The problem with time trialling – a form of bike racing – is that it can be addictive. Josh Morris, who’s training to get to a speed of 30mph over 10 miles, says it’s all about obsessing “the right amount”.
“You’ve got to keep everything in balance,” he says, “because if you get too deep down the rabbit hole you can lose sight of everything else.”
In an individual time trial, cyclists race against the clock and aim to beat their past speeds. Racers want to be as aerodynamic as possible so they can go faster, which often means obtaining an array of equipment, such as special helmets, clothes and bikes.
As well as training for about four hours a week during lockdown, Morris has been saving money for special gear; specifically, what he describes as “a daft pointy helmet, carbon wheels, ridiculously expensive tyres, and an unflattering one-piece Lycra skinsuit” – all to help him go that little bit faster.
Morris has always enjoyed cycling and his first job was as a bike mechanic. He started road cycling after university and is now a member of the Liverpool Phoenix Cycling Club. He got into time trialling during the lockdowns. “I decided to lean into time trialling in a more intentional way, to really get into it.”
Many time trial events take place on summer evenings, on quiet backroads, Morris says. “It’s a wonderful feeling to absolutely nail it,” he says. “So when you cross the finish line you’re absolutely, completely spent. You’ve gone as hard and fast as you can for 20 minutes. That’s a really satisfying thing.”
After the race, everyone compares timings, he says. It can get a bit obsessive, but that’s half the fun. “You start to think that if you get this bit of equipment, or change this or that, maybe you can save a bit of time and stretch your own physical limits that little bit further.”
The smallest things can make a real difference. For example, you can go faster if the wind’s different, or if the traffic is high but not too high. “You get a little bit of benefit from the trucks coming past you in terms of the wind,” Morris says, “but you don’t want them to make you slow down on the turns.”
With time trialling, 80-year-olds can cycle alongside professionals because it’s all about improving your own personal performance. “There are loads of Facebook groups and forums out there,” Morris says. A lot of people are passionate and eager to share tips or tricks to go faster. “Some people turn up on absolute weapons of bikes, with space age bits and pieces and 3D printed [equipment],” he says.
Time trialling has helped Morris to stay fit and well during lockdown. “It’s good fun, it’s that idea of improving yourself,” he says. “It’s nice to be good at something and to see yourself get better, and being able to get out into the countryside and have that buzz of adrenaline. It’s been good to have a nice project to work towards – it helps shift your focus away from staying inside all the time.”
Morris has been saving about £30 or £40 a month for time trialling gear. “I’ve got a family and they have to come first, no matter how much you might obsess over your hobby,” he says. “Then it’s a case of putting away any extra money.” Altogether, Morris says he’s saved about £300 and is keeping an eye out online for the kit. “I’ve saved most of the money and hope I’ll be able to pick something up soon,” he says.
It feels good to be saving up, says Morris, when you know it’s going towards an enjoyable project. Morris says he wants the fanciest Lycra suit he can justify buying, in the colours of his cycling club – red, white and blue. He hasn’t got a specific helmet or wheels in mind yet.
‘It’s a wonderful feeling to absolutely nail it,’ says Morris
Jill Waters, NS&I’s retail director says: “The release of adrenaline and the thrill of achieving Morris’s time trial goals are much the same reactions that we can get when saving and reaching our milestones. Now’s the time to get saving and prepare to release our dopamine when we achieve our goals.”
Morris’s hobby has meant friends now see him as “the bike person” and will ask for advice on what bike equipment to buy. “Personally, I’ve got plenty of cycling themed presents and lots of bike socks,” he says.
Once he’s met his target of achieving 30mph over 10 miles, Morris says he’d love to go on to longer distances. “I might also be able to enter into the national championships,” he says. “Not to compete, but you do these things to say you can do them. That will be the aim.”
Having something to save towards can make putting money aside easier. With the help of NS&I, you can reach your goal too. Visit nsandi.com to find out how you can save for a sunny day