If you’ve taken up cycling in the last year and find yourself desiring to complete your first 100 mile ride, you might have a lot of questions. What should you take? Should you go with a group? How can you make sure your body is up to the task? What if you get lost?
These are all great questions worth taking the time to find the answers to before you attempt it. A successful century depends on two things; Preparation is vital for body and machine, and follow through on your plans will get you all the way to the last mile. Use the information we’ve gathered to make it a great first century of many to come.
A century is a thrilling and extreme ride, and not to be taken lightly. Before you even hop on your bike, you need to consider what you’re currently riding on a weekly basis and see if you need to gradually add more in order to prepare for the big ride. Once you are comfortable at around 100 miles per week, you’ll be better able to tackle a full century. If you can managed to do more than that prior to the big event, so much the better! It’s ideal to do at least one 70 mile ride prior to the century. A spreadsheet or riding log can be helpful to keep track of these training miles. In addition to total distance, you can also monitor your route, speed, and heart rate.
Don’t despair if you have a hard time getting in this many hours. It is possible to only ride on weekends and still be prepared for completing a century. But make sure to get out for a ride a couple times each week to keep the muscles in shape, and do some other form of exercise as well. Strength and cardio training can increase every facet of your health for the ride. The more you flex your muscle memory and strengthen your body, the less pain and frustration you’ll feel on the 100 mile ride.
Try to increase the length of your longest ride toward the century mark gradually. Don’t increase your longest ride from 25 miles to 70 in one week. But do try to do at least a 70 mile ride prior to doing the actual century. Your overall pace on the 70 mile ride should be a good indication of your pace on the century. Make sure that hills are included in these rides so you can get used to not only the change of pace needed to overcome them, but even if your century will be a fairly flat ride, hills do wonders for your endurance and strength.
Whether your century will be a solo affair or a group ride, consider training with friends. Not only is it more fun, but it’s cheap accountability and great practice. If you don’t have any friends inclined to cycling, consider reaching out to a local group. Often local bike shops or health clubs will have flyers with contact information or planned rides and their meeting points. Getting involved will make a world of difference for your resolve. Plus, riders who’ve already rode in one or more centuries will be full of great advice!
In addition to mental and physical preparation, keeping your machine in top shape and knowing how to fix any problems you may encounter on the road is a wise way to spend some time.
A century isn’t an excuse to buy a new bike, but it may be a good idea to change the tires to something slick and narrow. They’re available in sizes that fit mountain bikes or hybrids and work just fine. It might also be a good idea to invest in bar ends if you have simple and short flat bar. As long as your bike is comfortable, then it will work great for your first century. You want to make sure you’re not over reaching for your bars or sitting awkwardly on your seat. If you’re worried about bike fit, make sure to head down to your local bike shop and gather some expert advice.
Just before the actual century, it’s also very wise to check tire pressure, brakes, gear shifter, bracket, headset, and wheels. Also check for loose bolts, bottle holders, fenders, and pedals. An in-depth inspection will ensure that no surprises hit you on this endurance ride. Another good idea is to practice changing or fixing a flat so you can do it quickly and efficiently in a real emergency situation. Just don’t over tighten things or you may have a hard time shifting.
If you don’t feel confident in doing a thorough review of your machine, take it on down to your local bike shop and explain what you plan to do. They can help you get everything in order for your century. Do this at least four days before the ride and use the bike at least once before the ride so if the shop makes a mistake, you’ll have time to let them correct it.
It’s worth it to learn some minor bike repairs, so first century might be a good excuse to do it. Ask a veteran rider or the local bike shop employees to show you the basics. Flat changing and adjusting the derailleurs are a couple examples of things you might want to know.
Alright, your body and bike are ready, but maybe you have no idea what to pack for 100 miles of possibility. Check out our recent post on the basics your fanny pack should hold, including flat repair items, basic first aid, money and identification, and quick energy fixes. In addition to these, you should also through a rain jacket and additional clothing relevant to the terrain and weather of your century, some additional tools such as chain break took, spoke wrench, screwdrivers, hex and box wrenches, and of course a map or GPS to keep yourself on the right route. Also, you may want to give your water bottle(s) a good, germ killing scrub out to avoid stomach problems on the ride. Also, a sore bum is a possibility, so it’s important to invest in some thick biking shorts and some chamois butter. Chamois butter is available at most bike shops and worth its weight in gold.
The Actual Ride
You’ve researched, worked out, packed, and tuned. Now it’s the big day. Here are a couple tips to occasionally remind yourself as you’re doing your first major ride.
Firstly, stay as loose as you can. Clinging to your handle bars or constantly being tense will knot up your muscles and make starting again hard once you’ve stopped for a break. Staying loose is also important to maintain communication with your fellow riders or vehicles you may be sharing your route with. Relaxing your shoulders and slightly bending your elbows will keep your neck and back strong for the entire ride.
Remember that map or GPS we recommended? They may not entirely keep you on route. If you think you’ve become lost, don’t panic. Keep a level head and get yourself back on track.
It’s very tempting on the ride to push as long and hard as you can, ignoring your body’s signals for food and water. It’s super important to eat something before you start, as well as maintaining energy sources and hydration. Don’t forget and don’t resist. You’ll never finish the ride if your body is too weak to do so.
With these suggestions, your first century can be a major source of enjoyment, fulfillment, and memories. Are you planning your first century now? Please tell us when it is and how you’re getting ready for it in the comments below.