Testing Relationships

Embed from Getty Images

A very interesting post has appeared on the Scottish Cycling website regarding time trialling & the emergence of CTT in Scotland HERE. I had expressed my opinion in ‘Calendar Conundrum‘ that CTT in Scotland may be a blessing in disguise for Scottish Cycling, that would allow them to focus more on road & track, but they now appear to be defending & reinforcing their future position as the host of time trials in Scotland. A bit of healthy competition & new ideas into the sport, with a minor scrap between promoting bodies can only be good for time triallists in Scotland, it’ll result in better (or more) events & a bit more focus on what they want, whichever way it ends up going.

CTT/SC Relationship

Perhaps the initially most interesting part of the Scottish Cycling update is about their relationship with CTT, in particular, the removal of it with no correspondence. But when you look into it, it’s perhaps not interesting at all.

“We had hoped for dialogue and some sort of collaboration with CTT, however, despite numerous attempts it has not been forthcoming. We will continue to seek clarity but what we know is that CTT have exercised their right to terminate the long-standing agreement between themselves and Scottish Cycling but have given no background or detail as to what they believe the implications now are for Scottish riders wanting to ride events in England and Wales or riders from South of the border entering events in Scotland.”
Read more at https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/scotland/article/20160226-scottish-cycling-news-Scottish-Cycling-and-Time-Trialling-in-Scotland-0#g1LmxHmOswCYCYUB.99

The two points made are probably pretty irrelevant to most competitors, one being no access to CTT BAR tables for SC time trials & the other being that Gold & Silver BC members will have to pay a surcharge to ride events in England.

Not many people are really all that interested in BAR competitions these days, so it affects a tiny number of riders who compete in time trials. With a quick glance, I find zero men or women riding for Scottish clubs listed on the 2015 BBAR tables, see for yourself HERE, so it’s unlikely anybody really cares about that point.

As for riding events down south, for CTT events it’s the club being registered that matters, not individual membership. So we can reasonably assume that any clubs who sign up to CTT Scotland will be the ones with most riders being interested in time trials, who are more likely to travel down south. Even if your club isn’t registered, you can simply join another one that is 2nd claim & ride events down south that way. Again, it’s all pretty irrelevant.

All in all, the lack of an agreement between Scottish Cycling & Cycling Time Trials holds almost zero consequence to anybody, I’m not really sure SC should be bothering too much.

Levies

I’ve been banging on about levies for a while, so this was quite refreshing to see that Scottish Cycling are at least paying a little attention to it, although I’d still like an answer on why we pay more than people in the rest of the UK (see my 2103 post ‘Would You Like To Go Large?‘ for more on this, although numbers are slightly different now).

As a reference, CTT levies are £2 per rider as far as I can see, while SC levies are £3.95 per rider, unless it’ a mid-week TT series, where it’s £2.60 per rider. I’ve not actually seen the breakdown from SC on this before, but only £1.50 goes towards BC insurance, the rest is apportioned to whichever of the 5 regions the event was registered with (bizarrely, it could be held in a different region, which many events are, such as the Tour of the Trossachs, held in ‘East & Central Region’, by a ‘West Region’ club), or to ‘development of cycling’, such as equipment, commissaires etc. Scotland CTT is a volunteer organisation, while SC has paid members of staff, so a difference in price is expected, but we also expect a bit more in the terms of service if we pay more. As CTT Scotland is only just beginning, it’s impossible to determine if that’s the case, we’ll have to look again at the end of the year.

Other Issues

Scottish Cycling list some other issues that they see as relevant, I’ll briefly go through these.

Annual Calendar Compilation: SC point out that they provide a coordinated calendar. Had it been the previous few years, where the event calendar has been abysmal, with it being published once the season had started, they wouldn’t have had a point. With the active work being done by SC’s Regional Development Officers in the last half on 2015, this has been rectified in 2016. So now it’s valid, as I can see only 5 CTT Scotland events on the CTT website as 26/2/16, four 10 mile TT’s up to June & the Boomerang 2-up in August, so I assume plenty are missing? I also see that there’s not much info, apart from some Facebook posts on CTT Scotland. Again, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this, as they’re completely new & are organised via committee, always an area of stalling & delays in any organisation. A simple (and free) WordPress blog could list events & information, to make it more visible, I’m sure that’ll come.

National TT Championships: The point SC in making here is that they arrange the calendar to accommodate championship events throughout the season, working with race organisers. It’s pretty well-known that it’s relatively easy to find an organiser for the ’10’, the rest get increasingly harder as the distance increases & the interest reduces. The hill climb, is perhaps one that has had more interest than it used to. My opinion on the number of historical & poorly supported time trial championships is well documented, so I’ll leave this up to you to decide if it’s important, I assume it’s a very personal thing for most people.

