Reliability trials are historic events dating back to the early 20th century when cycling equipment was less reliable and roads were poorly sign-posted. The objective is for riders to be self-sufficient and able to navigate a route in a predefined time. Reliability trials generally take place during the winter months and are great fun, social events as well as a way to retain fitness.
Reliability trials explained
The reliability trial is an interclub competitive event. Each club member receives points for completing the course in a specified time. The club with the greatest number of points wins. Whilst it is a competitive event, it's an event that encourages group participation and generally the club with the most entrants wins.
In times gone by riders didnt have the benefit of GPS and puncture resistent tyres, yet riders today still get lost and miss the finishing time due to flat tyres and mechanical failures!
Key elements of a reliability trial
KCA Reliability Trial
The Kent Cycling Association (KCA) Reliability Trial is run at the end of October. A local club takes on responsibility for coordinating entries each year. For Southborough Wheelers it's a good opportunity to catch up with riends after a hectic summer of riding. Entrants have a choice of a 50km, 100km or 100 mile route. The 50km and 100km routes are the most popular for Southborough which both start at the White Hart Pub in Claygate. The 100 mile route starts in Ashford and is less popular although it does carry more points if completed within the time band.
As with the terrain to the east of Tunbridge Wells, the course is quite flat. After 6 miles riders climb Linton hill and then its flat for 25 miles. After that there are two more hills at Boughton and Challoak and then its pretty much downhill all the way back to Claygate. It's then a fast final push before everyone reconvenes for a chat with a big smile on their face at the White Hart.
ESCA Reliability Trial
The East Sussex Cycling Association (ESCA) RT is a different beast to the KCA, held a few weeks later than the KCA RT the weather is that much colder and the roads wetter. Generally the course is more challenging due to more climbing and the course tends to be on smaller, slower back roads. One of the main differences with the ESCA is that riders must not finish more than 10 minutes before their declared time. However, faster riders have been known to wait up the road until they are allowed to finish.
Although the club is not located in East Sussex its close enough to the border to have been invited to join ESCA many years ago. There are 15 clubs within ESCA and each year it falls on one of the member clubs to arrange the event. It was Southborough's turn in 2013.
In this day and age you would expect with all the technology available for riders to easily meet the goals of the ride and gain maximum points for their club. However, inspection of the 2013 results shows this is not the case:
Southborough Reliability Trial
The Southborough RT is a low key event traditional for club members to particpate in and is a great social event. Held in February, it's another opportunity to get out for some decent mileage to beat the cold. The route is 56 miles and is the same each year. Time categories are 3h15m, 3h45m and 4h15m. It's worth checking the Calendar for upcoming events.