Riding 100 miles in a day can seem like a daunting task, but for many, this is a great test of their cycling training and endurance. There are many century ride events throughout the US and most also benefit a charity organization. If you are thinking about or have decided to do a century, keep reading. This guide will offer tips for you to reach that goal.
I started doing century rides back in 2011 with Team in Training. They are part of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The program trains you for a century ride with coaching and other support in exchange for your fundraising efforts. It is an awesome program that prepared me for several century rides. When I first started, I was out of shape, and struggled even on the first short orientation ride.
To get you ready for a century ride, I’ll cover several topics including training, nutrition, and equipment. It isn’t always easy to do, but if you follow these steps, you should be ready to ride 100 miles.
Below is an overview of the topics I will be covering, In upcoming posts, I will go into a bit more detail about each one of them.
Pick a ride
Sure, you can just do a century ride that you just make up, but the real fun is doing an organized 100 mile event. If you are lucky, there will be several in your area throughout the year. You can usually check with local bike shops, cycling clubs on the web, or on Facebook to find one.
When choosing a ride, there are several questions to consider.
- Course details – How hilly is it? Does the route look complicated (i.e. easy to get lost)? Do they have options for shorter options like a metric century or half century? Are there a lot of stop lights or traffic on the route? Each of these details can affect how enjoyable the ride is.
- How many riders? – You may prefer a smaller ride of just a couple hundred people, or you may like a bigger ride with thousands — up to you!
- How well supported is the ride? – This can be hard to determine, but critical in picking a ride. You want a ride that has good rest stops built in, well marked courses, etc. If a ride has been around for a few years, you can usually find reviews by other riders.
I’ll post some comments about local Denver and other rides I have done in an upcoming post. I’ll also share some resources on finding rides in your area.
For the essential equipment, there really are just some basics. You need a bike and a helmet. Everything else is just about making your ride faster, more enjoyable, etc. I’m not discounting the value of these other things, but if you want to get started, just remember those basics.
If you don’t have everything on the list below, you can improvise. For example, if you don’t have a cycling jacket, just wear whatever jacket you have.
Here is a list of items that I use on a regular basis during a cycling season:
- Bike – Of course!
- Helmet – http://amzn.to/2xegk89
- Jersey – http://amzn.to/2wnBn9x
- Shorts – http://amzn.to/2fcODq2
- Socks – http://amzn.to/2xdSxoU
- Arm warmers – http://amzn.to/2xebxUn
- Head sweats – http://amzn.to/2xIPeaV
- Gloves – http://amzn.to/2jCOttL
- Garmin – http://amzn.to/2xIPeaV
- Tail light – http://amzn.to/2ftuLfu
- Head light – http://amzn.to/2ftIzqe
- Bike rack – http://amzn.to/2xebZ51
- Camelbak Insulated Water Bottle – http://amzn.to/2xeb1FD
- Bike pump – http://amzn.to/2xeb1FD
- Bike lock – http://amzn.to/2wA1VzF
- Gatorskins – http://amzn.to/2xaY9i0
- Bike multi tool – http://amzn.to/2xectI5
- Bike bag – http://amzn.to/2xedK27
Overall, the strategy is simple. Each week, plan on 3+ training bike rides. Two rides will be around an hour and you can even substitute a spin class or HIIT class for these. Once a week, you should plan on a longer training ride – starting at 15 miles and increasing the distance by 5-10 miles per week. Plan to hit about 85-90 miles two weeks before the even and then taper off the intensity the last two weeks.
If you are starting from scratch, plan on ramping up over a 4 month period. If you already ride or do lots of athletic stuff, you can shorten that time.
Midweek rides or other cardio
The purpose of these midweek rides is to get your heart rate up, practice recovery, and repeat. This is why a spin class or HIIT class can also work. I’d suggest doing this 2 or 3 times per week. The option of a ride or class allows you to mix in some variety if you want.
Weekly long ride
Usually, you will want to do a longer ride on the weekend when you have more time. In the beginning, it may take only a couple of hours, but as you get closer to the event, the rides could take up to 9 hours.
The first ride should be something you are comfortable with. If you are ineexperienced, then that may be 15 miles or so. If possible, try to find a bike path that is relatively flat. You can practice shifting, drinking, and eating on the bike.
Each week, you can add more miles — 5 to 10 more per week. If the event you are doing is hilly or mountainous, you should introduce some similar climbs in your weekly rides. Similarly, it is best to practice for other conditions you might experience during the event: traffic, rain, cold, heat, etc.
In the coming weeks, I’ll publish more detailed info about a weekly training schedule including specific route maps for those of you that live in Denver.
I’ve actually already written a blog about nutrition. You can read it here: https://www.zealology.com/nutrition-and-cycling/ The basic idea is to eat and drink what works for you. You don’t have to drastically alter your food intake and you don’t need specialty gels or energy chews to get you through most rides.
A lot of people will tell you to treat the event day just like any other day. But that is pretty hard to do in reality. You usually have to get up earlier, your riding with lots of riders, and the food at the rest stops may not match your training prep. There are things you can do to make things go a bit smoother.
To counter the effects of getting up so early, just try to get to bed a bit earlier. This might take some pre-planning on your part. Don’t wait until the day before your ride to get your gear ready. And make sure you have dinner planned so you can have a good meal before your ride.
When you do start out on your ride, you will likely be accompanied by lots of other cyclists. If you haven’t had a chance to ride in a larger group before, just try to take it easy. See if you can start in the back of the group and stick to the sides. Things will thin out, so just be patient. Before long, you should find your comfort zone.
While we’re on the topic of starting out, remember that you may have some adrenaline in the first few miles. Make sure you don’t accidentally go a a pace that is faster than normal and tire yourself before the first rest stop.
As for nutrition, my best advice is don’t depend 100% on the ride provided food. If you have special food or drink that you MUST have, then bring it on your own. Some rides will have sponsors provide food. One ride I was on had free “premium” yogurt. Unless you are sure your stomach is OK with yogurt while riding, it might be best to skip that stuff.
In general it is best to try to stick to your normal eating and drinking. If you guzzle lots of water on training rides, do the same thing on the event day. If you eat sparsely while riding, don’t suddenly eat a ton of food (and don’t try to “carbo load” the day before either).
The event day should also be fun — whatever fun means to you. If fun means trying to get a certain time, then go for it. If fun means just spending time with friends and socializing, the do that. And if you want to stop and take pics, by all means, do just that.
Century Ride Training Series
Stay tuned in the coming weeks as I publish more info in this series. To see all of the articles I have published in the series, you can use this link –