Course Risk Assessments: This has changed in 2016, there is a greater involvement in helping to complete these, with organisers being assisted by the SC RDO’s. I can’t really comment on it, as I’ve not been involved in it this year, but in the past risk assessments are a genuine pain in the race organisers posterior. So this may be a real benefit, not just for convenience, but perhaps to make sure the race organiser doesn’t get themselves in bother by omitting a danger, spreading the blame perhaps.

Officials Appointments & Training: There are more trained officials required for an SC event, I’m really unaware of what’s currently required for CTT, so I’ll not comment, for now.

TT Course Recording: As far as I’m aware, the CTT events are going to be using the same courses as SC ones, so essentially CTT is piggy-backing off historical SCU courses. It could also be argued that it was volunteers who measured these courses anyway, so possibly another non-issue.

Legislation Compliance: This one has some significant implications. In CTT events elsewhere in UK helmets that comply with a safety standard are not required (except for some younger age groups), so this could be an important point if CTT Scotland are wanting to be seen as a modern race organisation. Not requiring helmet use would set them apart form all other sports in Scotland that use bikes, would also make the TT side of the sport look backward is relation to other sports & could cause some insurance issues & a potential conflict with Police Scotland who don’t see this issue arising in any other sports that use bikes, in racing or participation. I’m completely unaware if this issue has been addressed, I hope it has before any events take place.

Event Management System: The British Cycling system does appear to work reasonably well, but CTT Scotland events could use resources such as EntryCentral for an online entry system, so it’s not really a big issue.

National BAR Table: As I’ve said in previous blogs, nobodies really particularly bothered about this, presumably apart from the person who wins the average of average competition.

The Gist Of It

I’m all for a bit of healthy competition, something did need done in order to push Scottish Cycling into some decisions on this. I think we’ll maybe see SC reduce levies a little to be more competitive from 2017 onwards, but not by very much. As far as I can see CTT Scotland are currently mainly interested in running events on the ‘fast’ but busy Westferry course, whether that expands to other courses & distances during the year remains to be seen, hopefully it will. The big ‘but’ is that I can’t really see CTTS moving away from ‘fast’ imperial distance courses (you know I don’t like these if you’ve been reading my blog for a while), so it does open up an opportunity for SC to perhaps look at diversifying their side of time trialling to other demographics (as I’ve also discussed at length previously).

Perhaps we can have two distinctly different sets of TT’s running alongside each other for a while. The old-fashioned standard distance events which are getting squeezed due to traffic, then the more ‘road’ orientated events on quite more interesting courses, which would encourage a crossover of riders from sportive & perhaps wouldn’t put parents off allowing their kids to race on a semi-motorway. Either way both organisations are going to have to look at their current ‘model’ & taking a good hard look at a sustainable future for time trialling, whoever does this well will be the long-term winner in controlling TT’s in Scotland.

 

100% Time Trialling

Embed from Getty Images

I’ve blogged about time trialling before, about the reduction in availability of what are deemed ‘suitable’ courses & the sustainability of sticking to the outdated model of standard distance, relatively flat courses. There are other ways of looking at measuring performance & progress in time trialling, than just looking at times at set distances, we could use a new method to modernise this side of the sport & open it up to appeal to a larger demographic than just some old guys with money for expensive funny bikes. Here’s one idea.

The % Method

Is there a way of measuring your performance & improvement across a season, on any length of course, on any terrain, against the best rider in the event?

I’m going to suggest that there really is, all it requires is an additional column in the event results. If a chump like me can easily create this extra column in Excel (I’ve just tried), it’s likely that it can easily become a standard template that organisers can record the times on, if so desired.

If riders times were displayed as a percentage of the winners time, there’s a multitude of uses we could put this information to, here’s just a few….

  • At the top of the table, the leading riders can get an idea of how form is improving or otherwise as they get closer to championship dates. If their % gap on their rivals in increasing, the training is going well, but if it’s closing, it’s time to look at improving. This can be measured not in seconds over the same distance, but in all distances in %, which allows direct comparison without taking into consideration the changes made by weather, courses & distance.
  • Any rider, in any position, can see how they’re improving relative to their closest rivals, club mates, or random benchmarks, irrespective of the course or weather.
  • If you change an aero setup or your training, a sudden increase or decrease in % against your rivals may indicate how good (or bad) the new setup or training is, regardless of the distance of the event.
  • Rapidly improving riders can be easily & quickly identified across a season or just a few weeks, a shortening of % and how it relates to not just winners, but various riders in the event will be very easy to spot, no matter where in the results the rider currently lies.

