting into an accident are far greater too. 
Also, the brakes on a TT bike are not as powerful as a road bike, therefore you need to anticipate your braking earlier. 
The more aggressive the position, the bigger impact it would have on your body. If you are doing a triathlon event, this might negatively affect your running afterwards if there is too big a load. When you are in a TT position, you are using more of your hamstring muscles as your body is leaning forward. You will overwork your major running muscles such as the hamstring and glutes. Remember, fatigue is your biggest enemy. 

Here are the 4 golden rules you must follow to stay clear of accidents on the road. 


#1. Look up and sight every 5-10 seconds 

This is the most important rule that you should always practice. Even just lifting up your head slightly and looking forward could potentially save your life.

Head or eye movement is sufficient if your bike is correctly set up. This skill is similar to sighting while swimming; as we get better, we can make subtle movements rather than big movements of the head. Mastering this technique will keep you safe and puts you in a more aero position. 


#2. Be aware of your surroundings.

  • Strictly no headphones when riding in a pack. This is not a time to have music in your ears. Your brain reacts to noise quicker as a sense of danger. If you only have your eyes working for you, your awareness of the road will be greatly reduced. 
  • When riding in a bunch, do not draft in an aero position. Only do so if your are at the front or at least 10 bike lengths behind the pack (20m). This will give you ample time to shift position and brake. When you are not on the aero bars, always put your fingers on the brakes ready to take action. 
  • Even though we might be at the right place at the right time, unexpected things might still occur.  Also, cars don’t always see us or always stop for us. We have to expect the unexpected. 
Let me share with you one of my near crash experiences. I was cycling along Tanah Merah Coastal road alone and I had checked that the path ahead of me was clear. Just when I went back into my TT position, a monitor lizard came out of nowhere and I almost ran over it. I could have been seriously injured if I did not react in time. Lesson learnt: Anticipate for the worst, you’d never know what’s coming if you just look away for a few seconds. 

#3. Wheels: deep section does not make you faster

I would recommend if you are under 50kg, do not use wheels that are greater than 40mm in depth. 

If you are a lighter rider, you will more affected by the crosswinds. Your weight will be insufficient to anchor the bike. Struggling to keep your balance to anchor down your bike means more energy wasted and your are less likely to stay in an aero position.


#4. Do not always train on your TT bike 

Bearing in mind the limitations of a TT bike, it is best to train on your road bike and on your slow, heavier wheels. Always remember, resistance makes you stronger on the bike. So get out there with your smaller section wheels, pedal hard into a headwind, or climb up as many hills as you can. This way, you will get the most benefit out of your training. 

To practice being on a TT position, do most of your training on a turbo trainer. Only switch to the roads and deeper section wheels when you are three to four weeks away from your competition date. 

For triathletes, as part of brick training, we always need to run after the bike. Which means after your ride, schedule at least a 15-20 minutes run after. 
No matter how experienced you are, all of us face the same dangers when riding on the road. It is always those with the bike handling skills that have a plan B or plan C for any situation will perform the best and be the safest.
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