The Effect

If the riders target moves away from aiming for specific times over specific distances, then having results recorded as a percentage of winners time can help us move away from set distance courses.

We could use the type of roads cyclists generally choose to ride on, more suitable roads for cycling, we could remove the necessity to measure the courses to be exactly 10 or 25 miles, we could pick a course anywhere & retain a comparative measurement to performance against any other course. The focus could switch to reducing your % loss to the winner, or a comparison % loss to your ‘rivals’, be they club mates, enemies, chain gang buddies etc.

So if this was adopted to be included in the results, you can compare performances across various events, on different terrain, different weather, all year-long. You can see much easier which courses suit you better, or where you need to improve. Chasing specific times on different days, even on the same course can be a losing strategy sometimes. If conditions are bad & all times are slower, you may be upset with your recorded time, but in reality, your % loss to the winner may be less, you may actually have performed better in relative terms than the ‘float day’.

Technicalities

If we’re going to do this, it may require a little thought on how to go about it, plus exactly what you need to stick into your Excel sheet. We also don’t want to get tied up too many decimal points, 2 will suffice as I’ll show in my example below.

To keep things simple, if somebody won a ’25’ in exactly 50 minutes, that’s 3000 seconds. The minimum gap we see on results is 1 second, that’s approx 0.03% of the winners time, so 2 decimal places will be fine for every time trial up to around 3 times the winners time. So unless you’re riding one of the incredibly few 100 mile TT’s in Scotland, and your gap to somebody else is less than a second, this will work for every other TT, than that one.

As an example, here’s my revised finish sheet for the first five riders in my theoretical ’25’.

TT_percentages

Max Tester won the event, he gets 0% allocated to him, as all winners of events do. Two minutes down was Chanty McMuffin, his % difference was 4% down on the winner (2 minutes, i.e. 120 seconds, divided by winners 3000 seconds, all multiplied by 100 to give a percentage). As we can see, Marjorie Gains was only one second down, her % loss was 4.03%, so each second is accounted for with just the two decimal places being included in the results. As we go down the results, 5 minutes equates to a 10% loss on the 50 minutes of the winner. Then we have the hour specialist, doing as he does best & riding for exactly one hour, but losing 10 minutes, which is 20%.

The formula you’d enter into the Excel file starting at cell B2 if it was laid out the same would be as follows. Then you just copy it down the page, the $ sign means those cells remain tagged to the winners time, while all others will change. Remember to format the cells as a percentage & restrict it to 2 decimal places.

=(((E2*3600)+(F2*60)+G2)-(($E$2*3600)+($F$2*60)+$G$2))/(($E$2*3600)+($F$2*60)+$G$2)

Conclusion

In every event, we’ll have varying times, one second will have a different % value depending on the winners times. This allows a comparison, not against time, but against performance relative to the winner, which gives a very different perspective. This also allows every single competitor to compare themselves across different events, different weather conditions on the same course etc. A whole new way of thinking about things.

There must surely be multiple ways in which time trialling can be modernised, this is just one. It may remove the perceived need for standard distance courses, it may initially just allow riders to compare performances against other riders on the same course, but in different conditions. It could allow riders to see how their form is coming on as a season progresses, but if things remain the same, courses will continue to disappear & time trialling will become a forgotten discipline.

Position, position, position

Embed from Getty ImagesThe adverts in bike magazines try to convince you that their components are more “aero” than somebody elses, the tech time trial geeks in your club are obsessed with “aero”, aero wheels, aero frames, aero handlebars, aero seatpins, aero chainrings, even aero pedals, the list goes on. This is all well & good, aerodynamic kit does make a difference, especially in a time trial, but if you’re concentrating on having the most aerodynamic bike, you’re maybe spending vast sums of money on vanity, rather than first dealing with the real issue, you.

The ‘You’ Issue

A quick study shows that somewhere between 65 to 85% of aerodynamic drag is reported to be caused by the rider, the rest by the bike. The massive 20% variance across riders is caused by many factors. For example, take two riders with the same limb & body lengths, but one carries lots of weight in muscle or fat (or both), while the other is running at ‘pro-level’ body fat. The two riders would therefore fit exactly the same size bike, which has the same drag for both. Where it varies is that the large rider’s forward motion is affected by his size much more than the smaller rider, so of his overall greater drag, his bike’s percentage share is smaller. There is no standard percentage drag apportioned to your bike, it’s different in everybody, it’s even different depending on what clothes you’re wearing. So any figures you see on ‘time saved over 40km’ for any particular component, are based on many assumptions. We can safely assume the marketing information is going to be at the more generous end of possible savings, while not being untrue, only a very small number of people may get this maximum benefit.

Bits n Pieces

This brings us back to component choice (I include the big items like frames in this, but not wheels, see later for that). If you’ve not got your optimum position, or something reasonably close to it, buying all the aero kit in the world may not to help you at all, it may even hinder you. Bad equipment choice, from a ‘fit’ aspect, can lock you into a less than perfect position by not allowing your body to get as aerodynamic as possible. It’s all too common, when I see time trial pictures posted, there is a strange draw to have a look at the bike-cost versus position, quite often it’s incredible that so much is spent without ever going for a proper bike fit or taking good advice.

As a start, a fully adjustable set of aero-bars & an adjustable stem are very cheap options considering the cost you’re intending to spend. That should allow you to set up a position correctly on your current bike, which, may not make your bike look pretty, it may save you a lot of money in the long-term. Then you have the opportunity to know exactly where your saddle & handlebars should be in relation to the bottom bracket, a quick check with a tape & a spirit level on your desired frame (with wheels in) should indicate which size it is you’ll require. Not going along this route may result in you buying what would be your normal road bike size. Often, riders will require a different size, with a longer or shorter top tube, or a lower stack height. You’ll need to get your body to fit this new fast-looking bike without compromising your ideal position, while using available kit. So if you buy one with too short a top tube, you may not find a stem long enough, time trial bike fit is not simply a case of ordering a medium, if you normally ride an off-the-peg medium road frame. It requires a bit more work, you may require something different to what you expected.

The Wheel Question

This is another vastly complicated subject, in this instance it comes under a completely separate topic, as wheel choice has zero impact on position. So you can probably buy your wheels first, use them on the new bike, especially as wheels have a relatively large impact on your speed. But as with other components, there’s no hard & fast rule as to which wheels are best for you. Weather conditions, a rider’s weight & ability to buffer cross winds also come into play here, so trying wheels before you buy could be another valuable piece of testing before you reach for the bank card.

The Gist Of It

Spending some time really looking at your position, or getting somebody with some knowledge to look at it, probably doesn’t give you that instant gratification of buying a shiny new component, or a flash time trial bike. It’s maybe the non-sexy option, maybe it’s difficult, maybe you’ve “not got the time” or maybe you believe the adverts to the letter. The fact is that you could buy ‘the fastest frame in the world’, but if you buy a size you can’t replicate your ideal aero position on, then you’re going to be catching a lot more wind.

The golden rule should be to sort your position first, then (and only then) find the aero frame & components that allow you to replicate that position. This is where buying your new TT frame from a local bike shop really helps, they should be able to let you ride a bike of similar geometry & give some valuable advice on the matter, before you spend your hard-earned cash.

Time trial bikes look great, having one makes people feel ‘a bit Formula 1’, they’re a desirable addition to your stable. But always bear in mind the advantages you get from components are minimal compared to your body position. Be sure you can transfer your highly efficient position across to the geometry of a new time trial frame.

Don’t get carried away by a bit of shiny aerofoil bling, choose the correct bike by spending some time getting your aero set-up dialled in on another bike first.

 

 

 

 

Border Raiders

Today, the CTT ‘National’ 10 is already kicking off, as the CTT (formerly RTTC) is not a UK wide body, the term national in slightly dubious, but this event is generally considered the British championship over the 10 mile distance.

We have a couple of strong riders in there who have the potential to break into the top 10, with the event being held in Norfolk using some B roads, it is potentially more relevant to Scottish courses than many of the semi-motorway courses used for a large amount of events down south.

Sandy Wallace Cycles duo Alan Thomson & Silas Goldsworthy are riding, Alan is off at 12:38 & Silas at 12:52. Silas has been tweeting about the course after a recce, says it’s technical, so I’m hoping to see some good results, both riders are capable of getting right up there, Silas also has ‘some previous’, with 7th in the CTT ’25’ last year.

We expect Hutchinson & Bottrill to be racing for the win and the silly hat photo at the end, both have been absolutely storming recently, but if it is as technical as expected I’d assume Bottrill may have the edge on one of Northern Ireland’s fastest time trialists, Hutchinson (Note: Martyn Irvine, world scratch champion is also very rapid in a TT). But we also have riders like Olympic medalist Steven Burke & Russell Hampton in there, who was as good as Dowsett as a junior & trains with him now on his return, so there is a possibility for an upset if the course demands changes in pace, there’s a lot of quality riders lurking in there.

Will be interesting to see what happens today, I’ll be tweeting about it later on @spokedoke.

Start List link here.